2. Doesn’t the Prophet Joseph Smith’s statement regarding the sealing of righteous parents seem to indicate that the parents’ calling and election must be made sure?
Yes, but we must keep some things in mind. Those who endure faithfully to the end of their days and remain obedient to their covenants will receive the promise of eternal life, either here or hereafter (D&C 14:7; 50:5; 53:7; 58:2). Elder Bruce R. McConkie thus expressed the following sentiments at the funeral of Elder S. Dilworth Young: “If we die in the faith, that is the same thing as saying that our calling and election has been made sure and that we will go on to eternal reward hereafter. As far as faithful members of the Church are concerned, . . . if they are in the line of their duty, if they are doing what they ought to do, although they may not have been perfect in this sphere, their probation is ended . . . with their death” (Funeral Service for S. Dilworth Young, 13 July 1981, typescript, 5; emphasis added).
3. Is all of this really fair to those parents who have been successful in rearing their family, or to those children who have kept themselves from serious sin?
To be frank, all of us are guilty of sin. All of us are in need of pardoning mercy. All of us fall short of the divine standard. Inasmuch as each of us is a recipient of unending and unmerited grace, how can we speak of the Lord’s pardoning mercy toward wayward children as unfair?
That a pure and innocent man should suffer and agonize over others’ transgressions is not fair. But the plan of the Father is not a plan of fairness, at least as we judge fairness from our limited perspective; it is a plan of mercy and grace. The Father and the Son love us in ways that we cannot comprehend. They will do all that is within the bounds of propriety to save as many of the posterity of Adam and Eve as will be saved. President J. Reuben Clark, Jr. spoke of the goodness of our God: “I feel that [the Lord] will give that punishment which is the very least that our transgression will justify. . . . I believe that when it comes to making the rewards for our good conduct, he will give the maximum that is possible to give” (From “As Ye Sow. . ,” BYU devotional address, 3 May 1955).
When a Child Wanders
There is power in righteousness, power that activates God’s covenant with His people, power that binds and seals here and hereafter, power that links the children of Abraham, the children of the covenant, together in love and unity. Righteous parents thereby impact generations to come. “Rewards for obedience to the commandments,” Elder Russell M. Nelson explained, “are almost beyond mortal comprehension. Here, children of the covenant become a strain of sin-resistant souls. And hereafter . . . children of the covenant, and ‘each generation [will] be linked to the one which went on before . . . [in] the divine family of God.’ Great comfort comes from the knowledge that our loved ones are secured to us through the covenants” (Ensign, May 1995, 33-34; citing Joseph Fielding Smith, Conference Report, October 1950, 13-14).
President Gordon B. Hinckley, in addressing the Saints in Great Britain, said: “I leave my blessing upon you. May there be food on your table, clothing on your backs, shelter over your heads and 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 so, the Lord will touch their hearts and bring them back to you with love and respect and appreciation” (From a fireside address at Crawley, reported in Church News, 2 September 1995, 4).
And so, because we are mortal and cannot see the end from the beginning, when a child wanders we fret and ache and sometimes despair. But there is hope smiling brightly before us, hope that springs forth from the elevated perspective provided by the power of the gospel covenant. Truly, as the Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “There is never a time when the spirit is too old to approach God. All are within the reach of pardoning mercy, who have not committed the unpardonable sin” (History of the Church 4:425; emphasis added).
And so we wait, we watch, we fast and pray, and we continue to lift our voices heavenward. And, perhaps most importantly, we continue to love those who wander and we never, never give up hope. There is a God in heaven who is our Eternal Father, and he lives in the family unit. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, will go in search of his lost sheep. The gospel covenant is broad and deep and penetrating as eternity, and there are righteous forces at work that are beyond our capacity to perceive or comprehend. I know, with all my heart, that “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man [or woman] availeth much” (James 5:16), and that one day our God will wipe away all tears (Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 7:17; 21:4).
Find comfort and hope with more from Robert L. Millet in When a Child Wanders.
Is there hope for children who reject the gospel of Jesus Christ, who turn willfully against their parents' teachings and fall into forbidden paths? Can anything alleviate the pain their behavior causes?
Robert L. Millet provides hope for families with wayward children by focusing on the scriptural and prophetic promises to those who have received the blessings of the gospel covenant. Wandering children and the trail of attendant sorrows are no respecter of persons. These make their way into the families of the rich and poor, active, and less active, functional and dysfunctional. This book faces head-on the reality that sometimes things simply don't turn out as we had planned. Robert Millet uncovers the doctrinal basis for hope when a loved one forsakes the faith.
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