Some members of my family are not active or are uninterested in the Church. I want them to feel the joy I feel from living the gospel but do not wish to bring contention into the home. How can I help my family come closer to God?
“Love, the pure love of Christ, is what will soften the hearts of your family members,” says Susan Pauvif of the Springvale Ward, Melbourne Australia Braeside Stake. “Do little acts of love and kindness for them. They are children of our Heavenly Father, and He loves them very much.”
“The Lord has been clear: ‘Love one another; as I have loved you’ (John 13:34). Sincere, genuine love is paramount,” says Richard Harris, Silvergate Park Ward, Mesa Arizona Pueblo Stake. “People will respond when they know how much we love them.”
Sister Gayle Iliff of the Wauseon Branch, Toledo Ohio Stake, joined the Church several years ago when she was 32. Her parents accepted her decision to be baptized but with some reservation. Difficulties increased when she became engaged and tried to explain temple marriage to them. They were deeply hurt at not being able to attend the wedding of their only daughter. They refused to hear any more about the Church or its teachings.
Inspiration and opportunity came to Sister Iliff when she was called as a counselor in the branch Young Women presidency. “When I was set apart by the branch president,” she says, “I was blessed that I should use the Personal Progress program as a missionary tool to share the gospel with my family. When I complete a value experience, I present the required materials to my mother or father, and they sign my Personal Progress book. I have been able to read scriptures with them, share hymns and testimony, and demonstrate the service and other good works the Young Women are doing. It has been a wonderful experience to watch my parents’ hearts soften as I share these things with them in such a nonthreatening manner.”
Eric Hicks of the Crestwood First Ward, Louisville Kentucky Stake, suggests we need to “spend more time with our families.” This counsel, he says, “is especially important within families where some are not members of the Church. It is sometimes confusing to them that a church stressing family togetherness would pull a family member into so many activities outside the home. As warm and welcome as we may feel at church, this should never become a substitute for the home.
“In addition to Church activities, it is so easy to get caught up in what some have called ‘the thick of thin things.’ We often find it easy to indulge our own interests or hobbies and leave little time for anyone else. If we want our families to feel close to God, we must become close to them.”
“I am the only member of the Church in my family,” says Gwendolyn Young of the Cameron Ward, Liberty Missouri Stake. “Many times I have had the desire to share the gospel with them, but every time I have tried, it brought only contention.” One day Sister Young was talking on the phone with her father, who is a renal patient. His voice cracked with emotion as he told her of a woman who had decided to give one of her kidneys to her father. Apologizing, he said, “I’m sorry, but every time I hear such a touching story of love I seem to do this.”
“It then hit me,” says Sister Young; “this was an opportunity to teach. So I said: ‘It’s all right, Dad. What you are feeling is the Holy Ghost, who bears record of all truth. You know, it takes a special person to feel the Spirit of the Lord. This is one of the ways God communicates with His children.’ My father knew what I was saying was true because he said, ‘I just felt it again when you said that.’”
Kristy Willhite of the Cottonwood Heights First Ward, Salt Lake Cottonwood Heights Stake, shares an opportunity to teach her nonmember dad about family history work. “As my list of names for temple work grew, I felt I should ask my dad how he would feel if I did the temple work for his parents, grandparents, and other ancestors. When my father expressed some concern, I asked, ‘Do you think people go on living after death?’ Since this was a natural question to be asking when discussing temple work for the dead, neither of us felt awkward, and we were able to have a warm, open conversation about the gospel.”
After joining the Church several years ago, Lenora Crane of the Diamond Valley Branch, Calgary Alberta Foothills Stake, was excited to share her joy with her family but quickly learned they had no interest. “I waited patiently and prayerfully for opportunities when I could explain such concepts as honesty, chastity, and God as universal truths, not just as LDS doctrine. Learning to pray together was a miracle provided by the Lord. When my oldest daughter was distraught over breaking up with her boyfriend, she came to me in tears, not knowing what to do. I told her that if it had happened to me, I would pray to Heavenly Father for help and guidance. She asked, ‘How do I do that?’ While my other daughter listened, we discussed the steps of prayer. My daughter now knows that Heavenly Father answers prayers. Often she will ask me to pray with her at difficult times. Praying at mealtime, in the morning, and in the evening are now a normal part of our lives.”
Rineke de Bruijn of the Amsterdam Ward, The Hague Netherlands Stake, relates: “When I was young, most of my family were not active. One day one of our friends was sealed to her parents. I cried my eyes out, wanting to be sealed to my parents and five siblings. I asked the missionaries to talk to my parents. The results were negative. The missionaries counseled me to pray and be an example to them. Over the years two of us have gone on missions and three married in the temple. In spite of the religious differences, there is a strong bond of love among all of us.”
“Living the gospel is one of the best ways to get someone interested in the Church,” says James Richards of the Spring Branch Ward, Katy Texas Stake. “This allows our family members to see firsthand the fruits that accompany faithfulness: ‘love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance’ (Gal. 5:22–23). As those around us begin to see these fruits, their desire to live the gospel will increase. One of the best ways to set a good example is to love them even when they make choices contrary to the gospel.”
Lois Kullberg of the Salmon Creek Ward, Vancouver Washington West Stake, sends a section of her journal to her adult children monthly, two of whom are less active. “In the journal,” she says, “besides our daily activities, I write about Church meetings we attend, thoughts I can share about attending the temple, bits of lessons we teach and talks we give, and testimony-building experiences. This past year we shared the daily happenings of our Church mission in Toronto, Canada.” She says she tries “in quiet ways to bear testimony of various aspects of the gospel. I know they read the journals. I hope they receive the spiritual messages included.”
Esther J. Henscheid of the Blackfoot Fifth Ward, Blackfoot Idaho South Stake, explains that while her husband is not interested in the Church, they do things to bring each other closer to God. “We have spent considerable time learning about each other’s beliefs through the missionary discussions and the religious education teachers from his church. It is understood that these were not attempts to convert. This has helped us become more sensitive to the beliefs and practices we each consider sacred, and we are less prone to say or do something that would be offensive.”
Soon after Elizabeth Clark of the Stevenage Ward, St. Albans England Stake, was married in the temple, her husband became less active. “I bought him a taped version of the Book of Mormon and tried to convince him he should return to church,” she says. “This only made things worse. Three factors helped turn this situation around. First, I realized I was trying to pray away my husband’s agency. I had to trust my Heavenly Father to a greater extent. Second, I continued to pray and read scriptures with our daughter. This helped me be more of a peacemaker. Some time later, my husband stated that he admired my persistence in prayer and scripture study. Third, we had brilliant home teachers who never gave up. Eventually, he accepted a Church assignment and slowly became active again.”
Janine Simons Creager of the Farmington 18th Ward, Farmington Utah South Stake, says: “It is crucial that we never lose hope that one day our loved ones will accept the gospel. In the case of Alma the Younger, the angel who appeared to him came in response to the pleadings and prayers of his father (see Mosiah 27:14). He and the sons of Mosiah had once rejected the truth. But because of the prayers and example of their families, they were receptive when the time came. President Gordon B. Hinckley has said: ‘You have not failed until you have quit trying. … Remember that your example in your home will be a more persuasive sermon than will any other kind of preachment’” (“Live Up to Your Inheritance,” Ensign, Nov. 1983, 82).