Low commitment level, hurt feelings, misunderstandings-a variety of issues lend to a child’s becoming lukewarm to the gospel. Here is a letter from a mother who is trying to help her lukewarm son.
I have really enjoyed your articles on Meridian Magazine. I find them relevant because we have a “wandering” child who has been on his personal journey for more than a decade. He is not yet safely back “in the fold,” although many of his attitudes and desires have changed over the years. Now he admits that he believes the doctrines. My husband and I continue our efforts in prayer, fasting, temple work, genealogy, and service, which we believe has helped to get him to this point. We are certain that he has experienced heaven’s protection during this difficult period of his life, and we are profoundly grateful for that. We hold out great hope for him.
I have a couple of questions for you. One of my son’s issues is that he believes that the Lord is disappointed in him and that the opportunities and blessings he wishes he had in his life are no longer available to him. For example, he is still single, and he did not serve a mission.
Another issue is finding his place in the Church, which seems impossible to him. He is put off because he feels that the members are judging him for his past.
Of great interest to me is your mention of the importance of the sanctification of the parents as an aid to rescue their wayward children. This rings true to me, but I would appreciate a scriptural basis for it.
Thank you again for your perspectives and optimistic words.
Mother of a lukewarm child
Dear Mother of a lukewarm child:
Let me try to offer some ideas.
Regarding the feeling of unworthiness–this is a very effective tactic used by Satan to paralyze us. Because we remember our sins, we are certain that we are not forgiven. We read the scriptures (D&C 58:42) that say that God forgets and we inaccurately assume that we should be able to forget, too.
Because God allows the memory to linger serves a valuable purpose. Would a child continue to touch the hot stove if his memory of the event was canceled from his mind? We remember for our own safety. For example, Alma and Paul vividly remembered their past, and they avoided making the same mistakes. Memories are the foundation upon which we can rebuild a life.
But a memory associated with guilt is another thing. If we have repented and continue to harbor guilt we are listening to the wrong voice. Guilt is only valuable if it leads to repentance, otherwise it serves no good purpose.
So how do we know that we are forgiven? When the bishop, who is the representative of Jesus Christ, pronounces us whole, we can believe it. Beyond that, there are two scriptural tests that come to mind:
- Obedience. Are you trying to obey the commandments? “…the fulfilling the commandments bringeth remission of sins” (Moroni 8:25). What else could God expect of us than to turn away from sin and start obeying the commandments?
- Tithes and offerings. Start paying tithes and offerings. Malachi, who was speaking for the Lord to the wayward Israelites, offered this invitation: “Return to me, and I will return to you, saith the Lord of Hosts.” Then anticipating that they would wonder how to return, he asked in their behalf, “But ye say, Wherein shall we return?” Significantly at this point, the Lord reminds them of their covenant to consecrate–and the answer is tithes and offerings. Every bishop will counsel a repentant person to demonstrate his faith in Christ by paying tithes and offerings. To return to the Lord and obey the commandments that bring remission of sins, start by paying tithes and offerings.
Now, as to the subject of judgment. This is usually another message sent to us by Satan. Our guilt makes us mind readers. We interpret every glance or comment as a judgment. While this might be true in some cases, I doubt that it is true in very many. The gospel of Jesus Christ fills people with charity, mercy and pity. One wants to throw his arms around the returning prodigal rather than push him away.
Here’s a test. Next testimony meeting, have your son stand and tell what a hard road he has traveled and how much he needs help. What do you think will happen? I’m sure he will get more love and attention than he has ever had. Do you think anyone would hang a scarlet letter on him or shun him every time he walks by? If he has the courage to stop listening to “the voice” that has always told him lies and tried to destroy him, if he has the courage to ask his brothers and sisters for help–even just a few trusted people–he will be overwhelmed by the love of the saints.
You asked for scriptural evidence of the redeeming effect that sanctifying one’s self can have on another. The best example that I know of is the Savior. Here are some excerpts from my upcoming book:
In his great intercessory prayer, the Savior taught that personal sanctification is theprinciple by which one person might save another. Just moments before Gethsemane, Jesus made the following statement: “For their sakes I sanctify myself that they also might be sanctified” (John 17:19). In other words, the first action, personal sanctification, makes possible the second action, the saving of another. We often think of sanctification in the context of being cleansed from sin-and it is certainly that-but here we see Jesus, who had no sin, sanctifying himself. Obviously, there are greater reasons to persist in the process of sanctification beyond repentance. So how did Jesus sanctify himself? We see the answer in the context of the 17thchapter of John 17: He sanctified himself through strict obedience, partaking of the sacrament, entering into a fast, making a sacrifice and offering mighty prayer (which I believe is prayer preceded by sacrifice).
In Jesus’ example we find keys to the sanctification process. In the last hours of his life what does he do? After having lived a life of perfect obedience, he partakes of the sacrament; then he enters into a fast, in which he does not eat or drink through the end of his life; then he offers an infinite vicarious sacrifice coupled with mighty prayer. Clearly, in addition to other sanctifying principles, obedience, partaking of the sacrament, fasting, offering sacrifice and mighty prayer are some essential keys to personal sanctification.
The Savior’s example of personal sanctification teaches us that we can shine a bright beam on those we love by focusing on fundamental gospel principles, such as increasing our obedience, worthily partaking of the sacrament; fasting with purpose, and offering mighty prayer coupled with sacrifice. With regard to offering sacrifice, interestingly, the sacrifice that seems to be most Christlike-or Saviorlike-is vicarious sacrifice, or proxy sacrifice. Is it any wonder, then, that some of the most powerful prayers that we offer are in the temple in the most sacred location of the temple, after we have performed a vicarious sacrifice for someone who could not otherwise achieve salvation? If we will pay attention in the temple, we will learn that parents, who are united in love and who sanctify themselves, are endowed with power to pray for angels in behalf of their children. Clearly, the prayers offered by sanctified parents for their children are only exceeded in power by the prayers of Jesus Christ.
I hope this helps you.