The other day, I woke up early and found myself thinking about my oldest son, Ryan. Ryan is a very good looking 27-year-old, single guy who serves in the USCG. However, Ryan has not been active in the LDS Church, physically, since he graduated from high school. Although emotionally his activity began to waver in his early teens. As we were in the middle of raising our busy family that was easy to ignore. We were already dealing with one outwardly "rebellious" child. Our oldest.
Ryan was a fairly quiet young man, who rarely spoke out, about anything. He had developed early on the art of saying what a parent wanted to hear and yet doing subtlety what HE wanted to do. He kept himself under the radar, so to speak.
On the other hand, my oldest daughter always let us know how strict we were as parents and the difficulties she had in living the gospel.
After my husband was released as our ward Bishop, she completely rebelled and went inactive for the next five years. She was 16.
My husband and I have raised five children. Each one of our children, at one time or another, have given us serious cause for concern. Two of my children went completely inactive.
As I think back on those tumultuous years of raising four teenagers simultaneously, I find myself actually questioning: was that really me? Our first four children came pretty fast. Our oldest was 5-1/2 when the fourth child was born. Things seemed to be going along really well. I can't say for sure the exact turning point, but I do know that when my daughter took that bold step to become officially inactive from Church my world, as I had created it in my mind, EXPLODED!
I was now an LDS parent of a wayward child.
How could this have happened? What did we do wrong? Where did we go wrong? And a multitude of other very introspective questions that any LDS parent in the same situation torments themselves with. But the most important question that I needed to have an answer for, and immediately, was HOW to bring her back and as soon as possible!
As heartbroken as I was, as her mother, for this to have occurred I also understand now how shameful such a situation felt for both my husband and I. LDS parents of wayward children, unfortunately, suffer from a deep sense of failure. What I didn't realize at the time, was that these feelings of failure also came from a sense of lost pride. And that's never good.
Looking back, those parenting experiences seem like another lifetime. However, the reality is, and continues to be, that my son, Ryan, remains "less" active. I'm not nearly as stressed about his inactivity as I was when my daughter went inactive. Perhaps it's because she has come full circle, and I have seen that our children will return, in time. I have a strong testimony of eternal covenants, and I have learned SO much! I remember when I first read this quote...
“The Prophet Joseph Smith declared—and he never taught a more comforting doctrine—that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain. Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God” (Orson F. Whitney, in Conference Report, Apr. 1929, 110).
I learned that ETERNITY IS A LONG TIME and that through faith and diligence to my temple covenants the promised blessings of an ETERNAL FAMILY will be realized.
I'm not one who believes that the keeping of my personal covenants will necessarily assure Exaltation for children who choose to live contrary to God's commandments in this life -- but I can HOPE. Our Father in Heaven lost a third of His children because of rebellion; our brothers and sisters. However, I do not believe that because someone does not make it into the Celestial Kingdom that they are "lost", either.
What I do feel an assurance of, is that each one of us, our children included, will have the opportunity to exercise our individual agency to the extent that we will have joy. Adam taught, "that men are, that they might have joy". Because each one of us kept our first estate, I have a strong testimony that our ultimate destination from this point on is JOY.
"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." John 14:1-2
Is this not JOYFUL! Certainly, if each one of us has as our Eternal Destiny to be a part of His Kingdom and dwell in a mansion prepared for us then not one us of will EVER be lost!
Highly recommended reading, if you or someone you know, has an inactive member of the family.
"When A Child Wanders" by Robert L. Millet