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Taking Counsel

By Shelah Miner

You just had a baby and your mom came to “help you out.” The baby won’t nurse, and your mom keeps offering earnest suggestions– hold the baby’s head like this, drink more water, try to get him started while he’s sleepy, make eye contact with him. When you’re not scouring the internet for suggestions, she’s scouring the internet for ways to help you. Your baby still won’t latch on, and your lovely, helpful, wonderful mom is driving you crazy.

You decide to visit a counselor because you’re unsure how to work through a difficult situation with your family. You’ve invested more time and money than you can comfortably afford, and after the first few sessions, you’re sure you see the counselor’s eyes glaze over when she talks. The advice she gives might be excellent general advice, but it doesn’t address the particulars of your situation, at least not the way you see the situation.

You’re watching General Conference and you hear one of the speakers give counsel that falls hard on your ears. You’re unsure whether the advice is good for the church in general, but not for you in particular, if you need to soften your heart and follow the counsel, or if you can just quietly forget that you ever heard that talk.

We all encounter situations where we get unhelpful, uninspired, or plain old bad advice. What are some situations where you received hard advice? Did you find it difficult to react without burning bridges or severing ties? What advice do you have for others in this situation?

About Shelah Miner

(Co-Editor-in-Chief) teaches English at BYU and French at a Salt Lake City middle school. She has an addiction to her Audible account, hates making dinner, and embraces the chaos of life with a husband, six kids, a dog, a lizard and four rabbits.

12 thoughts on “Taking Counsel”

  1. My 2nd baby was less than a week old and I was having extreme difficulty (again) nursing while trying to recover from hemorrhaging post delivery. I was dealing with excessive bleeding and my boob situation by walking around the house in nothing but a nursing tank top and sweatpants. My mom seriously told me that she felt like my milk would come in better if I would just put my garments back on.

    Though I wanted to wring her neck I couldn't do anything but laugh because seriously, if you met HER mother you'd know she comes by the unsolicited spiritual advice thing honestly.

    Bless the well intentioned, correct with a smile and stand firm to your position. Anger never helps any situation.

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  2. Kalli, I feel ya. After baby #2 I walked around in just a long light skirt up to my armpits and shorts because I couldn't have anything! touching me. I was actually glad not to have well intentioned family around for the first week so I didn't feel like I had to follow "the rules"

    For the most part I try to think of where the other person in coming from when they give advice and then if I like it and it feels good for me and my family I take it. If not I say "I can see how that really works for you"

    As for conference or other church guidance it is usually easy for me to accept the advice however it is more difficult to follow through all the time.

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  3. I think the process of giving and receiving counsel is a tough one. I've never figured out how to address parental difficulties, probably because my parents raised me not to defy them or other adults. Good training in some ways, but that shouldn't extend to adulthood when you are trying to assert your own individuality and authority as an adult!

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  4. My husband and I have been dealing with a hard situation lately. One of our sons recently turned 19 with all the accompanying pressure to serve a mission ASAP. I know that's the norm but our son experienced anxiety while attending college and he is not ready emotionally.

    We've had many long conversations with our bishop who had met with our son when he returned home from college and actually started the process of submitting mission papers. But we explained more details than our son had revealed and respectfully held our ground. After spending more time with our son this past summer, our bishop sees our point of view more clearly.

    It was difficult since I too was taught to never question adults or religious leaders. Ultimately the decision of when to serve a mission is up to our son. I pray that with time, appropriate counseling and support from us, our bishop and others who care, he'll have a successful experience.

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  5. Yeah.
    I had some pretty bad counsel from a bishop. It was after my first husband left us, came back.and then revealed some pretty ugly deciets/deeds he had engaged in that effectively ended our marriage. I remember going to.the temple with a full heart, confused, being pulled so many directions, and recieving the calming (but also, startling to me at the time) revelation that in my case, divorce had to be the answer. I didn't want it to be, but I knew I had to follow this personal revelation as the situation had potential danger to the well being of myself and our daughter.
    The bishop wasn't happy with my decision to divorce, nor was he happy with my later decision to terminate parental rights. But I knew I would be held accountable by God if I didn't follow this counsel he had given me. And looking back, I absolutely know it was the right decision.
    Sorry so personal…but this strikes a strong chord with me. Sometimes you just need to go with what you know to be right and true, and not let others sway you. Years afer these events, I communicated with this man who was my bishop, and he apologized and told me of struggles he was dealing with, trying to.be both our bishops and deal with the ridiculous media that our case ended up attracting. He is now also glad I didn't follow his counsel 🙂

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  6. Nani,

    I had a roommate at BYU whose bishop filled out all the paperwork and sent it in without his knowledge or consent. For some reason the bishop was surprised when my roommate rejected his call. A couple of years later, when he was more prepared, my roommate decided to go, the paperwork got turned in with everybody's knowledge and consent, and my roommate had a wonderful mission.

    More to the topic at hand, I had a branch president who asked me once why I didn't divorce my wife since she had so many physical and emotional problems. He wasn't really ready for the answer that I loved her and that the promises I made in the temple weren't conditioned on life being easy. That same branch president later tried to excommunicate my wife, but the leaders above him wouldn't let him. we finally had to move out of state to get away from the poison that man spread about her.

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  7. i'm so darned hard headed that when i get advice i tend to think…"what the heck?"
    it happened to me yesterday at church. i am the YW president and the bishop told me he wanted something done a certain way. my pride wanted to take charge but lucky for me i stay close to the Holy Ghost with earnest prayer and daily scripture study. no kidding…it keeps me from getting my my "high horse" and acting ridiculous. ccc

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  8. Just to clarify, our bishop is a caring person who was simply following the guidelines to encourage 19-year-old boys to serve missions. He was actually working WITH our son to fill out mission papers. We just didn't know until we met with our bishop to discuss our son's emotional issues. Our son hadn't informed our bishop of his struggles, mostly out of his eagerness to serve. It's a sensitive situation, but our bishop did listen to our concerns and came to see the wisdom of holding off on things for a while. At the same time, I needed to swallow my pride and accept our bishop's counsel that it just might be OK to let others in the ward contribute financially to our son's mission when that time comes since our daughter just entered the MTC.

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  9. I've really been trying to kick pride out of my life, but I'm finding that my mortalness is rife with it. I have made some progress, which I'm really proud of :-)!

    I used to bristle so much at advice. Now I'm more gracious. Actually my goal is to not be annoying to others as pride can do that.

    Thanks for the important topic.

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  10. Hi, I know how you feel. As a mother it is so overwhelming at times with all the advice. Maybe the stress of it all is effecting the milk! You sound really crowded in and need a breath of air. I think the best thing is keep it between you and God. He is much eaiser to please then Mums sometimes.
    I think you need to get confidence in yourslef. As the mother of the child you know him/her the best. Maybe if things dont work out you need to try the bottle. I breatfeed so easy, but my sister had so much trouble with the first couple she just put the last two straight on the bottle. But not without a lot of guilt! The things it though, a happy mother is a happy child and breastfeeding just doesn't work that well for some Mums.
    Good luck!
    P.S. I am from Austalia if some of my words seem a little different.

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  11. Nani:

    You did the right thing in standing your ground and helping your Bishop come around to your way of thinking.

    I am working in the MTC right now as a service missionary and I can tell you that, after working with hundreds of missionaries, I've met a number of them that should definitely wait until they are better prepared emotionally (and spiritually). I wish more parents would do as you a not give in to the cultural pressure, hoping that somehow a mission will "fix" their son.

    On another topic, I once had a Bishop tell me that I wasn't humble at all and that I needed to do something about that. I had just got back from my missiom and thought that I walked on water, so of course he was correct.

    I was mad about that and rejected the council. In hindsight, I probably should have listened more carefully and humbled myself. Based on that lesson, though, I am now able to more carefully consider council when it is given and put it into practice when it is appropriate to do so.

    Here's a couple of links to videos I just put together; simple testimony of Christ and Joseph Smith and I am sharing to get feedback:

    http://wp.me/p17kmb-18

    http://wp.me/p17kmb-V

    Reply

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