Give Up Not on Our Little Ones…

“When I was a little one, and into my youth and young adulthood, I often found my way into mischief. I know that my parents struggled to teach me the manners in which I should behave, but they never gave up, and for that I am so grateful. They taught me in the way to go, as did and do still now many loving mentors outside of my home. Although I found myself astray at various times, I was always able to find my way back to the path upon which my parents set my feet. The benevolence of God’s plan for our happiness is ever apparent in the opportunities to return to grace following us throughout life. I am grateful that my Lord, and the family and friends with which He has blessed me, have never lost hope nor failed to strive in helping me find my way. I strive to do the same.”
Daniel Joseph Malcolm, 1 June 2024

Many find ease in relating to Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah, who were quite the trouble-makers in their young adult years. There is no doubt that being the sons of two good and righteous men, specifically a godly king and prophet leader of the Church of God, and having mothers who were most certainly equal to their husbands, these boys were taught well in their youth the precepts of the gospel of Jesus Christ. But then, why did it go wrong?

Agency is a difficult concept. By its very nature it should promote righteousness because it allows the very freedom we need for godly growth, but we often find ourselves using our God given freedom in irresponsible ways that lead us away from God’s path. Our children are no exception to this pattern of behavior. So, are Alma’s and Mosiah’s teachings to their sons for naught? If parents who include a prophet and a righteous king could turn out such mischievous boys, we might ask ourselves, “What hope do the rest of us have?” Be at ease and know that there is always hope in Christ.

My brothers and sisters and I (Ricky, David, Linda, Danny, Nancy).

In Proverbs 22:6 we read, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Is this a godly promise or just poetry? Many have asked this question as they have felt the longing for children to make good choices and follow the path that we as parents have laid out for them. I will not speak for every sorrowing or frustrated parent, nor for every wayward child, but I can tell you in truth that I myself have wandered in the shoes of the rebel, and spent countless hours upon bended knee praying for my children when their paths were not so straight.

Although I have never rejected the gospel of Jesus Christ in any degree, I have not always lived up to what my Heavenly Father would have me be, to the ideals that were taught me by my good mother and father. I know that in my youth I brought them sorrow to humble supplication, and I pray that they have found peace in who I am today.

The Danny and Monica Malcolm Family

I believe as a parent the lesson I have taken away from the story of Alma the Younger and the Sons of Mosiah, and their path from what I can only imagine as good little boys, to abject rebellion, and then to repentance and greatness, is first the righteous teaching of their parents in childhood and youth, and then parental unwavering faith and patience in the Lord for all to turn out as hoped for in Christ Jesus.

In 1915 President Joseph F. Smith introduced Family Home Evening to the world in a statement which included the following: “If the Saints obey this counsel, we promise that great blessings will result. Love at home and obedience to parents will increase. Faith will be developed in the hearts of the youth of Israel, and they will gain power to combat the evil influences and temptations which beset them.”

“If the Saints obey this counsel, we promise that great blessings will result.”

President Joseph F. Smith

We read this admonition and commandment of the Lord, “…inasmuch as parents have children in Zion,… their children shall be baptized for the remission of their sins when eight years old, and receive the laying on of hands, and they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord” (Doctrine and Covenants 68:25-28).

Of the importance of holding weekly family home evening President Spencer W. Kimball made this statement: “The spirit of the times is worldliness. …Immorality, drug addiction, and general moral and spiritual deterioration seem to be increasing, and the world is in turmoil. But in our time the Lord has offered His ageless program in new dress and it gives promise to return the world to sane living, to true family life, family interdependence. …the family home evening will neutralize the ill effects only if people will apply the remedy.” One can sense some level of frustration as he reminds us to apply the remedy, family time, for the woes facing their children.

Elder Boyd K. Packer pointed out the integral part that gospel learning in the home plays with active discipleship. “To bring some of the things of heaven into the home is to insure that family members will graduate to church participation. The family home evening is, of course, ready-made for this—a meeting at home that can be organized to fit every need; and it’s just as much a church meeting, or can be, as those held at the chapel.” It is easily seen in our day of worldly influence barraging the lives of our children in most all places and at most times, how very important it always has been for gospel learning to begin in the home.

“To bring some of the things of heaven into the home is to insure that family members will graduate to church participation.”

Elder Boyd K. Packer

When my children were tiny and we were first singing gospel songs together, before they were even learning them in church, I changed the lyrics of a favorite from “teacher” to “daddy,” (could have just as easily been “mommy”) with a purpose to emphasize who is most responsible for the gospel learning of children. “Book of Mormon stories that my daddy tells to me…” To this day our family still sings this the same. Yes, the songs of Jesus, from “Jesus Loves Me” and “Jesus Once was a Little Child” to “I Am a Child of God” and “Families Can Be Together Forever,” should be first taught in the home, along with the word of God from His holy scriptures.

Yes, gospel learning has always been the responsibility of mothers and fathers in the home, with guidance when needed from ministering brothers and sisters, bishops, pastors, priests and prophets. And we are all so grateful for that guidance. President Spencer W. Kimball said, “While one objective [of family home evening] is reached by merely being together, yet the additional and greater value can come from the lessons of life. The father will teach the children. Here they can learn integrity, honor, dependability, sacrifice, and faith in God. Life’s experiences and the scriptures are the basis of the teaching, and this, wrapped up in filial and parental love, makes an impact nothing else can make. Thus, reservoirs of righteousness are filled to carry children through the dark days of temptation and desire, of drought and skepticism. As they grow up, the children cooperate in building this storage for themselves and the family. And so we have as a basic part of the Lord’s programs the home evening and the family prayers and the teaching of gospel principles in our homes.”

“And so we have as a basic part of the Lord’s programs the home evening and the family prayers and the teaching of gospel principles in our homes.”

President Spencer W. Kimball

Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah were young boys at their fathers’ knees long before the family home evening program was initiated, but I have no doubt that these good men taught their sons to know the words of God. They read with them the scriptures and knelt with them in prayer. They sang with them the songs of their day in praise to God, and taught them of the Redeemer Jesus Christ who would save the world. They laid a true and firm foundation for their sons on which to always rely, or come back to if they ever were to wander, and that they did.

When Alma the Younger told his own story to his son Helaman he recounted how when he was in the depths of despair he remembered his father had taught of the atonement of Jesus Christ and it led him to repentance and peace. “And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world. Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death. And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more” (Alma 36:17-19).

“His Father Rejoiced” by Walter Rane (The parents of Alma the Younger rejoice when his friends, the sons of Mosiah, bring him home to them humbled to repentance all.)

Oh, what a wonderful thing it must have been for Alma to look upon his son in a catatonic state and know that he was remembering the Lord and the teachings that were shared with him in his youth. Alma and his sweet wife had taught their son all that was required, all that was needed for him to have a good foundation. When the storms came and he wandered away from that foundation, they were able to turn to the Lord in faith and prayer, having done all that they could do, but now to appeal to God for His abundant grace. The prayers of these faithful parents were answered, and I believe that the prayers of all the faithful, even the repentant faithful, will be answered according to the agency of the children for whom we pray.

Remember, Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah were “the very vilest of sinners” (Mosiah 28:4), yet it was not too late for their ways to be changed. Through the prayerful efforts of their parents, and the atonement of Jesus Christ, they became among the most valiant of servants to the Most High God, and brought thousands to the knowledge of their Redeemer. It is never too late to share the gospel message with, and pray on behalf of, our children.

Ricky, David, Linda, Danny and Nancy.

Many years ago two of my siblings strayed from the gospel path. I am certain it caused much sorrow to the hearts of our parents. Some of the choices Ricky and Linda made lead to much personal trial and sorrow, and ultimately decades of alcoholism. Many efforts were made, prayers offered, to reach and help them in days of crisis, but hopeless feelings prevailed as their interest in recovery was lacking. Until prayers were at last answered and they found their way back to peace in Christ by Him. There is always hope. I know my parents happily rejoice today in my siblings who were lost but now are found.

Now is a day that gospel learning in the home is more important than any other time thus far in our lives. It should have always been the foundation of our children’s learning, but if it has not been, time has not run out and today we can begin. As was said by Elder Richard G. Scott, “The prophetic counsel to have daily personal and family prayer, daily personal and family scripture study, and weekly family home evening are the essential, weight-bearing beams in the construction of a Christ-centered home.” And the Christ centered home is the very foundation upon which is built the testimony of the rising generation, our beloved sons and daughters.

“No success in life can compensate for failure in the home.”

President David O. McKay

There is no time like the present to begin or improve our gospel learning at home, and there is time. Everybody has enough time to study the gospel as individuals and as families in our homes. As President David O. McKay said, “No success in life can compensate for failure in the home.” Let us not fail ourselves nor our children. Let us not fail the Lord who has never failed us. Never lose hope for our children, never give up on the love and power of our Savior. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

“Christ and Children from around the World” by Del Parson 
Linda, Ricky, David, Danny and Nancy, plus our dog Johnny.

Daniel Malcolm is an entrepreneur, journalist, photographer, husband to Monica and father of twelve. He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is a witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.