A woman I know made some bad choices in her young adult life, which perhaps included getting an abortion. This all led to her not feeling comfortable around her family. Did her family notice her discomfort? I'm not sure. At any rate, she eventually met a man who, in her mind, expressed more care for her than her family did, but who also led her away from her membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She chose to get married to this man, which caused great consternation among the members of her family. Because of this worry and consternation, a situation arose where the young woman felt compelled to choose between her biological family and the man she married. She left her family.
After some years of not knowing where their daughter and sister was, her family discovered that the man she married had passed away, and gradually a relationship was built back up between her and her biological family. However, she is still no longer a member of the Church, and neither are her children.
Is this woman doomed to eternal damnation? Not in the least. This woman is one of the most loving and Christlike people that I know. I think her family has come to understand this. But I fear that there are a fair number of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who worry unduly that their children who have chosen other paths are earmarked for eternal failure. Often such unhealthy worry engenders an inability to fully love the wayward child. Why does that happen in Mormondom?
Here's where I think it starts. The following Book of Mormon scripture is misunderstood by a lot of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
33 ...as ye have had so manyawitnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do notbprocrastinate the day of your crepentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh thednight of edarkness wherein there can be no labor performed.
Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful acrisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth bpossess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.
I don't think that this scripture means what many Mormons think it means. Yes, it is true, that we will have the same spirit (or personality) in the next life (the world of spirits) that we have here, but it does not mean that if missionaries knocked on our door and we told them to go away that we are doomed for eternity. Nor does it mean that if we do something terribly disappointing to our family that we will burn forever in the fires of hell. What actually might send them down the wrong path is when we withhold love from our children as a result of their having made choices that we disagree with, especially when those bad choices have large effects.
Not only is God more merciful than we give him credit for, because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, our friends and family members are more good than we give them credit for--especially when we worry about them.
So, when our children do things that we wouldn't have chosen for them, instead of being so much disappointed in them and worrying about them, let's love them instead. As soon as you see a child pulling away from your family, that is your signal to love them, perhaps even more than you have ever loved them before. They may not feel comfortable coming back into full fellowship with the family right away, but they eventually will. And they will never forget that, even though they for a time gave up on themselves, you never did.