A comment on "Wayward Children"

I wrote this originally as a comment on Wayward Children—Eternity Is A Long Time, a post on a blog I discovered only yesterday.

... But comments on blogspot apparently have a 4,096 character limit (at a least it isn't a silly Oracle varchar 4,000 character limitation) and I was... um, more than doubly too verbose for blogspot :-).

Here is the comment that that didn't fit (with the benefit of added hyperlinks):

Mormon's Book: A Reader's Edition of The Book of Mormon

Mormon and Moroni saw our day (Mormon 8:34-35) and under divine direction compiled the Book of Mormon for our benefit. I think it is worth looking at the struggles parents in the Book of Mormon have trying to raise righteous children.

The classic example of wayward children coming around in the Book of Mormon would certainly be Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah. They go from being non-believers who try and entice and lead others away from the church, to being truly converted and dedicating their lives to the Lord and laboring to bring many souls unto Christ.

Just in the unabridged small plates, however, we find that righteous parents with obedient children are mostly not to be found—certainly the exception, not the rule.

Nephi was "born of goodly parents" and "taught somewhat in all the learning of [his] father" (1 Nephi 1:1). Nephi's father Lehi has his theophany (1 Nephi 1:6-15) and then a dream in which he is commanded to take his family and flee Jerusalem (1 Nephi 2:2-3).

Early on Lehi's eldest sons Laman and Leumeul begin the complaining and murmuring for which they're so famous (1 Nephi 2:11-12). They did not believe what their father taught (1 Nephi 2:13). A close reading shows that even Nephi must have had some uncertainties and doubts at first about what his father was teaching and asking of them: Nephi required the Lord's help to "soften [his] heart" to enable him to believe all that Lehi had been preaching (1 Nephi 2:16). I think we generally overlook this verse and assume that Nephi was born perfect with rock solid faith. Sam believes Lehi because of Nephi's testimony (1 Nephi 2:17), not [only?] because of his father's teachings.

One of the few times that Laman and Lemuel appear predisposed to be obedient is when they Lehi sends them back to Jerusalem a second time to get Ishmael's family. When it came to go back and get the scriptures they weren't interested (1 Nephi 3:2-5); when it came time to go back and get the girls they suddenly have no complaint at all (1 Nephi 7:1-5)!

Ishmael and his wife were receptive to the Lord's spirit and Lehi's invitation to join them (1 Nephi 7:4-6). Four of Ishmael's children were already rebelling from the get go not long after they'd left Jerusalem (1 Nephi 7:6). Not all of Ishmael's children were rebellious (cf. 1 Nephi 7:6 & 1 Nephi 7:19; I suspect the daughter in verse 19 was the future Mrs. Nephi).

The marriage of Lehi's sons was the the culmination of Lehi's fulfilling all of the Lord's commandments. (1 Nephi 16:7; I read the next verse, 1 Ne. 16:8, as Nephi paying his wife a great compliment.) But while he may have fulfilled all of the Lord's commandments he isn't finished praying, hoping, exhorting, teaching and loving all his children. Lehi does not give up on them (cf. 2 Nephi 1:1-29).

Laman & Lemuel are so wayward, despite Lehi's best efforts at counseling them otherwise, that they contemplate both patricide and fratricide—and who knows but perhaps matricide as well (cf. 1 Nephi 16:37, 7:16, 17:44, 18:11 & 2 Nephi 5:3-5).

The grief and angusih that Lehi and Sariah feel for Laman and Lemuel and their children-in-law is, itself, nearly enough to kill them (1 Nephi 18:17-19). Lehi teaches his son Jacob (and is certainly more than capable to based on his own experience as a father) that children bring both misery and joy (2 Nephi 2:20, 23-25).

Lehi's son Nephi, while certainly stalwart and a prophet in his own right, was not immune from his own personal struggles here in this lone and dreary world (2 Nephi 4:17-35). Nephi's family's (relatives at least, and who knows but perhaps some of his own children) behavior is such that he "pray[s] continually for them by day, and [his] eyes water [his] pillow by night, because of them" (2 Nephi 33:3). Nephi has great love for his family (2 Nephi 33:7).

Parents—like Lehi and Sariah—had (in addition to struggles with their children) their own personal issues to work out in their marriage (see, for example 1 Nephi 5:2-8 and 16:19-20).

Jacob is called on to speak boldly to [at least] his extended family (Jacob 1:15 & 2:7-11, 23-28). The Nephites, who had more light and knowledge than the Lamanites, were failing to live the kind of family life they should—the "apostate" Lamanties are better examples, and the Nephites could profit by learning from them! (Jacob 2:35, 3:5-11.)

Enos, though taught by his prophet-father Jacob, had to go through his own wrestle before God before he obtained a remission of his sins for himself (Enos 1:1-2). Just being the son, newphew and grandson of great prophets was not enough. Jarom seems to have been a righteous son of Enos. He testifies of the Lord's merciful longsuffering to them (Jarom 1:2-4, 9).

Omni—for whom the sixth book of the Book of Mormon is named—himself a son of Jarom, grandson of Enos, great-grandson of Jacob and great-great-grandson of Lehi and Sariah—considered himself "a wicked man" who had "not kept the statutes and the commandments of the Lord as [he] ought to have done" (Omni 1:2). Two additional generations beyond Omni Abinadom reports that revelation and prophecy have apparently died out in this family line (Omni 1:11).

There are a number of other examples—besides Alma and the sons of Mosiah—we could look at in Mormon's abridgement of the large plates and Moroni's abridgement of the Jaredite's record, but this comment is already getting to be far too long, I imagine.

We could certainly all do much better at "bear[ing] one another's burdens" and "mourn[ing] with those that mourn" (Mosiah 18:8-9; cf. Moroni 6:5) and having faith in—and emulating in my own life—"the knowledge of the goodness of God, and his matchless power, and his wisdom, and his patience, and his long-suffering towards [his] children" (Mosiah 4:6; cf. Alma 7:23, 13:28, 17:11) and possessing charity towards everyone, including: ourselves, our spouse, our children, our fellow saints (cf. Moroni 7:44-48, 10:21, 31-33).

Seeing how almost all of the families in the first 321 years (600 BC to 279 BC) of the Book of Mormon struggled helps me put things into better perspective. The Book of Mormon gives me hope.

—Michael A. Cleverly


  1. A Well Behaved Mormon Woman wrote (at Fri, 17 Jul 2009, 09:49):

Michael -

Wow! My post evoked that much commentary from you... I'm impressed!

But on the serious side, the scriptures for me personally, during the time of my oldest daughter's initial inactivity, became my anchor. Each scriptural account that you have listed here - specifically from The Book of Mormon - is a great sermon, on Gospel parenting.

Any LDS parent, familiar with the scriptures, knows of the great comfort that can be found within these texts.

In future blog posts, I will share more personal experiences, in relation to these very scriptural accounts that you have noted. As a former Seminary Teacher, I have found a great love for finding eternal principles throughout my scripture study; and have focused a great deal of my time, on how this applies to parenting and family life.

Great "comment"!

tDMg Kathryn Skaggs

  1. Dean Cleverly wrote (at Fri, 17 Jul 2009, 12:21):

Michael, I enjoyed both your extended comment and the original blog that elicited it. Thanks for sharing the link.

I think there are forces working from both sides of the veil that influence how children turn out in this realm. Parents, as we tried to do, have to make parenting their absolute number two priority (the Lord and His gospel being number one). Even with that, as your numerous examples from the Book of Mormon illustrate, children have this annoying tendency to exercise their agency in ways the parents sometimes decry. So, much of it has to do with the spirits who come into a home as children, the Lord's eternal purposes for them, unseen influences from beyond the veil, and the best efforts of a committed mother and father. And a lot of prayer and love.

Mom and I are immensely grateful that all of you children, at least at the present moment, remain faithfully on the path. But our sincere and earnest prayers continue to ascend both for all of you children and for the generation that follows.

  1. Kim Ward wrote (at Wed, 12 Aug 2009, 01:58):

Michael- I love this post, extended comment. I wish I had the breadth of scriptural knowledge you have. Guess I better get studying. Thanks for your thoughts, you are an amazing example and I think so much of you and Shauna, and well Meghan will always have a special spot in my heart. Keep up the good work!

  1. Stewart wrote (at Tue, 18 May 2010, 09:08):

Thank you very much for the words of wisdom and comfort. Our 17 year old ran away from home, and left a note stating: "I am tired of living a lie" meaning her belief in God and or the Church. We had no Idea it was comming since she had never said a word before that day. It has been weeks and it still hurts. A good night sleep as you know is not for parents of wayward children. Our Bishop said we would grow closer as husband and wife, he was correct. Thank you again for this sight.

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