"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
April 3, 2013
Little Children are Not Lost
by Marian Stoddard

As we approach General Conference in a few days, I wonder what themes will stand out. The brethren are not given assigned topics, but are tasked with the responsibility to ponder and pray, finding the direction of the Holy Ghost to prepare whatever words the Lord individually desires them to offer to us.

When all the sessions are done, there is often an overall thread of meaning. Last conference, I felt that many talks, whatever their specific topic, were focused on hope and encouragement, that our hearts will not fail in the darkness that increases in the world around us.

We had a tender class in Relief Society this month, as the designated “Teachings for Our Times” lesson, which centered on the talk last October by Elder Shayne M. Bowen of the Seventy. Titled, “Because I Live, Ye Shall Live Also”, it addressed the question of infant baptism and the message of the restored gospel that little children are saved in Christ’s atonement.

The teacher is a young mother, with a child not quite walking. She became emotional as she started the lesson, and then tried to apologize, saying that she wasn’t sure why this was hitting her so hard. I thought silently, empathetically, that I knew why — it was because she had a child, and she had also lost a pregnancy earlier. The idea of losing a child hits at a level deeper than any words, and the experience of losing that hope and then succeeding to carry the next easily brings feelings close to the surface.

Elder Bowen tells of a family he and his companion taught in Chile, who embraced the message and blessings of the gospel when they learned that there is an answer to the question, what happens to the little ones who die without baptism? They had buried a tiny son who died before their priest could baptize him. The priest had no other answer to give them other than that he would be lost in limbo eternally. He could not offer hope, but these young missionaries could through the revealed truths and promises of the gospel.

Elder Bowen went on to tell that he and his wife had had a son die also. He said,

I remember writing to my family[as a missionary], expressing the gratitude that I felt in my heart for the knowledge of this and so many other plain and precious truths of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I never dreamed how this wonderful true principle would come back to me in future years and prove to be my balm of Gilead.

I would like to speak to those who have lost a child and have asked the question, “Why me?” or maybe even questioned your own faith in a loving Father in Heaven. It is my prayer that by the power of the Holy Ghost, I may bring some measure of hope, of peace, and of understanding. It is my desire to be an instrument in bringing about a restoration of your faith in our loving Father in Heaven, who knows all things and allows us to experience trials so that we can come to know and love Him and understand that without Him we have nothing.

Their son was eight months old when he choked on a piece of chalk and died. We have all had the experience of finding a baby with something in his or her mouth that he shouldn’t have. Sometimes we can pounce, intercepting it on its way to the mouth, sometimes after it’s in but before it goes down. Sometimes it comes scary close, because we all know that what happened to this much-loved little boy can indeed happen to any child.

I was grateful to an experienced mother who showed me how to beat any baby’s attempt to swallow the wrong thing. (Pinch the baby’s two cheeks with thumb and forefinger, which forces their mouth open, then sweep the mouth with the forefinger of the other hand.) Any child can be lost. Sometimes it’s a wonder any of us live to grow up.

The hope and promise of the gospel of Christ is that our children, saved in the gift of Jesus Christ, sealed in the holy temple, will never be lost. One of the sisters in our Relief Society, now a grandmother, lost a baby to SIDS.

One of our ward sisters said that her mother had lost a child and later, looking for a church, asked every priest and minister where her baby was now and what would happen to him. None had an answer that helped her, until she met with the Mormon missionaries. Her grown daughter had already joined the Church at that time, but her mother wasn’t interested until she found out that there was an answer to this long-felt grief.

This tender assurance speaks deeply to any of us. Little children are alive in Christ, are received in joy and glory. We don’t need to mourn for their sakes, though we grieve.

Sometimes a talk in Conference can paint the breadth of the universe; sometimes a Conference talk etches a very fine, distinct truth that penetrates on the most personal level. The gospel of Jesus Christ brings us all of it.


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About Marian Stoddard

Marian J. Stoddard was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in its Maryland suburbs. Her father grew up in Carson City, Nevada, and her mother in Salt Lake City, so she was always partly a Westerner at heart, and she ended up raising her family in Washington State. Her family took road trips all over the United States and Canada, so there were lots of adventures.

The adventures of music, literature, and art were also valued and pursued. Playing tourist always included the local museums as well as historical sites and places of natural beauty. Discussions at home, around the dinner table or working in the kitchen, could cover politics, philosophy, or poetry, with the perspective of the gospel underlying all. Words and ideas, and testimony and service, were the family currency.

Marian graduated from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland, and attended the University of Utah as the recipient of the Ralph Hardy Memorial Scholarship, where she was graduated with honors, receiving a B.A. in English. She also met the love of her life, a law student, three weeks after her arrival; she jokes that she had to marry him because her mother always wanted a tenor in the family. (She sings second soprano.) They were married two years later and have six children and six grandchildren (so far). She treasures her family, her friends, and her opportunities to serve.

Visit Marian at her blog, greaterthansparrows.† You can contact her at bloggermarian@gmail.com.†

Marian and her husband live in Tacoma, Washington. Together they teach those who are preparing to go to the temple for the first time, and she also teaches a Stake Relief Society Institute class.

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