Gospel Q&A is a series from LDS Daily that strives to answer important gospel questions from readers. Today, we answer the question, “How do I manage the fear of a child leaving the Church?”
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I think every parent who values his or her own membership and covenants in the Kingdom of God has felt this fear. We may feel like we like the idea of agency until our own kids are using theirs badly!
Fear, however, is not part of the Lord’s plan for us. It is Satan, not our Advocate, who wants us to feel fear. Satan hides inside of this fear because he tries to convince us there is something holy in this fear. He may lead us to feel like we aren’t loving or committed parents if we don’t feel this fear. But the light and warmth of the Lord have no place in fear—not even in the fear of our children leaving the Church.
Instead, let’s learn from what the prophets have said and trust in their word, not the fear our adversary wants us to feel.
President Boyd K. Packer recognized this common fear in faithful parents.
“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.”
Following his acknowledgment of this fear, however, he quoted this comforting promise Joseph Smith taught.
“The Prophet Joseph Smith declared—and he never taught a more comforting doctrine—that the eternal sealings of faithful parents . . . would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. . . . 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. . . . till you see the salvation of God.”
It is natural and normal to worry for our kids whether they are struggling to make morally right decisions or if they’re just learning how to merge on the freeway. But worrying isn’t faith. Faith acts. Faith teaches. Faith keeps trying. Faith doesn’t give up. Faith and faithfulness mean we make our own covenants and choose each day to live up to them, repenting when we fall short. This is what we can do and we must be committed to doing it—for our own sakes as well as for our children’s sake. Making and keeping our own temple covenants is the best protection we can afford our children, both stalwart and wavering.
“We cannot overemphasize the value of temple marriage, the binding ties of the sealing ordinance, and the standards of worthiness required of them,” President Packer taught. “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 assured parents that if we are faithful in our own covenants and in our commitment to do the best we can by our children, “I care not,” he said, “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” (in Discourses of Brigham Young, 208).
Keep praying. Keep loving. And know that the Lord knows our fears and our struggles. He has provided a way for families to be together forever. As long as we strive to honor the covenants that make that possible, He will be our true Shepherd and He will guide our lost sheep home to us.
Disclaimer: While all of my answers will use scriptures and/or words of modern prophets, I do not represent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I don’t believe any of my answers are comprehensive. I’m just one person using the gospel I have been blessed with to bring hope, peace, and answers to other seekers of truth.