I joined the church as a teenager, soon after my seventeenth birthday. My family didn’t join with me, and although they gave their permission for the baptism, my conversion made them nervous. I was fortunate to have a wise bishop who advised me to show my parents the ways the church reinforced their teachings and to demonstrate that being a church member strengthened my relationship with them.
Why are parents anxious when their teenagers join the church? If they have their own religions, they may be very sad, or even devastated that you’ve turned away from a religion they love. This can be hard to understand until you have children of your own, but it’s a very painful feeling for a parent. There isn’t much you can do to change this except to always show respect for their beliefs, even though you’ve rejected those beliefs. Treat their faith the way you want them to treat yours.
Secondly, many parents are afraid of how the conversion will affect their families. Will the church become more important than the family? Will it cause the child to have different values? This is something you can fix.
Teenagers are naturally beginning to pull away from their families and often focus most of their time on school, activities, and friends. Make a special effort to return to your family. Spend time with your parents, and talk to them about what you’re up to. Share with them what the church is teaching you, especially about family and values.
Even if your family doesn’t want to do family home evening, try to stay home on Monday nights and spend time with your parents. Chances are they will be pleased that you want to be with them, and you may find you can have an unofficial family night if you ask each week for their time. Suggest something you can do together.
There are times when your beliefs will conflict with those of your parents, and they will ask you to do things you know you shouldn’t. You will be faced with two conflicting commandments: Honor your parents and whatever the other commandment is. At these times you’ll need to pray for guidance. If they ask you to do something seriously wrong, such as drinking alcohol, you should refuse. However, if they ask you to go to the store for them on Sunday, you may decide to do that after asking them politely if it’s possible to go another day. If if it was possible to change our family day to Saturday, even though it was traditionally on Sunday. They eventually agreed, but until they did, I generally, but not always, skipped the outing with their permission. If they especially wanted me with them, I went, and did the best I could to focus on spiritual thoughts during the day.
If you show respect for your parents, spend time with them, and demonstrate how the church reinforces their teachings, you’ll soon find they adjust to your conversion and may even become grateful for the support the church offers them in raising you.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.