DC writes:

Hello, I have a question about something that's upsetting me. I have a large family and a busy life, serving in a leadership position as well as other time-comsuming postiions.

The problem that I am dealing with is that my parents set up a trust fund for their grandchildren to asssist with university fees and missions. The funding is contingent upon the grandchild attending church and institute.

My parents raised a family of LDS success stories, myself included, with active, faithful children. Not all of the next generation has been so blessed, including some of my own children. I have seven children myself the oldest is 21 and the youngest five. I have a busy life keeping up with my calling as Relief Society President, early morning seminary runs (four times a week at the chapel, from 6:30 ?7:30) my three youngest are energetic boys that need a zoo keeper not a mother and all the rest that goes with the work and worries children create.

Recently, my father asked me to speak to some of my own “less active” adult children about receiving the funds. The children said they would “try” to attend church to receive the money. My father's reaction was that he felt they were telling us what we wanted to hear and that they were not sincere. He has decided to abandon the trust fund idea as he feels it is a pressure that he does not like to exist between him and his grandchildren.
My father has told me I am too soft with my girls and I need to toughen up. Obviously frustrated as I am! On previous conversations of a similar nature I have listened to him, gone away felt hurt, let time pass, forgotten all and carried on. This time I spoke up for myself, told him how I felt. I told him that I do not want the pressure of going back to my daughters questioning their commitment.

I can't say the conversation went very well, my parents feel I am burying my head in the sand. Maybe my head is in the sand? I feel that I am doing OK, nowhere near perfect but then who is? I have cried on and off since we spoke two days ago. My parents are not helping ?yet they are on a I need a reality check! They are hurting but so am I.

Alison says:

DC, I am sending your question to the two other Circle writers. They are great women who know much more than I do.

Here's my take on your problem:

I'm not sure what, specifically, is upsetting you. Is it the trust fund being cut off or the criticism you get from your parents? I'll address both a bit. If I'm way off, let me know.

As for the trust fund, I suggest that you stay completely out of it. Tell your parents that you cannot serve as a go-between to check up on activity qualifications for your adult children. I've tried to make it a policy not to concern myself with other people's money. Whether they give it all away or none of it is really none of my concern. If they offer to pay for your kids missions, pay your kids to attend church, pay them to go to college, pay them to knit booties, it's there own business. Don't worry yourself about it or get in the middle of it. Your parents are adults and the children in question are adults as well. What power do you have to change the situation? You can't demand that your parents change their offer and you can't refuse the money in proxy for your children. It's simply not in your circle of influence, as Covey would say.

As for the criticism….

None of us likes to be criticized. I don't know the dynamic in your family and I don't know your parents. Generally speaking, I'd say to honor your parents. Listen to them. Consider what they say. They raised at least one great child, right? Then, prayerfully, decide if you should act upon their counsel or not. Maybe they are the conduit through which you can hear what you could focus on to help your children. Maybe they don't have the correct insights and you should, respectfully, do otherwise, as you feel inspired.

If your parents are chronic complainers who criticize everyone, that would, obviously, be a consideration in how much stock to put in their opinions. Sometimes these kinds of folks need a very clear boundary. “Dad, I love you, but I would like you to refrain from critiquing my parenting. I know I'm not perfect, but I do not find your comments helpful and don't want our relationship to be damaged.”

I hope you find this somewhat helpful. And now I pass the typewriter to Kathy and Tracy.

Kathy says:

Thanks for trusting the Mormon Momma Circle of Sisters with this troublesome situation.

You will find that one of the reasons there are three writers for the column is to bring three different philosophies to bear on the problem. We are all faithful members, but our Church thrives because it embraces all truth; it is sometimes helpful to consider three differing perceptions and notice how the discussion helps you to discover your own unique point of view.

My own very personal and individual viewpoint on your parents' generous offer is one that I would never, under any circumstances, accept money as a reward for attending church. To me, that is the most disturbing concept in your message. If your girls are exploring their priorities regarding their faith, throwing payola into the mix seems wrongheaded to me.

It is wonderful and kind of your folks to help your large family with college tuition; President Hinckley is very clear about the value he places on education. Grandparents who are willing to help support that value are deserving of honor and gratitude. But for me, the condition that the recipient must attend church in order to receive the money, though it is certainly understandable, makes church activity feel sort of tangentially related to “priestcraft.” We don't go to church for financial gain any more than our leaders exercise their priesthood for money.

Please forgive me if I sound harsh. I can completely empathize with your parents' desire to encourage their grand kids to stay close to the church. At their age, I'm very sure they have observed the results of young adults who stayed faithful and those who chose another way. I have no doubt that your parents would be deeply disappointed if any of their family members were to choose inactivity.

However, when I was in college, the students who chose to stay active did so because of personal values. I don't think any amount of money would have impacted their ultimate decision. In other words, the conditional trust fund is not going to improve your daughters' testimonies. The purpose of tuition money is to fund an education. If that isn't your parents' real motive, they are correct: it's best to discontinue.

My thought on criticism particularly in light of your extensive family and church service is that you need support and love from your parents; not negative judgments. You are only being too soft on your college-age girls if you are protecting them from the consequences of their behavior. If you are offering support and encouragement without softening the real-life cause and effect relationship of their choices, you are doing your job.
A mother cannot and should not be trying to force her grown children to go to church. I think the trust was a loving gesture but with a far too controlling string attached.

Tracy says:

First, I'm not smarter than Alison.

Second, like Alison, I wasn't too clear on what exactly you were asking. But I firmly echo her thoughts. Your parents need to handle their verbal contracts about money with your daughters themselves, not through you. When they bring it up, simply say, “Mom, Dad, that's a matter between you and the girls. I'm not going to be your middleman anymore.”

Then change the subject, period. Don't even entertain any further comments on the subject.

As for the criticisms about you not being hard enough on the girls who are less active, I'm a little curious. What exactly is it that your father expects you to do? It's hard enough for parents with rebelling teens who are still at home to do anything. Children who are adults are out on their own. What in the world are you supposed to do? Call them every Sunday morning to wake them up for Church? Or better yet, fly out every Saturday night so you can bang on their dorm room doors the next morning with freshly ironed dresses in hand and drag them to the car? You can't make your children go to church. No one can. Can you imagine the Savior showing up at someone's door, grabbing them by the ear and dragging them to the backseat of a car while they're kicking and screaming? I can just imagine that conversation.

The relationship that your daughters have with the Lord is their relationship. All you can really do now is lovingly encourage them to go which I'm sure you already have. After that, all you can do is fast and pray in their behalf.

Your parents know that. I think they're just worried about their grandchildren in their sense of urgency are forgetting that your children have to work out their own salvation. You can't do it for them, and your parents can't do it with their money, either.

Alison says:

Over the past few days, since receiving this email, I've thought more about the implications of paying children to attend church. I'm not sure the line is as defined as I originally thought. If we provide money for college, isn't it contingent upon ?well ?college attendance? If we provide funds for missions, won't the kids miss out on the donation if they choose not to serve? Do we buy an expensive gown, gobs of flowers, and throw a reception for our daughter ?even if she doesn't get married? Does providing monies to our descendants only in the event that they follow a particular positive criteria, always negate the value they receive from the required action? Even if they wouldn't choose it otherwise?

Either way, if anyone wants to pay me to attend church, I'll be happy to set up a special account to accept donations!