(Note: This article is adapted from Rescuing Wayward Children. Follow this link to learn more.)
As a righteous man or woman sanctifies him or herself and strives to move forward in faith against adversity, the Lord will eventually present the right circumstance for deliverance. Nephi stated as much in 1 Nephi 3:7, and despite several failed attempts to retrieve the brass plates, he continued to sanctify himself, trying to keep the commandment he’d been given until the Lord presented a solution. (1)
Likewise, we parents have been given commandments to bear children, (2)to teach them to honor and respect their parents, (3) to prepare them for baptism, (4) to teach them the gospel and bring them up in light and truth, (5) to teach them to pray and walk uprightly before the Lord, (6) and to correct them in a spirit of love. (7) Clearly, if God gives us one of His children, He expects us to deliver the child back to Him in a redeemed condition.
The parable of the talents teaches us that truth – whatever God entrusts to us, we are under obligation to return to Him with increase. (8) Therefore, when we, like Nephi, encounter resistance and obstacles while rearing God’s children, we should, like Nephi, set a straight course. We must sanctify ourselves and move forward in faith with the assurance that the Lord will eventually present a solution that leads to deliverance. The Lord’s promise is that, if we do this, He will open “an effectual door.” (9)
The restored gospel provides us power that we can draw upon to fulfill our divine parental charge. President James E. Faust taught, “Satan’s pervasive snares are increasing, and raising children is becoming harder,” (10) but the Brethren have also made it clear that the Lord has restored priesthood keys that are available to each worthy parent – keys to gather together the family for the purpose of administering the gospel blessings, and keys to have those blessings sealed upon their heads for time and eternity. (11)
As President Boyd K. Packer said, “We cannot overemphasize the value of temple marriage, the binding ties of the sealing ordinance, and the standards of worthiness required of them. When parents keep the covenants they have made at the altar of the temple, their children will be forever bound to them.” (12)
Additionally, President Henry B. Eyring confirmed such ideas in an April 2008 general conference session. He prophesied of several significant events in our future, one of those being the increasing return of wayward children as a reward for parents’ unrelenting efforts. He indicated that if we never give up, neither will God give up, and in many cases, where our children seem unresponsive to us, God will call back our children through those who are called to serve in the Church. (13)
Here is a list of just some of the extraordinary promises that prophets have been made to parents of wayward children. Please note that although many of these promises are in reference to those sealed in the temple, the promises are by no means exclusive to that qualification.
The overriding criteria of these promises are the personal making and keeping of covenants with God and persistence in personal sanctification. This allows the principle of grace to be applied. Grace makes it possible to obtain the Lord’s promises after we do all that we can; the Lord then makes up the difference. (14) We are never penalized for our lack of opportunity to make temple covenants when we live worthy of those promised future blessings.
The Prophets’ Promises
When a seal is put upon the father and mother, it secures their posterity, so that they cannot be lost, but will be saved by virtue of the covenant of their father and mother. (15)
I have a declaration to make as to the provisions which God hath made to suit the conditions of man – made from before the foundation of the world. What has Jesus said? All sin, and all blasphemies, and every transgression, except one, that man can be guilty of, may be forgiven; and there is a salvation for all men, either in this world or the world to come, who have not committed the unpardonable sin, there being a provision either in this world or the world of spirits… Every man who has a friend in the eternal world can save him …. And so you can see how far you can be a savior .
Hence the salvation of Jesus Christ was wrought out for all men, in order to triumph over the devil; for if [that salvation] did not catch [a man] in one place, it would in another; for he stood up as a Savior. (16)
There is never a time when the spirit is too old to approach God. All are within the reach of pardoning mercy. (17)
Our Heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless in his mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive. (18)
Let the father and mother, who are members of this Church and Kingdom, take a righteous course, and strive with all their might never to do a wrong, but to do good all their lives; if they have one child or one hundred children, if they conduct themselves towards them as they should, binding them to the Lord by their faith and prayers, I care not where those children go, they are bound up to their parents by an everlasting tie, and no power of earth or hell can separate them from their parents in eternity; they will return again to the fountain from whence they sprang. (19)
I tell you when the prophets and apostles go to preach to those who are shut up in prison … thousands of them will there embrace the gospel. They know more in that world than they do here. (20)
When the gospel is preached to the spirits in prison, the success attending that preaching will be far greater than that attending the preaching of our elders in this life. I believe there will be very few indeed of those spirits who will not gladly receive the gospel when it is carried to them. The circumstances there will be a thousand times more favorable. (21)
God has fulfilled His promises to us, and our prospects are grand and glorious. Yes, in the next life we will have our wives, and our sons and daughters. If we do not get them all at once, we will have them some time … You that are mourning about your children straying away will have your sons and your daughters. If you succeed in passing through these trials and afflictions … you will, by the power of the Priesthood, work and labor, as the Son of God has, until you get all your sons and daughters in the path of exaltation and glory. This is just as sure as that the sun rose this morning over yonder mountains. Therefore, mourn not because all your sons and daughters do not follow in the path that you have marked out to them, or give heed to your counsels. Inasmuch as we succeed in securing eternal glory, and stand as saviors, and as kings and priests to our God, we will save our posterity.(22)
Joseph F. Smith
Jesus had not finished his work when his body was slain, neither did he finish it after his resurrection from the dead; although he had accomplished the purpose for which he then came to the earth, he had not fulfilled all his work. And when will he? Not until he has redeemed and saved every son and daughter of our father Adam that have been or ever will be born upon this earth to the end of time, except the sons of perdition. That is his mission. We will not finish our work until we have saved ourselves, and then not until we shall have saved all depending upon us; for we are to become saviors upon Mount Zion, as well as Christ. We are called to this mission. (23)
Orson F. Whitney
You parents of the wilful and the wayward! Don’t give them up. Don’t cast them off. They are not utterly lost. The Shepherd will find his sheep. They were his before they were yours – long before he entrusted them to your care; and you cannot begin to love them as he loves them. They have but strayed in ignorance from the Path of Right, and God is merciful to ignorance. Only the fulness of knowledge brings the fulness of accountability. Our Heavenly Father is far more merciful, infinitely more charitable, than even the best of his servants, and the Everlasting Gospel is mightier in power to save than our narrow finite minds can comprehend. (24)
The Prophet Joseph Smith declared – and he never taught more comforting doctrine – that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity.
Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold.
Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain. Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God. (25)
James E. Faust
A principle in this statement that is often overlooked is that they must fully repent and “suffer for their sins” and “pay their debt to justice.” I recognize that now is the time to prepare to meet God’ [Alma 34:32]. If the repentance of the wayward children does not happen in this life, is it still possible for the cords of the sealing to be strong enough for them yet to work out their repentance?
In the Doctrine and Covenants we are told, “The dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God, “And after they have paid the penalty of their transgressions, and are washed clean, shall receive a reward according to their works, for they are heirs of salvation” (D&C 138:58-59).
Mercy will not rob justice, and the sealing power of faithful parents will only claim wayward children upon the condition of their repentance and Christ’s Atonement. Repentant wayward children will enjoy salvation and all the blessings that go with it, but exaltation is much more. It must be fully earned. The question as to who will be exalted must be left to the Lord in His mercy.
There are very few whose rebellion and evil deeds are so great that they have “sinned away the power to repent” [Alonzo A. Hinckley, in Conference Report, Oct. 1919, 161]. That judgment must also be left up to the Lord. (26)
John J. Carmack
In 1919 at general conference, Alonzo A. Hinckley, then president of the Deseret Stake of Zion, quoted Elder James E. Talmage of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as follows: “I promise the Saints in the Deseret stake of Zion that if their lives are such that they can look their sons and daughters in the face, and if any of them have gone astray, that the parents are able to say, It is contrary to my instruction and my life’s example; it is against every effort of love, long suffering, faith, prayer and devotion that that boy or girl has gone,’ – I promise you, fathers and mothers, that not one of them shall be lost unless they have sinned away the power to repent” (in Conference Report, October 1919, 161).
Balm and hope abound in that counsel. We may not understand exactly how Elder Talmage’s counsel will come to pass in this life, but we can understand that there is more to the relationship of righteous parents and their children than we fully understand in this life and more help available with the problems that arise in that relationship than we grasp with our worldly logic. We are not alone in our struggle to save and preserve the sealing between us and our children. (27)
Gordon B. Hinckley
I leave my blessing upon you. May there be … a sense of security and peace and love among your children, precious children every one of them, even those who may have strayed. I hope you don’t lose patience with them; I hope you go on praying for them, and I don’t hesitate to promise that if you do, the Lord will touch their hearts and bring them back to you with love and respect and appreciation. (28)
Two or More Witnesses
If we believe in the words of the prophets and if we believe in the law of witnesses that establishes every truth, we should have every reason to believe that despite present realities, God can alter a deviant course and rescue a wayward soul, even from an incredible distance.
Note: This article is adapted from Rescuing Wayward Children. Follow this link to learn more.
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1. See 1 Nephi 3-4.
2. See Genesis 1:28.
3. See Mosiah 13:20.
4. See D&C 68:25-28.
5. See D&C 93:40-42.
6. See D&C 68:28.
7. See D&C 121:43.
8. See Matthew 25:14-28.
9. See D&C 118:3.
10. James E. Faust, “Dear Are The Sheep That Have Wandered,” Ensign, May 2003.
11. See Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 539.
12. Boyd K. Packer, “Our Moral Environment,” Ensign, May 1992, emphasis added.
13. See Henry B. Eyring, “The True and Living Church,” Ensign, May 2008.
14. See LDS Bible Dictionary, “Grace,” 697.
15. Alma P. Burton, ed., Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 151.
16. Joseph Fielding Smith, ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 356-57, emphasis added.
17. Joseph Fielding Smith, ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 191.
18. Joseph Fielding Smith, ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 257.
19. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, 208.
20. G. Homer Durham, ed., The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, 152.
21. Lorenzo Snow, The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, edited by Clyde J. Williams, p. 98
22. Lorenzo Snow, The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, 195.
23. Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine: Selections from the Sermons and Writings of Joseph F. Smith, 442, emphasis added.
24. Orson F. Whitney, Conference Report, April 1929, 110.
25. Orson F. Whitney, Conference Report, April 1929, 110.
26. James E. Faust, “Dear are the Sheep that have Wandered,” Ensign, May 2003.
27. John J. Carmack, “When Our Children Go Astray,” Ensign, February 1997.
28. Gordon B. Hinckley, Church News, 2 September 1995, 4.