We’re very active in the Church, but mine is not a particularly religious family. That is to say, we’ll find where the sacrament meeting is wherever we’re vacationing, but we don’t quote scripture to each other in conversation, or note how a particular challenge we’re facing reminds us of something Elder Bednar said in a talk (and can even name the title of the talk). Sometimes I feel I should be more gospel-minded, especially for my daughter. She’s 14 now, and maybe the train’s already left the station, because when I do try to talk of spiritual things with her, she gets uncomfortable, and then I stammer, and then the subject sort of limps away behind the sofa to die in peace.
That isn’t to say there aren’t any seedlings germinating in there. When we said goodbye to our last ward almost 2 years ago– the only ward she’d known up to that point– she tearfully told the congregation how she “really, really knew the gospel was true,” and proceeded to give an eloquent, un-Mad Libbed testimony. She’s not one of those kids who’s just biding her time until she grows up and moves out so she can go inactive. I’ve been around enough of those kids to know that’s not her. She has strong opinions about modesty, morality, behavior and bad language. She attends all the activities and loves going to the temple to do baptisms. She dreams of going to BYU and getting married in the temple (even though she thinks it’s a ripoff she won’t get to walk down the aisle and all that stuff).
She loves to read, but not Church books. She loves music, but nothing gospel-themed. I give her blessings, but she never asks for them. She’s just not religious, and I’m no help.
The teens in our stake are going to Youth Conference this week and we parents were given an assignment to write down our testimonies to our kids and then give them in sealed envelopes to the leaders. D’s heard me bear my testimony before, even directly to her in the privacy of our family home evening. However, part of this exercise requires the girls to read their personally-directed missives to the group out loud. It’ll be like I’m be bearing my soul of spiritual things to her in front of all her friends. I wish I were a fly on the wall.
The good thing about this activity is, I’ll be able to say to her exactly what I’ve always wanted to without losing the wind in my sails because she starts squirming and saying, “I know, Daaaad…” Why do I do that, anyway? Why can’t I just say, “No, sit down. You need to hear this.” I tell myself it’s because she’s really not in a dangerous place, that she’s on track; that if I push the issue, it’ll turn her off on the whole subject. On the other hand, Lehi never shut up about it, even when he was just talking to his golden boy, Nephi. “Dad, check out the dinner I bagged for us!” “Oh Nephi, how I wish the Spirit could bag your brothers as you have bagged that prairie dog. What joy fills my soul whenever I think of the words of our fathers!” “OK, Dad, I’m just going to go and… give this to Mom to… so… OK…”
*sigh*… I’ll never be a Lehi.
Here’s what she’ll be reading to her friends in a few days:
My dear D—,
If I cannot impress anything else upon you as you grow to womanhood, it would be enough for me if you gained a testimony of the Savior, Jesus Christ, as I did—and as I still do. I know that Christ lives because I have felt the embrace of His spirit. I know He is the Son of God because the Holy Ghost warms my heart with that knowledge when I pray– or when I hear His voice in someone else’s talk or testimony– or when I perform or receive a blessing. I know He loves me because He led me to your beautiful mother, whom I love more than life. And because He has given me you, my wonderful daughter.
I never told you this, but I felt the Spirit so strongly when you bore your testimony, when we were saying goodbye to our old ward. I didn’t realize until that moment what deep beliefs and convictions you had. I guess we really didn’t talk about it. And I have never been more proud of you.
D—, you have so many blessings and so much happiness in store for your future– IF you continue on the path you’re on now. Stay close to the Church. Stay close to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ through prayer and scripture study, and living the way you know you should. Always look for ways to help and support and comfort others, and the Savior will be there to help and support and comfort you. He has done this for me, all my life, and I know He will for you. I testify this is true.
There are three things I want you to always remember, wherever you are, whenever you are faced with a challenge, whenever you are feeling sad, or confused, or alone:
1) You are a child of God.
2) The Savior loves you and you are NEVER alone.
3) Your mother and I love you dearly, unconditionally and more than anything—and we are SO proud of you– and that will never, ever change.
In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
I pray she hears what I’m trying to say, that she isn’t overwhelmed with self-consciousness and embarrassment. I also hope I can find more opportunities to convey my beliefs to her without turning her off. It doesn’t seem like living it is enough– I have to keep telling her. She has to know.
But, you see, we’re not a particularly religious family.