In becoming a mother, I had never contemplated the thought of Heavenly Father having to “let go” of His children as He sent them down to me, until I went through the process of giving them back to the Lord. The following experiences are very personal to me, but of such import that I felt they ought to be shared.
In the calling of mother, I often envisioned the missionary age as the time in my life when I’d have to dedicate and literally give back to Heavenly Father the child he had entrusted into my care. It had never occurred to me that it may happen earlier. A couple of experiences told me otherwise.
The first happened shortly after Kieth and I were married. We had decided that we would “think of” (or talk about) having children the following summer, in 1988.
Surprise! The following February I found out I was two months pregnant.
Once the shock had worn off and we had accepted the news, just three months later, on Sunday, May 8, I felt strongly that something was wrong. I was bleeding profusely and very emotional. I can’t describe what happened, but suffice it to say that a beautiful, peaceful feeling came over me and such a sacred experience occurred that I knew our “son” wanted me to know that he was alright. This was the first time we had any idea whether the baby was a boy or a girl.
The following Wednesday, May 11, we found out that the baby had died. That Friday, May 13, 1988, the body of a perfectly formed little boy was delivered. An autopsy was performed, but no cause of death could be found. Unsure how the Church would proceed in cases like this, with the baby not being carried to term, the baby was not officially named or buried. However, we, in the family, refer to him as Nathaniel Lewis Wood; Nathan for short.
I accepted the loss of that little boy, challenging as it was, by emotionally giving him back to the Lord. In return, I was given a peace of knowing he truly was alright and everything was going to be okay.
Years later, after having three more sons, I went through a completely different kind of experience. Our third son, little Joshua, was a very angry, determined, self-willed child. Once he made up his mind about something, he would see it through at all costs. Many times, it was his way or no way! “To the death!” I could almost hear him say, as he fought hard for what he wanted.
By the time he was five, I was exhausted. I had done all I knew to do to teach this little guy about the importance of obedience. One afternoon, I approached my Heavenly Father in prayer to do something I had never done before. I humbly admitted that I didn’t know what I was doing as a mother, that I had done all I knew to do, and I felt like I was losing him. I was deeply concerned about how to proceed, then I literally acknowledged that Josh was His son and I gave Josh back to Him. I then asked Heavenly Father what I could do to help teach His son. Again, the indescribable peace came; again, I knew that everything was going to be okay. Since the day that I literally turned Him over to the Lord, I’ve been able to parent with inspiration and greater insight from the Spirit.
Truly, the Lord and I are in this together. There is a real partnership in raising these children, for they are literally His children. Yes, we have the privilege of providing physical bodies for them, but they, like us, will return home to that God who gave them life (Eccl 12:7). They are His! He doesn’t want to lose them anymore than we do. If anything can be done to help them return, He will help! It’s that simple.
One of the ways He helps them is so beautiful and so powerful, I can hardly contain myself. I can’t type my thoughts fast enough. Remember that dynamic age of accountability? While our children are young, it is our job as parents to teach them truth; to teach them the gospel, to bear witness, and to teach them to pray to find out for themselves if the things they are learning are true. One of the most powerful mysteries I’ve come to understand is that if we do this before they turn eight, when they pray to know for themselves of the truth, they receive a personal witness without any interference from the adversary! They come to recognize the whisperings of the Spirit and gain a witness for themselves. It’s powerful!
Once they turn eight, whether they’ve prayed to know for themselves or not, Satan begins to have influence in their lives and that’s when doubts, questions of uncertainty, and temptations to do wrong, arise. Thanks to the Atonement, before eight children cannot sin and Satan cannot put doubts in their minds! I know this to be true! I’ve watched it happen.
There will come a time when they will question all they’ve learned and felt. That is natural, and when those doubts or questions come, if they sincerely ask, seek, and desire to know the truth, again, the witness of the Spirit will be evident in their lives and their testimony will be strengthened.
This has been such a comforting, empowering principle to apply. We teach young children as much truth as they can comprehend, but the most important principle here is we teach them to pray to know for themselves if it’s true. That’s the key! That’s also another way we give them “back” to the Lord. He is the one that answers their prayers. He is the one that sends the witness that gives them the assurance that it’s true. We are helping them “redevelop” their relationship with Him.
One morning, our devotional subject was on the different kingdoms of glory. Quite a bit deeper than we normally go for one preparing to be baptized, for Jaclyn was seven, but Josh was thirteen and a half, and Steve was seventeen. We read different scriptures: 1 Cor.15:22 and Doc. & Cov. 76. We also read in Elder Bruce R. McKonkie’s book Mormon Doctrine; he gives a little detail under each category: “Bodies,” “Glories,” “Kingdoms,” and “Laws” for the Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial Kingdoms. We discussed each kingdom, with all of it’s categories listed above.
We talked about the concept that the laws for the Telestial Kingdom are taught in the world; how the “natural,” mortal man was one who was addicted to things, had little to no self-control, would not keep the commandments: would lie, steal, murder, or commit adultery. Such would obtain the Telestial glory, the lowest glory, but a glory, just for choosing to come to earth and exist. We talked about how living Telestial laws prepares us for the Telestial Kingdom.
Then we moved on to the Terrestrial Kingdom and how Terrestrial laws were taught in values and morals. Good people of the world who lived a Terrestrial law were kind; they were good neighbors; they were honest in their dealings with men; they loved to learn; they contributed to society in a positive way; they were good people; they knew about, but were not necessarily interested in religion, Jesus Christ, nor were they interested in His way of life. They had lived a Terrestrial law and were preparing themselves for that glory.
Finally, we talked about the Celestial Kingdom and how those who live Celestial laws were those who embraced the Savior, accepted His gospel, and were striving with all their hearts to live it and become like Him and His Father. Celestial laws are specifically taught in the Lord's temples found in His church, the Church of Jesus Christ. We read Matt 5:48, and how, before Jesus’s resurrection, He encouraged people to be perfect (complete), like His Father; but after His resurrection and His visit to the Nephites, in that same invitation, He included Himself as perfect (3 Ne. 12:48). We talked about how doing what Jesus would do, or living as Jesus would live, through His grace, we could become as He became.
As usual, I asked each child to pray about this information. Even though this was a deeper discussion, and Jaclyn only seven, was preparing for baptism, I asked her to pray, too; reminding her of the many times she’d been asked to pray, to know if what she had learned was true and how important that was.
At this point, Steve, our middle son, brought up the fact that he was only between the ages of five and eight when we had taught him to pray about the truth of things before he was baptized. He then stated that at that young age he did pray and he did get what he felt was an answer; but, as a young adult, now seventeen years old, he could not put a lot of stock in the answer he got before he was eight. (Beautiful thought! Absolutely perfect!!!)
I agreed with him. And I assured him that Heavenly Father would agree with him as well. We then talked about how our baptism, even at the young age of eight, was our witness to Heavenly Father that we accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior; our first witness. But a true witness comes in twos and threes (2 Cor 13:1).
We talked about how baptism and receiving the Holy Ghost is only the door to enter the Celestial Kingdom (John 3:5), and that the laws for living a Celestial life were taught in the temple. I informed him that we are not asked to live a Celestial law, until we go through the temple. That was usually around the age of a missionary (at that time, nineteen for young men and twenty-one for young women), or the age they chose to legally marry.
Each individual is only accountable for the light and truth they are aware of and choose to accept. Someday, everybody will have the opportunity to hear about the gospel and choose to accept or reject it. Someday, they will learn about the temple and the covenants made there and again, choose to accept or reject. Finally, each individual will be judged of their works, assigned to a Kingdom, and will be very happy and comfortable there because they will be used to living the laws of that Kingdom.
I then testified to Steve that only an adult person can go through the temple, and he goes there knowing that’s where higher laws are taught and covenants are made. That adult would be accountable for the knowledge gained there. Should we choose to go through the temple as an adult, that would be our second witness to our Father in Heaven that we do in fact accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, and we desire further knowledge and the opportunity to live the Celestial law.
I testify that God does hear and answer our prayers! A little child can receive a personal witness of truth and learn to identify promptings and feelings of the Holy Ghost; our baptismal covenants are our first witness that we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior. Our second witness is so important, that it is only done as an adult, of our own free will, of our own choice, in the temple of our God! I testify these things are true. However, please pray for yourself, and ask Heavenly Father whether these things are true.
“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” (Moroni 10:4-5)