The Transition Child

By Janet Walgren
In a lecture at BYU, historian author, David McCullough stated:

One of the hardest, and I think the most important, realities of history to convey to students or readers of books or viewers of television documentaries is that nothing ever had to happen the way it happened. Any great past event could have gone off in any number of different directions for any number of different reasons….Very often we are taught history as if it were predetermined, and if that way of teaching begins early enough and is sustained through our education, we begin to think that it had to have happened as it did. We think that there had to have been a Revolutionary War, that there had to have been a Declaration of Independence, that there had to have been a Constitution, but never was that so. In history, chance [divine providence] plays a part again and again. Character counts over and over. Personality is often the determining factor in why things turn out the way they do.

 BYU Magazine, Winter 2006.

I fully agree and some what disagree with his thesis. History didn’t have to happen that way. I absolutely believe that. One of the greatest gifts that God gave to each of his children is agency. Agency allows for choice; we are free to choose our destiny and consequently the destiny of nations. History is a matter of choice. However, choice is bigger than this world, and history began before we arrived at this stop on our eternal journey. History is eternal in nature and God, being the omniscient being that he is, perfectly understood the nature of each of his children before he sent them on their journey to mortality. God understood how we would use our agency and so, before the world began; he prepared contingency plans to correct the course of individuals, families and nations.

It is a common belief that when God wants something to happen, a baby is born. I call these special babies “Transition Children.” There are many famous transition people that the world commonly accepts to have been foreordained to alter the course of history. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Joseph are just a few that are mentioned in the Bible. Then there were the wonderful men and women of the reformation whose blood paved the way for the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Gandhi altered the history of India, and the signers of the Declaration of Independence altered the course of The United States of America. All were brave transition people to whom we owe a debt of gratitude and service.

Why is it that a concept that is so commonly accepted when applied to religion or to history is not very well accepted when applied to individuals or the family? Why is it that learned men of science, psychologists, and doctors of psychiatry tell us that labeling is bad and yet every word that proceeds out of their mouths label individuals, project behaviors, and predict outcomes that stifle the productive righteous use of agency in the people they purport to help?

Think about the messages that you have heard; “Children in broken homes”… go ahead; you can finish the sentence – “are much more likely to become drug addicts, alcoholics, immoral and predestine to divorce than children in a ‘normal’ family.” In other words, divorce produces defective goods. I am not so sure that I agree with that thesis. I believe that the behaviors that caused the divorce cause the damage. I believe that the negative behaviors that are attributed to divorce would still manifest if the marriage had remained in tact and the causal behaviors that contributed to the divorce remained unchecked.

Frequently women allow their children to be abused because of their own dependency needs. These women claim to be co-victims of the abuser. I say nay. You are not co-victims with your children; you are co-abusers with your husbands! Your family is broken and if you can’t check the abusive behavior in your marriage, then you need to fix your broken family by getting a divorce. 

Ultimately, healing from abuse in the Lord’s way involves leaving behind false and destructive family beliefs, traditions, loyalties, or even ties when they serve to disregard the sanctity of life… when one has the power mentally and physically to protect one’s self or other vulnerable people (children, elderly, handicapped), one has the right and the responsibility to do so, even if it means the disruption of family relationships.

Strengthening Our Families, pg 273. 

I once heard of a young woman who asked her counselor why some little girls come into families that love and treasure them while other little girls come into families where they are terribly abused. This inspired counselor told her that she had come into a family that had destroyed the human spirit and the virtue of man for generations. He told her that she had volunteered to come to that family as a transition child and that from her would spring a nation, a posterity of righteous individuals who would honor God and love and nurture their children. She had volunteered to endure abuse to change the course of history.

Why it is so hard for children of divorce to accept that “that nothing ever had to happen the way it happened?” Why is the good behavior of children in single parent families labeled an anomaly, deviant and overcompensating? Who are the teachers that teach us that history is predetermined?  “If that way of teaching begins early enough and is sustained through our education, we begin to think that it had to have happened as it did.” We know that, In history, chance [divine providence] plays a part again and again. Character counts over and over. Personality is often the determining factor in why things turn out the way they do. BYU Magazine, Winter 2006. Why not apply the transition child theory to individuals and families as well?


3 Responses to The Transition Child

  1. Sean says:

    Nice post, Janet. I have some interest in counseling and psychology and can give my opinion on why many “experts” use labels. They see through a glass darkly, without the hope that is borne of faith.

    Many social scientists, I suspect, see their professions and theories as their “religion”. I know some good people in the profession who do believe in the reality of the real spirit self, or human identity seed, unique from all other individuals. The possibility and even necessity of the transition individual in families is real.

    I do believe that our past experiences affect our thoughts and feelings, but that through the atonement and seeking out truth we have the possibility to overcome anything. I believe in an all-wise and all-loving Heavenly Father who only asks us to to our best and leave the rest to Him. Oh, and to be of good cheer while doing it!

  2. Sean, Thanks and welcome to my blog.

    I checked out your blog – what a fun family you have. It seems like your family has managed to conquer the generation barrier on the Internet. Congratulations. I am still working on mine.

    As for my post, I would love to see studies conducted that are constructed without so much bias against single parent families. We need studies that accurately reflect the cause/effect relationship for messed up kids. Are you aware that many of our church’s general authorities came from single parent homes?

    Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the model family paradigm; however, if divorce = single parenting = messed up kids, then why not widowed = single parenting = messed up kids? Or, what about any other life event that = single parenting? They don’t all = messed up kids! There are many events in history that have taken a parent out of the home without causing the adverse effects attributed to divorced single parents. While single parenting is definitely not the ideal, in many cases it is far preferable to two waring or abusive parents. I really believe that it is the behaviors that were present in the home that caused the divorce that did the damage not the single parenting.

  3. Sean says:


    I was aware that several GA’s are from single-parent families. I wasn’t trying to justify or agree with the labeling social scientists use, but rather to give my thoughts on why they do it. To many, I think it is the religion of humanism and nothing else. My personal opinion is that children’s development has much to do with the degree to which parents are in their “real selves”: their true, eternal, timeless, spiritual selves.

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