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By Jeff Borders
I’m interest in the Church, but I fear judgement of my family who are Lutheran.
I actually believe that most, if not all converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have had or have similar thoughts and fears. A lot of this comes from misunderstandings about what the Church is, and what is represents, and fearing that they will lose a loved one if investigating the Church.
This strikes very close to home for me as a convert to the Church at 19 years old. I was attending a Presbyterian Church. I was active in the youth group and was even and elder in that church. I was planning to go to school and become a minister or a chaplain in the military. But I had questions and a yearning for more truth that I couldn’t find answers for in the Presbyterian faith that I belonged to. I looked into multiple churches; I studied other religions, looking for what was missing, though I couldn’t quite articulate it.
Then a young women came into my life and through her righteous example, I began to learn about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’d never even bothered to consider the “Mormons.” I didn’t know much about them, but I just knew they were way too weird. But there was something different about this girl. To put it quite plainly, she had such a powerful testimony of Jesus Christ and her divine destiny as a Child of God, that it pulled me in immediately. All the stereotypes and images I had in my head were shattered.
I started meeting with the missionaries and over the course of several weeks I knew that I had found what I was missing. Through a series of very personal revelations in my life, I knew I had to get baptized. But this presented a problem. What would my family and friends think? I heard my great-grandmother was a “Jack Mormon,” but I wasn’t even sure what that meant. My family, friends and even my pastor expressed concern.
I don’t paint my family and friends as bad people. Given the same circumstances and not understanding what my family member might be walking into, I’d be rather nervous too. I would express concern. I might even be angry. Many might have had concerns with my choice, but ultimately I decided that it was about my spiritual growth, not theirs. I had to do what was right for me. Honestly, the hardest week of my life, spiritually, was the week before my baptism. It felt like every power of Hell was conspiring against me, trying to turn me away from my choice. Many converts will tell you the same thing. But my baptism brought a sense of immediate peace to my life. I knew I had done what my Heavenly Father wanted me to do. I felt clean and new.
But this wouldn’t be the end of my journey as the only member in my family.
To say there was no contention would be a lie. It wasn’t easy the first few years. I even had members of my family who didn’t want to come to my wedding reception. I don’t know the reason for it. Maybe it was because they couldn’t be in the temple to see my wife and I be sealed. I could understand that frustration, so we did have a ring ceremony for those who couldn’t be in the temple. Maybe their protest was because of something else. There’s no way to know. I didn’t hate them, but I was puzzled. Couldn’t they see that I was still the same guy? Why can’t they support me? Some questioned my beliefs. Others openly criticized Joseph Smith and the other leaders of the Church. I remember many tense moments with both family and friends.
“Don’t you know Mormons can’t watch TV?”
“Mormons can’t dance or listen to music?”
“You do weird stuff in the temple.”
“You aren’t Christian. You are being deceived by Satan.”
Trust me, I heard it all.
I did my best to show my family that the Church I joined worshiped the Savior. We believed in the strength in families and value of service to the community. We believed in bettering ourselves and trying our best to become like Jesus Christ. I wasn’t going to run off to some compound somewhere, never to be heard from again. I was staying in Spokane. I would still come to family gatherings. I wasn’t going to try to force my religion on anyone else.
After a while I think my family started to recognize something. I hadn’t changed. I wasn’t lost to them. A cult hadn’t trapped me. I was the same Jeff I had always been. Just as goofy. Still fun loving. But my faith in the Savior was stronger than ever. I was able to open up to them and share some of my thoughts and hardships. Relationships which were strained were mended. I even had an apology call from the person who chose not to come to my wedding reception.
In the end I have a very strong relationship with my family. My parents have even taken the discussions from the missionaries to better understand the things we are teaching our children. My parents and grandparents regularly come to church to see the kids or I sing. My dad has helped with the Scouting program and made some friends within the Church. It isn’t unusual for them to ask me a question about the Church, which I am grateful for, so we can sit and discuss it. I love my family. I love that they loved me enough to be concerned for me. I love that we can heal and move on together. I am reminded that we will always be family, no matter what happens in life.
I can’t promise you won’t have trials and face judgment and persecution for your choices, unfortunately that is a part of mortality and the road of a disciple of Jesus Christ. Prayer will be your greatest tool. Remember, it is ultimately about your personal and spiritual growth, no matter what you choose.