“After a person marries, how much is he responsible to his parents?” New Era, June 1976, 36–37
Answer/Brother Ben Bloxham
In one of the most moving scenes recorded in the New Testament, Jesus looked down from the cross at his mother. Before he could proclaim from that torturous Roman cross that he had finished his Father’s business, he knew that there remained one final responsibility. An eye witness reports:
“When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!
“Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.” (John 19:26–27.)
Our Redeemer was then able to say, “… It is finished; and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.” (John 19:30.)
The Savior once asked the Nephites, “… what manner of men ought ye to be?” And then he answered: “Verily I say unto you, even as I am.” (3 Ne. 27:27.)
It would seem, then, that if we are to be like Jesus, our answer to the question at hand should be that we are always responsible to or responsible for our parents and our children.
Through the wisdom of the Almighty we were assigned to our parents for what must have been very good reasons. Paul said in his day that God “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.” (Acts 17:26.) President David O. McKay stated, “By the operation of some eternal law with which man is yet unfamiliar, spirits come through parentages for which they are worthy … each was satisfied and happy to come through the lineage to which he was attracted and for which, and only which, he or she was prepared.” (Llewelyn R. McKay, Home Memories of President David O. McKay [Deseret Book Co.: 1956], p. 230.)
The fifth commandment, and the first one to carry with it a promised blessing, reads as follows: “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” (Ex. 20:12.)
Our family ties and associations represent the most serious of stewardships. Until we are released from these ties and associations by that same power and authority that granted them in the first place, we are not at liberty to disassociate ourselves from them. In many cases that disassociation will come only too soon, and then there will undoubtedly follow the worst kinds of sorrow and regret.
In a recent news report we learned of the release of the grandson of one of the world’s wealthiest men by his drug trafficking captors for the incredible amount of nearly $3,000,000. The ransom money was paid by the boy’s mother, who had a love for her son that far exceeded any monetary consideration. As the mother was reunited with her son, she hugged and kissed him repeatedly. She was quoted as saying, “Only now I’m beginning to live again.”
How much would we be willing to pay to bring back a loved one? What price would be too great to pay to have our children in the next life or to be able to claim our parents as our own in that eternal world?
Possibly the greatest story ever told of the love parents have for their children is the parable of the Prodigal Son, who demanded his inheritance and then wasted it in “riotous living.” When he returned home penniless, his father did not hesitate to forgive him and to welcome him back.
The Lord, of course, doesn’t expect parents to be tyrants. We see in this same story of the Prodigal Son that the father endeavored to teach his sons correct principles but allowed them the freedom of choosing their own course in life.
This same principle was taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith. A certain man asked Joseph Smith, “How do you govern such a vast people as this?” “Oh,” said Joseph, “it is very easy.” “Why,” said the man, “but we find it very difficult.” “But,” said Joseph, “it is very easy, for I teach the people correct principles and they govern themselves.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 10, pp. 57–58.) Wise parents will do the same by teaching their children while they are young and then allowing them to exercise their own free will and choice.
Fundamental to the patriarchal order of priesthood is the principle that husbands and wives are sealed together for all time and eternity, and their children are sealed to them as they are sealed to their parents. Inherent in such an order is an obvious reciprocal stewardship between parents and children. Parley P. Pratt expressed the following words regarding this order of priesthood:
“The order of God’s government, both in time and in eternity, is patriarchal; that is, it is a fatherly government. Each father who is raised from the dead and made a partaker of the celestial glory in its fullness, will hold lawful jurisdiction over his own children and over all the families which sprang of them to all generations, forever and ever.
“We talk in this ignorant age, of children becoming of age, as it is called; and we consider when they are of age they are free from the authority of their father. But no such rule is known in the celestial law and organization, either here or hereafter. By that law a son is subject to his father forever and ever, worlds without end.” (Sermons and Missionary Letters of Parley P. Pratt, pp. 52–58.)
We belong to our earthly families now, but whether we will enjoy membership in our families in the eternal world will depend upon how strong the bonds of love and priesthood are developed here. After this probationary life we will either be sealed for all time and eternity as a family or we will in effect be excommunicated from our families and remain single forever and ever.
Joseph Smith learned early that the great condemnation of the wicked will be that they will be left without “root” (ancestry) and “branch” (posterity) in the eternities. The angel Moroni said to him, quoting from Malachi:
“For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall burn as stubble; for they that come shall burn them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
“… Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
“… And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.” (JS—H 1:37–39.)
The turning of the hearts of the children to their fathers does not involve the dead only. If we are to follow the example of Jesus, it will be necessary to become one with our wives, husbands, children, and parents before we can say, “It is finished.”