child in a field of red flowers

Contest Winner: Wandering Sheep

A general conference talk gave me hope for my wandering son’s future.

My husband and I have six children. They all bring us joy, but parenting them has also provided us with trials and learning experiences. 

In 2003, our fourth child was fourteen and was struggling with many issues. Although I never learned the cause of these problems, I saw their manifestation in his attitude at home and his behavior in general. He argued often; he quit his extracurricular activities; he refused to read scriptures with the family; he rarely joined in family prayer; and he stopped attending church with us. I couldn’t figure out where we had gone wrong as parents. My heart was broken.

In April 2003, President James E. Faust gave a general conference talk titled “Dear Are the Sheep That Have Wandered.” His counsel offered me hope for the future when he said: “To those brokenhearted parents who have been righteous, diligent, and prayerful in the teaching of their disobedient children, we say to you, the Good Shepherd is watching over them. God knows and understands your deep sorrow. There is hope.”

It had been difficult during those troublesome years to go to church. Not only was I sad (and often in tears) because my son was not learning the gospel and increasing his testimony, but I was also burdened by the worry of what others were saying about him and how they were judging my husband and me. Here again President Faust came to my rescue: “It is very unfair and unkind to judge conscientious and faithful parents because some of their children rebel or stray from the teachings and love of their parents.”

In the middle of that talk, I felt a huge burden being lifted from my shoulders. Not only did someone understand my pain, but an Apostle of God understood and reached out to me in love and kindness. In that moment I realized I could face the future with less fear and dread. I could do my best to encourage my son to come back to church. My Heavenly Father would not only accept my efforts, but he would also love me as I continued to try in the face of uncertainty.

President Faust’s talk moved me from despair to hope. Because of his message, I was able to find peace and comfort and move forward. Although the road was hard for a period of time, today my son brings sunshine and joy to my life in a way I would never have thought possible. How grateful I am for general conference and the inspiration of the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Read President James E. Faust’s article “Dear Are the Sheep That Have Wandered.”

Source: April 2003 General Conference

—Phyllis Rosen, Provo, Utah

feature image by jamie street

Find more insights

See Elder David A. Bednar‘s “Faithful Parents and Wayward Children: Sustaining Hope While Overcoming Misunderstanding” to learn more comforting truths about divine providence and the prophetic promise about posterity.

Read or watch the biblical account of the Savior’s parable of the Prodigal Son.

Check out Marvin K. Gardner’s article “Keeping the Door Open and the Stew Hot: Loving and Helping a Wayward Child” for more ideas on how to help wandering children.

Watch and listen to the Tabernacle Choir sing “Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd” in general conference.

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  1. Really enjoyed this article. What great insights and courage.

  2. I am not a parent yet, but I value your thoughts on family and the Gospel. What a lovely article!

  3. Phyllis,
    Thank you for sharing your story. Your beautiful writing brings the spirit, and it has reminded me that great wisdom and peace can come from General Conference talks.

  4. I loved this article Phyllis. This concept can be applied to so many areas in our lives. No matter what trial we are going through, we are never alone because someone else is also going through a similar thing or has gone through a similar experience. Thank you for your words of wisdom!

  5. You are such an example to me of a strong faithful woman! Thank you for sharing your story, Phyllis!

  6. Phyllis, thank you! I’ve loved having class with you and seeing how dedicated you are as a student and a friend. I can only imagine the effort and care that you put into parenting! Even though I can’t fathom the pain that you went through with your son, it is comforting to know that no matter what I go through, I can look to General Conference for strength just like you did.

  7. Phyllis, you are an amazing example of a strong and loving mother. I admire your courage and faith you shared in this story. Thank you for the beautiful post!

  8. President Faust’s words, as well as yours, are encouraging. I’m not a mother yet, and this is honestly one of the things that gives me the greatest fear when it comes to thinking about being a parent. But with the Lord, I am sure that it will all work out.

  9. I know someone who is personally struggling with the exact same problem. We are not alone in our struggles; the Savior is always with us, and there are countless others experiencing similar situations. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Although I’m not a parent yet, I know someone who is straying, and my heart breaks for her. I can only imagine how much worse that pain must be when someone so dear to your heart as your own child rejects the Gospel. Thank you for sharing such a personal experience.

  11. I sent this article to my mom. I have a brother and a sister who have decided to leave the Church for various reasons. It does hurt my parents and make them feel as though they failed to teach them the gospel correctly, but that’s not it at all. President Faust’s words are so comforting when he reminds us that the Savior is actively aware of the lost sheep. To him, they’re not lost at all. Together with their parents, His love will bring them back home.

  12. I am not a parent, but my brother left the Church a few years ago, and it definitely affected the whole family. I was heartbroken for a while, and it still makes me sad because I know what he’s missing out on, but my brother is an amazing person. He may not have a testimony of the gospel anymore, but the Church still made him the awesome, caring person that he is. Recognizing and being grateful for that helps me sometimes.

  13. I have also taken great comfort from this talk by Pres Faust as our 4 children have left the gospel that I love so much. It brings me profound hope and we never stop trying to reclaim them.

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