(This article was adapted from Rescuing Wayward Children. CLICK HERE to learn more.)

True love between a husband and wife gives them the power to effectively seek and secure blessings from heaven and to rescue their wayward children. President Joseph F. Smith said, “Charity, or love, is the greatest principle in existence.”[i]

The Apostle John wrote: “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” Restated, the man or woman who does not love well does not know God well: “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”[ii] Therefore, the more like God we become, the more love we have to give, and the more love we have to give, the more power we have to save others.

“Craig and Janice,” parents from New Mexico, spoke candidly about the impact their wayward daughter had on their relationship and how the rekindling of their love saved their marriage from destruction.

Free agency is that wonderful gift that is full of promise and risk. When our daughter “Andrea,” exercised her agency to sin, she reacted by feeling dirty and worthless. Because she couldn’t forget the deed, she imagined that she couldn’t be forgiven. She was too embarrassed to talk to the bishop and begin the repentance process. But as quiet as she wanted to keep the deed, secrets have a way of getting out. Soon, members of the ward snubbed Andrea. In my opinion, this is a form of persecution. The snubbing had a spiraling effect-she no longer felt comfortable at church, so she quit attending, which caused her to lose the Spirit.

           We were divided as to how to help Andrea. My husband wanted to press Andrea to repent quickly, because living with unrepentant sin can be disastrous. I agreed, but I wanted to take the nurturing approach and keep the relationship intact. Unfortunately this caused a lot of conflict and contention between us. Not only was this not helpful to Andrea, but it kept us from comforting each other at a very traumatic time. The adversary is so clever. We wanted the same thing, but we thought it needed to be done in two exactly different ways. That distraction pulled us away from each other and from Andrea.

Craig made the first gesture of reconciliation. Love notes and flowers started appearing at unexpected times. He planned a short romantic trip together, and he made sure that weekly date nights were sacred. He took more opportunities to compliment me on my appearance, and he continually expressed his gratitude that I was his wife. Even more important, he told me that I was a good mother, and gave me specific evidences. That was so comforting to me at a time when I was feeling like a failure. He asked for my opinion on dealing with Andrea, and he really considered what I had to say. We shared ideas and came up with a unified plan. All of this endeared him to me in a way that I had never experienced before. I was actually grateful for the adversity because it pulled us together in a remarkable, loving way. Of course, I could not let his loving gestures go unreciprocated. The more he gave the more I wanted to give back to him. Being loving is so wonderful.

We still struggle with Andrea, but the loving unity of our marriage seems to be bringing her around. Home is now the safe place that she needs to deal with her problems. She knows that her parents love each other, and she knows that we love her. We hope that the few narrow-minded people at the ward will someday soften their position, but for now we try to put all our energy into our relationship. We are certain that love and unity will eventually prevail.

Parents who are truly united in love have saving power that is perhaps only exceeded by the saving power of God. Thus it behooves parents to recommit to each other and tap into the incredible power of unified love.

What is “true love”?

There is a vast difference between being in love and being loving. True love is built on the four pillars of complete loyalty, complete sacrifice, complete trust and complete patience — “I will wait for you; I will wait with you; I will wait upon you.”

True love is being loving, which is being charitable, and charity is the “pure love of Christ.”[iii] Charity is not so much a feeling as it is a principle of power that can lift and save. H. Wallace Goddard observed that charity has three meanings: Love from Christ, Love for Christ, Love like Christ.

Interestingly, a temple marriage-especially one that is built upon the foundation of charity-is called a saving ordinance.[iv] Temple marriage saves a man and woman. Marriage is one of the greatest evidences of God’s salvation. In an act of unequalled charity, He snatches two individuals from their fallen condition, introduces them to each other as his beloved son and daughter, and invites them to experience His exalted meaning of love and thus partake of the fullness of His glory.

Through marriage God saves the couple, they save each other, and others are saved in the process. Amazingly, by means of the couple’s saving marriage, their progenitors now experience a higher manifestation of salvation, for “they without us cannot be made perfect.”[v]

Likewise, future generations are saved by the couple’s marriage. As children are born into this union, they are saved by the love and the covenants of their parents. Therefore, by the couple’s entering into the saving relationship of marriage, the children become the focal point of eternity for untold generations past and future.

“The Family: A Proclamation to the World” states that husbands and wives, by virtue of their marriage vows, have a solemn obligation to love and care for one another.[vi] It has been said that children can receive no greater gift than being reared by parents who love each other. Surely there can be nothing greater than the love that Heavenly Father has for our Heavenly Mother.

To Love First

How does love grow? It grows as we love someone first. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us . . . We love him, because he first loved us.”[vii] We love first, and then love is returned. It is an oft-repeated scriptural formula that has many applications: “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.”[viii] Elder Boyd K. Packer said it this way: “As you give what you have, there is a replacement, with increase!”[ix]

Love is returned by someone’s loving first; love increases by being loving; love cleaveth unto love like “light cleaveth unto light.

[x] This love, a saving love, is charity, which never faileth.  John Greenleaf Whittier wrote, “I’ll lift you, and you lift me, and we’ll both ascend together.”

Of course, loving first is fraught with risk. Love shown might not be returned immediately. Sometimes it may seem like it will never come. Elder Maxwell explained that parents often extend love that is not reciprocated. He quoted Edith Hamilton as saying, “When love meets no return the result is suffering and the greater the love the greater the suffering. There can be no greater suffering than to love purely and perfectly one who is bent upon evil and self-destruction. That was what God endured at the hands of men’ (Spokesman for God, 1936, 112).” Elder Maxwell explained that the pain that we feel provides us an appreciation for the Savior, which appreciation we might not otherwise gain.[xi]

Nevertheless, love we must, for only love unfeigned has the power to rescue a wayward soul. If we want to love our wayward children back, we must start by better loving God and our spouse, which increases our capacity to love. Then we are in a position to better love the “unlovable” child.

Often, we will need to show love for the child before he shows love to us, and we must persist in that love until love breaks down every barrier between us, melts the child’s heart, embraces him in an unbreakable bond, and finally leads him home. Professor Rex A. Skidmore has said, “Parents need to remember that a youth is never so much in need of understanding as when he is non-approachable and never so much in need of love as when he is unlovable.”[xii]

Love Perfected

Being loving to our spouse is not only an expansive principle, it is a perfecting one that draws God near. “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.”[xiii] Moreover, by loving acts we are endowed with an added measure of the Holy Ghost: “Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.”[xiv] As we abide in this cycle of loving and receiving love, our love eventually becomes perfect: “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect.”[xv]

Significantly, the only other person besides God whom a man is commanded to love with all his heart is his wife: “Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else.”[xvi] Our model is Christ, who frequently refers to Himself as the Bridegroom,[xvii] and we, being part of His church, are symbolically His bride.[xviii] In Hosea, He is the forgiving, compassionate, nurturing Husband, and elsewhere He is the Good Shepherd, who gives His life for those whom He loves.[xix]

This quality of love is that which yokes us to Him, an important principle considering the fact that He, by covenant, is an important third partner in our marriage; He is as essential to us as we are to each other. Our marriage simply cannot be sanctified, and we cannot grow in the principle of love, without Him.

In the case where we are in a struggling marriage where our spouse does not seem willing to work with us in increasing love, or where a spouse does not believe in gospel principles, we still may rely on the amazing power of love-freely given by us-to powerfully affect the relationship and us individually. This is one reason why we do not need to fear one-sided love.

No Fear in Love

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of loving is ceasing to be afraid: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear.” If our circumstance is causing us fear, we might consider reexamining the foundation upon which our love is built, “because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”[xx]

We must regroup by being loving, and love will be returned with increase. As love grows, we will feel our level of fear decrease. This love is the love of God, giving us peace and ameliorating the risks of unreturned mortal love.

Love-The Greatest Power

Love-perfect love-is the greatest power in the universe. Love motivates God to do all that He does. The greatest expression of His love is to give and redeem life. He invites His children to experience His type of life, for therein is His joy made full.[xxi] By following His example-giving life and redeeming life-our joy is also made full.[xxii] Therein is the perfection of and hope for our love. Therein are children given and therein are children saved.

Power in the Sealing of the Holy Spirit of Promise

Though love is powerful, it requires a sealing of that love-in the temples of our God-to fully and finally save our children and cement our marriages. For single parents and those wishing to be sealed in the temple, this can be a painful reminder. However, faith and grace allow us to act as if we were in possession of that which we lack and to do all that we can do with the assurance that the Lord will make up the difference. Attesting to the truth of this comforting fact, President Lorenzo Snow said,

There is no Latter-day Saint who . . . will lose anything because of having failed to do certain things when opportunities were not furnished him or her. . . . If a young man or a young woman has no opportunity of getting married, and they live faithful lives up to the time of their death, they will have all the blessings, exaltation, and glory that any man or woman will have who had this opportunity and improved it.[xxiii]

When we finally have the opportunity to fall in love, that love between a husband and a wife-through a temple marriage-solidifies the initial sealing of our marriage covenant into an unbreakable welding link. We become one in word, purpose, and deed, and that ultimate and final kind of unity is necessary to obtain the celestializing blessings of heaven in behalf of our children.

While our temple experience teaches us that the sealing of parents is provisional and based on subsequent obedience,[xxiv] we also become aware that no such qualifying language is used when a child is born in the covenant or when a child born outside the covenant is later sealed to his parents. This suggests that the Lord intends for the child to belong to the parents forever.

President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “Those born under the covenant, throughout all eternity, are the children of their parents. Nothing except the unpardonable sin, or sin unto death, can break this tie. If children do not sin as John said, unto death,’ the parents may still feel after them and eventually bring them back near to them again.


Whether a child is born into the covenant or the child is subsequently sealed to his parents, no conditions are mentioned, suggesting that the Lord intends for the child to belong to the parents forever. The prophets have stated repeatedly that the calling of parent is one from which we are never released.[xxvi] Such is the incredible power of the sealing ordinance. The covenants made and the sealing pronounced on parents married in the temple creates a patriarchal hold that secures children to their parents forever, pulling them into that covenant.

Thus, for a man and a woman, the ultimate goals of love are to enter into the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, then persist in that covenant until their marriage is sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. The Holy Spirit of Promise is a “name-title used in connection with the sealing and ratifying power of the Holy Ghost.”[xxvii] Great power devolves upon a husband and wife who have married in the temple and lived worthily so that the Holy Spirit of Promise can validate their marriage. Elder Bruce C. Hafen wrote,

 A covenant marriage in the highest sense will begin as a temple marriage. When the partners are then sufficiently righteous, the marriage will be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise (D&C 132:7), “which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true” (D&C 76:53). Such a marriage will then be not only eternal in duration but also celestial in quality, for it will be a marriage that partakes of God’s quality of life.[xxviii]

President James E. Faust made one of the clearest statements on the subject: “When the covenant of marriage for time and eternity, the culminating gospel ordinance, is sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, it can literally open the windows of heaven for great blessings to flow to a married couple who seek for those blessings.”[xxix]

This highest manifestation of gospel blessings is contingent upon our faithfulness to our covenants. Although marriage is an important step toward exaltation, it is not the ultimate step. Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote, “It should be clearly understood that these high blessings are not part of celestial marriage. Blessings pronounced upon couples in connection with celestial marriage are conditioned upon the subsequent faithfulness of the participating parties.'”[xxx]

Speaking of these great blessings that flow to the children by the power of their parents’ temple sealing, Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “These keys hold the power to seal husbands and wives for eternity as well as for time. They hold the power to seal children to parents, the key of adoption, by which the family organization is made intact forever. This is the power which will save the obedient from the curse in the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. Through these keys the hearts of the children have turned to their fathers.”[xxxi]

So the key to rescuing our wayward children lies not only in our striving to be unified, but to be unified with respect to our covenants and increasing commitment to the sacrifices required when we receive the gifts of gospel blessings. Elder Russell M. Nelson wrote: “As you obey each of God’s commandments, your holiness will fortify the foundation of your fathers’ faith. When the two of you are together spiritually, one plus one is clearly greater than two.”[xxxii]

Although love may motivate a man and woman to enter into marriage, only God has the power to truly make them one. Moroni revealed to Joseph Smith the sobering fact why this welding link-a temple sealing and subsequent sanctification-must be in place to make a couple (and their progenitors and children) one: so that “the whole earth [would not] be utterly wasted at [the Lord’s] coming.”[xxxiii] Robert L. Millet gives us further insight into this idea of the earth’s being wasted:

Why would the earth be wasted at his coming? Because the earth would not have accomplished its foreordained purpose of establishing on its face a family system patterned after the order of heaven. If there were no sealing powers whereby families could be bound together, then the earth would never “answer the end of its creation” (D&C 49:16). It would be wasted and cursed, for all men and women would be forever without root or branch, without ancestry or posterity.[xxxiv]

With the merciful gift and commandment of having our marriages start across the temple altars, righteous parents are made one by God and sealed together with His unbreakable welding link. Then, as they faithfully persevere in their covenants, the Holy Spirit of Promise seals their marriage more surely so that the welding link that was set in place at the altar will never fail.

The children who issue forth from this union-or who are sealed into it-are surely secured to their parents by virtue of that same, sure weld. Despite their rebellion, they cannot break free. The power of their parents’ oneness, which was set in place by God and made sure by the Holy Spirit of Promise, has the power to hold onto the children and eventually reel them back.

Author’s Note

This article was adapted from Rescuing Wayward Children. CLICK HERE to learn more. Also, CLICK HERE to receive my gift to you of the seven free PDFs in my Pillars of Zion series. Learn about our Internet missionary project.


[i]            Joseph F. Smith, Conference Report, April 1917, 4.

[ii]           1 John 4:7-8.

[iii]           Moroni 7:47.

[iv]           See Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, “Celestial Marriage,” 117-118.

[v]           D&C 128:15.

[vi]           See “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”

[vii]          1 John 4:10, 19.

[viii]          Matthew 5:7.

[ix]           Boyd K. Packer, “The Candle of the Lord,” Ensign, January 1983.

[x]           D&C 88:40.

[xi]           Edith Hamilton quoted, also Elder Maxwell, in Neal A. Maxwell’s “Enduring Well,” Ensign, April 1997.

[xii]          Rex A. Skidmore, “What Part Should the Teen-ager Play in the Family?” Improvement Era, January 1952.

[xiii]          1 John 4:12.

[xiv]          1 John 4:13.

[xv]          1 John 4:16-17.

[xvi]          D&C 42:22.

[xvii]         See Matthew 9:15.

[xviii]         See Isaiah 62:5.

[xix]          See John 10:11.

[xx]          1 John 4:18.

[xxi]          See 3 Nephi 17:20.

[xxii]         See Alma 26:11.

[xxiii]         Lorenzo Snow, Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, 138.

[xxiv]         See Bruce R. McConkie, “Celestial Marriage,” Mormon Doctrine, 117-18

[xxv]         Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, volume 2, 90

[xxvi]         See M. Russell Ballard, “Let Our Voices be Heard,” Ensign, November 2003.

[xxvii]        Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, “Holy Spirit of Promise,” 361.

[xxviii]        Bruce C. Hafen, Covenant Hearts, 77.

[xxix]         James E. Faust, “The Gift of the Holy Ghost-A Sure Compass,” Ensign, April 1996, emphasis added.

[xxx]         Joseph Fielding Smith, quoted in Bruce R. McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine, “Calling and Election Sure,” 110.

[xxxi]         Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Volume 2, 119, emphasis added.

[xxxii]        Russell M. Nelson, The Power within Us, 113.

[xxxiii]        D&C 2:3, comments added.

[xxxiv]        Robert L. Millet, When a Child Wanders, 100-101.