Offering hope and solace, President James E. Faust directed his remarks Sunday morning to "heartbroken parents who have done their best to rear their children in righteousness with love and devotion, but have despaired because their child has rebelled or been led astray to follow the path of evil and destruction."
Good parents, said President Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, "are those who have lovingly, prayerfully and earnestly tried to teach their children by example and precept to 'pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord.' This is true even though some of their children are disobedient and worldly.
"Children come into this world with their own distinct spirits and personality traits. Some children 'would challenge any set of parents under any set of circumstances. . . . Perhaps there are others who would bless the lives of, and be a joy to, almost any father or mother,' " President Faust said, quoting then-Elder Howard W. Hunter from the October 1983 general conference. President Faust added, "Successful parents are those who have sacrificed and struggled to do the best they can in their own family circumstances."
The depth of a parent's love cannot be measured, he explained. "It is like no other relationship. It exceeds concern for life itself. The love of a parent for a child is continuous and transcends heartbreak and disappointment. All parents hope and pray that their children will make wise decisions. Children who are obedient and responsible bring to their parents unending pride and satisfaction."
But what if children taught by faithful, loving parents go astray? Is there hope? President Faust quoted Elder Orson F. Whitney, who taught that the eternal sealings of parents "would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity."
President Faust quoted Doctrine and Covenants 138:58-59: "The dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God, And after they have paid the penalty of their transgressions, and are washed clean, shall receive a reward according to their works, for they are heirs of salvation."
Mercy does not rob justice, however, he said. The sealing power of parents only claims wayward children conditional upon their repentance and Christ's atonement. "Repentant wayward children will enjoy salvation and all the blessings that go with it, but exaltation is much more. It must be fully earned. The question as to who will be exalted must be left to the Lord in His mercy."
President Faust continued: "Perhaps in this life we are not given to fully understand how enduring the sealing cords of righteous parents are to their children. It may very well be that there are more helpful sources at work than we know. I believe there is a strong familial pull as the influence of beloved ancestors continues with us from the other side of the veil."
Parents must provide loving but firm discipline, he said. "If we do not discipline our children, society may do it in a way that is not to our liking or our children's. Part of the disciplining of children is to teach them to work."
Satan's snares are increasing and "raising children is becoming harder because of this. Therefore parents need to do the very best they can, and to enlist the help that Church service and activity can provide. If parents misbehave and stray even temporarily some of their children may be prone to take license from that example."
President Faust made a plea for children who are estranged from their parents to reach out to them, "even if they have been less than they should have been. He counseled children who are critical of their parents to remember the counsel of Moroni in Mormon 9:31. "I hope all children will eventually turn their hearts to their fathers and also to their mothers. A wonderful couple I knew in my youth had a son who was rebellious and estranged himself from their family. But in their later years he reconciled with them and was the most caring and solicitous of all their children. As we get older, the pull from our parents and grandparents on the other side of the veil becomes stronger. It is a sweet experience when they visit us in our dreams."
It is unfair and unkind, he continued, to judge faithful parents because some of their children have gone astray, he said.
"Fortunate are the couples who have children and grandchildren who bring them comfort and satisfaction. We should be considerate of those worthy, righteous parents who struggle and suffer with disobedient children. One of my friends used to say, 'If you have never had any problems with your children, just wait awhile.' No one can say with any degree of certainty what their children will do under certain circumstances."
President Faust said: "Let us not be arrogant but rather humbly grateful if our children are obedient and respectful of our teachings of the ways of the Lord. To those brokenhearted parents who have been righteous, diligent and prayerful in the teaching of their disobedient children we say to you, the Good Shepherd is watching over them. God knows and understands your deep sorrow. There is hope."