As I followed Barry’s Facebook and Blog posts, I was shocked by the number of people that made comments who were still feeling disorientated and frustrated because they had been cut off by their family members when they left the church. They left the church because it would make their life happier and easier. Instead it was making their life more miserable and harder. However, this was not because they had left the church, but because their family members had left them. I was shocked and appalled by this revelation.
The church is all about family. God is all about family. I am all about Family.
I realized that my son was grieving. He had lost his identity, lifestyle and the foundation upon which he spent 34 years building his belief system. Understanding his loss helped me put the anger he was interjecting into perspective for me. I could see I was being intolerant of Barry, when I thought he was being intolerant of my beliefs, when in reality his anger was a natural progression of the loss he suffered.
The intolerance I was feeling towards Barry fit into what my therapist had said, that people have a right to be wrong. What does that mean for me? From my perspective, Barry was wrong. But does he have a right to be wrong and what should my response to that be?
Wait a minute, again, he is grieving. And he is reaching out to a whole group of people who are grieving. Isn’t that a good thing? Isn’t that what I taught him to do, to comfort those that are in need, the underprivileged, bring me your torn and tattered masses and I will give them comfort?
My therapist told me that the only responsibility of a parent of adult children is to validate them. I have had a real problem with that because I never stopped raising my children. I was always there to solve their problems and fix things. At this time I realized that Barry did not need fixing, he needed validation and support in his grieving. And all the children of adult parents that he was helping need the same thing. I was being intolerant of my child because he did not agree with me. So, as a parent, I had to fix, which means discipline, which means punish him. And to punish him I was suppose to ostracize him. That meant that I would not talk or interact with him unless he played by my rules, not his. In fact, his rules were irrelevant to me. They were like rules he made up on the playground and brought them home to my house. How dare he do that IN MY HOUSE. Who does he think he is, an adult who can reason and make decisions on his own, and is responsible for his own actions. Emphatically NO! That is not what he is. He is a child who has disrespected my house and my rules and I WILL NOT TAKE IT. I DO NOT HAVE TO TAKE IT. IT IS MY HOUSE. I will force Barry to comply with my rules, any way I can.
Hate and love have the same intensity. When a person loves someone and then they are hurt by that person, their emotion does not turn to apathy, it turns to hate. There is a broad spectrum from intense love to intense hate, and I have run the gambit, so I know the stages. In the church I learned to love, in Vietnam I learned to hate.
What I saw in Barry was hate for the church. He had loved the church until recently, when he realized how the church was hurting him; he began moving on the spectrum towards hate. First, he felt uncomfortable, and then he began to speak out against the church in hopes that someone would give him answers to the things that were making him uncomfortable, then when no one did, he solidified those doubts by looking for his own answers to what he did not like about the church. We call this research. In most cases researching a subject is a commendable thing, but when people in the church start researching doctrine, church leaders, the temple ceremony, church history, the Book of Mormon, or any other subject or topic that make them feel uncomfortable, we call it being on the road to apostasy. When we see someone on the road to apostasy, we do strange things.
We do not help that person find answers that will help them feel comfortable in the church, we simply tell them to stop looking for answers. We say ‘that is a mystery of Godliness and you will never find an answer, so leave it alone or your research will hurt you’. I have been told that exact thing in my church career. Barry was told, “If you’re going to smart your way out of the church.” It is like there are rattle snakes out there and if I go looking for answers as to how to avoid the rattle snakes or why they are there, through legitimate research, I will inadvertently step on a rattle snake that is hidden in my research and he will bite me and I will die. They say that because that is usually what happens to a Mormon that researches issues they are having with Mormon Doctrine or Mormon history. They do not find things that make them feel better about what is bothering them, they find things that make them feel worse about the issues they are having with the church. This validates their worst fear; the church they are in that requires them to live a structured restrictive lifestyle, is not for them.
Those of us in the church use different terms for their situation. We say that they are being influenced by the power of Satan to study those things and Satan has given them false information. That person is influenced by that false information and is drawing the wrong conclusion from it. Their conclusion is that the church is not the true church of Jesus Christ and therefore they should not belong in it. Again, Apostasy.
Members of the church feel they belong to the true church of Jesus Christ and everyone that wants to be happy on earth and have joy should belong to it. Once you have partaken of the fruit of the tree of life that the gospel of Jesus Christ leads you too (by clinging to the iron rod), then you should never leave the comfort and safety of the Mormon community, where you will be nurtured and protected for all eternity. As a devout Mormon, I have always believed that and I still do to this day. But believing that is not helping me with my son’s situation.
I believed he being influenced by Satan to research things that were harmful to his spiritual health. He was drinking the poisoned water. He was opening himself to an evil influence that would eventually destroy him. He was not thinking rationally, or he would see what path he was on and he would reject it, just like the church, and me, have taught him all his life. After all didn’t I spend all those years teaching him the dangers of ‘being in the world,’ to withness him abandon it. Didn’t I teach him that he had to be in the world, but not of the world’? He was being sucked in by the world and I was losing control of him. I really don’t want to control him, I just want what is best for him. I want him to be happy, like I am happy. After all, if it’s been good for me, it will be good for him. There is nothing wrong with my lifestyle in the true Church of Jesus Christ. And there is nothing wrong with him living that same lifestyle for all of his life. Because if he does, then we will be together for eternity. If he continues along this devious path that Satan has enticed him to follow, then he will be destroyed. And by that I mean, he will live an alternate lifestyle that could not possibly bring him the happiness he could have. That is the happiness I am feeling right now. And worst of all, he will not be my child in the next life. I will lose him for eternity. All because he is studying things that he has no right to study. Yes, those things are out there, but they are poison. They will poison your mind to what is right, to the right way to live this life. I have the template for happiness in this life. It is the template, not just for me, but for all mankind. He needs to follow that template, or he will not be happy, I will not be happy, and I will have no control over him. I know it says, ‘if you love them, let them go, and if they love you they will come back’, but the part I cannot tolerate is ‘They may not come back’. What will I do if he doesn’t come back to me? That will bring me pain beyond belief.
This is where long time church members get into trouble with their children who are leaving the fold. We all handle pain and process it in different ways. It is pain that is leading their child out of the church. Something about the church is forcing them out of it. Its doctrine, lifestyle, prohibitions, leaders, or members have caused pain that their child cannot and will not deal with. Their parents say they won’t deal with it because they are not being logical or rational and that Satan is the root of their pain. If they would just pray and ask God for deliverance from their pain, the problem would go away.
I really do want my children to be happy with their life. However, I’m starting to see that my way to happiness is not the only way to happiness in this life. I have believed the opposite; My Way, as taught by the Mormon Church, is the only way to happiness in the eternities… but as I thought it, I actually know plenty of people who are perfectly happy with their life outside the Mormon Church. How could that be? I also know quite a number of members of the church who are miserable. I have been in the church all my life and I would not say that I have lived a happy life. In fact, my children would agree with me that aspects of my life has been a relatively miserable one. As a Mormon, I believe happiness in the eternities can only be found by following the doctrine of the Mormon Church. But, I do not believe that happiness in this life can only be found by following the doctrine of the Mormon Church. Happiness comes in all different ways to all different people.
So, if my son has not found happiness in the Mormon Church and he has problems with church doctrine, lifestyle, prohibitions, church leaders, or church members, then why would I insist he stay in the church? He has stated the church causes him discomfort and sometimes pain. He has told me he has followed the counsel of the church leaders and tried to resolve his pain by following church procedures, but he hasn’t been able to resolve his pain. His pain is growing and he doesn’t know what to do about it.
If my son had cancer and I had known people who had beat their cancer, I would tell my son to do what they have done to heal himself. If he tried what they had done and it still didn’t work, would I tell my son that I had done my part, now he just had to die? No, I wouldn’t. No parent would do that. As his father, I would encourage him to look for alternative methods to beat the cancer. We would do research together to understand what his cancer was doing in his body and look for ways to counteract it. I would want him to live as long as he could and I would do everything I could to help him discover how to do that.
So, why is it when an adult child leaves the church because they cannot cure a cancer that has grown within them, the parent says, ‘Well I tried to save you, but you would not listen, so I am cutting you off from the family’.
Why wouldn’t the parent do the same thing with his son as they would do if he had cancer? Why wouldn’t they listen to him, try to understand him, encourage him to find the answers that will make him happy?
I really don’t understand the mentality of this kind of parent. Do I love my son just because he is a member of the church, or do I love my son just because he is my son? In other words, do I love my son on the condition that he stays in the church to satisfy my demands on him (what happened to Free Agency), or do I love him unconditionally regardless of the lifestyle he lives, What Would Jesus Do?