The Principles Of Righteousness and Parenting

General Conference Countdown Day 16 of 37:  Get your Study Schedule here.

Elder Larry Y. Wilson

Today’s reading comes from a talk by Elder Larry Y. Wilson of the Second Quorum of the Seventy entitled “Only Upon The Principles Of Righteousness“.  Elder Wilson is a graduate of both Harvard University and Standford University. During his professional business career he worked in the hospital and healthcare industry as a COO and a CFO. As a Latter-day Saint leader, he has served in many capacities, including bishop, Stake President, Mission President and Area Leader, as well as a missionary to Brazil. He and his wife Lynda have four children and seven grandchildren.

The title of Elder Wilson’s conference talk comes from a scripture found in the Doctrine and Covenants

“The powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.” – D&C 121:36

This scripture is usually referred to in context of a Priesthood-holding man who oversteps his bounds of authority. However, Elder Wilson teaches us how the meaning of this scripture can be applied to any and all of us:

“…anytime we try to compel someone to righteousness who can and should be exercising his or her own moral agency, we are acting unrighteously.”

Or, in other words:

“We simply cannot force others to do the right thing.”

Let’s face it, perhaps no one tries harder to get others to “do the right thing” than a parent does with their child! That isn’t necessarily a “bad” thing! Parents have a duty to teach our children right from wrong. But, Elder Wilson cautions parents not to overstep our bounds of authority by taking away our children’s freedom to choose.

“Our children are in our homes for a limited time. If we wait until they walk out the door to turn over to them the reins of their moral agency, we have waited too long. . . Wise parents prepare their children to get along without them.”




OK. I have a confession to make. I hated really did not enjoy this Conference talk.

Let me clarify.

  1. I have nothing personal against Elder Wilson. I haven’t met him, but I am positive that if I ever got the chance to meet him we would become good friends.
  2. I also have nothing against the subject of his talk which I think is enlightening, and I know was inspired.

The reason why I really did not enjoy this Conference talk was because of how it made me feel;

“I am a complete and utter Failure as a mother – with a capital FAIL.” – MoSop

I’m sure Elder Wilson did not intend to throw me into the pit of guilt-tripping despair.

But, that’s what happened.

Of course Elder Wilson did not throw me into the pit of guilt-tripping despair, I threw myself in.

I have been known to do this before.

We could blame it on hormones, if you like.

So, there I was listening to Elder Wilson talk about all the “do’s” and “don’t’s” for good vs. poor parenting, and the  more I listened, the more certain I was that I failed the good parent test. Because, here’s the problem…unlike a lot of mothers who were bouncing a baby on their knee, or feeding Cheerios to a restless toddler, or watching a youngster quietly assemble their Noah’s Ark Legos while they listened to Elder Wilson’s talk, I on the other hand could not reach out and lovingly stroke my child’s head. I could not make a personal resolution to “turn over a new leaf” or to “apply [this talk] in my life” because my youngest child had just turned 18 years old in February and by April she was preparing to graduate High School and move away from home. And, my older daughter was already age 21, and a Junior in College.

So, you see, there are no more “second chances” or “do-overs” for me.

Thus, when Elder Wilson said “Our children are in our homes for a limited time.” you better believe I started bawling – because one cannot understand how “limited” that time really is until their time is officially “UP”. Over. Finished. Kaput. Nada. That’s me.

My baby is officially an “adult”, and when you reach this point in your life journey, you suddenly realize that all of your power of influence, if you ever had any, has suddenly been rendered  inconsequential. There is nothing more you can say or do about your child’s choices.  You just have to stand there and watch them joyfully fly away into the black cloud of life…and at that moment you start praying your guts out.

Well, that’s what you do unless you want to try to hold onto them, put them in a “cage”, and bend them to your will!…which, of course Elder Wilson already understands does not work:

“Compulsion builds resentment. It conveys mistrust, and it makes people feel incompetent. Learning opportunities are lost when controlling persons pridefully assume they have all the right answers for others.”

So, what is a parent to do?

Since April conference, I’ve had a lot of time to think about that question. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t have any answers, actually, except one.

We can love them.

That’s it?

Yep. That’s it.

Since my children “launched” I spend half my time wanting to do a little “happy dance” and dream up remodeling projects for the empty bedrooms. And, I spend the other half of my time crying and wringing my hands and worrying and feeling guilt over all of the things I know I must have forgotten to tell them or teach them or show them or be for them.

Why do I do this?

Because, I’m a mother.

But, today I got a chance to re-read Elder Wilson’s talk with fresh eyes  – “above ground” – (i.e. not 10 feet below in the pit of guilt-tripping despair). I was able to focus on the conclusion of Elder Wilson’s inspired advice (the part I don’t think I ever heard). He concluded with the example of how our beloved Prophet Thomas S. Monson chooses to parent his children who have flown the nest, as described by daughter Ann Dibb:

“My parents always give me some compliment; it doesn’t matter what I look like or what I’ve been doing. … When I go and visit my parents, I know I am loved, I am complimented, I am made welcome, I am home.”

What is a parent to do when the “doing” is done?

We love them no matter what. And, we always welcome them home. – MoSop

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