In my family I am the only active, committed member of the Church. My mother and sister have been inactive for years, and my father is not a member. They are not openly hostile, but they have asked the home teachers to stop coming; so I am their only potentially positive contact with the Church. However, since I am away at school I doubt that they have a very clear idea of just how the gospel affects my life.
My rare visits home have become all-too-brief opportunities to strengthen our weak family ties, and I want very much for us to be able to communicate better on all levels. Upon my arrival home this time, my parents announced their intention to take me out to dinner Sunday evening.
I asked them if we could go out an hour later, after church, or even another day, and they somewhat resentfully offered to cancel their plans instead. I know that the gospel emphasizes the importance of the family, and I certainly don’t want to alienate them further from the Church. Yet, lowering my standards by skipping sacrament meeting “just this once” could be detrimental to them as well as to myself. What should I do?
“This same experience happened to a very close friend of mine this summer. The only difference was that both of his parents were members. Following sacrament meeting one day, his father offered to take him and his wife out to dinner.
“His father did not make the offer to be antagonistic. He just didn’t have a full understanding of the Sabbath day. Without making excuses and in a loving manner, my friend and his wife declined the invitation. For awhile they had to endure an atmosphere of ‘harsh silence.’
“But within two weeks’ time I went home teaching with this young man’s father and I heard him give one of the most concerned, spiritual, and uplifting lessons that it has ever been my privilege to witness. And not only that, but when the summer was over and the time to return to college had arrived, my friend’s mother’s testimony and her awareness of his priesthood responsibilities had noticeably increased.
“There is power in obedience to God. One cannot help but be impressed by another’s steadfast convictions.”
“The Lord knows what he is doing. If we put an idol, even if it be our family, between us and the Lord, it will be for the worse in the long run. The college student should go to sacrament meeting. Through his keeping the commandments, the Lord will be able to bless his family as well as bless the young man with an influence of such sweet spirit that the positive effect on his family when he is with them will be much greater than the influence of two hours he spends with them while suffering from the uneasy feeling of not keeping a direct commandment of the Lord. (See D&C 59:12.)”
“I had a similar experience once when I was visiting my friend after Sunday School one day. Around noon her father proceeded to make plans to take the family and me out to lunch. The family members were all active in the Church, but the father wasn’t. I politely refused, saying that I might not be back in time for my next meeting. He assured me that we would be back in time. Then I told him that the Lord has asked us to keep the Sabbath day holy, and I explained that I strive to keep this commandment. He really seemed interested and accepted my answer. Instead of going out we had lunch at home. Just tell your parents that you will not displease the Lord and that you could make a much nicer dinner at home so the family could be alone together.”
San Diego, California
“President Lee once told of a woman in New York who approached him concerning her nonmember husband. Her spouse wanted her to attend parties that were far below Church standards. President Lee advised her that whereas a woman should follow her husband, she need not follow him to hell. The husband, upon hearing this from his wife, was, like your parents, extremely resentful.
“Let your parents know how much you love them and appreciate their offer but also that the Lord has said that sacrament meeting is the most important meeting we have to attend. Being the only member or active member of a family is sometimes a lonely ordeal. But if we seek to do the Lord’s will over the conflicting desires of loved ones who don’t or won’t understand, he will bless us. He certainly blessed the lady from New York. A few months after she had revealed the advice of the prophet, her ‘resentful’ husband was baptized.”
John C. Speer
Westfield Center, Ohio
“This is not a rare situation, and I’m sure there are many who are interested in this circumstance of yours. Your family is very special, not just to you but also to our Heavenly Father. This is an opportunity for you to exercise your moral courage and to stand up for what you believe, or in other words, to teach your family by your example how precious the gospel is to you.
“You are in a tough spot. You love your family, so you want them to be saved, but they don’t want anything to do with the Church. They don’t realize the peril in their course of action. You want to be with your family more, yet you want to be a good Latter-day Saint. I think you should seek God’s wise counsel and then do what seems the most righteous thing. Of course, you don’t always have time to pray about everything that happens. But if you keep in tune as a daily matter, the Lord will bless you in whatever you do because you will want to do right.”
“I found myself in basically the same situation a year ago after I joined the Church. I had quite a time convincing my family that I was still interested in them. When I came home from school, they too wanted me to do things with them on Sundays. They wanted me, for instance, to attend their church. I went to my bishop for advice. He stressed the importance of the family and said that I might have to sacrifice some for their sakes.
“I did just that. I attended whatever meeting I could, whether it was priesthood, Sunday School, or sacrament meeting, and I attended their meeting also, which meant I missed some of mine.
“It was finally my father who told me it wasn’t necessary to attend their meetings any longer. Missing a few meetings didn’t hinder my testimony or give me guilt feelings. My situation at home is a lot better because of my going their way.”
Elder Stanley David Trout
Norway Oslo Mission
“The Lord has told us to let our light so shine that people might see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. If the members of your family turn on you, have faith and remember, blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. As I stated above, your family is precious in the sight of the Lord, and you must let them see your love for the gospel as well as for them. Go to your Father in heaven in earnest prayer and receive of that personal revelation to which you are entitled. Show love and understanding for your family no matter how they feel toward your beliefs. But stay true to the faith in every sense of the word. You’ll not only be blessed, but deep down they’ll respect you for your decision. Sacrament meeting attendance is a commandment of the Lord!”
Forrest J. Helling
Simi Valley, California
“Although I am far past the age of youth, the situation here so touched my heart that I felt duty-bound to reply. Fifteen years ago, when I was 18, I joined the Church. I was at that time and still am the only member of my immediate family who has ever joined.
“Through the years there have been many situations where the easy thing to do would have been to ‘honor my parents’ and do what they said, but I always felt I honored my parents more by strictly adhering to the gospel teachings.
“When I was 21, my husband-to-be, knowing of my family situation, asked where I wanted to be married. I replied that we had been taught to marry in the temple, and although it caused hard feelings at the time, we did just that. My family got over it, and now, 13 years later, when we are trying to teach our children correct principles, we tell them that we were married in the temple and that they should be married there also.
“Over the years we have insisted on being allowed to attend our Church meetings, to pay our tithes and offerings, to fast, and not to party on Sunday, and all of it has had a real effect. Not long ago my mother said to my husband, ‘I think that joining the Church was the best thing Diane ever did.’
“In this particular situation, I think we must consider both the present and the future in our actions. If we want the Church to mean anything to our families, it must mean something to us.”