I was trapped.
At 18, I knew the Church was true. The Lord knew I knew. The missionaries knew I knew. But my parents didn’t know I knew.
It took me three weeks to work up the courage to tell Mom about it. I didn’t dare tell Dad.
“Mom,” I asked after she had recovered from the shock of hearing that her Catholic son wanted to become a Mormon, “how can I tell Dad?”
She was silent for a moment. “I don’t know if you should. He’d kill you,” she said, confirming my fears. “But don’t worry,” she added. “I’ll tell him someday.”
“But, Mom, I want to get baptized as soon as possible.”
“If you wait until you go to college,” she said, “you’ll be away from your father, and he’ll have time to make adjustments before he sees you again. It really would be much easier on both of you.”
I knew what she was saying made sense, but I didn’t know if it was the right thing to do. I talked to the elders.
“It’s your decision,” said one elder. “Of course we’d like you to get baptized now, while you’ve got the desire and the understanding and the guidance of the Spirit. But you’ve got to do what’s best for you. The only way to be sure,” he said as he patted me on my shoulder, “is to fast and pray about it.”
I had never fasted or prayed in my life, but I was willing to give it a try. My head hurt and my stomach growled, and at every possible chance I prayed and pondered what I should do. I made a list of pros and cons. I talked it over with the elders, my friends, my mom. And I prayed some more.
Finally, near the end of my fast, I had a feeling, a strong feeling, that I should get baptized as soon as possible. I didn’t want to cause problems in my family, but I couldn’t shake that feeling. Heavenly Father had answered my prayers. I knew I had to get baptized.
I told the elders. I told my friends. And then I found the courage to tell my mom and dad. Dad didn’t say anything. He just stared at the floor with his face turning red and his feet shuffling uncomfortably. He was too upset to speak all night. The next evening he did something he’d never done before—he came up to my room to talk with me. I was sure my life was over, but Dad surprised me.
“Son,” he said, sitting on my brother’s bed, “I want you to know that I think you’re making a serious mistake by joining the Mormon church. But you’re old enough now to do what you think is best. When I was your age, I was allowed to make my own decisions, and I guess I turned out okay.”
He stood up to leave. “Dad,” I said, “believe me. I’m sorry that you don’t feel good about my joining the Church. But I’ve thought about it, prayed about it, and I know it’s what I’ve got to do.”
Then Dad did something else he’d never done before. He hugged me.
I was baptized the next week. My baptism fanned the spark of testimony I had gained from the missionary discussions into a fire that burns bright even today.
My experience taught me that Heavenly Father answers our prayers and that some answers don’t come easily. When the answers do come, blessings will follow if we find the courage and strength to act on them.