I don’t know about you but when my son first came out I found myself acting a little bit like a used car salesmen when it came to the gospel.
You know that feeling when someone is giving you the “hard sale” and the more they try to sell you the less you want it. If you missed the our story about our son;s coming out you can read about it here. Luckily my coach pointed out to me what I was doing and that my actions were coming from a place of fear and not faith – all this was doing was making my more son defensive and resistant to the gospel.
I forgot that all I had to do was show my son how beautiful the gospel was for me. I didn’t need to sell it. The more I focused on my relationship with Christ the less I became worried about my son’s relationship with Christ. I realized that my role wasn't to sell by my words but to sell by how I was living my life.
The story of how Joseph Smith gained his relationship with our Savior has great teaching points for all of us and especially our LGTBQ children – it is a story of how faith grows and how a mother has perfect balance of guidance and faith.
It is important to note that some of Joseph’s most spiritual experiences did not happen sitting in a pew at church but in common places like a grove of trees and his home.
In fact, Moroni visited Joseph at a moment when he was feeling like he was the most lacking. In his own words Joseph describes how worthless and unworthy he was feeling, “I frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth, and the foibles of human nature; I often felt condemned for my weakness and imperfections.” JSH 1:28, 29
Right when Joseph was feeling condemned by his own imperfections Moroni entered Joseph’s story and called him by his name and told him “that God had a work for me to do”. God has a work for each or our children to do just as he declared to Moses. “I have a work for thee” (Moses 1:6).
God knew that Joseph Smith was struggling spiritual; he didn’t need Joseph to change to do the work. He knew that the work that He would give Joseph would change Joseph.
When our children are struggling with a gospel principal or with the feeling of lacking, we have to remember that most of God’s children experience these emotions and thoughts (including ourselves) and that he doesn't want his saints to stay in an ALL or NOTHING mentality.
ALL or NOTHING thinking refers to thinking in extremes. You are either a success or a failure. Your performance was totally good or totally bad. If you are not perfect, then you are a failure. This binary way of thinking does not account for shades of gray, and can be responsible for a great deal of negative evaluations of yourself and your children.
I love that Heavenly Father came into Joseph’s story when he was experiencing ALL or NOTHING thinking about his own worth – that he was feeling shame for his weaknesses and Heavenly teaches him that he can be a failure and also completely worthy to do a great work.
We sometimes have the ALL or NOTHING mentality in raising our children in the gospel. If our children don’t go to all the activities, seminary, and a church school then we might think they are on a slippery slope and are worried they are on the path to inactivity.
As a parent it can feel very fearful when our child chooses not to follow the “normal” path and we might feel like this is the first step to losing their faith – this is when we can experience ALL or NOTHING thinking patterns.
I believe in these moments, how we respond as parents will have an BIG impact on how our child will progress spiritually. And how we respond has everything to do is how we are thinking.
I often wonder what Lucy must have thought when Joseph didn’t automatically choose her church. Did she feel fear and anxiety about Joseph’s salvation or did she have confidence in the child she raised and in God’s plan for him.
If we follow Joseph’s pattern, he didn’t feel worthy or particular called to one congregation and he was having a lot of questions about life. Questions that Lucy his mom couldn’t answer for him. So he took his questions directly to God.
Lucy couldn’t answer Joseph’s questions directly but she did lay a pattern of faith with how to receive answers from God. In her search for answers she had also knelt in a grove to plead with the Lord. She was worried about how her husband was living his life so she poured out her heart to God in the woods and had an remarkable spiritual experience. “She went there to plead that her husband would find the truth, and she had received a beautiful vision that brought peace to her soul.” Ensign Nov 1972
Lucy had a confidence and knowledge that God answered prayers because she had received her own answers. Surely her pattern of faith must have influenced Joseph’s confidence that his prayers would also be answered.
She didn’t fall for the ALL or NOTHING mentality about Joseph, she didn't believe that just because he didn't choose her congregation that he was doomed spiritually. She trusted that he would work it out with God.
We forget that gaining a testimony of Jesus Christ is not always a linear path. We must believe in the greatness of our God and know that he meets our children where they are at. That conversions happen anyway, in bedrooms and grove of tree’s,
Yes, there is safety in staying on the well-beaten path of activities, seminary, church college, etc., but there also could be danger in it.
Danger in believing that this path is what makes a testimony. Danger of becoming unconscious of the “why” you are doing the things you are doing. Danger of focusing more on the doing and less on the thinking. Danger of our child never becoming spiritual mature.
What we don’t realize is that all of our paths have danger. We are all at danger of losing our confidence in God no matter what choices we make.
Just like Joseph must have watched his mother’s faith journey, our children are watching ours. Our actions will always be more impactful than any words we could say.
When your child sees you living the gospel would they describe it as joyful for you, like driving a luxury vehicle or is it more like you are driving a used clunker.
Are you actions coming from having a confidence in God that even though your family’s path looks differently than expected that it is still the perfect path for your family? Are you acting from a place of confidence in your child’s ability that they will find their Savior and God will stay in their story?
In fact, I sometimes envision Lucy saying to us LGBTQ parents the same words she said to another group who started murmuring when things didn’t go as expected on their journey.
Lucy Mack was leading a group of Saints on a journey from Fayette, New York, to Kirtland, Ohio. Because the journey was less than ideal, some of the travelers murmured. Exercising her leadership role, Lucy Mack spoke to the group saying,
“Where is your confidence in God? Do you know that all things are in his hands? He made all things and still rules over them, and how easy a thing it would be with God if every Saint here would just lift their desires to him in prayer that the way might be opened before us.”
So in the moments where I find myself start to murmur on my journey and I start to feel that “ALL or NOTHING” mentality – I remind myself about what our God is capable of.
He restored his gospel to a 14 year old farm boy with no education. He parted the red sea. He created the universe. He sees our day, he prepared our church for the Pandemic. These thoughts remind me that our God is not an ALL or NOTHING God.
I have to do just the small things and out of small things he will make great things. “But all things must come to pass in their time. Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great” D&C 64:32–33
In order to not fall into the “ALL or NOTHING” mentality here are three questions that will help you prioritize how you help your LGBTQ child on their spiritual path:
1. Take action from what feels true and right:
When your child comes out you need to take what feels right and resonates for your family and what makes sense for your child. Once you have your priorities in place. Then make decisions and take action from that place.
This is a very personal decision. You shouldn’t look to see how other families are doing it. The Lord will give individual inspiration to each of us. You might decide that some of the activities in YW/YM’s are not a good fit for your child or the a church school might not be the best option for them. As a family we tried to support as many of these activities as we could but there was some that I knew would make my child feel uncomfortable and it felt true and right to give my son a choice to rather to attend.
2. Where can I have the most impact on my child’s spiritual journey?
Each of us are called by our Heavenly Father to be the parent to our specific child. He has given each of us what I call special parent superpowers. Make a list of your spiritual gifts and then write down how these spiritual gifts can help your child. Focus and use your energy on where you can bring the most impact to your child’s life.
When my child came out I was teaching early morning seminary. Staying with the calling and deciding to continue to teach was by far the most impactful thing I could do for my son at that time. Now, he is in college and I have less direct impact but I am still praying daily on what I can do to help him. I still receive answers on how I can be impactful in my son’s life. They are usually small things, but I act on them and I see the difference they make.
3. What can I release for now?
There are some things that we need to let go. Mine was coming to peace that my son did not feel like he could serve a mission. Even though I felt like dedicating 2 years of his life to the Lord would have blessed him beyond measure I needed to let go of that plan for him and trust in his judgment.
I had to hold the space in the middle – that he could still serve and have a great relationship with the Lord and at the same time not choose to serve a mission. It didn’t have to be ALL or NOTHING.
We all have some ALL or NOTHING beliefs. Satan wins if we stay in this thinking. The Lord never looks at us as ALL or NOTHING. I know what He sees when He sees me; an amazing daughter of God that He created and a daughter that can also be a hot mess!
Remember that life is about succeeding and failing, getting it right and getting it wrong, being faithful and being unfaithful, learning to love ALL of ourselves not just the “good” parts – that is how God loves us.
4. Become aware of your ALL of NOTHING thought patterns:
To become more aware I recommend that you sit down and you write down your thoughts about what you think about your child’s spiritual journey while identifying as an LGBTQ member. Identify where you are having ALL or NOTHING thinking, they are usually associated in places where you are feeling fearful for your child. Where are you not willing to consider alternatives and consider that, yeah, your child might be going through some negative stuff but there’s so much positivity as well.
Removing your ALL or NOTHING thinking is some of the best work you can do for your relationship with your LGBTQ child. It gives you the gift of peace when your child makes decisions that you don’t agree with.
If you would like help in identifying where you might have an ALL or NOTHING pattern please reach out and schedule a free call. I didn’t see for myself that some of my actions were causing more damage than good until my coach pointed them out to me. Having the space to look at my actions without judgement gave me the power to make the necessary changes to become more impactful in my son’s journey.