The Prodigal

I’m going to change names for this post. I’ll just call them Mormon Mother and RM Son.

RM Son met the most beautiful woman in the world at BYU–or so he told her in a note he tossed her direction in the library, and which made her blush and timidly accept a date. They had the sort of romance we expect full-hormoned BYU students to have. That romance went beyond the plan, however. They got pregnant. They became engaged shortly before they knew their “condition,” and announcements went out proclaiming their forthcoming temple marriage. Then, after a talk with the bishop, RM Son told Mormon Mother that he and the bride would not be going to the temple after all.

There was no time to cancel the reception, scheduled to be held at Mormon Mother’s home. She, loathing a lie, stood like a sentinel at the door and did her duty. She told each guest that the couple had not married in the temple. There. Honesty. Nobody would be deceived.

Did the bride and groom, yards away from Mormon Mother, see the faces of their guests showing obligatory sorrow, shame, embarrassment, and then yielding to a smiling mask as they approached to say what we say to brides and grooms? (“My, my don’t you look radiant!” “We certainly wish you the best.”) How could they NOT have seen the expressions shift?

Months ago, when my husband was first made a bishop, he performed a marriage for a returned missionary and his bride. It was in the Relief Society room. The bride’s parents had told her the week before that she had just ruined her life. They did not attend the ceremony.

The morning of the wedding, I took a walk with the groom’s mother and told her what a remarkable young man she had raised. (How difficult was that confessional call to my husband, the bishop? What kind of courage did that take?) “This is just a bump in the road,” I said. She and I purchased flowers and made the RS room look like a nice place to get married. The bishop told the bride and groom how deeply loved they were, and how important their marriage vows would be to them and to God. He mentioned the temple once as a goal he knew they had in mind, but we lived in the moment. And it was a joyful moment.

The first story I told, about Mormon Mother and RM Son, happened many years ago. That Mormon Mother has long since passed away, and the RM Son chose to leave Mormonism–with his wife and family of six children. None of their posterity is LDS. For years, as family letters went out announcing all the various accomplishments of children and grandchildren, there was always a paragraph directed to RM Son, calling him not-so-subtlely to repentence. The bride (now a great grandmother herself) once said that the Mormon Church had always been a friend to her–until her marriage. Then it became a judge. She didn’t want to be judged for the rest of her life.

My husband and I talked about the Prodigal Son last night. These are the scriptures in Luke 15:
18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.
20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

The phrase that sticks out to me is this: “When he was a great way off, his father saw him…and ran.” The father does not wait stubbornly, piously, proudly in his house for the son to stumble inside, but runs A GREAT WAY to meet and help him home, immediately assuring him of his love.

Such love is the bridge to our children. I wonder if it’s the real sealing power, the undergirding of whatever binds us–if the force of love itself has everything to do with “the holy spirit of promise.” Do parents mock that power when they choose to turn their backs on children who don’t follow the set script? Or maybe God is waiting for us parents to return to His abode, and will meet us somewhere on the trail–even if it’s a “great way” from where He would hope we’d be. Maybe in that supernal embrace, we sense how far we have yet to go–how great the distance is between our paltry, childish offerings and the bounteous feast we’re offered.

I know the joy of sitting in the temple and watching my daughter marry a good man. I also know the anguish of watching my son choose to not be a Mormon any longer. In the midst of my motherhood and all of its callings stand my children as they are, with their particular gifts and challenges, all of us given to each other so we could learn something about family, humility, repentence, forgiveness. If my son’s choice is a permanent one (as it may well be), I pray God that I would I still run “a great ways” to greet him.


  1. Beautiful, but when the prodigal’s father runs to meet him, the prodigal has already decided to repent and return. There is no mention of the father seeking him out during his riotous living.

  2. Julie M. Smith says:

    Kew, you don’t know that. He may have been returning home with nothing more pious than a demand for more money .

    Beautiful post, Margaret.

  3. The story teller (Jesus) seems to know exactly where the prodigal son has been every moment, has been aware of every descent. Ultimately, it’s the story teller who tells us our own stories, or listens as we tell Him things He already knows. Don’t you think? And we are not given the details of the prodigal’s full return. (He’s not in great shape as he makes his way back.) The story moves quickly to the brother’s response, wherein he refers to “this, thy son” and the father corrects him: “This, thy brother…”

  4. wow that’s a beautiful post. I remember several years ago – my institute teacher’s daughter became pregnant out of wedlock. And said institute teacher’s family was a very prominent and “model LDS” family. I grew up hearing what a “shame on the family and church” it was to be pregnant out of wedlock. But the best Christ like love came from the Institute Teacher himself. Over the course of the next couple years, he publicly expressed his love for his daughter. He wasn’t covering up any shame or explaining any of the situation. He just LOVED his daughter, LOVED the father of the baby….and absolutely LOVED the baby boy when he was born. I saw that out-of-wedlock-family grow and blossom in the love and confidence of their dad/father-in-law/grandpa. And it was amazing. I hope to be that loving in ALL circumstances.

  5. Margaret I’m so glad you are here to say things like this. Beautiful things that radiate the kind of love Christ exemplified and make the world a richer place.

    I have been run to in my life. And I can tell you nothing means more than knowing you are loved despite having dined with the swine.

    Thanks for this. Kew I don’t think we can assume he didn’t look for his son, he probably didn’t know where to look for him. He was scanning the road, though and, saw him from a long way off.

  6. That’s a wonderful insight, and so important. We are so fragile when we know we’ve sinned. A cold reception can hurt so badly it makes more sense to leave again than stay. In contrast, a warm ‘welcome home’ would assure that the son would never want to leave again.

    It’s encouraging to know that Heavenly Father runs a great way to meet us on our way back, even if earthly families fail in that level of love.

  7. Thank you Margaret. You have given me much to think on- as you always do.

    I hope someday to have my heavenly parents run to greet me and enfold me in their loving arms, and I hope I can always remember to be those waiting arms for my own children.

  8. jersey girl says:

    Wow! Thank you for this post!

  9. I am always astonished when I learn of similar cases in recent years; in that some of us have not moved past shame and pride to be loving and accepting as Jesus would do.
    Thanks Margaret for a loving and lovely post.

  10. A beautiful post, Margaret. Thank you so much sharing your compassion and wisdom with us. I, too, have seen a daughter married in the temple to a wonderful man and also have seen a son who did not marry in the temple. Another daughter, my strongest, most valiant child, has left the child after being tortured and raped by an LDS man.

    I know our Heavenly Father has great love for all of His children and that He has great concern and pure love for those who struggle and stray. I also believe that God will make every opportunity for His wandering sheep to return. I love my children unconditionally and pray that each of them will some day understand how deeply their Father loves them. I also pray that I may be an instrument of God’s love throughout my service and compassion.

  11. I don’t have anything to say except Amen. (Mods: can we get an “Amen” button, like the “Like” button on Facebook?)

  12. To forgive is not only divine, it is in your self-interest.

    If you overforgive, you can always revoke that forgiveness at any moment. If, on the other hand, you (out of false pride) do not attend your own daughter’s wedding, it will never be forgotten. Forgiven maybe, in the fullness of time, but never forgotten.

    Is it possible that the Prodigal Son was coming home not to seek forgiveness but rather to offer it? After all, sons do not run away for no reason. Is it also possible that the father, suspecting this is so, seizes on the opportunity to run out to meet him and glosses over exactly why the son returned? Being “right” or having your son back…I think the father chose wisely.

    In the wondrous words of Robert Frost: “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, They have to take you in.”


  13. Steve Evans says:

    Dan, excellent advice.

  14. I really enjoyed this post. A couple thoughts spring to mind. What kind of a person doesn’t go to their own child’s wedding?

    I have a slight preference for non-temple weddings, probably due to having such a positive experience with not being married in the temple myself. The temple weddings I have attended have not struck me as particularly celebratory (which the medium makes all but impossible) or joyous–although that is just my impression. If I asked any of my siblings what they thought of their temple weddings they would probably say they were super joyous. I also like the fact that when you get married outside the temple you can choose the person who marries you. Years later when I was sealed to my wife in the temple the stranger speaking prior to and during the actual ceremony was so obviously phoning in a script he had settled into years before that even my dear mother was annoyed. I wasn’t bothered–but might have been in my actual wedding was a pre-fab.

    Strangely enough, this morning as I was walking to work I was thinking about what I would do if my daughter was young and inexperienced and wanted to marry a dead beat. Obviously I wouldn’t welcome the dead beat into the family. If he would take money and I knew it would work, I would pay him to go away. I wouldn’t kidnap my daughter to keep her away from the dead beat (ala the Redds) and I wouldn’t pay someone to rough up the dead beat. I would go to the wedding (again, what kind of a parent doesn’t go to their kid’s wedding?) and I would keep my mouth shut. I hope any marriage to a dead beat would not occur in the temple. When my daughter came to her senses, I would run out and meet her and kill the fatted calf as Margaret suggests. I would also tell her not to bring home any more dead beats.

    Thankfully this will remain theory as by the time my daughter reaches the age of majority she will have the good sense to not get involved with dead beats.

  15. I’m so glad my wife and I didn’t do anything before our marriage. The stigma in this church would have been stifling.

  16. lamonte says:

    Margaret – Your words are beautifully written and totally appropriate for all parents to consider. I have been blessed to know the joy of a returning prodigal son. I’m not sure if I can articulate the reasons for his return but I know it had something to do with the prayers of his parents and the consistency of his mother’s reminders to him of who he is.

    During the time of trumoil I ran across these words in Gene R. Cook’s book entitled “Raising Up a Family Unto the Lord” and they gave me great comfort even though I wasn’t sure what the future would be.

    “The Prophet Joseph Smith declared—and he never taught more comforting doctrine—that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain. Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God.”

    Those words have been repeated in some recent General Conference talks and to some they may seem a bit harsh. But on the night I read those words I felt a witness of truth that I have never felt before or since. It would be another three years before my son would come back to us but I knew that night that he would be back, “ether in this life or the life to come” as long as I remained faithful.

    My son is now married with a beautiful young family. I know that some parents will be required to wait until “the life to come” to experience the joy that I have felt, but after the witness I felt that night I was willing to wait for eternity. And I also know that none of us have yet seen “see the salvation of God.” That will take a lifetime from each of us.

    In the meantime, as your inspriational words have reminded us, we should follow the example of the Savior and love those children without conditions.

    Thank you Margaret.

  17. Aaron T. says:

    Outstanding post.

    My first thought was to when a parent (like my sister) learns a son or daughter is gay. The absolute turmoil and heartwrenching decisions of whether to stand behind her son, or whether to toe the line established by the church has been a lesson in Christian living.

    My sister has stood shoulder to shoulder with her son and maintained contact with the church whose (unintentional) scorn she feels every other day in the newspaper.

  18. Kevin Barney says:

    Beautiful, Margaret. I never noticed the father running insight before. And parents not attending their own child’s wedding because it wasn’t in the temple? That is seriously messed up.

  19. Beautiful thoughts & insight. This is one of my favorite parables & it’s always nice to add a new layer of understanding. Thank you!

  20. Michael says:

    My parents didn’t attend my wedding. And it was in the temple. They didn’t approve of my choice of wife. They like her now, but boy howdy that was a rough patch for a while.

    In the middle east, old men do not run. They have kids and grandkids, servants and hirelings to do the running for them. Old men don’t run. In Provo, old men don’t (or shouldn’t) walk out in the morning to get the paper with no clothes on. In the middle east, they don’t run. I’ve heard it said that when the father in the Prodigal Son story ran out to greet his son, he was in effect taking a portion of the shame upon himself. And, the son had committed a very serious sin by telling his father “Give me what is mine”. Estates would never be divided until the death of the patriarch. The son was essentially telling his father to drop dead. This would have been a major crime, and the community would have considered themselves to be showing respect to the father by going out and killing the prodigal son upon his return, to save the father from further grief and humiliation. When the father ran out to greet him, to put the ring on his hand and the robe on his back, it was a message to everyone else “Do not kill my son, for he is mine, and must be treated as if he were me.”

    I’ve seen the wards that would run out to kill the returning son. And I’ve seen the parents who take part of the shame upon themselves – the mothers who hold bridal showers anyway, who weep with joy for the birth of grandchildren even when not born in the covenant. I’ve also seen temple wedding couples who had a 9 pound baby boy just seven months after the wedding, still having the nerve to claim “premature”. It’s one thing for a couple to keep themselves pure so they can be sealed in the Temple. It’s another thing to fall, but then think enough of the temple that they “come clean” and don’t enter unworthily. They deserve respect as well.

  21. One who knows says:

    Last summer I attended the temple marriage of a young woman whose father (who was a bishop then and now) did not attend her wedding. He waited outside. This was for reasons that did not then nor now make any sense (at least to me). I think he was making a statement about what a “difficult” child (not unrighteous) she had been. He had also been upset because she refused to move her membership back into his ward, even though he had openly said he would not give her a recommend (for being “difficult” from his perspective). I was flabbergasted at this. However, and this all adds to the oddness–he paid for not one, but two fancy receptions and at the reception we attended he acted as though nothing was out of the ordinary. I think the last chapter of this story has not played out. I hope the young couple remain strong–so far they have. I’m glad he is not my bishop.

  22. John Mansfield says:

    Yes, the parents who chose to not attend their daughter’s wedding are messed-up. Messed-up, hurting, and mourning. Perhaps a little compassion and forgiveness could be felt for them as well.

  23. Of course most outsiders and many insiders also find it “messed up” to exclude your parents from your wedding. (end threadjack)

  24. Emily U says:

    It’s a really beautiful thought that love could be the sealing power in families. I’m going to hold on to that.

    #21 – I think wedding receptions are often really about the parents, so I don’t think paying for receptions mitigates this bishop’s behavior at the wedding. He was saving his own face at the reception, not loving his daughter.

  25. I have a friend whose son is being sent home early from his mission later this week because of emotional issue(s). I know that when the son steps off the plane his father will run and embrace him and continue to love and support him. As the father told me, “If my son is struggling I want him close so I can help.” I only hope the ward will do the same, but have serious doubts.

    My FIL skipped our temple marriage b/c we got married in the wrong temple: DC versus Atlanta. I was too nervous at the time to really care who was or was not there, including my own family. It was tough for my wife, but she soon got over it. We both now laugh about it. His absence did not detract from the day’s event; although, the big snowstorm the day we married suggested maybe we should have given more consideration to Atlanta.

  26. Holden Caulfield says:

    I attending the civil wedding of two members. The father of the groom said they were giving a beautiful picture of the temple to the newlyweds, which he had on display for all to see. He explained how much the picture meant to his wife. He went on further to say that if the newly married couple got married in the temple in the next year, they could keep the picture. If they didn’t, they would have to return it. Needless to say, the air was out of the balloon as far as the wedding was concerned. The best day of their lives had been stepped on by an over-zealous zealot. Love is the key, as my wife and I have shown to our gay LDS son and his partner of almost 4 years.

  27. Parents have a higher obligation to forgive than children do.

    Parents give birth to a selfish unruly baby and guide it towards God. The parent experiences continual joy punctuated with difficulty. For better or worse, the parents have a role in the waywardness of the child. If blame is ever appropriate, then they must share in it.

    Children by contrast are born to two seemingly divine omnipotent, omniscient, all-caring strangers who have (inexplicably and lovingly) singled them out for special praise and attention. And then the child slowly and continually discovers that these were not gods at all. Fool me once…

    When I was 20, my parents learned that I was gay and were…err…distraught. They blamed themselves. I had let them down, and I blamed myself. They got over it. They had always known I was not perfect. I learned only then as an adult I am moment of clarity that they were not perfect either. That day my two godlike guardians angels showed themelves to be mere mortals. I had believed in false gods. That profound loss of faith is with me still. I had to rid myself of the superficial childlike view I had had of them to see and love them for who they really were.

    Giving birth is a contract between three (or two) people in which one of the parties has not given consent. The lifelong obligation to the parents is to slowly earn that consent as the child grows old enough to give it, by saying “Trust us, but not completely, for we shall invariably let you down, and you need to be strong enough by then to forgive us.”

    My parents, God bless them, left out the last part, and I lost my faith. But I gained something better. Now that my wonderful parents are mere mortals, I have it within me at last to forgive them, and it turn ask them to forgive me. God on the other hand I cannot, for He has not yet admitted that He was wrong.

  28. I loaned my husband the wonderful collection of essays published in _Dialogue_ called _Personal Voices_ and urged him to read Douglas Alder’s “Encounter.” It’s about a bishop facing his first encounter with a confessing sinner–a young man about to be married in the temple. The bishop realizes that there’s nothing he can say to the young man which he (the young man) hasn’t been yelling at himself for the past weeks. By the end of the essay, the bishop (Alder) has come to realize how remarkable the young man’s courage is, and reaches a new level of love and admiration for him.
    Holden Caulfield–as I wrote this little blogpost, I thought about gay children and their parents, since I have a gay brother-in-law who has been with his partner longer than Bruce and I have been married. I’ve written about him before, but closed comments because the issue gets so hot on the Nacle. When I sat next to a gay friend for a sing-a-long of _Saturday’s Warrior_ a few months ago, I noticed that he genuinely had a hard time getting through the words, “Brace me up, I’m so discouraged…Isn’t there a someone who will take me as I am, lift me up, not put me down, make me feel like I’m as good as another?” Not the best written lyrics in the world, but the emotion for my friend was very real. I thought, what if _SW_ had been about a truly difficult issue, not “zero population”? I also thought of Carol Lynn Pearson’s _Facing East_ in which the mother says how fervently she has prayed for her son, put his name in the temple, etc. But the audience understands that the prayers have all been for the son to become what she wants him to be.

  29. I can barely recognise what’s happening in some of these stories being told here. I have never in my life in the church seen this kind of reprehensible behaviour regarding extra-temple weddings. Please keep these lunatics away from my happy little bubble.

  30. Dan Weston–#27
    Thank you.

  31. I agree with #29. The people in my ward would have shrugged off the situation.

  32. Beautiful post, Margaret, and I’ve enjoyed reading people’s comments as well. I especially appreciate the context Michael gave in #20. This is my favorite parable. It makes me cry, in a good way.

  33. I am with Ronan. Maybe it is a blessing of living in an urban, essentially inner city, ward with significant numbers of disengaged or formerly disengaged members and where marriage, civil or otherwise, is considered a joyous event. I have stood by many thrilled LDS parents as their children, many of whom have wandered for years, have married civilly to their partners with whom they have lived for years and often have their own children. And the children of the couples are smiling too.

  34. As sad as it is that parents sometimes elect not to support their children’s marriages or other major life events, I think that the US church policy of not allowing people to have both a civil and a temple marriage does send the message that we should pick a temple marriage over family. People with non-member parents are currently placed in a situation where they are expected to exclude their parents from their temple weddings, which indicates that institutionally we value where the wedding takes place more than the family that marriages ought to foster. It gives a bit of (unwelcome) sanction to the idea that we might not support family members who don’t get married where we’d prefer.

  35. Michael – thanks for the additional insight.

    Holden – I find your story inspiring as always!

    Margaret – thanks for your beautiful post. I couldn’t agree more.

  36. I know a specific story about one couple that was in situation of being pregnant and not being able to (immediately) get married in the temple. What I heard was that the entire neighborhood (this was a Utah, Mormon community) rallied to make the wedding special – that they all showed up with gifts and overwhelmed the couple by showing that they (the neighbors) still thought the marriage was an important and noteworthy event.

    That sounded like a wonderful Christ-like response to what could easily have been a painful situation. It seemed to me that they did everything they could to help this couple feel appreciated and loved, at a time when they were no doubt feeling particularly vulnerable.

  37. I am with Ronan in #29. I have never seen this kind of behavior as well. I have seen plenty of inter family squabbles around weddings but its usually over silly stuff like wedding details.

  38. Natalie – Even though the policy is that you can’t be sealed in the temple until a year after a civil marriage, a couple can have two weddings in one day. My friends were sealed in the morning and had a civil ceremony in the afternoon. OK, it was technically a ring ceremony, but the bride walked down the aisle and the whole thing was just like an actual wedding. The bride’s mom still got to “give her away” and it was a great event.

  39. Margaret: That was beautiful. There is another element to the story of the prodigal son which is worth mentioning. The son concluded he was not worthy. He told his father that his sins had made him unworthy to be his son. This reminds me of far too many lectures I have heard preached from our pulpits about worthiness and unworthiness. The father responded directly to his son’s self condemnation, not with words, but with powerful actions. He was having none of that kind of talk. He brought out the robe of honor, and he held a feast. Self condemnation due to perceived unworthiness was met, not just with acceptance and forgiveness, but with the bestowal of privilege and honor. We really could do with much more of that kind of preaching.

  40. merrybits says:

    I simply have no idea why people would choose church over family.

  41. Kristine says:

    I think it’s unsurprising that we behave badly sometimes, given how much encouragement there is in the church to be the checklist perfect older brother.

  42. Randy B. says:

    Margaret, I love this. Thank you!

  43. Gilgamesh says:


    I am a little late, but…
    Kew – While the Prodigal son may not be explicit in the reason why the prodigal returned, we are also commanded to leave the ninety and nine and seek after the one – even he/she is involved in “riotous living.” This is what happened to Alma the Younger – the Lord sought him out. I am of the opinion that Alma was no more special than any of God’s children. God will seek each of us out with the same effort and intensity to invite us back to the fold, in this life or the next.

  44. Margaret, your post made me think of both my niece, who married under similar circumstances, and my two oldest sons, who would qualify as prodigals.

    There was much disappointment when my niece married, and no reception, just a quiet ceremony in the RS room at their chapel. There were a lot of mixed feelings, but when their child was born a few months later, about 14 weeks premature, the families on both sides closed them in and gave them the support and love they needed. They have since been sealed, have several lovely kids, and have done great things in their lives. It so easily could have gone the other way, I’m afraid, and I know both sets of parents were very unhappy at the time. However, the needs of their kids and their premature infant brought everyone’s love to the forefront.

    With my own sons, it is a longer road. However, my second son and his wife (a non-member) now have a four month old daughter, who has done wonders for them. My son is turning out to be a great dad, and they are now much closer to us as a family, and while still not “returned”, they are in a much better place. Patience is the hard part, as trying to hurry this son on anything will only bring us grief. We have just continued to love him, his wife, and make sure he is always welcome. And we are cautiously optimistic.

  45. I am confused as to where people get this idea if they do not get married in the temple initially that somehow they will be judged for the rest of their lives for it. Again this is outside my exp.

    Just for an example of a mix of active men I associate with on Sunday here is my YM presidency and advisors. plus scout masters

    1. Adult convert from catholoc. Parents from mexico. Was baptized about 5 years after marriage to his member wife. Sealed later
    2. Adult convert Presby. married a divorced LDS woman with 2 kids and had 2 more. Sealed later
    3. Adult convert Baptist. Has a DUI conviction from his youth. Sealed to wife after baptism
    4. Adult Convert from Africa methodist. Sealed to wife after their baptism
    5. Adult convert evangelical. Sealed to wife after baptism
    6. BIC Initial temple sealing
    7. BIC Initial Temple sealing
    8. BIC initial temple sealing

    I am not sure why people feel that if they do not get sealed initially in the temple that somehow they are forever thought of and judged as lesser in the LDS church. its simply not the case. The typical ward will have a mix of BIC members of varying stages of lifetime activity and converts.

  46. I have loved the comments here, but it seems that I go to a different church. In the church I attend, they tend to believe that SWK’s book “Miracle of Forgiveness” sets the standard of forgiveness. I believe in his book, (speaking about the prodigal son) he makes it sound like, he that does the most, gets the most, and that the prodigal son will not make it to the CK.

    I am glad those speaking here do not agree.

  47. I knew of a situation where a friend of mine and her husband got married outside the temple initially. Her family was so upset they made her pay for everything by herself. Of course they paid for the weddings of the other daughters. She was sealed later, but this action hurt her deeply, she cannot be expected to forget about it.

    These kind of actions are very self serving for the parents. I feel like the motive behind it is revenge. I bet you anything that the parents who treat their children this way are upset and their children for embarrassing them by not living up to their expectations.

    Fortunately I have not encountered a lot of situations like this. I think you would probably find it in Utah/Idaho more than anywhere else.

    It is so important to give couples like this the benefit of the doubt when they get married. I do know of a situation where a couple had a shotgun wedding, but they went on to have a wonderful family and he became a stake president. I doubt this would have happened if they had been treated as this poor couple.

  48. Rumor has it (but from good sources) that SWK believed later on in life that he had been “too harsh” in that book.

  49. I do not know your sources Margaret, but it sounds like something I would like to believe, so I will incorporate that into my belief system, and be glad to do so.

  50. Nameless says:

    #45 I was not married in the temple because my husband to be had not been a member long enough and we didn’t want to wait. I know this was not an easy thing for my parents. I was their oldest child and I feel there is an undercurrent in church culture that you can tell the quality of the parents by the choices of the children–this therefore reflected poorly on them. Also, I received letters from my supposed best friends from high school telling me what a huge mistake I was making. The positive side of not getting married in the temple was that my husband’s parents were able to attend the wedding.

    #38 Emily: The types of ring ceremony you describe are highly discouraged. A ring ceremony is supposed to be simple so as to not take away from the temple ceremony–no walking down the aisle, no vows. The enforcement probably varies from bishop to bishop however.

    Margaret. Thank you very much for the insight into this parable. And most of all, thank you for your candor regarding your children. One of the things I have found most lonely as we have dealt with parenting issues is the lack of openness with other parents.

  51. Kevin Barney says:

    IIRC, Ed told me that the source for the “too harsh” judgment was a neighbor who recounted a conversation he had had with Ed’s father.

    My source for this is Ed himself, when we were on a Sunstone panel together discussing Lengthen Your Stride.

  52. I believe that Ed Kimball includes the quote in his second volume on SWK (do not recall if it is in the printed version or on the cd that is included with the book).

  53. Nameless–if you want to talk parenthood at anytime, e-mail me personally. I’m happy to share.
    Kevin–Ed was the source I recalled, but, since I am getting so old, I wasn’t positive. (Ed refers to Edward Kimball, btw.)

  54. Thank you for that Kevin. I wonder if the people that hang out in places like this really understand how different they are from the average member? It is almost like two different churches. Just thinking out loud, no response necessary.

  55. Margaret, there is one small book that is a must read for those living in Southeastern Idaho and Utah.

    The Prodigal God by Tim Keller

    Tim unpacks Luke 15 much better than I would. It is one of the best books to give a prodigal running literally or mentally from the culture of the Intermountain West heartland.

    In fact, Margaret, I would relish the idea of you doing a book review of this slim volume on BCC.

  56. Margaret, you always manage to touch my heart and open my tear ducts. This is beautiful – and it should be read by every member of the Church.

  57. Nameless says:

    Thanks for your offer Margaret. You are very kind.

  58. Kristine says:

    Todd, any reason people living in Southeastern Idaho and Utah need to understand Jesus more than other people?

    Watch it.

  59. lamonte says:

    Nameless #50. Your advice to Emily is not exactly correct. A ring ceremony can be held without the permission or even knowledge of the bishop. The person performing the ceremony need not be a church leader. It is entirely the choice of the bride and groom. I’m not even certain they need to be a church member. It is strictly a ceremony for the benefit of those attending without any legal or ecclesiastical significance.

  60. Jeff Spector says:

    What a wonderful set of stories and how tragic to find out how imperfect we all really are at times. In our efforts to live the gospel the best we can, we sometimes fail miserably at it.

    “who am I to judge another, when I walk imperfectly…..”

  61. jjohnsen says:

    “I am confused as to where people get this idea if they do not get married in the temple initially that somehow they will be judged for the rest of their lives for it. Again this is outside my exp.”
    Bbell, as with many parts of the Mormon experience, things can be (and usually are) slightly different outside of Utah.

    I don’t think some of these experiences described are the norm, but I do know a couple of families that went through parents disowning the children after they didn’t get sealed in the temple.

    And sometimes it may see to be the end, but in both those situations there was reconciliation later. I think the problem is all those years lost while the parents do some growing up and change their priorities.

  62. Kristine, that book convicted my heart. Born and reared in Idaho Falls, I have the propensities of the older brother in Luke 15. In fact, the book made me mad.

    Please read it.

  63. Kristine says:

    Todd, would it surprise you to learn that I already have?

  64. Steve Evans says:

    Todd, a good shepherd knows when the sheep are about to turn on him and trample him.

  65. Kristine, that’s cool. Sometime I would be interested in your reaction to the book.

    Steve, hey, we build some pretty heavy duty shepherd’s staffs for the sheep here in Idaho. :) I have noticed in fields off of Interstate 15 the little tin trailers used by shepherds for shelter as they watch their sheep. A good horse always helps.

    Cheers. I am not trying to start a stampede. I just think there are some very good books addressing this very subject.

  66. Nameless says:

    #59 lamonte I didn’t say you needed the bishop’s permission to have a ring ceremony but that the type of ceremony Emily described was highly discouraged. The level of discouragement would likely vary from bishop to bishop. I imagine the topic would come up as the couple received temple recommends, etc. I am sorry if I was not clear–should not have used the word enforcement–too strong.

    Here is a quote from

    “A couple may exchange rings in locations other than at the temple. The circumstances should be consistent with the dignity of their temple marriage. The exchange should not appear to replicate any part of the marriage ceremony. For instance, there should be no exchanging of vows on that occasion” (Bulletin, 1989-4, p. 1).
    “Tears of Sorrow, Tears of Joy”, Ensign, Oct. 1995

  67. #29 and #31

    I’m with you! Maybe it’s liberal Seattle and my ward full of transient students, but *I* was a pregnant pre-wedding bride (to a non-member), and no one has ever made me feel anything but Christ-like love.

  68. All of this could have been avoided with contraception. The Church needs to teach comprehensive sex education to its youth

  69. That’s wonderful, Jana. I was a non-pregnant over-achieving bride wedded outside the temple and was treated–well, let’s just say that I was basically abandoned by my mother’s Provo family, to a lesser extent by my mother, and some, but not all, of my siblings. My dad was wonderful, however. Oh, and my children, to my great surprise and heartbreak, were also considered unworthy. Not by my dad, but by pretty much everyone in my Mom’s extended Mormon family. Obviously, there is a strain of tolerance and a strain of something else. Here’s hoping everyone has Jana’s experience, and that mine is a thing of the past.

  70. How abandoned was I? I went through a potentially life-threatening birth, delivery, and recovery complete with seriously dangerous complications. Who helped? My family down the road? Why no, except my brother, who years later turned out to be a non-believer, but he hid it for fear of, well, he didn’t wish to be turned out on the street. Oh, and my Mother-in-lawl; who was even more by-the-book than my mom, but did what she could. I mean, why should the two be separate anyway? Why can’t you treat a seriously ill child decently? Mom-in-law went back to treating me like dirt after the crisis had passed; but because she was there when I needed her, I always loved her.

  71. “I also know the anguish of watching my son choose to not be a Mormon any longer.” On and Margaret Young, (please assume all possible accolades here, too numerous to mention.) I have been thinking for quite some time that your posts tend to say the opposite of what you and your devout (with good reasoning) following think. The sentence I quoted would have devastated me. Rather than a message of love and peace, you seem to be saying something sideways “look how loving I am by loving someone as unloveable as my non-mormon son.” Please stop. I say this out of the pretend affection I have for you, and because it is clear that no one else will mention it to you. You are perpetuating the problem, not solving it.

  72. To be more blunt, I’m sure your son knows he’s broken your heart. I fail to see the purpose of broadcasting it here and yon.

  73. Thomas Parkin says:


    Great idea! Let’s never say anything that might cause any pain. It’s much better to keep some things hidden in order to not cause possible further bad feelings.

    The silence will commence … NOW! ~

  74. Agnes–what awful things you have gone through. You have clearly been deeply wounded. I hope you find some peace.

  75. Margaret:

    This is simply a beautiful post that positively reminds us that the gospel is all about LOVE.

    Active members of the Church fail the gospel when they ostracize others. Yet, the Book of Mormon teaches that the Lord God “inviteth … all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him” (2 Ne. 27:33).

    The gospel as practiced in our worship services NEEDS to be inviting and welcoming. Our chapels should be hospitals for the spiritually sick (which includes ALL of us). Some will come who have tobacco on their breaths. Others attending worship services might have premature mission releases. Others might suffer from depression. Others are over weight. Others have sexual struggles… and on and on.

    If we do NOT run with open arms toward the sinner, then we have sinned the greater sin. True believers in the atonement should allow sinners to recover and hold their heads up high. We are here to create heaven on earth, NOT a living hell.

  76. S.Faux, you said: “If we do NOT run with open arms toward the sinner….” If the sinner doesn’t recognize him/herself as such, then those open arms will look somewhat less than inviting. Just saying.

  77. Thomas Parkin said: “Great idea! Let’s never say anything that might cause any pain. It’s much better to keep some things hidden in order to not cause possible further bad feelings.” After one day/one year/ten years/ two decades plus of mentioning the same thing over and over and over (choose your number, as long as its high enough), presumably the putuative sinner will figure it out all on their lonesome. Constant reminders are for difficult-to-install, poorly-run calendar applications and misbehaving alarm clocks, not loved ones, though I realize your mileage may vary.

  78. Margaret Young,

    I realize I wore out my welcome with my first click on this website; yet this post was meant to suggest something else. Myself being ham-handed, immune to irony, and tone-deaf, I fully realize it did not come across. But you seem to be someone important; someone others in my community (it is my community even if …) may listen to. However, your original post just reinforced the status quo. Why can’t the Mormon church as an institution behave more decently to those that don’t get married in the temple? (And running with open arms to the presumed by one and all sinner not only doesn’t count, but gives you negative points.)

    Your post reinforces my Mother’s belief–she is a failure, she is broken hearted, and will remain so, but can fake good will for a short time, short short time. This is not love and is not recogised by dogs as such, let alone humans.

    I let my mother talk to me however she wanted; I put up with it all, but she was effectively out of my life. Other things happened that stem from this initial rejection; I was alone as an adult. Is that really what you want? I never blamed her. She did her best. But the framework she grew up in is not immune to my hard feelings and, it seems–perhaps unreasonably–can be changed, so others don’t suffer as I did.

    C’mon, “my heart is broken, but I love you (seeing how I’m such a noble human being,)” is not exactly a vote of confidence. Instead, its an advertisement for incoming call phone name recognition.

  79. Thomas Parkin says:


    The problem is you really have not got much idea about the folks involved, and you are projecting your own circumstances and feelings on to them. Not all people who are out of sorts with the church share your feelings or family or precise experience. ~

  80. That’s true, Thomas, I have only your words.

  81. Thomas, the phrase “I also know the anguish of watching my son choose to not be a Mormon any longer.” indicates “anguish” because a “son choose to not be a (insert whatever you feel like here).” Universal.

  82. I’m going to rephrase you Thomas Parkin; are you saying that because I had a negative experience therefore I am a “bitter exmormon” of song and story whose words, nay, total being simply doesn’t count? Ok, then. Nice. Be mean to someone, and then you get to discount them forever.

  83. Thomas Parkin says:


    It seems to me that you are projecting your feelings on to Margaret’s son. I think your own hurt is being projected on to a relationship where anguish may be more easily acknowledged and accepted by both parties. After all, we do hurt each other and some people are able to make accommodation for that in their relationships, even deep hurt. I don’t know, and you don’t either. I see that you came in and started giving lectures based on your feelings, which seems likely to me an inherited or learned trait.

    When I left the church, I went to a place where not only would I not have to hear my mother talk about it, I wouldn’t have to hear anyone else talk about it, either. When I spoke about my feelings towards or experience in the church (very rarely) I was able to do so on my own terms because I was surrounded by people who didn’t care one way or the other. Whatever you’re going to get here, that isn’t it.

    I’m not as nice as most of the people here, and I apologize for that. ~

  84. So, for clarity’s sake, Thomas Parkin, if someone doesn’t get married in the Mormon temple , then they are an unworthy and therefore (what powderkeg word should I use) unreliable source forever more? About whatever subject should come to hand? Such a creature’s life, experiences, story, can be simply discounted from the git-go? I cannot imagine that this is how you really feel.

  85. What part of “I also know the anguish of watching my son choose to not be a Mormon any longer. ” do you not get?

  86. Oh, and my sincere and heartfelt thaks, Mr. Thomas Parkin, for not being “nice.” Nice is an interesting word. As my OED attests, it came into English meaning both ‘nice’ and “not so nice really;” both meanings of which it still contains.

    In spite of my linguistic swerve there, I really do appreciate your dialog. If I may rephrase you, (and I realize that to rephrase is to shift meaning) I think you’re saying that Margaret’s son doesn’t care what she says on such a website. He knows he broke her heart, and what? Doesn’t care? Fine. Best of luck to all of you.

  87. Forgive me. I should have written in place of Margaret “Prof. Young.”

    Again, sorry.

  88. Thomas, you are a great deal kinder than I am.

  89. S. Faux (#75): It’s a faux pas to label depression as a “spiritual sickness.”

  90. He doesn’t, Kathryn. S. puts “depression” as one item on a multi-item list along with “spiritual sickness” and “tobacco on the breath” and “overweight” and “early mission release” as examples of problems faced by church members. None of his examples are illustrations of “spiritual sickness” — they’re all given equal weight in the list.

    But maybe you just wanted to make a joke about his name.

  91. agnes,
    Move along. And please cool down before you return. You are sensing a lot of aggression that ain’t there.

  92. I thought part of President Monson’s message in this month’s Ensign was relevant about feelings of failure because of other peoples’ choices in the present.
    Should you become discouraged in your efforts, remember that sometimes the Lord’s timetable does not coincide with ours. When I was a bishop many years ago, one of the leaders of the young women, Jessie Cox, came to me and said, “Bishop, I am a failure.” When I asked why she felt this way, she said “I haven’t been able to get any of my Mutual girls married in the temple, as a good leader would have. I’ve tried my very best, but my best apparently wasn’t good enough.”

    I tried to console Jessie by telling her that I as her bishop knew that she had done all she could. And as I followed those girls through the years, I found that each one was eventually sealed in the temple. If the lesson is engraved on the heart, it is not lost.

    Ensign at 6 (July 2009)

  93. Don’t worry, John C., I’m gone. Except, of course, for this.

  94. Steve Evans says:

    Man, just when I started reading this thread, Agnes bows out!! C’mon you chicken.

  95. Seriously! I feel like swatting someone.

  96. Ooops! I noticed a typo. Following American rullz, “,)'” should read “),'” more or less.

  97. OK, due to popular demand (that’s you, Steve Evans, and Tracy M, though feel free to swat ho (I’ve always had a special fondness for order ephemerata, esp. the more slow moving ones).

  98. Agnes,
    It’s not often that I get to flex my massive insect classification muscles, so I will not casually sit by and let you make a mockery of the mayflies and their nymph young. It’s ephemeroptera, not ephemerata! Or are you just teasing us now?

  99. Agnes, it’s painfully clear to this community that you are projecting your family issues onto innocent others. The remarks you are parroting are not, and were never intended, to be read/taken/interpreted/assimilated/choked on the way you have.

    You are correct in one observation- Margaret is widely respected in not just these circles, but in the vast world beyond as well. It would behoove you to learn- or perhaps observe- a little before you go casting giant stones.

    There are many of us who understand being hurt by a parent- and for as many reasons as there are people. But don’t come p**s in the sandbox and then wonder why no one wants to play with you.

    Be nice, or leave.

  100. Sorry about the misspelling, and of one of my most favorite orders! No excuse. Of course ‘ptera’, wing, duh. Plus, I cannot afford any more irony meters; this last one not only melted down, but left a big hole in the nice wood floor.

  101. Ardis, you said: None of his examples are illustrations of “spiritual sickness” — they’re all given equal weight in the list.

    I agree with your second point, but not your first. It seems to me that all the items on the list are given as examples of spiritual sickness (and depression isn’t the only item that ruffled my feathers). But if S. Faux didn’t suggest them as such, then the faux pas is mine.

  102. #100–Wonderful to see your sense of humor, Agnes–and you have a clever wit. And seriously, I did notice your excellent (American style) punctuation. All of us have some hard-to-forgive things in our past (fyi–my son and I have long since moved beyond that and are great friends–the anguish I referenced is in the distant past), and we find that humor often gets us through the toughest moments. If you can keep bringing that humor and leave the accusations in that big hole in the floor, we’d love to see you at BCC.

  103. EmilyCC says:

    Beautiful, Margaret! As I get older, I have been impressed with how many parents watch their children make choices they don’t approve of and still embody the spirit of the father in the Prodigal Son parable.

    I hope I’ll be able to do the same.

  104. Agnes, if you’ve got more smack like the irony meter comment, you’ll always be welcome in my house.

  105. Peter LLC says:

    It seems to me that you are projecting your feelings on to Margaret’s son.

    Agnes, it’s painfully clear to this community that you are projecting your family issues onto innocent others.

    Who needs a shrink when you’ve got teh BCC?

  106. Thanks all! I think this conversation has had its run. I’ll close it up–or have one of the other permas do it.

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