As our children contemplated mortality, they likely viewed the experience as both potentially difficult and rewarding—light years different from the environment they had known. Here on earth—thrust into a place where things hurt; where time is measured as if it matters; where lack rather than abundance is common; where competition instead of cooperation rules men’s hearts and causes untold pain and disparity; where our best efforts can be neutralized by another person’s bad behavior; where God is often known as a distant, vague, seldom-referred-to figure, invisible rather than ever-present, blasphemed rather than reverenced as the sovereign of the universe and central figure in all existence—our children would be like fish out of water.
From the moment of our children’s birth, they would be bombarded with foreign stimuli exclusive to this mortal, physical environment. Physical hunger, not the Spirit’s presence, would become their new learning mechanism and motivator. They would begin to define their new environment in terms of feeling and responding to their hungers and sensory experiences. Unchecked, these hungers could compel them to sin, which, in turn, could cause them to die spiritually.
Of course, our children’s primeval instinct to satisfy these mortal hungers would drive them to nourish, protect, and satisfy their bodies. But this would be risky. They could take satisfying their hungers to extremes; they might even respond to hungers recklessly and selfishly to the exclusion of everything healthy and good. Recognizing the danger of seeking to satisfy hungers without constraint, we parents must attempt to create boundaries with discipline and set rules. We must teach our children that God’s commandments are patterns for safe and happy living.
As our children mature, we hope that their motivation for obeying the laws of family and of God will migrate from duty to understanding and finally to love. We hope they will raise their sights and take control of their hungers. We hope they will come to realize, as we do, that they exist in two very real dimensions: “that physical dimension, which our puny five senses perceive, and that spiritual dimension, which flourishes beyond our physical senses and is perceived only by an internal spiritual faculty, a sense that [they] only barely understand.”[i]
What we parents want our children to discover for themselves is that everything has spiritual underpinnings,[ii] therefore all physical hungers can be traced to a corresponding spiritual need. If they can grasp and embrace that concept, they will experience one of the greatest discoveries of life: To be hungry and thirsty is ultimately designed to lead them to Christ, the Bread of Life, and the Living Water.[iii]
As physical hunger motivates the need for food, so spiritual hunger motivates the need for redemption. That is what we want for our children: to get themselves to Christ to be redeemed. Their physical hungers are designed to take them there, but Satan can use those hungers to take them to hell. Their starving, parched, noble spirits hunger and thirst for the righteousness they once knew; they are pleading, as they are trapped within their telestial bodies, to be filled. Jesus provided the answer for satisfying a famished spirit: “Blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.”[iv] The only thing that can satisfy a hungry and thirsty soul is the Holy Ghost, and the satisfaction that He provides results in true joy, which transforms a life and returns it from the natural back to spiritual.
Those who are spiritually dead seldom believe it, and that is the ignorant state in which Satan would like to keep them. To be spiritually dead is to be “encircled about by the bands of death, and the chains of hell, [with] an everlasting destruction . . . await[ing] them.” [v] Only God has the power to revive and deliver them.[vi] Until they gain a testimony of their situation, they will either wallow in spiritual darkness with absolutely no interest in or interaction with God, or they will fumble about in a kind of spiritual twilight. Speaking of this spiritual twilight and how Satan uses it to assuage our children’s hungers, Catherine Thomas wrote:
This twilight zone is a transition state between having recognized one’s fallenness [and] not yet reaching to the solution. . . . This is a state of hunger and bondage—not total darkness, but hunger for something indefinable. We can recognize it in ourselves when our souls cry out, “Is this all there is to the gospel? Can’t I feel a richer inner experience?” We can get stuck in this twilight because we are . . . going through some motions . . . [or] we seem to be on the path; but still, there’s that nagging hunger in the heart that doesn’t know what it wants. People try lots of things to assuage the hunger. . . . But [these worldly pursuits are] counterproductive where happiness and being born again are concerned. . . .
That half-and-half state is precisely the problem and the source of our hunger. The hunger comes from the need for the most powerful nutrient a fallen human can receive: the Spirit of the Lord. . . . The Fall creates the hunger. Perhaps the most characteristic state of fallen man is the hunger and the feeling of darkness or spiritual twilight. Many people experience only the hunger for their entire lives.[vii]
Many of our children are spiritually asleep, left to be driven by their hungers. Who can awaken them? Who can everlastingly, not temporarily, satisfy their hungers?
Next week: “The Awakening”
Note: This article is adapted from Rescuing Wayward Children. Follow this link to learn more.
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[i] M. Catherine Thomas, “Alma the Younger, Part 2,” Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.
[ii] See D&C 29:34.
[iii] See John 6:35; John 4:10.
[iv] 3 Nephi 12:6.
[v] Alma 5:7.
[vi] See Alma 5: 7–9.
[vii] M. Catherine Thomas, “Alma the Younger, Part 2,” Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.