"I lived in Heaven a long time ago, it is true" the Primary song teaches us. We know the scripture story. Jesus Christ presented His plan to save us from sin and death. Yet even before mortality, one-third of God's children rejected Jesus's plan and were cast out.
I thought about this some years ago as I pondered my own children, so small and defenseless. The number haunted me. One-third of God's precious sons and daughters? In my private thoughts I ran the statistics on my own family. How could I bear the agony of losing one third of my children? How could I imagine one or more of them turning away from the love and safety of our family and the gospel and choosing to leave it all behind? The thought was unendurable.
My husband and I took our children to the temple and shared our testimonies of its importance in our lives. We followed the commandments and teachings of the prophet and taught our children to do the same. I thought none of my children could go astray with all of the things I was doing to bring them up in the right way.
But my children grew. And although I taught them, and am still teaching and testifying of the truth to them, what I didn't take into account was the inalienable agency of each individual. God Himself honors our agency so much that He allowed His children to choose whose plan we would follow before we even came to earth. The fact is that each of us will have our own individual, personal journey, uniquely tailored for the life lessons we need to learn--and for many, our conversion process may take a meandering route.
I am the mother of a child who is wandering, who has turned away from God and is seeking to somehow find identity and meaning in the world. It's just as painful to reconcile myself to now as it was when my kids were tiny.
My husband and I recently reminisced back to the time we would take turns staying up for hours holding, walking, trying anything to comfort this colicky baby. And now, after all of these years of experiences and memories together, our love for our child has grown so much more than we ever could have imagined as we held that little baby. Seeing our child suffering now, we feel helpless sometimes because we just wish there was a way to hold and comfort and somehow make it all better. And we can't, because we can't rescue our children from their bad choices.
I often ask others who've gone through tough times with their kids to tell me their stories and maybe help me to gain a longer-term perspective. I love to hear the "happy ending" stories, where a child who was wandering found his or her way back to the fold.
Our family's story doesn't have a happy ending yet. But that's okay, because I think we're all really in the middle of our stories. I pray that my wandering child is learning from these choices and life experiences here in the middle of the story, and that this meandering path is eventually leading back to the Savior.
For now, I wait upon the Lord. I do everything I can to stay close to Him. God proclaimed that His work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of all of His children (Moses 1:39). What a comfort! Everything He does is to save us. I know that my children are of infinite worth to the Savior, who will never, never give up on them!
Elder Robert Gay said in the October 2012 General Conference:
"[Jesus] then said, “The Son of man is come to save that which [is] lost.” With that one sentence, He defined our mission. We are to go to the rescue—to the lost, the last, and the least. It is not enough to avoid evil; we must “suffer his cross” and “be anxiously engaged,” helping others to conversion. With compassion and love we embrace the prodigal, answer the cries of orphans in hysteria, the pleas of those in darkness and despair, and the distress calls of family in need"("What Shall A Man Give in Exchange for His Soul?").
I am the mother of precious souls, and we are sealed together forever in covenant relationships through sacred temple ordinances. I love my children through the good AND bad parts of their stories. I have faith that God is in control, and I truly believe that someday my wandering child will have a conversion opportunity and return to Him.
I am honored that the Lord would trust me so much that He put me in a unique position to influence and serve as the mother of one of His sheep that He knew would stray and would need to be patiently loved back into the fold. What else could I do to better show my devotion to my Savior than to daily follow His example and minister as I "go to the rescue--to the lost, the last, and the least"?