A few weeks before school started, I was sitting on the porch with my friends Grace and Ron when the discussion turned to how much Grace disliked her father. This wasn’t a new topic for her.
“He always embarrasses me in public just by being there. It is just so annoying when he always …” She went on to talk about her father’s failings and how he wasn’t living up to her expectations.
Ron decided he would take over the conversation by talking about his family and how he didn’t think his mom was home enough and that he didn’t like the way she dressed. He didn’t think he should have a curfew or that his dad should yell so much.
The whole time I just sat on the porch swing waiting for them to ask me what I didn’t like about my family. I couldn’t say I didn’t love my family. Moving five times in my lifetime had given my brother, sister, and me really tight bonds. We depended on each other and stuck up for one another. Our closeness was something my mother was very proud of.
Then Grace said, “What about your family, Scott?”
I didn’t say anything for a minute. I was choosing my words carefully, knowing the things I said would represent what I believe in. When I finally spoke, I felt the Spirit guiding my words. There were no interruptions from either of them as I spoke of how much my family means to me and that I hope to spend eternity with them. I encouraged them to be more patient with their families. I told them to look at the big picture.
I ran inside the house and got my copy of the proclamation on the family by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. I read to them the seventh paragraph, focusing mostly on what qualities we should base our family relationships on: “Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities” (Liahona, Oct. 1998, 24).
After reading that, I said, “This is what my family believes. This is what we want to be and are striving for. I know if I can do all that, then I will be able to stand tall on the Judgment Day with my family, knowing we are going to live together forever.”
I didn’t know how well my friends took this information because of a long pause from both of them. We just sat there for a while, pondering what had been said.
Later a thousand thoughts went through my mind. I was proud I was preparing for a mission by sharing the Church’s teachings on families with my friends. But was I doing it appropriately? And what would they think if I tried to explain more about the gospel?
As I was getting ready for bed, I flipped through my scriptures and turned to section 4 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Here we are told if we serve the Lord in missionary service “with all [our] heart, might, mind and strength,” then we “may stand blameless before God at the last day” (D&C 4:2).
Of course, my friends and I still have our disagreements. But I realized no one ever loses a true friend just by talking about religion and beliefs. Although Grace and Ron didn’t join the Church, I have continued my friendship with them. It felt good to explain my beliefs to them. Just because they didn’t immediately change what they believed about families or religion didn’t matter. I know there are hundreds of stories about the value of perseverance in missionary service. Mine may end up one of them.