Jealousy And Social Media

Anonymous Question Series:

Q: My husband gets jealous about Facebook likes, emojis, and comments I get from other men who are just friends. How do you recommend dealing with such situations?


The quick answer: Recognize your husband’s jealousy is rooted in fears and insecurities and avoid taking responsibility for his emotions.

Jealousy is a toxic form of control and is never a healthy or appropriate response. While it is important to respect and love your spouse, to hear out their concerns, you never should take responsibility for his emotional immaturity — his jealousy. What I mean by this last comment is that you should never feel you have to change because your spouse guilts you, scares you, or uses logic to convince you to change. Even in the case of emotional or physical infidelity, jealously is toxic and not healthy.

It is natural to experience hurt, pain, sadness, maybe even a little jealousy, but jealousy is a manifestation of other serious emotional issues. Gwendolyn Seidman, Ph.D., addressed these mental health issues well in her article "What's Really Behind Jealousy, and What to Do About It".

Research has linked several traits to jealousy:

  • Low self-esteem

  • Neuroticism: a general tendency to be moody, anxious and emotionally unstable

  • Feelings of insecurity and possessiveness

  • Dependence on your partner: Codependency

  • Feelings of inadequacy in your relationship

  • An anxious attachment style

Take courage in your integrity. You get to be you! Some married individuals require or expect their spouses to "unfriend" old friends of the opposite sex and past boyfriends/girlfriends and share social media and emails. This is inappropriate. Some people agree to do this because it seems to make logical sense, and they see it as a form of "honoring" their spouse. So, they agree to go along with it. Sure, absolutely, if you personally decide it's best for you to avoid interacting with others of the opposite sex, you get to make that decision. But it is not loving nor healthy of your spouse to make you feel obligated to comply.

Elder Holland made it clear that this immature jealousy and tantrum is not appropriate (refer to my post: Marital Myth of Communication):

"The second segment of this scriptural sermon on love in Moroni 7:45 says that true charity — real love — 'is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity.' Think of how many arguments could be avoided, how many hurt feelings could be spared, how many cold shoulders and silent treatments could be ended, and, in a worst-case scenario, how many breakups and divorces could be avoided if we were not so easily provoked, if we thought no evil of one another, and if we not only did not rejoice in iniquity but didn’t rejoice even in little mistakes.

Temper tantrums are not cute even in children; they are despicable in adults, especially adults who are supposed to love each other. We are too easily provoked; we are too inclined to think that our partner meant to hurt us—meant to do us evil, so to speak; and in defensive or jealous response we too often rejoice when we see them make a mistake and find them in a fault. Let’s show some discipline on this one. Act a little more maturely. Bite your tongue if you have to. 'He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city' (Proverbs 16:32). At least one difference between a tolerable marriage and a great one may be that willingness in the latter to allow some things to pass without comment, without response." —Jeffery R. Holland, How Do I Love Thee?

Respond with love and boundaries, don't loose who you are, have fun and be you. It's not easy, but he needs to learn how to be an adult and a loving companion. You can't force him, but you can take comfort in knowing you get to be you.

One final thought. If he is making such an issue over "likes" that you feel it had to be addressed with me, I am going to assume this behavior is not limited to social media. I would encourage you to read and become familiar with emotional blackmail

Additional Resources: 

Here is a summary of the book: "Emotional Blackmail" patterns  

Find the full book here: Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You 

Emotional Blackmail website: Out of the F.O.G.

Self-Assessment of Emotional Abuse: Emotional Abuse 

A Conversation on Spouse Abuse

How To Train Your Spouse

Originally written for Kristy Jo Hunt on August 9, 2014.

“Most couples make the mistake of giving each other the ‘remains of the day’ — the leftover time after every other relationship and task has been attended to. This is not only backwards, but destructive. Stellar partners give each other prime time and make each other their top priority.” —Rhoberta Shaler Ph.D.

Paul the Apostle, speaking to the Corinthians issues a bold and prompting question, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). Of these words, Elder D. Todd Christofferson teaches that,

“Acknowledging these truths … we would certainly not deface our body, as with tattoos; or debilitate it, as with drugs; or defile it, as with fornication, adultery, or immodesty. As our body is the instrument of our spirit, it is vital that we care for it as best we can. We should consecrate its powers to serve and further the work of Christ. Said Paul, ‘I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God’ (Romans 12:1).” (“Reflections on a Consecrated Life,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 17)

Additionally, the wonderful resources at expand our understanding of what it means to honor and respect our bodies as temples.

“The Lord has commanded members to take care of their minds and bodies. They should obey the Word of Wisdom, eat nutritious food, exercise regularly, control their weight, and get adequate sleep. They should shun substances or practices that abuse their bodies or minds and that could lead to addiction …

Maintaining the best possible physical health has been a gospel ideal throughout the ages—from the strict dietary laws of ancient Israel, with the example of Daniel and his associates, to the Word of Wisdom in this dispensation and the counsel of today's prophets and apostles. By maintaining good physical health, we become more self-reliant and are better prepared to progress personally, strengthen the family, and serve in the Church and community.” ( “Physical Health”)

Understandably, treating our bodies as temples by being healthy and fit is not an easy task. With equal significance to prayer, fasting, scripture reading, it requires lifelong diligence. Some of us might have mastered our health prior to marriage but now struggle after marriage. Finding that the methods previously used have no effect (whether it’s due to age, child bearing or a life consumed with stress and other peoples' schedules), to dedicate any time to fitness and good health seems selfish and neglectful of our church, family and social responsibilities. These feelings can come from ourselves, society, church members, loved ones and even your spouse.

Having the loving support of your spouse, I have found, is the most critical element in successfully achieving your healthy temple. There is a plethora of information on fitness and dietary programs. But it is my belief that it matters less what approach you choose than the support of your spouse. Your body changes constantly and will require different programming and dietary approaches as you encounter lifestyle changes (aging, children, where you live and your biological uniqueness). Unfortunately, I have discovered that for most, it’s not the approach they use but the lack of or inappropriate support they get from their spouses.

Most likely the person that needs to be reading this isn’t. You feel frustrated and discouraged. You’ve tried over and over to revamp your meals and create a consistent workout routine. Although you’ve made your goals known to your spouse, you seem to be fighting off not only your own unhealthy habits, but theirs too. It takes all you have to mentally fight off old patterns of thinking, eating, and routines, let alone those of your spouse. This is complicated exponentially if you have children. You find yourself making three different meals: one for yourself, one for your spouse, and a separate one for your children, in addition to tending their individual schedules and needs. Healthy life changes become stressful impossibilities.

There is another way. Fitness and healthy eating can be a positive, exciting and passionate experience. Fitness will no longer be a burden but a joy as you learn master your body and see the changes you desire. You may look at those who’ve obtained this life-changing perspective and think their genes are unique and their success outside your ability. They are not and it is not, I assure you. I am a product of overcoming limiting perspectives and obstacles in my fitness and health. Unfortunately, sometimes those obstacles not only come from our own perspectives, but from those we love. In my experience, I have seen spouses fall into four types of “trainers”: The Ghost Trainer, The Military Trainer, The Addict Trainer, and The Partner.

The Ghost Trainer

This is the spouse who seems to be on the same page with your goals, but is absent anytime you need their help, support and motivation. They are the ones who say things like, “I support you in your fitness goals as long as it doesn’t interrupt your family duties” or some form of language to that effect. Even in their absence, you feel the haunting burden to make sure you finish your workout “on your own time,” often cutting your workout short to keep your spouse from having to pick up your “slack.”

There are few things more destructive to your fitness goals than to feel like you have no support. It’s one thing to feel like the universe is working against you, right?! We’ve all had a bad day, that’s fine. It’s hard, it sucks but hey, that’s life, and we make it work. It takes effort to fight off the years of unhealthy habits, to rebound from childbirth, to resist the emotional pull of bad food choices, to find the desire to hit the workout again. But when you feel like your most intimate confidant, friend, the one you love — your spouse — doesn’t have your back or is absent in your fitness goals, it can feel defeating and hopeless. It makes you feel like your desire to be healthy and fit is a selfish burden on your spouse and family. It becomes easier to give up continue the family routine.

It’s important to recognize that the Ghost Trainer’s personality varies greatly. It can be the difficult, stubborn, and hardheaded out-spoken spouse. Interestingly though, I have found it to be more frequently the seemingly unassuming, soft-spoken spouse. That’s what’s most difficult about the Ghost Trainer spouse: their perspective makes sense and appears reasonable. Of course the family’s needs are important; you can’t argue with that logic. The haunting guilt persuades you to give up.

The Military Trainer

The Military Trainer is self-explanatory. The moment you even suggest change, they take control. They are ahead of you 2, 5, 10 steps. They become your expert nutritionist, trainer, doctor, spiritual guru, emotional guide.

This spouse is overly involved, constantly checking up on your routine in military fashion. They refuse to purchase certain foods, enforcing curfews on meals and constantly insisting with “helpful” fitness and diet advice. They track your progress on spreadsheets or a whiteboard and make you weigh in routinely. An indulgence meal is no longer enjoyed as a reward for a job well done but a secret cheat, fearing the consequences of a military fashion tear down and punished with additional reps. Fitness should never be a punishment! The Military Trainer spouse is involved in a way that makes you feel you can’t wait to get out of boot camp. Your weight loss becomes more important than you, and you begin to resent the process. Their expectations become your fitness pursuits, and you feel like you are now trying to obtain their ideal (and their approval).

The Addict Trainer

Sometimes it’s not the spouse at all — it’s us. The Addict Trainer is us.

This is in no way to make light of the serious nature of addiction. However, I have noticed similarities between the characteristics of addicts and Addict Trainers. Much like how an addict’s primary goal is to obtain their substance of choice at all costs, the Addict Trainer becomes obsessed with their fitness goals — making everything else secondary. These are those who force the entire family to follow their fitness and diet routine. They, like the military trainer, demand from everyone in the family complete compliance and have unreasonably high expectations. They post lists on doors and fridges detailing how everyone should behave during their new fitness routine. Their emotions are tied to their family’s level of participation.

Although the family wants to be loving and supportive, they are always on edge, which leads to resentment. The Addict Trainer can be erratic in their fitness goals, changing weekly, or staunchly rigid and immovable. Their spouse avoids saying they look good, pointing out progress or giving any form of encouragement with the fear that their comment will be twisted into something it wasn’t. If the Addict Trainer fails, it’s the fault of spouse and family. The level of codependency demanded by the Addict Trainer is suffocating to the spouse and family, and inevitably hurts relationships regardless if they succeed in their goals or not.

Like an addict, it’s their rules and their way. The Addict Trainer at times is very successful at their training goals. But their success comes at great cost to their family. They are the ones who are obsessed with their way of fitness. They are condescending and believe their way is the only way to train. They no longer see people; they see fit or obese. As an Addict Trainer, you are your own worst enemy.

The Partner

I wish that all can experience the bonding, loving, motivating experience of The Partner. Notice the word “trainer” is not in that phrase! That’s because you should never, never, never train your spouse! We can help, encourage, teach and even coach but never train.

There is a phrase I often hear from my clients in marriage therapy. “How do I train my spouse to … ?” The idea that we train our spouse creates a power dynamic that leads to resentment and resistance. Training creates a responsibility and expectations over the other. In a marriage, it’s condescending and suggests the “trainer” is superior. “How do I train my husband to wash the dishes? He is so sloppy and lazy, how do I get him to be cleaner?” Even in the most positive situations, “training” is condescending: “How do I train my spouse to spend more time with me/children?” We don’t train spouses; we support and encourage them.

It is critical that we have good trainers in our lives. To achieve goals, we need someone to help us see outside ourselves and understand our full potential. The Savior has promised, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26) Our loving Father in Heaven has blessed us with commandments, not to see us fail but to bless us eternally. Even in our fitness goals he will guide us to the right way to eat, the best way for us to workout and who to trust as our coach.

Not everyone has a position of stewardship over us. In addition to an individual’s training and experience, we should seek the guidance of the Spirit to know what is best for us. Spouses don't have stewardship over each other, and regardless of their training, experience or expertise, should never be anything but a partner in the other's goals. Spouses should be each other's cheerleaders, never taking the role of the Savior in our spouse’s life, but rather emulating the love and compassion our Savior has for each of us. Once in a while, spouses are in a position to teach/guide each other. But Jesus Christ acts as both cheerleader and coach, providing that perfect and unique insight to building our temples. That's his role: to teach/guide and to encourage. Additionally, when we place our spouses in the role of trainer, we are misplacing our personal responsibility on to them and creating an unhealthy dynamic in the relationship.

This is a two-way road: we are equally responsible in our success, and we cannot expect our spouses to make our success happen or to provide us with the desire. There is a phrase therapists say that I believe applies to fitness too: “You should never be working harder than your client.” When we work harder than our spouse at their progress, we fall into training mode again and feel like we are pulling the other along.

Here are some things you can remember to become The Partner:

1. Trust.

Trust your partner. Without trust in your marriage, everything will feel selfish and obligatory. If you don’t trust your spouse, their comments and actions will always feel critical of your fitness goals, regardless of how loving and supportive your spouse really is. Additionally, spouses need to trust that their partner’s needs are valid and important. This might be the tenth time they attempted their diet plan or workout routine. So what? Be as supportive and committed as you were the first time. Trust the process, don’t question them or put doubts in their head. Learn with them.

"Think of how many arguments could be avoided, how many hurt feelings could be spared, and, in a worst-case scenario, how many breakups and divorces could be avoided if we were not so easily provoked, if we thought no evil of one another, and if we not only did not rejoice in iniquity but didn’t rejoice even in little mistakes.

Think the best of each other, especially of those you say you love. Assume the good and doubt the bad.” ―Jeffery R. Holland

2. Partners always partner

Successful couples partner in all areas of their lives.

3. Fitness is NOT selfish

The Ghost Trainer often creates the perception that a focus on fitness is neglecting the children and even hurting the marriage. It’s true that we may not achieve our goals as fast as we would like and are taxed by the level of physical and emotional commitment it requires. As a result, we may begin to believe fitness is selfish and takes away from our family. We admire people who are educated, have successful careers, and are spiritual leaders and good parents. But for some reason, we think taking time for ourselves to improve our health and fitness is selfish.

4. Fitness time is sacred time

I have never regretted a workout. There are a few things I consider sacred time in my life — nothing gets planned over it: dates with my wife, family time, church and temple attendance, and workouts. Partners work together to ensure these activities occur, are enjoyed, and the most is gained from them.

5. Embrace your spouse’s goals

You don’t have to have the same fitness goals or methods to partner with your spouse’s fitness ambitions. But those who don’t have the same ambitions need to take extra precautions to ensure they don’t fade into Ghost Training. If one spouse has fitness goals and the other doesn’t, over time it can become easy to be less supportive, especially when life gets busy.

As a husband, father, full-time student and employee, I have battled the very real feelings that my workouts are selfish and take time from my family. After a long day at work and my wife and kids are home, the conflicting feelings of wanting to workout and be with my family collide. Feelings of selfishness increase as I think of stepping away from my family for another hour to workout. In those moments, my dear wife, who is in every sense my partner, has always encouraged me to hit my workout hard — not just get it done, but hit it hard.

She doesn’t merely accept my goals, she embraces them. But she never forces it either. There have been times I have decided not to workout. She never holds that over my head nor views it as a failure. As such, I have never regretted working out and have found it helps me be a happier father and husband.

“A word of encouragement from a teacher to a child can change a life. A word of encouragement from a spouse can save a marriage. A word of encouragement from a leader can inspire a person to reach her potential.” ―John C. Maxwell

6. Learn your part

Partners learn their part. In addition to your spouse embracing your goals, it is equally important to know which part is yours and which part is your spouse’s. Remember, these are your fitness goals, not your spouse’s. There is a difference between supporting and taking responsibility for your goals. When I went back to school while working full time, my wife and sometimes kids helped with my food prep as I transitioned into this new hectic routine. They were equally busy, but we partnered up and made it work. It was a huge support and help.

As time went on, I got better at adjusting to the new routine and was able to prep more of my own meals. It would have been an easy temptation to slip into the role of an Addict Trainer and feel entitled to their ongoing food prep, insisting that my success was determined by their continued support.

“Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person's ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.” ―C.S. Lewis

7. Make it happen

When our children have school performances, sports games, doctor appointments or need a sick day, we stop what we are doing and attend to their needs. Your spouse is just as important as your children (dare I say more important?). Make it happen. Whether it's assisting with meal plans or coming home early from work to help with the kids so they can workout, do it. Partners make it happen. Life throws us curve balls, especially when you or your spouse is starting a new routine. What better way to dispel the feelings of guilt and discouragement that can come with fitness goals than by making their fitness a priority?

“A great marriage is not when the 'perfect couple' comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.” ―Dave Meurer

Additional Resources for learning how to Partner with your spouse: 

How Do I Love Thee? by Elder Jeffery R. Holland

“Brethren, Love Your Wives” by Elder James E. Faust

“Consequently, there is no higher commitment for any man than to be loyal to his commitment to his God and faith, to his wife and family. The reciprocating fruits from keeping that commitment will usually give him boundless sustaining love and the challenge to reach deep down inside himself and call forth the seeds of the finest of his gifts for their full flowering. He will enjoy a place of honor, dignity, and respect.”

Today's Family: Love you Wife

“If a husband will put his wife’s needs above his own, his love for her will increase. That’s the counsel given by President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, who repeats a three-word teaching often given to husbands by prophets and apostles: ‘Love your wife.’”

Sunday School For The Noisy

If you have kids, a noisy husband or are a nursing mother, this Sunday School class is for you. For the last two years I have had the wonderful pleasure of teaching a Sunday School designed specifically for parents of toddlers. The class is open to everyone, and there is a handful of individuals and couples without kids, but it is structured specifically for those who have active children too young to attend nursery or primary. 

My hope in structuring the class is to provide a living room–type classroom experience. Parents are encouraged to let their kids roam and play. If kids become antsy or upset, parents can attend to their needs right there in class. Over the last two years, we have had many diaper changes, had crying babies and nursing mothers. All is welcome and encouraged. This is an environment where mothers and fathers never need to be concerned with a distracting child or that they are interrupting others' spiritual experience. We have proven reverence doesn't equal silence. 

This Sunday School has been a welcomed refuge for mothers and fathers with young children who have traditionally felt banished to walking the halls or hiding out in nursing rooms when their children have become inconsolable. There is never a need to leave this classroom. Everyone who attends knows what to expect from the environment. Parents never need to be concerned that their fussy baby or roaming child is a distraction to another. Now the foyer couches, hallways and nursing rooms are empty and the classroom is always full. By providing this open, comfortable — and in a lot of ways safe — environment, I have heard the thankful relief from the spiritually-craving mother who once felt torn from either being spiritually fed or feeding their baby. Now she feels she can do both. 

Additionally, class participation is never an issue. I have taught Sunday School on and off for over 15 years, and this is the first time I've actually never encouraged the class to bring or open their scriptures. You'll never need to feel concerned that you'll be caught unprepared or called on to read out of your scriptures. With a bottle in one hand and a baby in the other, my hope is that you will not feel you have to put down the bottle to reach for the scriptures. Therefore, I present every lesson on a screen. Each quote, scripture and video is easily seen by everyone. Even if your hands are full tending to your parental duties, you can follow along, read and not feel you lost your spot in the lesson while tending to your child's needs. 

How to have a successful, spiritual noisy Sunday School:

1. Seek the individual needs of the parents.

Pray over each family to understand their gospel needs and how it can be addressed in the lesson. 

2. Become comfortable with noise.

Learn how to talk through the noise. Avoid getting louder or waiting till the noise subsides. Getting louder or silencing can make parents feel they are disrupting the class. Do your best to stay on point and continue the lesson as though the noise was not present. 

3. Prepare and use PowerPoint, Google Presentation or slide presentation.

Use technology in a meaningful way, but keep it simple.

Refer to my Sunday School Class slides for an example of how to use media in the class.

4. Eliminate shame.

When the idea for the class was inspired, some perceived the class as a form of punishment, where the "Hallway Parents" were assigned to attend. It could potentially even reinforce the idea that parents with children don't belong in "normal" Sunday School class because it disrupts the Spirit. Fortunately, our bishop did a wonderful job at reminding the congregation each week in a loving way that there was this new class designed to meet the needs of those with toddlers. 

5. Eliminate shame in class.

Like number 4, continue that love and admiration of your ward family and bring it into the class each week. Be mindful to remind everyone the nature of the class: that they never need to leave with their child or feel bad that their child is noisy. 

6. Make the lesson applicable to their lives.

This point is essential for any class you teach, but I believe more so for a class of young parents who are distracted with children. They come for nourishment in the gospel of Jesus Christ. As tempting as it may be to lecture a scholarly presentation with PowerPoint or rattle the lesson off point by point as outlined, don't! I am not suggesting "dumbing down" the lesson. We have had amazing, profound discussions over the last couple years. But remember these are parents juggling kids, listening through the noise, thinking about the week full of activities.

Keep the slides simple but meaningful.

I have found it much more useful to present a thought-provoking 1-4 sentence quote rather than a 10-15 verse reading of the scriptures or detailing of historical events or scholarly perspectives.

7. Make sure you have more than enough room!

This is critical. After a year of a very successful Spirit-filled noisy Sunday School, our ward had a schedule change. We were moved from a large room that was packed each week to a room that was about half its size. We didn't lose half the class; we lost almost all the class. With the room change, if we were to set the class up like a traditional class we could fit everyone in. But doing so would not allow parents space to feel comfortable in letting their kids roam. Parents couldn't stand and soothe their crying kids without being in the way of other parents. As a result, families were again in the halls and nursing rooms. Fortunately, we were able to remedy the issue — the bishop assigned us a new, much larger room. 

This has been one of the most rewarding callings I have ever had. Our bishop was truly inspired when he identified the need for a Sunday School class like this. Over the last two years, we have had many visitors who deeply appreciated the class and wished they had one in their home ward. I hope that these ideas can be used to bring a successful Noisy Sunday School class to your ward. 

Spirit Guided Life

If there was one thing I could teach my children, it would be to listen and discern the Spirit within their lives, how to embrace that perfect teacher without fear, hesitation or resistance but with excitement, clarity and confidence. It’s one thing to teach them obedience, another to meaningfully understand the lessons of obedience. Commandments would be understood in power, and when commandments are not understood, faith would be embraced and trust in Father increased. They would be able to apply life lessons to all situations, identify falsehoods, recognize wisdom, and not fear the unknown.

Oh, how much time is spent on repeatably teaching what it means to be obedient in the home, at church, at school and at work, what it means to be loving in our relationships and human interactions. Although the teaching of obedience is essential in our spiritual growth, I wonder if we miss precious moments to enable our children and loved ones to learn through trial and error. Because we are in a rush or too busy in the moment, we demand obedience and for them to comply, as opposed to establishing a pattern of spiritual insight and learning.

If you have have a teenage son who is overly distracted, frustrated, tired and unable to focus on his homework. In the hope to teach obedience, responsibility and to just finish that assignment, you become the broken record of parenthood, which only seems to aggravate both child and parent without much success. This can even leading both to resentment hard feelings towards each other and feelings of failure. The Spirit is nowhere to be found.

Allow them to fail. Unfortunately, it seems to be one of the more difficult things to teach them.

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26)

In these difficult moments, we struggle with the thoughts and perceptions within ourselves of what it means to be a good father or mother. We may be concerned that our child's successes and failures are an indicator of our ability to parent or our own worthiness. Or we may be driven by the overwhelming feeling of teaching our child the lessons of being responsible at all cost. But I wonder if taking ourselves out of the equation might be the best and most effective approach of all. I learned this powerful lesson on my mission many times and many times again since then.

One of the mistakes I made in my mission was believing I had all the answers and that it was my responsibility to convert individuals. I loved the gospel of Jesus Christ and had a profound testimony of its teachings. It was an absolute joy and passion of mine to bring every investigator all that I had learned, teaching them into conversion. I had every answer and knew how best to present the gospel message to them. It was my calling and my responsibility. Of course I knew it was the Spirit that converted individuals. Nonetheless, I also believed my ability as a missionary reflected on my ability to bring individuals to the gospel. Fortunately the Savior’s atoning sacrifice covered me in this naïve and incorrect belief, and through that mercy I was taught a principle I was never to forget.

We were teaching a part-member family. Jeff, the husband and father was the only nonmember in the family. For years, missionaries had visited and taught him the lessons. Jeff was a good man with a heart of gold. By the time I met him, he had had the lessons so many times I am confident he could have taught us every lesson. Nonetheless, it was my duty to convert Jeff. I would teach him the discussion in a way that no other missionary had before. Needless to say, by the end of our discussions no commitment for baptism was made. I struggled with my companion in fasting and prayer. We retaught and retaught and retaught principles and concepts WE believed he needed to hear. Nothing.

Teaching the gospel to Jeff, I regret to admit, was getting frustrating to me. But we had one last brilliant idea. My companion and I had become familiar with a wonderful lecture series on Joseph Smith the Prophet by Truman G. Madsen. 

Surely no one could listen to this great scholar and not be converted. We brought these recordings to Jeff and used them in the structure of our lessons. One night, during a lecture we felt was moving and powerful, Jeff appeared distracted and uninterested. This was unlike Jeff. He was always interested and engaged. I believe he even asked for a break in the lessons. This was difficult for me, and I questioned my ability to bring him the gospel message.

It was at least a month later that Jeff invited us back, but not for a lesson. When we arrived, he and the family announced thet he was going to be baptized. He explained that earlier that week he escaped to the bathroom from the hustle and noise of the morning when his family was getting ready for work and school. There he felt a need to pray. As he prayed, the Spirit filled his heart and mind and taught him what he needed and, he knew it was time to be baptized. I was both thrilled and humbled. At that moment, he was telling me of his spiritual experience and I was realizing my prayers and fasts were being answered. But not in the way I was expecting.

My prayers and fasts were to find ways that I could convert Jeff. In that moment, it was clear I had nothing to do with his conversion. In fact, I might have been getting in the way of the spiritual lessons that needed to be taught to Jeff. My fear, my sense of responsibility as a missionary and the way I was measuring success were distracting from the spiritual lesson. Sometimes the most responsible thing to do is get out of the way. Jeff's conversion was deep and between the Lord and him. He has been a faithful member ever since and currently serves as a bishop in Arizona.

“The Prophet further directed Brigham Young as follows:Tell the people to be humble and faithful, and be sure to keep the spirit of the Lord and it will lead them right. Be careful and not turn away the small still voice; it will teach you what to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their hearts open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them, their hearts will be ready to receive it.

They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits; it will whisper peace and joy to their souls; it will take malice, hatred, strife and all evil from their hearts; and their whole desire will be to do good, bring forth righteousness and build up the kingdom of God.” (23 February 1847, Manuscript History of Brigham Young: 1846–1847, ed. Elden J. Watson (Salt Lake City: Elden Jay Watson, 1971), 529)

I wonder how often we get in the way of the spiritual lessons that our children need to learn. As a parent, it’s my duty to teach my children how to be successful. But it is equally important that after we have adequately instructed them to provide them an opportunity to struggle and even fail. It is better that their own experiences in their moments of failure be their guide then repetitive parental reminder. Additionally, there is great power in our children discovering that they can succeed on their own. Both in the failure and success we can lovingly remind them and provide an example of how to seek out the answers with the Spirit.

Seeking answers is a process and can even be time consuming. But like Jeff, I have learned the value of stepping out of the hustle and noise to seek peace and guidance from the Spirit. Additionally, instead of fasting and praying about how you can teach your children better, fast to find and recognize opportunities for your children to learn from the Spirit.