This article was adapted from Rescuing Wayward Children. Click here to learn more.

To the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord revealed an astonishing doctrine that speaks to the far-reaching effects of the Atonement. It also hints that our wayward children’s pre-mortal righteousness will be taken into account when judgments are pronounced.

This doctrine seems to make allowance for those who have been deceived by the doctrines of man or who have been offended by hypocritical members of the Church. “Behold, verily I say unto you, there are hypocrites among you, who have deceived some, which has given the adversary power; but behold such shall be reclaimed.”[i]

We learn an important truth here: Eternal judgments are not issued on the basis of deception. Not one of Satan’s followers was cast out because they were deceived. Judgments are based on full light, knowledge and choice.

Without making excuses for our children’s present behavior, we nevertheless might ask ourselves, Have our children gone wayward because they have been deceived or offended? Do they have full light and knowledge so that they can accurately choose between God and Satan? According to the Lord’s promise, if they are laboring under any degree of deception or offense, he will reach out to them and reclaim them.

Wo unto the Deceivers and Hypocrites

But to the self-righteous and mean-spirited, the Lord pronounces a wo: “But wo unto them that are deceivers and hypocrites, for, thus saith the Lord, I will bring them to judgment…But the hypocrites shall be detected and shall be cut off, either in life or in death, even as I will; and wo unto them who are cut off from my church, for the same are overcome of the world.” Then the Lord cautions us against such behavior: “Wherefore, let every man beware lest he do that which is not in truth and righteousness before me.”[ii]

Judgment based on the Sum of Existence

Regarding our children’s premortal righteousness, which we have learned was very great, eternal judgment seems to take into account the sum of their existence. In this same revelation, the Lord says, “Behold, ye are little children and ye cannot bear all things now; ye must grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth. Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world, and you are of them that my Father hath given me; and none of them that my Father hath given me shall be lost.”[iii]

Imagine! None that the Father has given the Savior shall be lost! But we ask ourselves, Is our child one of those whom the Father has given to the Son? An answer might lie in the fact that this revelation was given to weak members of the Church, whom the Lord was calling to repentance and yet was offering mercy. He knew them better than they knew themselves, and therefore he was offering to take pity on them and methodically work with them until he had brought them home.

No one can take our Children from the Savior

For further evidence, we turn to Jesus’ words to his apostles concerning his sheep: “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”[iv]

No one can take our children from Jesus, and our children simply cannot break free from the Savior’s embrace. The Father gave them to him, and Jesus holds them in his hands as pearls of great price. Despite their present choices, they have a past that will be taken into account at the time of judgment. In the meantime, Jesus will carefully draw them to him until the deceptions are stripped away, the offenses are healed, and until our children finally have enough light and knowledge to choose between God and Satan. If their premortal choices are any indication, we have every hope that they will choose right, which is more in their character than their present actions.

A Letter from the Mother of a Former Noble Son

Here is a letter from a mother, who sees in her son a noble soul, although his present behavior is lacking:

I have hesitated several times to respond to your column, but something has moved me today, to take the time to share our experience.

We have a son, who is now twenty, who has made some serious mistakes. We have prayed, fasted, and prayed some more, that he would be “brought to a knowledge of the truth,” and understand the importance of obedience.  He has had several “awakenings,” but up until now, those experiences have not changed his attraction to the “world.”

A little while ago, he was working in another country, and we received a phone call that he had been arrested on some very serious charges.  As we came to understand what he had done, we realized he had not intentionally broken the laws of the land, but had broken our Father in Heaven’s commandments. We tried to pull together bail money for him, but in the meantime, we prayed to have the wisdom regarding whether or not to get him out before the Lord had time to work on his heart and mind. We did not want to circumvent a potential blessing by rushing in.

During the waiting time, we were in deep despair because of the potentially severe consequences that he could face if he were found guilty. We were hardly able to function, even mundane tasks. We researched the possible penalties in that country, and the more we researched, the more fearful we became. We became physically sick with worry.  Worse, we were only able to communicate with our son when he phoned us collect from the jail. We were devastated when we heard him plead for help. A Stake President in the area put us in touch with an attorney, which was all we were able to do.

Then we began to experience the Lord’s tender mercies. A very loving bishop in that area began to visit our son. The bishop took our son a set of scriptures, and gave him several priesthood blessings, which our son requested. We felt from the Spirit that we should not to travel to see him “until the time was right,” which was very difficult for us.  I was beginning to realize that much of our anguish was because of the fear that “man” put into our hearts and minds. My husband and I turned to the scriptures, and our prayers became more focused, as we sought direction and comfort through the Atonement. 

One day I was reading in 1 Nephi chapter 7 about the experience Nephi had with his brothers when they bound him with strong cords, and he prayed that he could have the strength to “burst these bands with which I am bound.” Suddenly, there was the answer to the bondage that I felt we were in.  My husband and I began to pray that we would be able to burst the bands of fear and discouragement that had bound. Now, rather than spending our time researching penalties and “man’s” ways, we searched for stories from prophets and apostles that were similar to ours.

  The fear and discouragement began to lift.  The next step was to sanctify ourselves. We committed to go to the temple weekly. That was difficult, because my husband serves as bishop, but we found a way. After our first trip to the temple, we both felt the power of peace, especially in being reminded that our Father is over all, created all, and could assist us in handling whatever was required. 

As I sat and tried to focus on the Spirit, a whisper came into my mind, saying, “You asked me to bring your son to a knowledge of the truth, now let me finish.”  I understood very clearly what the Spirit was telling me, and the comfort that I felt was overwhelming.  In the temple, my husband took time to ponder, and found a scripture–D&C 101:16–which reads: “…for all flesh is in mind hands; be still and know that I am God.”  That was a great lesson. Instead of running to and fro, looking for solutions and answers to this tragic occurrence, we needed to completely trust our Father in Heaven and BE STILL.  We do not interpret this as meaning that we just sitting around; rather, we do all that we can and leave the Lord to accomplish the best result.

Our son spent two weeks in jail until we felt the promptings that it was the right time to bail him out.  In speaking with him when he was released, and asking him when he finally began to “wake up” to his mistakes, he told us that it was a little over a week.  We were so very grateful that we had listened to the promptings of the Spirit and did not interfere with the Lord’s timetable.

Our son is now home with us, but the charges are still pending. Our son’s spiritual awakening is a work in progress.  We don’t know whether he will be required to serve time or pay a fine or both. We don’t know if this is his real “awakening” experience and if this time he will change. We have our good days and our not so good days. We do not believe our loving Father caused this tragedy, but we do believe that he is using the experience to work with our boy. Our son’s Patriarchal Blessing is filled with references about who this child really is. Our continuing prayer is that one day he will realize his true identity, to see himself as Heavenly Father sees him, and to do what he needs to do return to God.

Thank you for letting me to express these thoughts through your column.  If you feel it could be useful, our prayer is that what we have learned will help someone else, as we are constantly searching for support and help from others who have gone through similar trials.

And, of course, I am honored to share this tender story with my readers. Every wayward child is known and loved beyond our imagination. Some have been deceived or offended, “but behold such shall be reclaimed.” Because of their premortal greatness, they were given to the Savior by the Father as a trust, “and none of them that my Father hath given me shall be lost.”

Every great sinner has an infinitely greater Savior!

Author’s Note

This article was adapted from Rescuing Wayward Children. Click here to learn more.

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[i]           D&C 50:7, emphasis added

[ii]          D&C 50:6, 8-9

[iii]          D&C 50:40-42, emphasis added

[iv]          John 10:28-29