One night when I was 17 years old I knelt beside my bed and sincerely asked Heavenly Father for my own testimony. I prayed, “Heavenly Father, if I’m going to do this I have to feel something.” After I said that I could feel something I never felt before, reassurance. I suddenly knew without a doubt not only that this was the one true church but that I had to start working to be baptized. I began to cry not just because of the answer I had received but because I knew it meant I would lose my dad.
I’m from a part member family. Growing up my mom was active in the LDS church but my dad was Catholic and opposed to my siblings and I having anything to do with the church. I knew without a doubt my dad would not accept me joining the church, but I had to act on the answer I’d been given.
I remember the night the chasm in our relationship was made. I came home Saturday night from work and boldly asked my dad if I could go to church with my mom. His whole demeanor stiffened up as he sternly replied “No, you need to go to church.” He was right, I needed to go to church, just not his church. After that Sunday I stopped going to his church and he stopped talking to me.
This continued for several years. As I progressed in the gospel it felt like my dad and I would never be on good terms again. When I first left for college and came home on the weekends he started to become a little more open to me. I was elated and thought that maybe his disapproval was a small phase and we could move on. But as he realized that I was heading back to college Saturday nights so I could attend my ward he stopped talking to me once again.
When anyone investigates or joins the church they are bound to lose someone. Often times you lose family that don’t understand or approve of the choices you are making. This is quite possibly the hardest aspect of becoming a member. Heavenly Father’s gospel centers on families, and we know these relations are meant to last forever. So when your own family stops accepting you it can feel like a piece of your soul is missing.
It took years before my dad and I were able to repair our relationship. In those years that he refused to be in my life I felt pain I never thought possible. But in those difficult years I learned how to keep going in the gospel even when the ones you love seem to stop loving you.
Cling to the moments that built your testimony
When I was taking my discussions to be baptized I broke down and admitted that despite keeping a happy exterior it was hard not to let my family situation get me down. In those times I was encouraged to think back to the night that I received an answer from Heavenly Father, and to continuously act upon those feelings no matter how long ago they had occurred. It’s been over 6 years since that fateful night, and I have had many spiritual experiences since, but in times of distress I remind myself of the powerful answer I got and how it is as important now to me as it was then.
Remember, your family isn’t perfect but the Savior’s love for you is
When your family rejects you for your belief in the gospel there will undoubtedly be points in your life when you feel worthless. I remember working through college trying to be the best and brightest in hopes that it would get my dad to act as if he still cared for me. But no matter how many times I made the Dean’s list or won honors it didn’t change him.
Those feelings of worthlessness brought on by my situation didn’t stop until I learned to embrace my Savior’s love for me. Christ suffered and died for me so that I would never have to feel alone or inadequate, and he did this for you too. Romans 8:39 tells us, “Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Even if you feel distanced from your family’s love you are never separated from Christ’s love.
Love One Another
The first and greatest commandment is to love God above all else, the second is to love one another (John 13:34). How hard is it to love family that is acting as if they don’t love you? Very, very hard. But love is what brings the mighty change of heart.
About three years after my dad and I had stopped speaking the missionaries challenged me to show him love. I had no idea how I would accomplish this until one day I was having car problems and was forced to call him for advice. He coldly told me what I needed to do over the phone. As he finished I blurted out, “Thanks Dad, love you!” He quickly said, “Ok.” and hung up on me. My first attempt to show love felt like a failure. But through earnest prayer I was blessed with another opportunity to show love when my car was broken into a week later.
When my dad had found out my misfortune he called me to make sure I was alright. I told him I was okay and that I loved him. He said thanks and hung up on me, but he quickly called back. He said he was sorry that my car was broken into and that he loved me too. I hadn’t heard him say those words in over three years, it took everything in me not to start crying over the phone. From then on I began to try and visit home more often, even if our atmosphere was awkward at first. I even volunteered to go to Catholic Mass with him (if it didn’t interfere with me going to sacrament) because I knew how much it would mean to him. I slowly started taking initiative to show my dad that I cared.
No matter how much it may hurt, you are going to have to show your family more love than they show you if you want things to change.
When I received my answer to join the church six years ago I knew I would lose my dad, but I never imagined I would get him back. I would even say our relationship is better now than it had been before I joined the church. If your family opposes the church please don’t let it keep you from acting upon your feelings to be baptized or to continue to be a faithful member. I can’t promise you that your family will change as you stay strong. What I can promise is that Heavenly Father is a God of miracles, and that miracles often come through obedience and diligence, especially in the toughest of circumstances.