Parenting is one of the most joyful yet challenging journeys on the road back to Heavenly Father. Before marriage and children, who would have thought that we would be willing to trade our own life to spare our child’s? Or that we would weep many nights, wondering if we were failing as a parent or just from being overwhelmed with a particular child? Perhaps we can identify with the prophet Nephi when he said, “For I pray continually for them by day and mine eyes water my pillow by night, because of them; I cry unto my God in faith, and I know that He will hear my cry.” (2 Nephi 33:3) Though he was speaking as the prophet over his people, he must have felt as parents do, watching over their brood.
It is a difficult thing to watch a child turn away from the teachings of the gospel. There are many things we can do to prepare them against the devil’s attacks but there is no guarantee that they will make the correct choices on their own. We have to be alright with that. Our purpose for mortality was to gain a physical body and learn to commit to the Lord’s way. There are families who are doing all the right things and yet the children still wander. The Lord knows our situations and He gives us nothing but hope. We are blessed to know that He is not a hellfire-and-brimstone-kind of God who wishes to punish every little mistake, but His arms are continually open in love.
What then will happen to our family in the next life when one walks away from the covenants with the Lord? Elder Robert D. Hales gave a beautiful talk for parents. I take the answer from his inspired words. He says, “The Prophet Joseph Smith declared—and he never taught 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.” 1
President Henry B. Eyring once expressed concern to a fellow member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles about the eternal residence for a wayward member of his extended family. The apostle said, “You just live worthy of the celestial kingdom, and the family arrangements will be more wonderful than you can imagine.”2 We can trust that the Lord rewards our righteous efforts and that we will have claim on our loved ones in the next life.