Many Latter-day Saints, particularly new members, face the important task of learning how to relate positively with family members of other faiths.
Even the Savior had family members who did not share His beliefs. In the Bible we read, “For neither did his brethren believe in him” (John 7:5).
It is not uncommon for family members to have mistaken ideas about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Loving and clear communication can do much to ease any tension that may arise in these situations. I joined the Church when I was a teenager. Shortly after my baptism, I learned that my Catholic grandmother believed I would no longer consider myself her grandson due to my newfound faith. What a relief it was when I was able to clear up this misunderstanding!
We can strengthen our relationships with each other by demonstrating that the teachings of the gospel are intended to strengthen all families, regardless of individual beliefs. Many of these teachings are expressed in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” which states, “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.” 1
Any family that lives by these principles will gather the fruits thereof. I have seen how these principles—particularly respect, love, and prayer—have blessed my own part-member family.
After the initial strain and misunderstandings that stemmed from my conversion to the Church, my family members and I learned to apply tolerance and respect in our relationships with each other. For example, once I became a Latter-day Saint, I participated in different Sunday activities. Instead of playing soccer, I attended church. When my family members realized why I changed my Sunday activities, they showed understanding and respect. In the same way, I was respectful of their traditions. For instance, I did not criticize my parents for not having family prayer. Mutual respect has been very important in our family.
The Book of Mormon emphasizes the principles of tolerance and respect. In Alma 1:21 we read, “Now there was a strict law among the people of the church, that there should not any man, belonging to the church, arise and persecute those that did not belong to the church, and that there should be no persecution among themselves.”
Alma taught the following principle in the great city of Zarahemla. He asked, “Is there one among you that doth make a mock of his brother, or that heapeth upon him persecutions?” (Alma 5:30). Then he stated that a person who does so needs to repent: “Wo unto such an one, for he is not prepared, and the time is at hand that he must repent or he cannot be saved!” (Alma 5:31). Respect for our family members’ differing religious beliefs is essential.
The principle of love also contributes tremendously to good rapport with our family members. As the Book of Mormon teaches: “Charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all” (Moroni 7:46).
We can show Christlike charity for our family members by focusing on the good in their lives. I feel deep gratitude and love for my parents, who are not members of the Church. They taught me righteous principles by example and precept, enabling me to recognize the truth of the missionaries’ message. Realizing that fact has helped me love my parents even more deeply.
We can bless the lives of our family members by lovingly sharing with them those principles that could be added to the good they already have. If they do not agree with some teachings, we must respect their beliefs while not compromising our own. In cases of disagreement, let us avoid contending with family members, remembering that “a soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). Anger will only damage our relationships, while love and kindness can help soften hearts. (See 3 Nephi 11:29.)
Sometimes all we can do is pray for our beloved family members—just as they may pray for us. We will always desire that those we love will become members of the Church. We can empathize with the feelings of Alma the Elder, who prayed for his unbelieving son. When an angel appeared to his son, the heavenly messenger explained that his father had prayed for him “with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth” (Mosiah 27:14). Prayer is a mighty instrument to bless the lives of our families. In some cases, it is the only thing we can do.
The principles of love, respect, and prayer are only a few of the many gospel principles we can apply to benefit our families. Truly the teachings of the gospel can bless all of our Heavenly Father’s children, whether or not they are members of the Church of Jesus Christ, for all are deeply loved by Him.
Liahona, Oct. 2004, 49; Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102. Written by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, this prophetic proclamation to the Church and the world spells out the doctrine of the family. It was first read to the public by President Gordon B. Hinckley in the general Relief Society meeting in September 1995.