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Elder Rasband spoke in stake conference last week and explained what “failure in the home” means. The talk in general was about temples and families. I found out that while the Salt Lake Temple is being renovated, the Q15 had a floor of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building converted into a temple (complete with an altar) and that’s where they have their weekly Q15 meeting, since the Upper Room of the temple is not available. Pretty cool.

Back to the meat of the talk now. Elder Rasband used the story about the families coming to King Benjamin’s sermon (Mosiah 2-5) and pitching their tents with the door towards the temple. These were multi-generational groups, with grandparents, adult children and grandchildren all listening to King Benjamin together. After the sermon, King Benjamin asked if his people believed him and the answer was a resounding yes. The people wanted to make a covenant to mark this important occasion, and so they all, except for the little children, entered into the covenant and took upon themselves the name of Christ (Mosiah 5:1 – 6:2). 

Elder Rasband explained that there was an unhappy ending to this story. Those little children grew up and rejected the traditions of their fathers (Mosiah 26:1). The rising generation fell away. Elder Rasband said that nothing is more important than the way your children turn out. He then quoted President David O. McKay, who said, “No success in life can compensate for failure in the home.” He acknowledged that there are many faithful parents whose children had ‘rejected the traditions of their fathers’ and had left the Church. So what does it mean to fail in the home? He said something to the effect of, “You have not failed in the home unless you have given up on getting your children to come back.” The gist of the exhortation was that parents and grandparents should continue to testify to their wayward children and seek to bring them back into the fold. 

Oh good grief.

You see what he did there? Church activity is now going to be a constant argument and tension in the relationship between inactive/apostate adult children and their faithful parents and grandparents. If you accept your adult children’s right to make their own decisions and live their own lives, you’ve failed in the home. Seeing the good in your children who have left the Church and respecting their use of agency means you’re a failure. Being obedient to an apostle of the Lord means becoming a Church nag. It’s a terrible idea. For every child brought back to the fold, there will be nine others who actively start to avoid their parents because they’re sick of being preached at.

Let’s apply the Golden Rule here. Do active parents want their inactive children to testify to them about the flaws and harms of the Church? Do active parents appreciate that their inactive children are motivated by love and the sure knowledge that the best way to be happy is to walk away from the Church? Do you want someone else to constantly try to convince you that they’re right and you’re wrong? If you don’t want to be on the receiving end of someone else’s goal to convert you, then treat others with the same respect.

Also, can you see the setup for persecution here? It goes like this:

Parent: Church.

Adult Child: Please stop talking to me about Church. I’ve asked you before.

Parent: But I love you! Church!

Adult Child: Please stop talking to me about Church. I’m asking yet again.

Parent: Chuuuuuurch!

Adult Child: I’m going to hang up if you don’t stop talking about Church.

Parent: Church!

Adult Child: *hangs up*

Parent to friend later: My child won’t even talk to me anymore, just because I believe in Church.

I define failure in the home to be alienating your children, losing their trust and having your children resent the way you try to manipulate them and guilt trip them into doing what you want. Failure in the home is ruining your relationship with your child because you can’t respect their boundaries. 

Elder Rasband shouldn’t have thrown down that gauntlet: Choose between obeying an apostle or respecting your child’s boundaries. It’s a cruel thing to do to family relationships that are likely already strained by religious differences. Frequently reminding your children that you are disappointed in their life choices does not make for joyful relationships.

To the faithful parents and grandparents of adult children who have left the Church: Please be a failure in the home. Please accept your child’s right to make their own decisions and choose their own beliefs. Good relationships include a willingness to accept differences and respect boundaries. Don’t bring up Church if they’ve asked you not to. No one ever took a guilt trip to the Celestial Kingdom. Sad heaven is only as sad as you make it; please don’t start the separation on earth by turning your relationship with your child into a faith battle. Love your child in a way that God won’t love you — unconditionally.

There’s another possible interpretation of Elder Rasband’s counsel. Perhaps “not giving up” could mean that parents continue to pray for their wayward adult children, but not talk to their child about Church. I would hope parents and grandparents would adopt this interpretation.  


  1. Have you ever been treated as the service/activation project by a family member? What did you think?
  2. Do religious differences strain relationships in your family? Are there family members that you don’t talk to about religion?
  3. How would you define failure in the home?