Relief Society Council – Dec 2017: Responding When Loved Ones Struggle
Question: How should we respond when loved ones struggle with their faith or with church policies that they do not understand?
Sister Allis-Pike began this council by sharing several scriptures that showed that ours is not the first generation that has struggled with doubts and questions regarding church doctrine and policy:
For example, 3 Nephi 1: 29,30 – speaks of the wickedness of the “rising generation” and how it affected parents and others.
The following suggestions were made by sisters who participated in the council:
How should I respond to family members who have left the church or who adopt beliefs different from mine?
- Recognize that because your children are part of your identity, if they struggle, it’s natural for you and others to believe that their difficulty reflects on your abilities as a parent. Try not to allow this kind of thinking in your own life.
- It is not your job to “save” your loved one. It’s the Lord’s job. Trust the Lord to be the one to shepherd your loved-one. He’s not finished with them yet.
- In an especially difficult family relationship where one member continues to use family events to persuade others to his or her way of thinking, choose a family member who handles communication and insulates the rest of the family from potentially toxic conversation and disagreements over policies and beliefs
- My best impact on my less-active children is as an example to them. I am free to continue to live my life as I see fit, regardless of their antagonism toward my beliefs.
- It isn’t my job to change the way my loved one sees things. I have had the most success when I make an effort to acknowledge what they are feeling. Making an honest effort to understand their position isn’t denying my own faith.
- Love them unconditionally; Get to their heart and PRAY!
- I have seen that my children who struggled when they were younger are now “better shepherds in the church” because they understand repentance and value the atonement.
- Have something to do that feels productive so you don’t get caught up “wallowing” in your own discouragement. Immerse yourself in the scriptures. Get involved in Family History so that you can surround your loved ones with other family members helping from the other side of the veil.
- Everyone’s path is God wanting to draw them back to him. We just don’t all take the same path.
- Give relationships time. Sometimes it requires more than one generation for someone to “return” to the faith of their progenitors.
How do I reach out to less-active members, loved-ones or neighbors without making them feel threatened?
- Simply be a good neighbor
- Look for non-church-related opportunities to show them they are still needed and remembered
- Be spirit-directed
- Do not attempt to “convince them of the error of their ways.” That only makes them defensive–in the same way you would want to dig in and defend your own beliefs if you felt they were trying to convince you that YOU were wrong.