Lehi vs Eli – Parenting Rebellious Children3 min read

Parenting is possibly the most rewarding challenges in existence. Not just as mortals, but our Heavenly Father has said:

“For this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”

The Almighty’s whole focus is in rearing His children to become just like Him.

There are a lot of plans and theories on how to best raise children, but the most reliable sources of truth are always found in the scriptures. We can learn good parenting practices by watching the Lord’s example as He leads the children of Israel, the Nephites, and the early Saints.

Of course, the most accurate and updated source of God’s word is from the living prophets, that cannot be discounted without putting our souls at great peril, but this particular lesson comes from the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon.


Eli was a High Priest in ancient Israel. Overall the scriptures describe him as a good man, but he has a fatal flaw. He has a blind spot for his rebellious, disobedient, and disrespectful sons.

One particular sin they were guilty of was sexual transgressions, a serious sin that makes mockery of our Heavenly Father’s Plan of Happiness, and yet Eli continued to rationalize his sons behavior.

The Lord even sent a prophet giving specific warnings against Eli’s parenting style of rationalizing sin, but Eli didn’t listen.

Finally the word of the Lord came to the prophet Samuel saying:

“For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.”

The sad thing is that I’m sure Eli meant well. He loved his sons, and didn’t want to hurt them, or drive them away. However, he didn’t love them enough to censor their sinful behavior.

Eli’s responsibility wasn’t to *ah hem* “love” his sons to the point of allowing them to commit all sorts of sins without rrstraint. That isn’t love. Christ loves us, and so He calls us to repentance, and commands the prophets and parents to do the same because we love our children, and want what is best for them throughout eternity.

A parents real responsibility is the same as our Heavenly Parents focus: to prepare their children to become just like God. We cannot become like our Heavenly Parents if we are living in sin. That is the whole purpose of God’s commandments, as revealed through the prophets He has chosen. To prepare us to become just like our Heavenly Father and Mother.

The consequence for Eli’s sin (yes, he is guilty of disobedience to God’s commandments as well), were fulfilled. He and his sons were cut off from the Lord’s presence, and all three met tragic physical and spiritual deaths.

Now the question is this: What warnings are modern prophets giving us for when we rationalize rebelliousness and sin in our children’s behavior? The consequences we face would not be so different from the fate Eli and his son’s met, but searching modern revelations will give us a greater testimony of their truth than me sharing them in a brief paragraph.


In contrast, Lehi worked tirelessly to love all of his children, even when they were rebellious. He regularly praised their good behavior in public, and censored their wickedness as privately as he could. But if all he did was praise them, tell them they needed to be true to their “authentic self” (also called the natural man), and rationalizing their sinful behavior, Lehi may have faced the same end as Eli.

The takeaway from this is to love our children the way God commands us to, not the way the world pressures us to. We must love them enough to tell them, “No,” when appropriate, and we can learn how do to so in a loving way by following the counsel of the living prophets.

There is no greater way to love our children than to teach them the true gospel, and therefore prepare them for eternal life.