Standing as a witness of truth takes on new meaning when everything at your high school is connected to religion—a religion other than your own. Not only does it mean being an example of how Latter-day Saints believe and act, but it also means respecting the beliefs of others and rejoicing in the truths you share.
For Lara Wolford, 18, Cameron Cabe, 18, and his younger sister, Jenna Cabe, 16, standing up for the truth they know is part of daily life. They attend Lehman High School in Sidney, Ohio, where the curriculum is Catholic, as are most of the students and faculty. Lara, Cameron, and Jenna, who are members of the Sidney Ward, Dayton Ohio East Stake, join their fellow students for weekly mass (worship services) and daily religion classes where the Bible is the textbook.
While being “different” has its difficulties, at a school where religion is a major focus, these teens have learned that having all eyes on you is a great way to teach by example.
“A lot of my friends and some of my teachers have told me that they respect how I stand up for what I believe in,” says Lara. “They know how I live and that I won’t lower my standards.”
That attention can sometimes lead to interesting opportunities to share the gospel. “I have one friend in particular who asks a lot of questions about the Church, so I gave him a Book of Mormon and a Finding Faith in Christ video for Christmas,” says Lara. But it didn’t end there. “When my other friends found out about that, they all wanted one!” Lara happily provided copies of the Book of Mormon to anyone who asked.
“They kept them in their lockers or book bags, and would pull them out and read them if they had some free time. One friend pulled his out in religion class one day to answer a question about Mormons.”
Cameron and Jenna’s mother, Darla, witnessed the result of Lara’s missionary work. She says, “One day I walked in the front door of the school to pick up Cameron from an after-school activity. Three non-LDS students who were waiting in the lobby for their rides were sitting there reading the Book of Mormon! When I asked them about it, they said that they had some questions and had decided to read it for themselves.”
Cameron used another student’s question about his beliefs as an opportunity to gain a sure testimony for himself. In his freshman year someone asked how he could believe that Joseph Smith really saw what he claimed to have seen. Cameron studied the history of the Church and began reading the scriptures every night. He explains what happened a little while later when that student asked him the same question again:
“He said, ‘Don’t you think that’s silly that something like that happened so close to the present time?’ And I said, ‘No, I don’t think it’s silly. I think it’s great.’ Later on, he told me that he ended up having more respect for me and other LDS students because of that.”
Lara has also had frequent opportunities to bear her testimony as she explains her beliefs to friends. “I share my testimony a lot, because when I am answering questions about why we do this or why we believe this, my testimony just comes out. It’s the best way to answer!”
Besides bearing her testimony, Jenna likes to be prepared. “I always have a copy of the Book of Mormon, a For the Strength of Youth pamphlet, and a copy of the Articles of Faith in my backpack so that if anyone ever asks questions, I can show it to them.”
Lara, Cameron, and Jenna have had many opportunities to share what they know, but attending a Catholic high school has also given them the chance to learn more about the beliefs of others.
Since Lara also attended a Catholic elementary school, she and her classmates have had plenty of time to get to know one another’s beliefs. “Over the 11 years that I’ve gone to Catholic school, there has always been a mutual respect between me and my classmates. We enjoy our similarities and respect our differences. I think the greatest form of respect is showing a sincere love for each other.”
Cameron, Lara, and Jenna try to show respect for their classmates’ religion by praying when they do at mealtime and by joining them in prayer before classes. They have also participated in Catholic mass as part of the school’s choir and orchestra. Jenna says of the weekly mass held each Friday at the school, “We don’t say the [Catholic] prayers with them, but we respect them. We stand when they stand and are reverent.”
And their classmates have returned the favor. Lara says, “They have prayed for my family during their school masses. When my brother was on his mission, they prayed for him that he would have a successful mission.”
While some of their beliefs are different, Cameron, Lara, and Jenna have appreciated seeing the truth observed by other faithful people and in the process have learned more about their own religion.
Cameron says answering difficult questions about the Church has made him pay more attention in seminary so that he has answers ready. “It makes me ask a lot of questions so that I understand it. It’s a learning experience for me, also.”
Seeing his friend’s reactions when he tells them he’s a priest has also made him appreciate the priesthood he holds. “They think it’s interesting that someone my age can be a priest,” he says. “It’s more of a responsibility, but it’s good because it makes me want to be on my best behavior even more.”
For the LDS students at Lehman High School, sharing the gospel and respecting their friends of other religions go hand in hand. Lara says, “I have a strong respect for anyone who lives their religion, and it gives me an opportunity to see what my friends believe and an opportunity to share what I believe.”
While attending a parochial (private religious) high school is a unique experience, Lara believes that when it comes to standing for truth, what really matters is inside your heart, not your high school.
“It doesn’t matter whether you go to parochial or public school,” she says. “It is easy to be LDS in high school anywhere if you have your own testimony.”