Word of the Lord gives hope to parents

But I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth. (D&C 93:40.)

Though the foregoing directive seems to be easier said than done, especially for parents living in a world fraught with much darkness and untruth, countless families throughout the Church are thriving and strong. Many, however, are not so fortunate, and reports of faithful parents who grieve over wayward children are not uncommon, according to priesthood leaders and others.

Circumstances where children reject the teaching of righteous parents are certainly not new and are illustrated in several scriptural accounts. Nephi was "born of goodly parents" and was "taught somewhat in all the learning of [hisT father." (1 Ne. 1:1.) But so were Laman and Lemuel.

Nephi took the parental instruction he received and had, in his own words, "great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers." (1 Ne. 2:16.)

However, Laman and Lemuel "did murmur against their father. And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them." (1 Ne. 2:12.)

The earth's first parents, Adam and Eve, "blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and daughters." (Moses 5:12.)

Yet Satan undermined their righteous teachings, saying, " . . . Believe it not; and they [their childrenT believed it not, and they loved Satan more than God. And men began from that time forth to be carnal, sensual, and devilish." (Moses 5:13.)

But Adam and Eve "ceased not to call upon God" and plead that their son, Cain, would "not reject his [the Lord'sT words. But behold, Cain hearkened not, saying: Who is the Lord that I should know him?

"And she [Eve] again conceived and bare his brother Abel. And Abel hearkened unto the voice of the Lord. . . ." (Moses 5:16-17.)

Moral agency, exemplified in these two scriptural accounts of faithful parents with wayward children, has been at the core of the gospel plan from its inception in the premortal existence. In spite of the grand council in heaven and the majesty of the moment as the plan of salvation was presented, Lucifer, out of selfishness and exercising his agency, "was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him." (Abr. 3:28.)

In this day, Satan continues to attack the foundations of the family, often with success. President Ezra Taft Benson said: "All is not well with this basic institution, the . . . home. In fact, we are in grave danger, if not in deadly peril. There is convincing evidence that a creeping rot of moral disintegration is eating into the very vitals of this temple of civilization. It gives cause for great concern." (This Nation Shall Endure, p. 99.)

Those deceived in this day of tribulation include even the "very elect," according to the Savior. (Matt. 24:24.)

But in spite of the challenges, the Lord does not leave parents comfortless - far from it. He has revealed a wealth of guidance and reassurance relative to the struggles of parenthood through prophets and apostles, ancient and modern. In addition to countless admonitions to teach and train children through word and deed, He gives reassuring promises to those parents who do their best. Following is a sampling of His revealed word on the subject and comments from His chosen leaders that should bring hope to parents as they continue to "teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord." (D&C 68:28.)

"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." (Prov. 22:6.)

"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, Conference Report, April 1929, p. 110.)

"If parents have done all in their power to teach their children correctly by example and precept and the children then go astray, the parents will not be held responsible and the sin will be upon the children.

"The Father has never relinquished His claim upon the children born into this world. They are still His children. He has placed them in the care of mortal parents with the admonition that they be brought up in light and truth. . . ." (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 1:316.)

"It is a great challenge to raise a family in the darkening mists of our moral environment.

"We emphasize that the greatest work you will do will be within the walls of your home and that `no other success can compensate for failure in the home.'

"The measure of our success as parents, however, will not rest solely on how our children turn out. That judgment would be just only if we could raise our families in a perfectly moral environment, and that now is not possible.

"It is not uncommon for responsible parents to lose one of their children, for a time, to influences over which they have no control. They agonize over rebellious sons or daughters. They are puzzled over why they are so helpless when they have tried so hard to do what they should.

"It is my conviction that those wicked influences one day will be overruled. . . .

"We cannot overemphasize the value of temple marriage, the binding ties of the sealing ordinance, and the standards of worthiness required of them. When parents keep the covenants they have made at the altar of the temple, their children will be forever bound to them. President Brigham Young said:

" `Let the father and mother, who are members of this Church and Kingdom, take a righteous course, and strive with all their might never to do a wrong, but to do good all their lives; if they have one child or one hundred children, if they conduct themselves towards them as they should, binding them to the Lord by their faith and prayers, I care not where those children go, they are bound up to their parents by an everlasting tie, and no power of earth or hell can separate them from their parents in eternity; they will return again to the fountain from whence they sprang.' " (Elder Boyd K. Packer, Conference Report, April 1992.)

Seven suggestions for parents whose children have strayed, and for others whose loved ones have turned from righteousness: 1. Express and show love. 2. Do not condone the transgressions, but extend every hope and support to the transgressor. 3. Teach truth. 4. Honestly forgive as often as is required. 5. Pray trustingly. 6. Keep perspective. 7. Never give up on a loved one, never!

"When you have done all that you can reasonably do, rest the burden in the hands of the Lord.

"When I take a small pebble and place it directly in front of my eye, it takes on the appearance of a mighty boulder. It is all I can see. It becomes all-consuming - like the problems of a loved one that affect our lives every waking moment. When the things you realistically can do to help are done, leave the matter in the hands of the Lord and worry no more. Do not feel guilty because you cannot do more. Do not waste your energy on useless worry. The Lord will take the pebble that fills your vision and cast it down among the challenges you will face in your eternal progress. It will then be seen in perspective. In time, you will feel impressions and know how to give further help. You will find more peace and happiness, will not neglect others that need you, and will be able to give greater help because of that eternal perspective." (Elder Richard G. Scott, Conference Report, April 1988.)


Father's role of leadership

"Mothers play an important role as the heart of the home, but this in no way lessens the equally important role fathers should play, as head of the home, in nurturing, training, and loving their children," according to President Ezra Taft Benson.

10 ways to give spiritual leadership:

Give father's blessings to your children. Baptize and confirm your children. Ordain your sons to the priesthood.

Personally direct family prayers, daily scripture reading and weekly family home evenings.

Whenever possible, attend Church meetings together as a family.

Attend daddy-daughter functions and father-and-sons' outings with your children. As a family, go on camp-outs and picnics, to ball games and recitals, to school programs, and so forth.

Build traditions of family vacations and trips and outings.

Have regular one-on-one visits with your children. Let them talk about what they would like to. Teach them gospel principles. Tell them you love them.

Teach your children to work, and show them the value of working toward a worthy goal.

Encourage good music, art and literature in your homes.

As distances allow, regularly attend the temple with your wife.

Have your children see your joy and satisfaction in service to the Church.

Taken from an address given by President Ezra Taft Benson in the priesthood session of General Conference, Oct. 3, 1987, and reprinted in a Church pamphlet titled To the Fathers in Israel.

Mother's role is `so vital'

Speaking to mothers in the Church, President Ezra Taft Benson counseled: "Mothers in Zion, your God-given roles are so vital to your own exaltation and to the salvation and exaltation of your family. A child needs a mother more than all the things money can buy. Spending time with your children is the greatest gift of all.

"With love in my heart for the mothers in Zion, I would now like to suggest 10 specific ways our mothers may spend effective time with their children."

10 ways to spend time with children:

Be at the crossroads. Take time to always be at the crossroads when your children are either coming or going.

Be a real friend.

Read to your children.

Pray with your children.

Have weekly home evenings.

Be together at mealtimes as often as possible.

Read scriptures daily.

Do things as a family.

Teach your children.

Truly love your children.

Taken from an address given by President Ezra Taft Benson at a fireside for parents, Feb. 22, 1987, and reprinted in a Church pamphlet titled To the Mothers in Zion.

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