I recently read a post asking for advice for a prospective convert hoping to get baptized but fearing the rejection of family. Having gone through the same process myself five years ago, I hope that my words will be meaningful and helpful to her and to those in a similar position.
1) It is worth it!
One of my favorite scriptures as a weighed baptism, and the even more difficult choice to serve a mission is one that is found in three of the four Gospels (not found in John) in slightly different forms. The one in Mark has become my favorite:
29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,
30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.
The Version in Mark is somewhat unique because it is the only one that promises that we will receive a hundredfold “now in this time” and also in “the world to come.” I have a personal and abounding testimony that this is true. My heart is filled with gratitude when I contemplate all that I have gained as a result of my choice to join the Church of Jesus Christ and embrace the Gospel. Everything dear to me today (my wife, my opportunities at law school and my testimony) are a result of that decision that I made almost five years ago to have faith and to enter the waters of baptism. I promise you and the Lord promises you that any sacrifice you make will be repaid abundantly here and even more so in the eternities.
2) The Gospel is True – Keep your testimony burning bright
I love the words of another ostracized recent convert to President Hinckley: “It’s True, Isn’t it? Then What Else Matters?” This saying has been my guiding star since I first gained my testimony of the Gospel and the Church.
I am blessed to have gained a powerful testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have written about my experiences extensively and others have commented on my conversion as well. I came away with that experience with a deep and certain witness. However, over the months that I had to wait before baptism and in the trying months immediately after my baptism, I had to keep that testimony current and fresh. My witness was a gift from heavenly father, but I had to treasure and nurture that gift in order to stay strong. I had to make the decision to read the scriptures, pray, visit the temple, and do everything that I could to renew my witness.
With a firm testimony, I could withstand all the trials in the way. When I let my testimony weaken, I could feel Satan making inroads and causing me to doubt and question the witness that I had received. Above all, do whatever you need to keep your testimony firm.
3) Keep an eternal perspective
While on my mission, my father got especially upset about the fact that I had done temple work for my mother. He told me that he would no longer talk to me. It was right around mother’s day and one of the two times of the year when I could actually call him. I felt probably more down and depressed than I had ever felt. Then, I arranged to talk to my sister instead of my father and she spent the whole conversation criticizing me for how upset I had made my father. I fell to my knees and cried out to God, and as I did so I felt the comforting presence of the spirit. It prompted me to open my scriptures and lo and behold I opened to the Psalms (Psalm 27) and read verses that I had never before seen:
…As I read the tenth verse, I felt filled with an incredible sense of peace and comfort. No matter what happened between my father and myself, things would work out as long as I followed the Lord. I was doing the things necessary to ensure that my family (both present and future) could enjoy eternal happiness. I was preparing the way for my family. One day, either in this life of the next they will come to know the truth. One day, they will remember my example, my testimony, my faith. What mattered was that I continued faithful and didn’t back down. In the eternal scheme of things, having an upset father or sister hurt, but was nothing compared to the bliss I know we will all one day feel.
I was inspired by another prophecy by Isaiah (Isaiah 58):
12 And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.
Above all, seek the eternal perspective that comes from the temple, from scripture study, from partaking of the sacrament. Remember the long view of things. Don’t lose sight of God’s plan of salvation and his infinite mercy and compassion.
4) Be Optimistic and see the good in those you care about
I can’t promise miraculous instant results. My father and family are not members and still show no interest in learning about the Church. However, I have noticed that over time, there has been a softening and an acceptance of me and my faith. Above all, our families care for us and want us to be happy. They fight against our joining the Church because they believe it is against our interest. Time is the best remedy to show that they are wrong. Live the gospel faithfully and let the light of the spirit shine and they will notice it. They may never be able to put words to it, but they will see the joy that living the gospel brings to you.
I can’t say things between my father and me are perfect, but I am grateful that the Lord has given me a spirit of love and compassion throughout it all. I have learned patience, humility and charity because of my experience. I am grateful that on my mission even as my dad sent angry e-mails, the Lord blessed me with his spirit and helped me respond with positive affirmations of love and affection.
I promise that if you continue faithfully, your love for even those that mock or oppose your choices will grow. You will be filled with the spirit and become more like the savior. It will not be easy, but it will be completely worth it.
From one who has been down this path, I pray that the spirit will be with you and that God will guide your steps. I pray that you will have the faith to follow him even when it is difficult and even when the road ahead seems dark.
I pray that you will embody the words of one of my favorite hymns:
1. Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom;Lead thou me on!The night is dark, and I am far from home;Lead thou me on!Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to seeThe distant scene–one step enough for me.
It is worth it, and the savior will be with you along the way. He will neither leave nor forsake you.