There’s a quote floating around by Orson F. Whitney quoting Joseph Smith about how wayward children will eventually “feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching outafter them and drawing them back.” I believe I’ve even seen it on your site a few times. People seem to have the idea that this means that no matter how our children act, as long as we are faithful and achieve exaltation, they too will inherit the celestial kingdom. However, just yesterday I came across the following quote: “No matter how a person is sealed he will be assigned to his proper place. If a person is sealed to his parents, or is born under the covenant, and then he lives a telestial law, to the telestial kingdom he will go, or to the terrestrial. Salvation is an individual responsibility. Only through living the gospel can we enter the celestial kingdom” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, vol 5, p. 169). Don’t these quotes kind of contradict each other?
The quotes do not contradict each other, its the additional baggage placed on the Whitney quote (as you noted) that distorts things. Many parents cling to the idea that if they are personally faithful enough, good enough, that they can pull their wayward child kicking and screaming into exaltation (not just salvation but exaltation). Many many other places in the scriptures and revealed word (including the Joseph Fielding Smith quote) seem to strongly counter this notion. To the point that I feel safe in calling the idea distorted, wrong, and false.
I do believe we have a very good scriptural example of the Whitney quote in action as it is really meant to be. I believe that the conversion story of Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah is this example. Did the faith of Alma the Elder trigger powerful events in his son’s life? Absolutely! Did it pull Alma the Younger and the Son’s of Mosiah in to heaven in spite of themselves? Absolutely not! They still had to gain faith and repent and follow the commandments.
Thus I see no contradiction in the quotes only in the baggage and assumptions some might make on them.