The two boys, ages 5 and 7, and their dad were making a rapid dash back to the airport restaurant where they had inadvertently left a carry-on bag containing their airplane tickets. The Denver airport, as usual, was very busy that day, and as the three ran through the crowded concourse, the younger boy suddenly "disappeared."
Panic struck. Frantically the dad tried to find the younger child. Seconds seemed like eternity. For several heart-pounding moments, the fear was overwhelming. Leaving his 7-year-old son with security, the dad ran down the concourse looking for the younger child. "He's over here," hollered an airline employee, who had found an unattended boy and knew somebody would be searching for him. "How did you know I was looking for him?" asked the dad. "I could tell by your face," came the reply.Fortunately, everything turned out all right, and the panic turned to relief as the child was reunited with his brother and dad.
A couple of weeks later, the two boys were again in an airport, this time with their grandfather in Chicago, and they were headed back home. The younger boy firmly held onto his grandfather's hand as they walked toward the gate where they would board the plane. What had happened in the Denver airport still weighed on the young child's mind.
"Don't lose me, Grandpa!" he said trustingly.
Being lost physically can be very frightening, even for adults. But to a 5-year-old child, being lost in one of the country's busiest airports, can be extremely terrifying.
The haunting plea of a 5-year-old boy - "Don't lose me!" - echoes in our ears, and we do everything possible to see that that doesn't happen. Sadly, we know that being lost physically sometimes ends in tragedy.
But what of being lost spiritually? Shouldn't we also get excited about those who are spiritually struggling to find their way? Shouldn't we do everything possible to calm the fears of a child, who is trusting us to mark the eternal path to follow.
Does not the plea - "Don't lose me, spiritually" - also echo in our ears?
Despite the frightening effects of being lost physically, being lost spiritually is far more devastating and of much greater consequences.
We, as parents and even grandparents, have a divine responsibility of protecting our children from losing their way back to their eternal home. It is an awesome responsibility, one that cannot be taken lightly.
"The most important teachings in the home are spiritual," President Ezra Taft Benson said in the October 1982 general conference. ". . . Parents are to instill within their children a desire for eternal life and to earnestly seek that goal above all else."
How do we instill in our children a desire for eternal life when there are so many forces tugging at them today - forces that may be deceptively cloaked as being attractive, but in reality are facades that make wrong appear as being right, or at least OK?
To help our children stay on the spiritual path we must set an example of righteous living. We must make sure we're keeping the commandments, attending the temple, holding family and individual prayers and family home evenings, observing the Word of Wisdom, keeping the Sabbath day holy, serving one another and doing all the things commanded of us. And then we must teach these principles to our children. In love, we must teach them "to walk uprightly before the Lord." (See D&C 68:28.)
If we're setting the right example and teaching our children the way we should, the chances are great that they'll respond to our love and teachings and we won't lose them.
But sadly sometimes we do. In spite of all our best desires not to spiritually lose any of our children, there are some times that they, acting with their own agency, choose a path leading not to eternal life but to spiritual destruction.
Such was the case of Alma the younger, who because of his wickedness, was "a great hinderment to the prosperity of the church" and sought to destroy the church of God. (See Mosiah 27:8-10.)
But the Lord heard the pleas of his father, Alma the elder, who prayed with much faith that his son "mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth" (Mosiah 27:14.), which he later was.
When our children choose not to follow the gospel teachings, it is important that we never give up on them. We must continue in love, in patience, in mighty prayer, that they, like Alma the younger, might have a change of heart.
The plea, "Don't lose me!" may not apply just to when young children are worried about being lost in a big, unfamiliar world - it also could possibly apply to children at any age as they grope to find their way spiritually. Our responsibility is to be there to help them.