(This article is adapted from Rescuing Wayward Children. Follow this link to learn more.)

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We do not choose heroes from those who have never been through something hard. We admire and try to emulate those who have faced and overcome extreme adversity then emerged with their integrity intact. When we consider the life of the Savior, we find our ultimate Hero-He who faced and overcame every affliction, He who is worthy of our emulation. “Surely the best evidence of our adoration of Jesus is our emulation of Him,” said Elder Russell M. Nelson.[i]

A study of the scriptures reveals an interesting point: the Savior’s image is reflected in the countenances of righteous people[ii]-mortal heroes. Because a hero’s Christlike example is so inspiring, we who are weak seek to follow them as we would the Savior. God designed the plan of salvation this way.

One could surmise that heroes, like great suns in the heavens, draw lesser planets (weaker souls) into their orbits to give them light and life. That is, God makes suns of strong, Christlike people who exemplify or illuminate his Beloved Son to the weaker orbs/people. These suns, or heroes, draw attention to Christ so that “the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption.”[iii]

One father of a wayward teenager contacted his former mission president-his hero-when his son fell into heartbreaking transgression.

I talked with the president for a long time. Here was a man whom I had learned to love and trust thirty years earlier. He, too, had struggled with one of his children for a time, and he explained how he and his wife had endured the challenge. Now they were on the other end of things. His child had made a courageous and thorough change, and most importantly, their relationship was stronger than ever. The president is a man as Christlike as anyone I have ever known. Because he has always tried to be like Jesus and do what Jesus would do, he is my hero. I want to be like him in every way. When he gave me counsel, I was willing to listen and to follow. And I have not been disappointed-what the president told me to do is working.

Just as we seek counsel from heroes, we need to be the heroes our children will eventually turn to.

Parents are thus given a heroic work to do; their lives should emulate Christ so that they might “illuminate . . . God”[iv] to their children. Although wayward children may ridicule their parents’ Christlike example, even if they stray to Plutonian distances, they cannot fully break free of the gravitational force (sealing power) that holds them in their parents’ orbit. Wayward children are always tethered to their sun who emulates the Son. By means of a righteous parent’s example, the Holy Ghost will testify to these children that Jesus is the Christ and that the gospel is true.

Speaking to parents concerning emulation, Elder Boyd K. Packer said, “Where is your power? It is in the power of example,”[v] and, as Elder Sterling W. Sill said, “The power of example is the greatest power in the world.”[vi] If wayward children will not listen to our words, our testimony will nevertheless be delivered to them through the power of the Holy Ghost by means of our example.

Charity Suffers Long

Sometimes waiting for a loved one to return and repent is long. To suffer long with someone is to suffer [allow] him the right to exercise his agency. To suffer long is to suffer with him as we watch him suffer the consequences of his actions, even when those consequences do not motivate him to change. To suffer long is to patiently pray that perhaps a change of heart might occur that could drive the wayward soul to the Savior who has suffered for him.

When we serve “one of the least” of God’s children, who may be temporarily least because of his poor choices, the Lord counts our service to the child as if we had done that service unto the Savior.[vii] And God rewards our sacrifice with an incredible return-“an hundredfold.”[viii] Truly, He is the most generous paymaster.

President Kimball, quoting Elder Orson F. Whitney, wrote,

No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God . . . and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven.

Then President Kimball concluded: “Suffering can make saints of people as they learn patience, long-suffering, and self-mastery. The sufferings of our Savior were part of his education.”[ix]

After years of suffering their children’s drug problems, alcohol use, verbal abuse, rebellion, sexual exploits, broken marriages, attempted suicides, and occasional jail time, a California couple wrote,

The Lord has always been there for us. For the last twenty years, we have attended the temple regularly and always put our children’s names on the prayer roll. The Lord has been so good to our children, too. He has saved their lives on numerous occasions-multiple car wrecks, drug overdoses, and suicide attempts. Each time they were rescued miraculously. We have wondered if the Lord was preserving them until they could make their way back home. Remarkably, there are signs. In the last two years they have done an about-face, and both started attending church. One has become temple worthy and the other is close behind.

When our ability to suffer long is tried beyond our apparent limit to endure, and when we search our souls for something more to give, only to find an empty reservoir, we can take comfort in Elder Maxwell’s perspective on the godlike qualities we are gaining: “The dues of discipleship are high indeed, and how much we can take so often determines how much we can then give!”[x]

Faithful parents who suffer long and trumpet their testimonies by the power of their examples are true heroes.

RescuingAuthor’s Note

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[i] Russell M. Nelson, “The Message: His Mission and Ministry,” New Era, December 1999.

[ii] See Alma 5:14.

[iii] Alma 13:2.

[iv] Neal A. Maxwell, “Encircled in the Arms of His Love,” Ensign, November 2002.

[v] Boyd K. Packer, Conference Report, October 1963, 64.

[vi] Sterling W. Sill, Conference Report, April 1960, 68.

[vii] See Matthew 25:40.

[viii] Matthew 19:29.

[ix] Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, 98.

[x] Neal A. Maxwell, “Patience,” Ensign, October 1980.