I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,
And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim:
Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days.
I have sinned against heaven, and before thee
The children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a sacrifice
I have just recounted how God is committed to preserving our agency, and because of that has given us the very power with which we all abandon Him. And at times I find that very incredulous. Of course we will go astray if given so much freedom! The scriptures are full of stories of people that did exactly this: Adam and Eve, Cain, Judas, King David, and Samson to name a few. Each of these people used their agency to depart from God. Each of them were near to him, but then they chose to leave.
And this pattern is inevitable. So long as we have no reason to stray we will stay, but all of us do have reasons to turn faithless at some point or another. And then we have verses like the above. Verses of people lost and far from their God.
And he arose, and came to his father
Afterward shall the children of Israel return
But it is shortsighted to suggest that that is the end of the story. For every tale of departure is open to a sequel of return. And while some will not come back, many do. And so the scriptures also have stories about Jonah, Peter, Saul turned Paul, Alma the Elder, Alma the Younger, and the Israelites when they rebuilt the temple and committed to follow the Lord anew.
And when people come back to God, they do it with that same freedom that they used to leave Him in the first place. The freedom that is given and preserved by God. They do not return because He made them do it, they do it because they chose to. And this was His intention all along.
When I feel cynical that all the world will forever abandon God I realize that He has greater faith in humanity than I do! Where I hold doubt in my brothers and my sisters and myself He believes. Where I believe that one who is lost is lost forever He says, “let us wait and see.”