If you are sealed to your family, but then one of your family falls away from the Church, will you all be together or will everyone be together but the fallen soul after death? Thanks.
You bring up an interesting question that many people wonder about. We live in a world where everyone has agency, and sometimes family members of righteous Church members use this agency and choose not to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ at least for a time. We have seen this repeatedly in the scriptures, with great prophets such as Abraham and Lehi who had family members rebel against the teachings of Christ.
So, is there any comfort to be had in such a situation, where a family member is not following the gospel? Yes!
President James E. Faust gave a very comforting talk in 2003 called “Dear Are the Sheep that have Wandered.” In this talk, President Faust said,
“The Prophet Joseph Smith declared – and he never taught a more comforting doctrine – that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return.”
Faust then notes that the unrepentant family members “will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain.” Faust also notes that, nevertheless, “Mercy will not rob justice, and the sealing power of faithful parents will only claim wayward children upon the condition of their repentance and Christ’s Atonement. Repentant wayward children will enjoy salvation and all the blessings that go with it, but exaltation is so much more. It must be fully earned. The question as to who will be exalted must be left to the Lord in his mercy.” President Faust concludes by stating that “Perhaps in this life we are not given to fully understand how enduring the sealing cords of righteous parents are to their children. it may very well be that there are more helpful sources at work than we know. I believe there is a strong familial pull as the influence of beloved ancestors continues with us from the other side of the veil.”
So, based off of these quotations from President Faust (and there are many similar talks addressing this subject as well), it is evident that the unrepentant will have to eventually face consequences for their actions and may even risk not being exalted. At the same time, there is a real and tangible binding power in being sealed, which really does act to keep families together forever, including wayward children. The promises in Joseph Smith’s teachings on this subject are real, even if we do not understand how wayward family members are saved by the sealing right now.
As a final thought, I want to close with the words of President Henry B. Eyring, made in a First Presidency message called “The Hope of Eternal Family Love“. President Eyring stated,
“For some, that eternal joy may seem a faint or even a fading hope. Parents, children, brothers, and sisters may have made choices that seem to disqualify them from eternal life . . . A prophet of God once offered me counsel that gives me peace. I was worried that the choices of others might make it impossible for our family to be together forever. He said, “You are worrying about the wrong problem. You just live worthy of the celestial kingdom, and the family arrangements will be more wonderful than you can imagine.”