When I was 12, I never dreamed that I would have to defend my belief in the Church. After all, I lived in a predominantly Latter-day Saint community, and most everyone I knew believed the same things I did. I didn’t anticipate the heated discussion I would have with my brother while he was on leave from his military duties. I wasn’t prepared to deal with the situation, and I finally left the room crying.
Since then, I’ve learned a lot about getting along with family members who don’t believe the same things I do. Here are some of the things that have helped me keep the peace without compromising my beliefs:
Remember courtesy. No matter where they stand on religious issues, it is important to treat all family members with kindness and love—serve them, communicate with them, and include them in family discussions and decisions.
Include family members in all family activities, even if those activities are Church related. For many years my brother refused to have anything to do with our religious activities, but now he wants to be invited to weddings, baby blessings, and other activities. Those with other beliefs still want to feel welcome, even if they don’t accept an invitation.
Use challenging questions to build your testimony. As hard as it was to answer my brother’s questions about the Church, I was determined to know for certain that what I had been taught was true. I studied the scriptures and asked my Church leaders and parents many questions until I gained a firm testimony of the gospel.
Do not avoid religious topics. Because the Church is so much a part of the life of a Latter-day Saint, avoiding the subject of religion may make family members feel as though you’re keeping secrets from them. In your conversations, include personal experiences that relate to the Church.
Seek to understand their point of view. I used to think my brother was always wrong, but when I started to look at things from his perspective, I was surprised. How would I feel if I couldn’t attend my little sister’s wedding? How would I feel if I didn’t understand some of the language my family members often used? If I were him, I might also sometimes react negatively to such things.
Take responsibility for mistakes. I used to argue with my brother or attack his beliefs. When I was finally mature enough to realize I was in the wrong, I apologized, and my relationship with my brother has never been better. You never need to apologize for your beliefs, just for actions that are not in keeping with the gospel.
Avoid contention. The Spirit will not stay where there is contention. If the Spirit is gone, opportunities for learning and growth are also gone.
Encourage those of other faiths in their own religious activities. Although we believe our Church to have the fulness of the gospel, many truths are taught in other churches. And where our views differ, we should still respect the religious views of others. Be as supportive of your family members’ righteous and wholesome religious activities as you want them to be of yours.
The Importance of Example
“Our adherence to these divinely given standards need never be an offensive thing to those about us. We need not contend with them. But if we will pursue a steady course, our very example will become the most effective argument we could ever make in favor of the virtues of the cause with which we are associated.” President Gordon B. Hinckley, “Contend Not with Others,” Tambuli, Nov. 1989, 4.