Sharing the Gospel with Dad


Dad grew up in the eastern United States. Mom grew up in a Latter-day Saint home in Utah. They met while working in California and dated for several months. When Dad moved back to his parents’ home, he missed Mom and sent for her. Little did he realize how his decision to marry a Latter-day Saint would affect the rest of his life.

Because both Mom and Dad loved their families, it was hard for them to decide where to live. When my brother and I were young, our family moved back and forth between Utah and the East Coast several times. When we lived in the East, Dad would sometimes drive us to a nearby town so we could attend the LDS branch. He did not feel comfortable going in with us, so he waited in the car.

In good weather we would find a large shade tree to sit under after church, and Dad would get the picnic basket out of the car. As we ate, Mom would encourage my brother and me to tell Dad what we had learned in sacrament meeting.

When we moved west to live near Mom’s family, we went to church more often. Although we no longer had picnics, we enjoyed wonderful meals around the dinner table. Each Sunday we would tell Dad what we had learned in church.

Not until my brother and I were older did we realize how much we were missing because Dad did not come to church with us. We realized if we wanted him to go with us, he would need to be taught and baptized. Thus began our relentless efforts to share the gospel with Dad. But as the months stretched into years, we sometimes wondered if he would ever be baptized.

When I was nine, another brother was born into our family. Once again, Dad heard all the Primary lessons at the dinner table. By now, Dad was attending church with us once in a while. He would even invite the missionaries over for meals and listen to the discussions. But he would not commit to baptism.

When my older brother was called on a mission, we realized our little band of sibling missionaries would be sorely depleted. “Don’t worry,” my brother reassured us. “I’ll keep working on Dad from the mission field.” He was true to his word. In almost every letter he sent home, he was full of missionary zeal and would ask the golden question. “Dad,” he would write, “when are you going to be baptized?” But although Dad took the missionary discussions over and over, he still didn’t feel ready.

When I turned 21, I received a mission call to Uruguay. I wrote home every week, and I always included positive missionary experiences. Then I would talk about the baptisms we had had and ask, “Dad, when are you going to be baptized?”

On the day I turned 22, I received a birthday card with a message from Mom. “Your father is taking the missionary lessons again,” she wrote. “This time, he has committed to baptism!”

From then on, whenever a letter arrived from home, I fully expected to learn that Dad had been baptized. But the news did not come. And then I received a brief note from Mom: “Your father has decided not to be baptized at this time.” My heart sank. What had gone wrong? Had something in one of my letters caused Dad to back away? Over the next several months, I prayed a great deal for him. I kept writing, encouraging him to stay in contact with the missionaries.

Six months later, I received a startling message: “You are to call home immediately.” Alarmed, my companion and I ran all the way to the offices where international calls could be made. A telephone operator instructed me to wait in a phone booth while she placed the call for me.

When the phone rang, I picked it up. My mother was on the line. “What’s the matter?” I asked, panicked.

“Sheila,” she responded, in an excited and very happy voice, “your father was baptized today. He woke up this morning and said, ‘I want to be baptized. Will you call the bishop and ask him if it’s all right to do it today?’ So I called the bishop, and he arranged everything.” My older brother had performed the ordinance in the ward meetinghouse at noon.

As Mom spoke, my fear vanished and my heart filled with gratitude and joy. After all the years of working and waiting and praying, we were finally a complete member family.

[illustration] Illustrated by Michael T. Malm

[photo] Photo illustration by Michael Schoenfeld

Sheila R. Woodard is a member of the Idaho Falls 28th Ward, Idaho Falls Idaho Central Stake.