Wouldn’t you get a little nervous if your high school counselor suddenly and unexpectedly called you into the office?
You’d especially be nervous if you were Richard Aballay, a senior at a Catholic seminary in New York City. Richard had seen the LDS commercials on TV, had contacted the missionaries, and was baptized. He hadn’t yet mentioned it to anyone at the school, where boys are preparing to become Catholic priests.
“How are you doing in your subjects?” the counselor began politely on that fateful day in late October.
“Fine,” said Richard, cautiously.
Then the counselor jumped to his real concern. “Are you affiliated with another church?”
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
“I have come to know the Savior better in this church. I know this church is doing more for me. It is the church of God.”
As the counselor began to lecture, warning Richard that being a member of a different church was grounds for dismissal, Richard thought how easy it would be to say he’d made it all up. Then he could finish his senior year in peace.
“But I couldn’t do that,” Richard said later. “You can’t deny the truth when you have it.”
By the next day it was official: Richard had to leave.
The following week was torment, Richard said. But with much prayer, his family was able to find space for him in another good school.
“From that experience,” Richard says, “I have learned that the Lord will never abandon me.”
In fact, it gave Richard the chance to tell more people about the gospel, since his classmates wanted to know why he would leave school for his new beliefs.
Being dismissed from school is not the only challenge Richard has faced. He’s grown up in the Bronx, a borough of New York City. It’s not an easy place to live.
“I know for a fact that if it weren’t for the gospel, I would probably go into something crazy,” he says. “The inner city is hard. But I know the greatest blessing in my life has been the priesthood.
“Ever since I was first ordained a deacon, I noticed a great change. I just felt like the Lord was with me. And I had a confidence—I could walk into my school where kids were doing bad things, and I could say no. It helps keep me straight. I’m always saying to myself, ‘I want to honor the priesthood.’”
The gospel has helped him in other ways, too. One is that since he joined the Church, Richard has been able to overcome a speech impediment. Before receiving the Holy Ghost, “I could not say a word in public,” Richard said. Now he blesses the sacrament, talks in church, and has taken roles in two road shows. “It’s like it says in Ether 12:27. My weakness became a strength,” he says.
Richard also used to party a lot. But, after the last bash, he said, “I saw things there and I didn’t feel right. For some funny reason I knew I didn’t belong there.”
He left the party and vowed to become more involved in things like service, schoolwork, studying the scriptures, listening to good music, and not to watch so much television.
“It’s hard,” he says. “I’m a teenager. I like to keep up with things going on outside. I don’t want to be a social hermit. But I feel that if I’m going to go on a mission, and if I’m going to get married in the temple, and if I’m going to receive callings, I know I have to be worthy.”
Many of his friends think this is a strange road to take. They also think it’s a little weird that he decided to attend BYU, a school where there aren’t many Hispanics. “I like a challenge,” Richard explained.
That decision is typical of him. “I don’t care what other people think of me. It’s what my Heavenly Father thinks of me, it’s what my mom thinks of me, it’s what I think of myself,” he says.
Even though it sometimes seems that his trials have increased since he joined the Church, Richard says, “I know God really has his hand working in my life. You have to go through a lot to learn what’s good and what’s bad, and to appreciate what you have instead of wanting more.”