I’ve been thinking about the phrase I’ve been hearing a lot lately, about how children shouldn’t be “punished” for the sins or actions of their parents. Let me clarify, as one who should know. Children are not punished for the actions of their parents, but sometimes they do suffer for them.
Some children suffer a lot more than others, but whenever parents make choices that negatively affect their children, believe me, the children suffer. I attended World Congress of Families IX two weeks ago. It was a productive and enriching experience. I learned and re-learned things and made new friends. I came home feeling excited about what I might be able to do to curb the tide that threatens traditional marriage and family values. Let me share with you my personal story of how I know that even though children might suffer for their parents’ choices, but are never punished for them. I am the oldest of six. My parents were married in the temple. There were family vacations and church attendance, working outside and canning peaches every fall. We flooded the sandbox and jumped off the swings into the mud for a summer thrill. We had goats, a cow, a pig, a sheep or two, and a dog. My parents worked hard. There were fun and happy times, and there was a lot of turmoil. I don’t blame anyone. I’m sure my parents did the best they knew how.
Shortly after my husband and I were married, my parents split up. It was a scary and unsettling experience, for everyone. There is no way, from any perspective, to make that easy. I am here to tell you that children are not “resilient” as the scholars and professionals say. I was 21 when my parents divorced and it has had everlasting effects on me and my family. It had to have been even harder for my siblings still young and living at home. Here is my point. In my home, I was lonely, scared, and sad. The miracle is that deep inside I did have a happy heart and I had something that no one could take away from me. I knew that my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ loved me. Ever since I went to church, sang those songs, and knew how much my bishop and teachers loved me, I knew that I had found my sanctuary there. I believed the words to the songs I sang at church. I hungered for the stories in the scriptures of prophets standing boldly before wicked kings and proclaiming the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I believed my leaders when they taught me about Jesus and what He did for me because He loves me.
Over the years, I often went to church alone, or with a few siblings, but I never missed church. Ever. Unless I had chicken pox or strep throat. I walked or drove alone, but I was there. My parents and family have had periods of activity and inactivity in the Church and where they are today is only for them to say. After my parents’ divorce, I remember being so confused about what would happen to my family in the eternities. My parents had married in the temple and six children had been born in the covenant. Then their sealing was canceled. I agonized over what that meant for me and these people I cared about.
My husband and I made an appointment with our bishop. He was very tender with my situation. I asked him for answers. I really desired to know. While I did not receive exact proof that everything would work out in the next life, my loving bishop shared scriptures and testimony with me and promised me one thing–that my Heavenly Father was aware of me, my family, and what had happened and that He was sad, too. Our bishop counseled us to grow our faith, exercise our spiritual muscles and always be worthy of the temple. He offered counsel that all would be fair and everything would work out; I just needed to trust my Heavenly Father and lean on my Savior and His Atonement.
I testify that at the age of 51, I know a few things to be absolutely true. My Heavenly Father will not and has not punished me for the sins and mistakes of my parents. He loves me and wishes life had not been so hard for me and my family.
Jesus Christ does not blame me for what happened in my childhood home. He loves me and trusts me to make good choices so I can return to live with God someday, if I am obedient to His commandments, repent daily, and strive to be worthy and keep my covenants, all while remembering His sacred Atonement and the immense love He has for me.
I can be worthy of the Holy Ghost to protect me, teach me what is true, and guide me in tricky situations. I know that Thomas S. Monson is a true and living prophet and that the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are living prophets, seers and revelators in this day.
I know that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God and that he translated the Book of Mormon and restored the true church. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God and that it testifies of Jesus Christ. There has never been a single day in my life where I did not trust the prophets and apostles. I have always loved them, prayed for them, and cherished their words. I have always looked forward to General Conference and inhaled everything they have said and tried humbly, in my own small and feeble way, to do what they have asked. I know I fall short, but I still get up and keep trying.
Has my life been easy because of my parents’ choices? No. Has it been worth it? Most definitely, yes it has, because through my unwavering faith the Lord has guided me to a good, worthy, and humble man to begin my own little family with and has blessed me with two precious children whom I believe He wanted raised in a different manner than me, for they are exceptional and valiant in their testimonies in every way. I hope someday to be more like my children.
I testify that I am deeply and richly blessed, in spite of the choices of my parents. God loves me that much. So, it is with unequivocal loyalty that I pledge publicly that I will always follow and sustain, love and pray for, and trust our prophets and apostles. I will continue to fast and pray, read my scriptures, attend the temple, serve in my ward and community, love and teach my family, guard and protect my marriage and my children, and more than ever, defend and declare my witness that Jesus is the Christ, our Savior, and that God is our Heavenly Father. I love them. I want to go home to them someday and know their faces when I see them. I want them to be proud of me and my choices. That is all that matters.
If Christ suffered for me, because He loves me, then He suffered for everyone, because He loves everyone. God has not punished me for the mistakes of my parents and He is unhappy that their children have suffered; He sent His Son to suffer in our behalf, so that if we learn to lean on Christ, our suffering is taken away. I have decided it’s not a bad thing to suffer some, and it’s actually quite necessary so that I can have more compassion for the Master who suffered all. That’s not too much to ask, is it?
I’m grateful Heavenly Father has blessed us with living prophets and apostles who sound the warning cries and lead us to safety if we will follow them and what they teach us. Remember what it says in Doctrine & Covenants 1:38: “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or the by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” Because I know this to be true, that the Lord, Jesus Christ personally speaks to us through His prophets and apostles, I will always follow the prophet. Follow the prophet; he knows the way!