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

Parents who give themselves to working with a wayward child might think that they are losing their lives. But in reality, they are gaining immeasurable gifts. This week, the gifts of redemption, experience, and joy.

The Gift of Experience and Redemption

For parents who are suffering long with a wayward child, the Lord’s words, “all these things shall give thee experience,” [1] are not always comforting. Of course, by experience we usually mean adverse experience.

One father from Idaho said, “This is at once the most frightening and comforting phrase in the scriptures.” Somehow we anticipate that our experience might include, as Joseph Smith was told in the bowels of Liberty Jail, our being “cast into the pit” where we helplessly stand by as our enemies decide our fate; or our being “cast into the deep” amidst the “billowing surge” and “fierce winds”; or our being enveloped by gathering “blackness,” while “all the elements combine to hedge up the way”; or worse, our being threatened by “the very jaws of hell” that seek to devour us.[2]

We feel the weight of experience when our children rebel and break our hearts and when there seems to be little we can do to stop them. At such times of difficulty, we may ask, How can such harsh experience be for my good?

Power is Preceded by Experience

Somewhere deep inside us, we know the answer: By means of harsh experience we will gain, not lose, and, beyond every other consideration, what we will gain is the power of redemption. In the process, we are being blessed with invaluable spiritual gifts, and we are developing the necessary qualities of character to do redeeming work.

Evidently, eternal law requires that the receipt of power be preceded and developed by experience. Lehi put it another way — that to gain anything desirable, we must experience its corresponding opposite: “it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.”[3] Therefore, there is opportunity in experiencing the adversity of weakness, sickness, financial woes, relationship problems, disagreeable people, wayward children, or, as Lehi listed, wickedness, misery, death, corruption, and insensibility.[4]

Opposition “must needs be,” Lehi declared. We must experience the opposites or opposition in all things. Therefore, we are not sheltered from opposition here. Otherwise, there could be no righteousness, holiness, goodness, incorruption, happiness, sensation, and no existence.[5]

Thankfully, in the process of experiencing opposition, we secure power through the Atonement to overcome opposition. That is, our opposition experience leads to power: “Ye receive no witness [blessing] until after the trial [opposition] of your faith.”[6] To become like God, we must experience what He has experienced, so that we, like He, might gain the power to triumph.[7]

Here, then, as have stated before, every effort we make to sanctify ourselves has a redeeming effect upon the person for whom we are praying. Sanctification infuses us with power to do the work of redemption; that is, the redeemed do the redeeming. We are sanctified by our experiences, our efforts to improve ourselves spiritually, and our encounters with the Holy Spirit. These things lead to wisdom, which leads to power. Thus, the cycle of redemption is one of divine rescue, repentance, sanctification, then duplicating that cycle in others.

The Cycle of Experiencing Adversity and Redemption

Enos. Consider Enos, who went through the cycle of experiencing adversity then redemption by the teaching of his redeemed father, Jacob. Now Enos desired to extend the blessings of redemption to his family, his countrymen, and even his enemies. Once he had been redeemed, he could not rest without trying to redeem someone else. Evidently his desire and consequent bestowed power to redeem others remained with him to the end of his life.

When he was about to die, he declared that he had been “wrought upon by the power of God that I must preach and prophesy unto this people, and declare the word according to the truth which is in Christ. And I have declared it in all my days, and have rejoiced in it above that of the world.”[8]

Alma the Elder. Consider Alma the Elder, who experienced adversity and then repented of his sins at the preaching of a redeemed Abinadi. When Alma experienced personal redemption, he “went about privately among the people, and began to teach the words of Abinadi — Yea, concerning that which was to come, and also concerning the resurrection of the dead, and the redemption of the people, which was to be brought to pass through the power, and sufferings, and death of Christ, and his resurrection and ascension into heaven.”[9]

The now-redeemed Alma the Elder had gained, through the cycle of experiencing adversity and being redeemed from it, the power of redemption by which he helped to redeem the entire Church and his own wayward son.

Alma the Younger. Consider Alma’s son, Alma the Younger, who experienced adversity, then also repented of his sins after remembering the teachings of his redeemed father, who had developed the power of redemption to the extent that he could call down angelic help from heaven. When the now-redeemed younger Alma had experienced the adversity-redemption cycle, he declared that he had been “redeemed of the Lord … redeemed from the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity.”[10]

Thereafter, the redeemed Alma the Younger went about “from this time forward” to teach the unredeemed people, “preaching the word of God in much tribulation, being greatly persecuted by those who were unbelievers, being smitten by many of them” [11] in order that he, along with the sons of Mosiah, might become the redeeming “instruments in the hands of God in bringing many to the knowledge of the truth, yea, to the knowledge of their Redeemer.”[12]

Within eight years, the redeemed Alma the Younger developed the power of redemption to the point that he could succeed his father as president of the Church and thereby extend his redeeming influence to embrace many people.

The Sons of Mosiah. Consider the sons of Mosiah, who Mormon described as “the very vilest of sinners.”[13] Nevertheless, by the teachings and prayers of their redeemed father, they were rescued by the same angelic experience as Alma the Younger. Now having experienced the adversity-redemption cycle, they sought to become the redeemers: “Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thought that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble.”[14]

Through experiencing adversity and redemption, the sons of Mosiah gained the power of redemption and helped to save “many thousands of [their] brethren … from the pains of hell; and they are brought to sing redeeming love.”[15]

And so it is with each of us who experiences adversity followed by redemption. Once we are redeemed we begin to gain the power to redeem others, and as we seek to sanctify ourselves through righteous living, that power to redeem increases.

One mother expressed how her personal cycle of redemption resulted in her helping to redeem others. This mother from Arizona, “Joy,” felt a desire to redeem others after having been redeemed from her own suffering during a difficult recovery after childbirth.

One day, while she was bathing her child, she felt an overwhelming gratitude for Heavenly Father’s mercy in helping her overcome that difficult period; she thus offered a prayer asking how she might extend that mercy to others.

Suddenly, a beautiful woman appeared to her and told her that she was Joy’s third great-grandmother. The woman said that she loved Joy as if there were no generational distance between them. She desired to be sealed to Joy and asked Joy to help her. Although Joy had never done family history work before, she began immediately and was filled with the testimony of that work. Over time, her capacity grew, and her joy eventually exceeded the suffering of the former difficult recovery that had brought her to this point. Having experienced the Lord’s redeeming mercy in her life, she now received the desire, and likewise divine power, to become a redeemer. Through her efforts, Joy not only brought the blessings of salvation to her third great-grandmother but to thousands of her kindred dead.

Within every experience of adversity there is a waiting blessing that will transcend the experience, and that blessing will usually come in the form of greater ability to redeem others.

Personal Redemption Precedes Power to Redeem Others

So here is the point: If the only way we can gain the power of redemption is through personally experiencing redemption, it stands to reason that we need something to be redeemed from. As we have discussed, Heavenly Father placed us in a fallen situation where weakness and adversity were certain and where sin was inevitable.

The plan of salvation provided that once we were hurt or slipped, He would be there to heal and redeem us. Then, having experienced redemption firsthand, we would gain the desire and power to become the redeemers. Over time, as we exercised the power of redemption, we would grow in our capacity to redeem until we became like God, who has infinite redemptive power.

The Fall, therefore, was necessary and potentially a huge blessing. Nevertheless, experiencing its effects and watching it break those whom we love can be heart wrenching. During such times, we pray for perspective to see the opportunity in the present adverse experience, and we plead that God will increase our ability to redeem so that we might help to save wayward ones. Our ultimate hope, of course, is that the wayward will overcome the adversity and experience redemption, and when our children do that, they will gain the power of redemption and desire to redeem others.

The Gift of Joy

A strange gospel irony is that affliction brings joy. Affliction, if we allow it to, brings us to a state of humility where the Holy Ghost can more readily work within us. Former General Relief Society President Barbara W. Winder gave this explanation of joy:

Joy, it seems, is not only happiness, but the resultant feeling of the Holy Ghost manifest within us.

How can we provide a climate in our lives to foster the presence of the Holy Ghost, that our lives may be more joyful? Just as a reservoir stores water to bring relief and replenish the thirsty land, so we can store experiences, knowledge, and desires to replenish and fortify our spiritual needs. Four ways may be helpful in developing reservoirs of righteousness and spiritual self-reliance. We prepare by —

1.      Developing a cheerful disposition wherein the Spirit can dwell.

2.      Learning the Savior’s will for us, that we may know our divine potential.

3.      Understanding and accepting his atoning sacrifice and repenting of our sins.

4.      Keeping his commandments and having a firm determination to serve him.[16]

Joy, like peace, is a gift of the Spirit. We cannot conjure it up, and Satan cannot duplicate it.[17] Only the Holy Ghost can produce joy, and He often produces it from the seedbed of affliction. A father from Idaho spoke of what he felt after having emerged from the hellish experience of his son’s rebellion:

Oh what joy! The feeling was indescribable. Neither my wife nor I had felt anything so exquisite in our lives as when our son returned to us in sackcloth and ashes; the Spirit consumed us with overwhelming gratitude. We feel so very blessed, and we thank our Father in Heaven continually for blessing us with his revelation of joy. He saved our son’s life, and we will be forever blessed because we had this experience.

Prefacing his report on the mission of the sons of Mosiah, Mormon hinted at the connection between affliction and joy: “And this is the account of Ammon and his brethren, their journeyings in the land of Nephi, their sufferings in the land, their sorrows, and their afflictions, and their incomprehensible joy.[18] As another example, Elder Bruce C. Hafen once reconfirmed that Adam and Eve could never have experienced joy without experiencing affliction:

Lehi … taught his children that if Adam and Eve had not transgressed, they would have remained in the Garden of Eden. Had that happened, Adam and Eve “would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin… Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy” (2 Ne. 2:23–25; italics added).

Astute parents will notice an interesting little connection here: No children, no misery! There is actually some truth to that point. For without being expelled from the innocent comfort of Eden into the turbulence of mortality, Adam and Eve would not only have had no children, and no misery, but they would never have found joy; hence, the very meaning of life would have been lost on them. There really is a deep connection between the hard things of life and the best things of life.[19]

Amazingly, through the power of the Atonement, the Lord can “consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain” [20] and turn misery into joy. “Because they received the Atonement of Christ, Adam and Eve were able to learn from their experience without being condemned by it.[21]

Elder Hafen continues by stating that the mortal condition is not one of punishment but one of discovery and experience: “‘They taste the bitter,’ the Lord explained to Adam, ‘that they might know to prize the good’ (Moses 6:55). In fact, He said, ‘If they [Adam and Eve] never should have bitter [experiences] they could not know the sweet’ (D&C 29:39; italics added). In other words, sometimes the twists and turns of life are the straight and narrow path.”[22]

Here, therefore, is the gospel irony of affliction and joy: God created man to have joy, which we all want, but joy can only be realized by experiencing its opposite, affliction, which we do not want. Moreover—and this is the harsh reality — if joy is a gift, so is affliction. Spiritually mature people have developed the capacity and perspective to express gratitude for their joys and their afflictions. They are not necessarily being noble; they obviously have learned something that the Gods know: no affliction, no joy.

In this light, therefore, we can appreciate the Fall as an act of love, not as an act of condemnation.

Heavenly Father provided the Fall, which introduces to each of us the means by which we can learn from our experience. Experience can be seen as the gateway to joy. Because God is a God of truth who cannot lie,[23] we are assured that His promise will be fulfilled: “After much tribulation come the blessings [joy].”[24] Ultimately, the affliction will result in joy and will help rather than injure us: “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”[25]

Finally, while we are experiencing the invaluable connection between affliction and joy, the Savior, who will sanctify the effects of our affliction for our eternal gain, will sustain us in this difficult experience.[26]         





[1] D&C 122:7.

[2] D&C 122:7.

[3] 2 Nephi 2:11.

[4] See 2 Nephi 2:11.

[5] See 2 Nephi 2:11.

[6] Ether 12:6.

[7] See Joseph Fielding Smith, ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 297.

[8] Enos 1:26.

[9] Mosiah 18:1–2, emphasis added.

[10] Mosiah 27:24, 29.

[11] Mosiah 27:32.

[12] Mosiah 27:36.

[13] Mosiah 28:4.

[14] Mosiah 28:3.

[15] Alma 26:13.

[16] Barbara W. Winder, “Finding Joy in Life,” Ensign, November 1987, 95, emphasis added.

[17] See Sheri L. Dew, “Living on the Lord’s Side of the Line,” Brigham Young University devotional, March 21, 2000.

[18] Alma 28:8, emphasis added.

[19] Bruce C. Hafen, Covenant Hearts, 65–66, emphasis added.

[20] 2 Nephi 2:2.

[21] Bruce C. Hafen, Covenant Hearts, 66.

[22] Bruce C. Hafen, Covenant Hearts, 66.

[23] See Ether 3:12.

[24] D&C 58:4.

[25] John 3:17.

[26] See 2 Nephi 2:2.