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My daughter married a non-member and has left the Church. Of my four children, I am closest to her. My other children don’t communicate with her or with me. This daughter wants me in her life and I am only a phone call away. I am very much part of her life, giving support and basically on-call. Our lives are now going different directions. When I mention going on a mission, she becomes upset and depressed. There is a lot of support she is not experiencing because of her inactivity in the Church. I am concerned that my granddaughter is not growing in the gospel. How do I live my life so my daughter knows I love her but at the same time allows me to serve and do the things that matter to me?
I believe every senior missionary struggles to break away from their family to serve a full-time mission. Family concerns are real and your role in your daughter’s life is no doubt a blessing to her and your granddaughter. I’m sure you worry that without your positive influence in her life, she would be worse off.
I want you to consider the possibility that you can do more good for her serving a mission than you can while hovering and worrying about her situation. She is moving away from the teachings you’ve imparted to her since she was young. This causes you anxiety and distress. You want to help her, but watching her life take a different direction makes things tense and difficult for both of you.
Elder Robert D. Hales gave a powerful sermon to senior missionaries, encouraging them to trust that the Lord will care for their families when they’re serving His cause. He said:
“To an earlier generation of missionaries called to leave their families, the Lord offered this reassurance: ‘And if they will do this in all lowliness of heart, … I, the Lord, give unto them a promise that I will provide for their families (D&C 118:3).’
Certainly family concerns are real and should not be considered lightly. But we cannot meet our family challenges without the blessings of the Lord; and when we sacrifice to serve as full-time [missionaries], those blessings will flow.[i]”
Your daughter has other options to help her with her family situation, but won’t ever consider them until you are not there. You are not abandoning your daughter. She might accuse you of abandonment, but you’ll have to get clear on what’s really happening. You are leaving for a short time to serve others, grow spiritually, and become a better person.
My observation has been that senior missionaries come back with more to offer their families after their missions. They gain valuable perspective and are tuned into relationships in a way that blesses their children and grandchildren. Your daughter will get much more from you post-mission than she can even imagine now.
Plus, I believe it’s good for your daughter to gain some appreciation for you and what you offer her. She won’t gain this appreciation unless she experiences some distance. This will be good for her to see what a fabulous mother and grandmother you are and how you bless her life.
As you serve others and share those experiences with your daughter and granddaughter, it will have a powerful influence on their lives. You aren’t going to make things worse by leaving. You’re improving your life and connecting with God and others. Your journey make take you away from her for a while, but I’m certain your sacrifices will bring you both closer in the end.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.