Finding out a loved one has a disability or chronic health challenge can produce many emotions. Feelings such as confusion, anger, disappointment, frustration, and sadness toward God or others are normal and can be part of the process of coming to an understanding of what is happening. You may find yourself exhausted emotionally as well as physically. Although God has not revealed all things to us now, you can trust that He is a loving God and cares for you and your loved one. Draw close to Heavenly Father, and allow His Spirit to comfort and instruct you.
God has a plan for your family’s happiness here as well as in the eternities. Although our Father in Heaven may not remove all your challenges now, He can ease your burdens and give you the strength to bear them, just as He did with the people of Alma (see Mosiah 24:10–15).
Individuals with disabilities should be given the opportunity to learn and progress in the gospel according to their abilities and desires. If your loved one expresses a desire to make sacred covenants that will help him or her progress along the covenant path, pray about these decisions, and then discuss those desires with your bishop or branch president. Ordinances are not withheld if the person is worthy, wants to receive them, and demonstrates an appropriate degree of responsibility and accountability. Persons who have intellectual disabilities and cannot adequately make decisions or repent may be considered by the bishop or branch president to be not accountable. (See General Handbook, 126.96.36.199; see also Moroni 8:5–26).
It is not uncommon for parents of children with disabilities to ask themselves “What did we do wrong?” Many people in the Savior’s day believed, as do some people in our day, that trials and challenges people face are consequences of sins they have committed. President Boyd K. Packer said: “The idea that all suffering is somehow the direct result of sin has been taught since ancient times. It is false doctrine” (“The Moving of the Water,” Ensign, May 1991, 7). By studying the following event in the Savior’s life, we can learn important truths about our adversities and challenges:
“And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
“And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
“Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:1–3).
The day-to-day strain of providing care can lead to physical and emotional fatigue, which can affect the well-being of family members. It is important that you find ways to take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Our Savior lovingly invites us:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).
If you prayerfully seek the Lord’s help, you can find the strength to balance life’s demands. Here are a few tips to consider as you find ways to care for yourself:
We are taught in the scriptures that “all thy children shall be taught of the Lord” (3 Nephi 22:13). The Prophet Joseph Smith explained that “all the minds and spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 210). Pray to know what you can do to help your children or loved ones with a disability learn the gospel. This may require adapting scripture study and home instruction to fit their needs. Provide them with appropriate opportunities that will help them draw closer to the Lord. For example, you might ask them to lead hymns, say prayers, or read scriptures. Invite them to share their testimonies and learn more about the gospel in a way they can understand. Teach them about their divine worth and potential.
If they communicate to you a desire to move forward along the covenant path, help them as needed to move forward. Remember, they have their agency and can choose what role the gospel will play in their life. However, the Lord has instructed that “all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden” (2 Nephi 26:28).
See a list of scriptures, curricula, magazines, and other resources in accessible formats.
When possible, share with others relevant information about your loved one’s disability. Be open about what challenges he or she faces and how to best help him or her. If you share information in a welcoming manner and show that you are comfortable doing so, others will be willing to listen and help in any way they can. You may want to take time to write what you would want others to know about your loved one. What are his or her strengths and talents? What are some of his or her challenges? What have you found to be helpful? What can he or she do to more fully participate in the ward? What could be adapted to help him or her more fully participate in gospel learning and activities at church?
You may also find it helpful to refer others to disability.ChurchofJesusChrist.org and other websites, articles, and books that you have found to be helpful.
If your ward or stake has a disability specialist, you may want to contact him or her and discuss your loved one’s needs. The disability specialist can be a valuable resource not only to you but also to other ward members in helping them understand your loved one’s strengths and challenges (see mycalling.ChurchofJesusChrist.org/disabilityspecialist).
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