Faithful parents, wayward children

Larry Barkdull is working on a book about wayward children. It will be published by Covenant Communications next year. On his blog he has posted a number of stories shared by other parents about their wayward children. Based on the participation in the comments, I think his book is going to do well, especially among mothers, the primary Deseret Book customer.

In the comments following one of Larry’s recent essays published in Meridian Magazine, I was pleased to read some advice from a parent who has gone through some serious difficulties with their rebellious child. In their case, the child had become involved in drugs. After making many excellent points that pull no punches, the parent shares something you don’t read very often:

Demons of the drug culture

“If you see significant changes in countenance, language, etc., bad friends, rotten music and evil posters on the walls, after your kid starts using [drugs], ponder and pray about the possibility of demonic possession. Yes, it still happens, just like it did in the Savior’s time, but now we call its manifestations some kind of psychosis and try to treat it with drugs and therapy.

“Sometimes you just need to use priesthood authority to cast them out. I got rid of 19 evil spirits in my kid. He and we saw a difference in him afterward. Sometimes you have to do it over and over again. It seems that getting high can remove the normal protections we enjoy and open a door wide for evil spirits.” Only a parent who has seen this firsthand can really understand.

Not in my child!

When first presented with the idea that a family member had come under the influence of an evil spirit, like most of the world today, I dismissed the idea as being something from a time that was much less enlightened. Surely there was a much more reasonable explanation that could clarify the irrational, angry, disrespectful and downright mean behavior. It was just hormones, right?

I have written a series of essays on this whole concept of what I prefer to call spirit attachments. Through much study and prayer I have concluded that this parent knows of what he speaks. I too am familiar with the process of casting out evil spirits. I also know that sometimes, they must be commanded to leave again and again. They keep coming back looking for their old home.

A wise family counselor

For some reason, we were led to a special family counselor early in the process of dealing with a wayward child. He was recommended to us by our bishop. While his technique was unusual, his ability to get to the root of the problem was amazing. The results were equally astonishing. I have never heard of a family counselor who said he wouldn’t need to see you more than twice.

This blog isn’t the place to present the very remarkable diagnostic technique that this counselor employed. I have covered that in great detail in another essay elsewhere if you are interested. I simply would like to point out that the idea of spirit attachments or demonic possession is a very real phenomenon associated with the drug culture. I agree with this parent. I too have seen it.

Power to deal with opposition

I think one of the main points Larry will probably make in his book is that the process of dealing with a wayward child is really a sanctifying journey for the parent. I can’t tell you how many hours we have invested in fasting and prayer, multiple temple visits, and continual searching in the scriptures for answers. We were driven to our knees in extremity on so many occasions.

But because the Lord knows how to succor us, he provided a unique way for us to deal with this problem that just would not go away. For over ten years we struggled with the sorrow, heartache and disappointment that accompany a rebellious spirit in the home. How often I would have cast out the vessel that it possessed, but was stayed by a loving and tender-hearted companion.

The Lord knows what we need

Parents of rebellious and wayward children know how difficult it can be to keep the spirit of the Lord in the home. Perhaps the most difficult place to keep that spirit is within your own heart. Certain kinds of music and certain kinds of behavior just seem to cause the spirit to leave. The Lord has said that control or compulsion will not work to win the hearts of children to Christ.

Long-suffering, persuasion and unfeigned love are the only acceptable ways to reach the strong-willed child in a way that respects their agency. But it can sure be frustrating when the only discernible result is to be taken advantage of again and again. A loving Heavenly Father lead me to the process I needed to learn to control myself through so many years of this struggle.

Forgiveness is the answer

When the door slams again on the way out as the child goes on their way to another rendezvous with drugs, the temptation is to pack up the clothes and throw them out in the street. The worst part for me was knowing that the money to purchase the drugs was deceptively obtained from my pocket. How does Heavenly Father stay his hand when we knowingly try to deceive Him?

I know if sounds simple, but the key to dealing with a rebellious and wayward child who takes advantage of loving and long-suffering parents is, simply put, forgiveness. In my experience, there has been nothing so powerful that has helped me through this long journey. Disrespect to a man is like non-reciprocal love to a woman. The rebellious child knows very little of either.

The first stage of the journey

I would not ever want to go through this journey again. After much effort and encouragement, our son has recently moved out and is on his own. He holds a job and pays his own way. Yes, he returns often for financial help, food and other sundry items. He is discovering that all the things he used that he never thought about, no longer miraculously appear when needed.

Now is the time we have prayed for and done everything in our power to bring about in the manner the Lord intended. What would have happened to this child if I had kicked him out the first time he stole my money and bought drugs? Now, he has a chance. He is now in a position that the Lord can reach him in ways that we never could – through natural consequences of life.

Peace in spite of pain

We are at peace. We have done all we could to help this child enter the world as a responsible and productive member of society. The naturally rebellious child has a self-destructive streak that can end a life early without special attention from the Lord. These kind of children are late bloomers. They just don’t get it until much later in life. Or at least that is my current theory.

I am just grateful that the drugs and the associated demons did not claim the life of this young rebellious child while he was in our home. The relationship is relatively good. He is welcome back anytime. I attribute that fully to his mother who suffered so much and gave of herself in ways that I would never have imagined possible were it not for the assistance of a merciful God.

Summary and conclusion

Don’t try to tell the parent of a child who uses drugs that there is no such thing today as being possessed by an evil spirit. Enlightenment to this parent came specifically because of prayer, study, fasting and revelation from a loving Heavenly Father who knew what was needed to deal with the terrible reality that most of the world denies, ridicules or tries to explain away.

When I was set apart to the High Council when this all started, I was promised that my son would someday come to accept the ways of the Lord and remember all the things he had been taught when he was young. I hold the Lord to that promise but know that the fulfillment of that promised blessing is dependent upon the faithfulness of this parent to what I know to be true.

5 comments for “Faithful parents, wayward children

  1. S.Faux
    September 9, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    Tim:A parent has a right to hang onto every last vestige of his or her child. Even wayward children need to know that their parents love and accept them as FULL members of the family — warts and all. One reason I say that with conviction is that I think Jesus accepts all of us — warts and all. In fact, his teachings on forgiveness put special obligations upon parents.At the same time, I am NOT suggesting that a parent has to approve of all the wayward behaviors. But, I do think parents need to try to create an atmosphere in which the child enjoys being around the parents (at least for quality visits). I admit that last point is a considerable challenge.I nothing of nothing more difficult than parenting. Second unto it is marriage.

  2. Jared
    September 9, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    Tim,I can testify to the truthfulness of evil spirit(s) accompanying and influencing rebellious youth. I was one of those youth.The Lord blessed me to see and experience the power that an evil spirit wields. In answer to my prayer (I prayed the Lord would bless me to know the truthfulness about the Book of Mormon. Within hours I encountered an evil spirit), the Lord allowed me to witness an evil spirit’s power. He “seized” upon me with the intent of destroying me. When I called upon God his power was immediately subdued and I watched him walk away. My prayer was answered, in part, I knew for myself in an instance, that God and satan are part of our universe, just like we’re taught by the prophets.I came to understand that how we live our lives draws to us influences from the unseen world. This unseen world is occupied by a cast of characters as described in the scriptures: ministering angels of God and satan. Then of course the power of God in the form of the Light of Christ, and the Holy Ghost are present. As members of the church the most important thing we can do for ourselves and our children is to fulfill our baptism covenant and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. He will show us all things we need to do.

  3. Tim Malone
    September 10, 2008 at 8:58 am

    Our experience in parenting is limited to one child. As Carol has said to me on many occasions, “For every one that Heavenly Father lost, he still had two others at home. We only have the one son.” Does that increase our pain at the suffering he has experienced? I know of few parents that have been completely exempted from some kind of loss or disappointment.I am grateful for one of the greatest blessings of mortality – time. It has a way of giving hope that lessons that might have been more easily learned in youth can still be learned later in life. The use of drugs is usually an attempt escape from something, often personal responsibility. For some, the law of consequences is one of the hardest lesson to learn in this life.Besides, our concept of loss may not be appropriate for what Heavenly Father has in mind for our children. What we wish they had become may not be what is best for them in the eternal scheme of things. Yet I am confident that Heavenly Father knows how to turn life’s circumstances into positive learning experiences, if we will let them.We each have different gifts that can be developed in ways that we do not always understand at first. My youthful experiences in seminary, a mission, college and institute have served me well but are not the only path to reach what Heavenly Father intends. A formal education is a great blessing but is not mandatory for success in life or the eternities.

  4. backandthen
    September 10, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    This is interesting

  5. June 3, 2009 at 10:17 am

    I had a somewhat similar experience to that of Jared. One night while I was still praying to know of the truth of the Book of Mormon and what the missionaries were teaching, and when I went to bed and dreamed I was in a dark room in that dream. I thought I saw what looked like a white figure in the shape of a man approaching me, though it was fuzzy. It was then that I was overcome by something very real. My arms were bound to my sides and I realized that I could not move them. I struggled and then came awake. I know that it was real because even after I awoke they still wouldn’t budge until the feeling finally dissapated. I usually don’t share such an experience due to the fact that such sacred or private things can be looked upon as crazy by others.

    I only wonder if that was a messenger trying to tell me something, only to have an evil influence stop me from getting the message and trying to scare me. It was then that I read later on of Joseph’s own similar experience, and put two and two together. I’m just grateful for the Spirit of the Lord guiding me through feelings, and that and another vision in the beginning.

    By the way, I also came across that book while listening to the “Cricket & Seagull” podcast. Looks very interesting!

Leave a Reply