“Room for Hope,” New Era, June 2005, 42
Alma the Younger faced the distress of having his son, Corianton, forsake his mission to the Zoramites to follow “after the harlot Isabel.” This moral failing influenced the Zoramite rejection of the gospel message, “for when they saw your conduct,” Alma told his son, “they would not believe in my words” (Alma 39:3, 11).
The situation provided one of the greatest father-son teaching moments ever recorded. Alma focused on key doctrines concerning repentance. He exhorted Corianton to recognize his sin: “Acknowledge your faults and that wrong which ye have done” (Alma 39:13). He taught his son that “wickedness never was happiness” and that the things we make part of our lives in mortality will be part of our characters in the resurrection (see Alma 41:10, 13–15).
Alma taught that because of justice, “the law inflicteth the punishment” unless “mercy claimeth the penitent” through the great Atonement of the Savior, Jesus Christ. The prophet told his son to remember the mercy of God “and let it bring you down to the dust in humility” (Alma 42:22, 23, 30).
Alma’s wayward son followed his father’s lovingly given counsel, repenting and returning to the mission field (see Alma 42:31; Alma 43:1–2; Alma 49:30). This inspiring story from the scriptures should give great hope, as well as doctrinal direction, to everyone in the Church.
A boy I knew had been sent, at great sacrifice by his parents, to a university to acquire an education. He went with little aspiration or desire to succeed, seeking instead to have a “good time.” Shortly after he arrived, he became involved in a case of petty theft, “just for the excitement,” he said later. He was caught and put on probation. But when his search for good times exhausted the limited resources provided by his parents, in desperation he tried to steal a large sum of money—and was caught again. This time he went to the state prison.
His bishop, knowing that I would be traveling in the vicinity of the prison, asked if I would visit the young man. I was a stake president at the time, so I took a member of the stake high council with me. The large gate swung shut behind us, a guard searched us carefully, and then we were ushered into a small concrete building where those from the outside were allowed to spend time visiting with inmates.
I had in my mind a picture of a hardened criminal—mean, surly, dangerous, someone to be feared. Then the door opened, and one of the most handsome young men I had ever seen stepped into the room—neat, clean-shaven, hair nicely combed. He smiled at me in recognition and offered his hand in greeting. “President, what are you doing here? You have probably never seen me, but I heard you speak once at a stake conference,” he explained, then asked earnestly, “How is my family?”
After I reassured him about his parents, we talked about him: how soon he would be released and how he was being treated. He seemed in good spirits and cheerful despite the bleak surroundings. As we visited, I asked him if he had really done all the things he was accused of. His reply was prompt and direct: “Yes, and more. I deserve all of this.” The motion of his hand took in the confining room and its surroundings. “I have lost nearly everything—my self-respect, my friends, the confidence of my family—almost everything.” His chin quivered and his face became anguished. He broke down crying. Sobs shook his body, and I tried to comfort him.
When he regained his composure, we continued our visit. It proved to be a marvelous moment to teach him; he was humble and eager to learn. We talked about faith, repentance, and the divine mission of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I reminded the young man that Christ gave His own sweet life in holy sacrifice as payment for the sins of those who repent and obey. The Spirit touched each of us during those moments together. My young friend was contrite, filled with hope and a greater understanding of God’s love.
On the morning of his release from prison, a loving father and mother embraced their son and welcomed him to a new life. They visited at our home. The son was repentant and eager to start anew. He expressed his great love for the Savior and his gratitude for the opportunity to progress through blessings offered in the Church. I assured him of my respect, my confidence, and my love for him.
Over a period of several years, I received occasional telephone calls from him advising me of his progress. He was doing well. He had worked through the repentance process with his bishop and the Lord. There were still difficulties and obstacles to overcome, but his progress was steady. The call that touched me most was the one in which he told me that he would be taking a young woman to the house of the Lord to be married. He had come full circle, from wickedness and despair to righteousness and joy. The Spirit of the Lord had led him to the Living Waters, and he had drunk deeply.
Certainly there is no promise that all men and women will take advantage of the Lord’s plan for happiness, but we should never give up on someone who is in need of change. There is always room for hope.
It is essential that people embrace the saving principles of the gospel if they are to enter the presence of the Lord pure and clean. The catalyst that moves them to embrace these principles is always love—sincere, abundant, felt to the very core by the giver and the receiver. It is the kind of love shown not by what people say but by what they do. This kind of love has the power to melt the hardest heart, to create a change in the most vile sinner, to bring men and women to their knees in humble worship.
It is within our power to offer this deep, continuing love to the wayward ones. And after all else, we can rely on faith in “him who is mighty to save” (2 Ne. 31:19), who loved us enough that He gave His own life as a sacrifice to redeem us.
“How grateful we should be that God sent His Only Begotten Son to earth. …
“Let us follow the Son of God in all ways and in all walks of life. Let us make Him our exemplar and our guide. We should at every opportunity ask ourselves, ‘What would Jesus do?’ and then be more courageous to act upon the answer. We must follow Christ, in the best sense of that word. We must be about His work as He was about His Father’s. We should try to be like Him, even as the Primary children sing, ‘Try, try, try’ (Children’s Songbook, 55). To the extent that our mortal powers permit, we should make every effort to become like Christ—the one perfect and sinless example this world has ever seen.”
—President Howard W. Hunter (1907–95), 14th President of the Church, “What Manner of Men Ought Ye to Be?” Ensign, May 1994, 64.
And read the following articles in the Gospel Library at www.lds.org: “Three Choices” (Ensign, Nov. 2003) by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin and “There Is Hope Smiling Brightly before Us” (Ensign, May 2003) by Julie B. Beck.