Nestled on the southern edge of New Jersey are several small towns. Many of the families here earn their living from the sea. The Cape May Lighthouse guides the fishing boats and ferries around the dangerous rocks and shoals. Just as the lighthouse leads boats to safety, Chandler and Michael Altieri trust the gospel light to guide them past spiritual rocks and shoals.
Sister Christine Altieri joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when she was ten years old. Although she did not marry a Church member, her husband, John, supported her in her beliefs. One by one their children were born: Corie (15), Lauren (13), Brittany (12), Michael (10), Chandler (7), Ty (5), Abigail (2), and Drew (11 months). Their family shared a lot of happiness and love. But one thing was missing: Dad had never joined the Church. He attended regularly and participated as fully as he could without being a member. But his family wanted him to become a member so that they could be sealed together as an eternal family.
Michael was going on eight. His dad had never had the opportunity to give a name and a priesthood blessing to or baptize any of his children. A few months before his birthday, Michael decided that, “All I want for my birthday is for Dad to baptize me.” Michael, his mother, brother, and sisters fasted and prayed harder than ever that their father would decide to join the Church and be able to baptize Michael.
Weeks passed, then months. “We kept praying and praying and praying,” Michael recalled. The week before he turned eight, his mother said, “It didn’t work. We need to talk to the branch president about your baptism and who will perform it.”
“But Mom, we’re praying, we’re praying.”
The next Sunday Brother Altieri volunteered to talk to the branch president about Michael getting baptized and to take care of all the details.
In sacrament meeting, the family was stunned with joy when the branch president announced an upcoming baptism—not Michael’s, but his father’s! The family’s prayers had been answered! Brother Altieri was baptized that week, and the following week, Michael’s dream was realized when his father baptized him. Michael said, “I had really wanted him to baptize me, and it finally happened. It felt really good.”
Chandler had also prayed that her dad would be baptized. She is now looking forward to her own baptism. “I want to be baptized so that the Holy Ghost will be with me.” She is preparing to be baptized by listening to President Gordon B. Hinckley and following his counsel. “I try to choose the right and to be kind to others.”
The Altieri family was later sealed together in the Washington D.C. Temple. “When we were sealed, Mom and Dad had to go somewhere for about three hours,” Michael remembered. “We stayed in this nursery place. We picked out white clothes and put them on. A temple lady showed us a movie that explained what being sealed was all about. At first she put in the wrong film. It was in Spanish. I thought maybe we needed to learn to speak Spanish. But then she put in the film in English. After the film, we went into the sealing room. Some other people were there, even the stake president. Then we were sealed, and I was so happy!”
Chandler still has the white ribbon she wore in her hair that day in the temple. “We were sealed so that we can be together for all eternity.”
Besides seeing his family sealed together, Michael has another hope—of becoming a champion wrestler. He’s been undefeated for three years in his weight and age division in the South New Jersey Wrestling Association. But sometimes he has to make tough choices between two things he loves—wrestling and the Church.
A few years ago, a very important tournament was coming up. Michael’s parents thought that the tournament was on a Saturday, and he signed up to go. When they found out it was on a Sunday, his father asked him if he still wanted to be in the tournament. Although he knew that his team was counting on him to score some team points for it, he said, “Well then, I can’t go.” He explained, “It’s hard not to go to Sunday tournaments, but I don’t, because it’s against a commandment. And I’ve had a lot of blessings.” Since making that decision the first time, not competing on Sundays has been easier. And his decision has showed others that he lives what he believes.
Chandler also lives what she believes. Not long ago her family was fostering a dog they called Puppy. Puppy had been mistreated the first nine months of his life, then was taken away from the people who mistreated him. But he was now skittish and frightened of people. Before he could be adopted, he had to learn to trust people and to get along with children. Teaching him that was what the Altieri family volunteered to do.
One day, he got loose and ran away. “We looked and looked for him,” Sister Altieri said, “but we couldn’t find him. Some of us got in the car to go looking for him. As I was driving, Chandler said a prayer, asking Heavenly Father to help us find Puppy. We had driven miles, and I thought that we’d never see the dog again. We turned down a road that ran along railroad tracks. Beside the tracks were thick woods. And by the railroad track, we could just see this head sticking up—it was Puppy! I’ll never forget it.”
Mom said how amazed she was that they found Puppy. “But we said a prayer, Mom,” was Chandler’s simple reply. She knows that Heavenly Father answers her prayers. Eventually Puppy learned to trust people and to play with children, and he was adopted by a good family.
Michael tries to be like Jesus by staying out of bad situations. “Sometimes my friends go back into the woods, but I don’t go. They do things back in there that I don’t want to do, like shooting off firecrackers (which is illegal), starting fires, and smoking.” One fire that was started in the woods came right up to the back of the Altieri property before it could be put out. “I tell my friends, ‘Let’s not go.’ Sometimes they listen to me, and sometimes they don’t. But I won’t go.”
Both Michael and Chandler strive to follow the gospel light as they make their way through life’s sea of choices. And by their examples they try to help others find the way, too.