When it comes to wayward children in the Book of Mormon, Alma the younger and the four sons of Mosiah made a name for themselves. Not only did they leave the religion of their youth, they persecuted those who did believe. They did enough damage among the members of the church that the Lord saw fit to send an angel to rebuke them.
Laman and Lemuel were the eldest of Lehi, and by right, should have had the choicest blessings but their faithlessness not only caused a division in their family but a rift between peoples that would last for hundreds of years. Even after having seen an angel, these men didn’t believe.
What did I do wrong?
What did the parents do wrong? What could they have changed? If I had to guess, my answer would be that there was probably nothing to change. In both examples, their fathers were prophets. These men fasted and prayed on behalf of their sons. They taught them the gospel from their youth and I imagine, they were faithful in conducting their family home evenings. As much as we do to teach our children and to plant the gospel in their hearts, they still have their freedom to choose. In neither situation did the prophets yell at them to get out and never come back. They urged their sons to repent, to listen to the Lord and make amends.
One Book of Mormon example of a wayward child which has always touched me was that of Alma’s son, Corianton. He made it as far as serving as a missionary and then grew distracted by worldly enticements. Unfortunately, many of the people he had gone to preach to saw his behavior. In Alma 39:11, his father censures Corianton, saying, “…Behold, oh my son, how great iniquity ye brought upon the Zoramites; for when they saw your conduct they would not believe in my words.” I am sure that Alma sorrowed because of this son’s behavior yet at no time did he threaten to disown his son but rather, taught what was right and encouraged him to repent once more. Then he testified of what the Lord had said to him. In verse 12, he says, “And now the Spirit of the Lord doth say unto me; Command thy children to do good, lest they lead away the hearts of many people to destruction; therefore, I command you, my son, in the fear of God, that ye refrain from your iniquities.”
While many children have come back to the gospel eventually, there are those who haven’t. It is a painful trial. Do we give up? No, we don’t. We love them. We show them that no matter what happens, they are our children first and forever and they have a place in our families. I believe the command of the Savior to love our enemies, to bless them that curse us, to do good to them that hate us, and pray for them which despitefully use us, and persecute us (Matthew 5:44), could be counsel for those with wandering family members. Just love them. Search the Book of Mormon for personal counsel. That child may be back someday.
Elder Holland said, “Christ knows better than all others that the trials of life can be very deep, and we are not shallow people if we struggle with them. But even as the Lord avoids sugary rhetoric, He rebukes faithlessness and He deplores pessimism. He expects us to believe!”
We can put our faith in the Savior as the author of not only our salvation but those of our children as well. He knows the pain of this trial, but He asks us to do all we can and to have faith in Him. Faith is a real power that moves mountains and changes hearts, either in this life or in the life to come.
- “An High Priest of Good Things to Come”, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, General Conference, October 1999