Parents Still Upset Over a Lapsed Mormon July 29, 2009

Parents Still Upset Over a Lapsed Mormon

I got an email recently from “Jen.”

Jen’s a smart woman who told her parents she didn’t want to go to church anymore… when she was 8.

They made her go, anyway, until she turned 15. That’s when she graduated high school (early) and moved out (there may have been some forging of signatures to make that happen…).

She’s now 21, working a couple jobs, attending an Ivy League school (and is an honors student there), and hoping to go to law school.

Are her parents proud of her?

It doesn’t look like academic success is even on their radar, based on a recent incident.

Jen’s sister couldn’t access her email and asked Jen (over the phone) to log in for her… so she did, finding the email her sister needed.

But before logging off, she saw an email from her parents to her sister. The subject line: “Concerning Jen.”

How could she not open that?

Jen (admitting it’s “ethically horrible”) opened it up and found a link to this article.

It’s about Mormon parents whose children stray from the faith. At the end, it recommends a counseling center parents can send “wayward” children to.


This isn’t just about religion. It’s parents projecting their beliefs and wishes onto their children. When the child chooses a different path, these parents go berserk.

I have another friend who decided to drop out of medical school after his third year. He became a special-ed-certified math teacher.

His parents haven’t spoken to him in nearly two decades. (Decades!)

I hope Jen’s parents will come around, but for that to happen, they will have to look beyond religion. Jen’s not going back to the Mormon church anytime soon.

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  • medussa

    My mom expected at least a Master’s Degree from me, and my Bachelor’s with Honors is therefore meaningless. And in her eyes, being a firefighter/medic is just an overpaid blue collar job (yes, the classism is intentional in that statement). Doesn’t stop her from asking me for support, though.

    In the scheme of things out there, Jen’s story is pretty tame, as at least her parents aren’t harassing her personally. Seems like the sister has to listen to the daily gripes and whines, while Jen has managed to escape.
    Good for Jen, may the sister be as lucky.

  • sc0tt

    Am I the only one who suspects that Jen’s sister and mother collaborated and scripted that e-mail for Jen’s eyes all along?

  • Siamang

    She’s now 21, working a couple jobs, attending an Ivy League school (and is an honors student there), and hoping to go to law school.

    Are her parents proud of her?

    It doesn’t look like academic success is even on their radar, based on a recent incident.

    A female? I’m betting procreative success is the only thing on their radar.

    Just personal experience talking here. I know someone whose parents didn’t even put money away for college for their female child. Their two boys on the other hand, they did.

    When one of the boys DIED, the girl then was able to attend college.

    Not making that up.

    Ain’t religion grand?

  • Old Beezle

    As a former mormon I know that, in my parents’ eyes, any success that I achieve will be overshadowed by the fact that I ‘failed’ in their church. They’ll still love me and all, but the condescension is still apparent because, per their beliefs, I’ll go to a ‘lower’ heaven while they move on to becoming gods…after we all die.

    I think I’d actually prefer some condescension based on reality rather than fantasy. I WISH they were giving me a hard time about my career rather than their tripe of choice.

  • I understand Jen’s situation.

    Two days before my mom passed away, one of her greatest wishes was for me to return to the Mormon church. We had a great conversation about how what really mattered was that I was her son and that we had spent the last 6 years rebuilding our relationship on that instead of a religion and how much she had taught me over the years to be a caring and responsible person in life.

    Alas, all that was nothing compared to my leaving the church.

    So as Old Beezle said above, it’s sad that human achievements in life are nothing when you stop attending church.

  • What are the words I’m looking for? Oh yeah:


    Okay, now that that is out of my system, it should be noted that the “counceling center” noted in that article is the notorious West Ridge Academy, formerly Utah Boys Ranch. Until recently, it was run by notorious Utah state senator Chris Buttars.

    For some details on the awesome practices used at West Ridge, there’s a support group for people who were abused there at .

    It’s truly a disgusting place. And notorious. One of my best friends pretended to be Mormon for years until he left his parents’ house after his had threatened to send him to the Utah Boys Ranch.

  • Cypress Green

    There’s so much wrong with that article I hardly know where to begin.
    First, what’s “spiritual sickness?” This is a serious question.
    Parents of a child who strays often describe life before waywardness as “living in a bubble.” Although they knew they were living in a world awash in depravity, they only became acutely aware of their environment when their child was caught up in some difficulty.
    WTF? Bubble about covers it (pun intended). Are they so naive they think their kids will grow up to be little robots who do whatever they’re told?
    We hadn’t seen it coming. Worse, our beloved Elise* had suddenly changed. Now she was belligerent and determined to remain with her boyfriend.
    I believe this is called ‘being a teenager’ you dopes. Teens acting like teens? Shamefull!!! Geez, weren’t YOU people ever teens? Yeesh.
    Elise has not yet agreed to go to counseling, but Jim and I do. (We are told) to work solely on the relationship and give Elise unconditional love.
    Now that’s the first sensible thing they said yet.
    Now we pray and fast with more frequency and purpose; we attend the temple twice in a month rather than once; and we try harder in our callings.
    Sigh. Just when it sounded like it was going to get better.
    That is likely the reason why He (God) places such children with strong parents!
    Huh? What about teens who do get pregnant? Who get in trouble with the law? Who commit suicide?
    They might ask themselves the following questions: If my daughter becomes pregnant, should I take her to a gynecologist or a therapist? If I suspect my son of addiction to drugs, when do I take him to the doctor?
    Surely they are joking.
    Brigham Young said, “I care not where those children go, they are bound up to their parents by an everlasting tie, and no power of earth or hell can separate them from their parents in eternity; they will return again to the fountain from whence they sprang”
    So does that mean each and every person does go to heaven? ‘Cause we’re all bound to the one before us? That’s how it sounds to me. Are Brigham Young’s words considered inerrant? I don’t know.

  • The Other Tom

    I have a friend whose parents repeatedly remind him how disappointed they are with him because he didn’t become a doctor like they are. He only has a degree in engineering from MIT and an MBA from a prestigious business school. I’m convinced they will nag him about it for the rest of their lives.

    Parents who are unable to accept the facts that their childrens’ lives are their own, that their children are not slaves, and that they can’t control their childrens’ lives, deserve whatever suffering they put themselves through. I recommend the children should go about their lives, try to ignore their parents, and when forced to confront their parents’ unreasonable expectations, tell the parents that it’s all their fault that their children are such wicked people. Let ’em suffer.

  • Stay strong, Jen… (and safe)

  • I’ve got to echo Fiona. Stay strong and safe Jen. I hope in time your family appreciates you for who you are and not who they wanted you to be.

  • SarahH

    It’s amazing how parents can completely cut off their children because of differences in belief or for having a sexual orientation they disapprove of, or for not going into a career path they chose for them.

    I, for one, would be fascinated to hear a parent’s perspective on why they’ve stopped communicating/supporting/loving an adult child. Is it too painful emotionally? Do they feel they’ve failed as parents and are avoiding what they perceive as a big reminder of their failure? Do they think that their kid will change for them if they cause them enough pain?

    It’s sad, and it happens all too often. Still, the silver lining is that, at least in the case of homosexual kids coming out, many of the most bigoted parents eventually come around – even after years of separation – and can become staunch allies for gay rights. Parents who shun their children for other reasons can come around too, if their love eventually trumps their pride and narrow-mindedness.

    I hope things improve for Jen – and I echo the others here who’ve urged her to stay safe.

  • Indigo

    I know for a fact that my parents danced with glee when I said I was thinking about law school…and were rather disappointed when I decided it wasn’t for me and I was going to pursue a career in film. But they never said, to my face, “We are crushed, and nothing you ever do will make up for it.” I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a parent who never thought anything you did was good enough because you diverged from them on a single point. How horrible.

  • AG

    Echoing Fiona and Noadi — be well, Jen, and be safe. And I pity her parents, whose faith-blinders are causing them to miss out on enjoying the company of someone who sounds like a mighty impressive young adult.

  • Dan W

    I’m glad to have parents who are supportive of my choices, like my major in college. They know that what I’ve chosen, history, is something I like. It must suck to have parents who don’t think you will ever be good enough because you are heading on a career path that they don’t like, or, even worse, that they feel like you will never be good enough because of something like your sexual orientation or religious views.

  • JSug

    I have a cousin whose parents refused to attend her wedding because they did not approve of her choice of husband. Why? Because he wasn’t a member of the correct branch of Christianity. Differences were reconciled a few years later, but family gatherings were rocky for a while. They have been happily married now for at least 15 years. Meanwhile, the “good” daughter, who married the “right” boy, has had 12 years of hellish marriage to a dead-beat tyrant of a husband, and is now getting a divorce. Which doesn’t really prove anything, except that parents don’t always know what is best for their kids, even if they think their god is telling them so.

    Echoing Indigo and Dan W, I’m very glad I have parents who have always been supportive, no matter what decisions I have made in my life.

  • cicely

    sc0tt Says:

    Am I the only one who suspects that Jen’s sister and mother collaborated and scripted that e-mail for Jen’s eyes all along?

    No. That was my first thought.

  • Speaking as someone who wasn’t always an atheist, it seems a lot of atheists don’t really understand the perspective of the true believer. To them it’s not comparable to a disagreement in a preference for Letterman over Leno, or choosing a different political party or career path.
    For true believer parents, the child straying away from the church is worse than the child announcing they plan to commit suicide (and meaning it). To the parents, the child is essentially committing suicide with their soul. It’s not a matter of religious tolerance or respect of beliefs or freedom of choice; the unbelievers are wrong, and if you care about the unbeliever enough, you must do everything you can to convince them of the error of their ways before it’s too late. It it just not acceptable to let others “damn” themselves to eternal torment and punishment out of respect for for letting others have incorrect, damning beliefs.

    This belief that the child that strays from the church condemns their immortal soul is why it is so heart breaking for the true believer parent to find out their child has turned away from the church and their faith. As long as such hard core believer parents maintain such beliefs, there’s little chance for a successful reconciliation with the child that refuses to return to the church or their faith.

  • coport

    There is no mention of disapproval or lack of love from Jen’s parents except an e-mail that tells the parents to love their children unconditionally and stregthen themselves spiritually? There is nothing noteworthy here to talk about. Majority of parents I know would be concerned if their teenage daughter was sleeping with someone and if their son was on drugs. This is what the article talks about, not about a daughter that is living a healthy life like Jen. Why would this be compared? And thank you for the referral to the article – it had some really insightful points.

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