Many of us find ourselves required to serve as missionaries to our families after we join the church, and Jesus was no exception. In 1987, Carlfred B. Broderick, a professor of sociology, published an article in the Ensign about Jesus’ missionary work within his family. (Carlfred B. Broderick, “The Brothers of Jesus: Loving the Unbelieving Relative,” Ensign, Mar 1987, 50) Mary and Joseph, of course, knowing first hand of the miracles of Jesus’ birth, had testimonies of his divinity. But Jesus also had four younger brothers and at least two sisters. In John, chapter 7, we read that after Jesus had gone out among the people with great success for the first several weeks of his mission, he then returned to Nazareth. There he declared who he was, but in his own home, his declaration was not accepted. In verses 3-5 we read:
3 His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest.
4 For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world.
5 For neither did his brethren believe in him.
Several months later, he was well-known as a prophet, but again was rejected in his own land. He said in Mark 6:4 “A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.”
Jesus was not seen as a prophet by his own brothers at that time. Some of us have joined the church without our families, and we understand how painful this is. His brothers honored his role as the eldest son, but not his role as a Savior. When he was about to be crucified, he turned over care of his widowed mother to John, not to any of his brothers, who were presumably not in attendance at the crucifixion. We do know they converted after his resurrection, but in his own lifetime, it may be that they were not among his followers. James became a great leader in the church later, but only after seeing the Resurrected Jesus.
Those of you who have joined the church alone can take comfort in knowing that the Savior understands your trials in having relatives who refuse your faith. He understands because he has been through it himself. Remember too that Mary and Joseph also experienced the sorrow of their non-believing sons, and that Joseph died prior to the conversion.
Brother Broderick said:
“Every converted person who deeply loves his or her unbelieving spouse or relative suffers as Jesus suffered over his faithless brothers. And, as did Jesus of Nazareth, every disciple can love truly and well, with hope and patience.
We must never lose sight of the eternal realities—the worth of each soul, the inviolability of each soul’s agency, and the universality of the plan of salvation. Above all, we must never give up.
“It is well to remember that those of whom it was once written “Neither did his brethren believe in him” ended by designating themselves servants “of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” So it may be for our Jameses and our Judes, our Sauls and our Almas, and all of their female counterparts. In a personal, intimate way, Jesus himself suffered so that he is able to succor them that also suffer. (See Heb. 2:18; Alma 7:12.)”
When it seems as though your family will never join the church, or when they are frequently challenging you or hurting you because of your new faith, remember that the Savior himself experienced this and He can help you because He’s experienced it, too.
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.