A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Synagogue

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This article is a personal story, opinion, or testimony. Please see Category:Personal Testimonies for more information about writing and editing these articles.

I was born to two Jewish parents from Brooklyn, New York. My mother always felt that there was something missing in her life and even as a teen read the New Testament. As we were growing up (my sister and brother included) we were taken to the local synagogue for Sabbath services. Living in New Jersey at seven years old, I really wanted to go to the children’s Sunday school class which was held at a different time. She asked the Rabbi and he said no, explaining that I was too old to start the Sunday school class and that all I could attend would be the regular Sabbath service. It is amazing to me now how strongly I felt at the time when I was not allowed to go. I did not want to go back to the synagogue at all and wanted nothing to do with the Jewish religion. Two years later my parents met members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through a political organization and started taking the missionary lessons.

I was very happy to learn about another religion even though I didn’t know anyone else who was a member of the Church nor did my friends know anything about that religion. It was virtually unheard of at the time in New Jersey (1969), but we listened to their teachings and six months later we were baptized into the Church as a family.

Now, we had grandparents who still lived in Brooklyn and we visited them often so my parents decided that it was too overwhelming to tell them and the rest of the family of what we did, so we were told to keep this whole church thing a secret. We didn’t discuss any kind of religion with any of my cousins or aunts and uncles and they were a large group. Beside the bar mitzvahs and weddings that occurred each year, we had a yearly family gathering.

My parents knew The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the restored gospel on the earth; they just didn’t want our family to disown us. So it was like living a double life. We went to church each week and were active in the ward but when a family event took place we attended and spoke nothing of the Church. This seemed like a normal thing to me until I was an adult looking back on what had happened and realized how odd it really was.

When I was 18, living at Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho, my parents went to a family bar mitzvah and my mother finally told her side of the family we joined the Church. My parents were finally ready to tell the family of what we did and there were fireworks. They eventually accepted the fact that we became Christians and we were able to teach them about what we believed.

Now the main reason I converted to the Church was not because I didn’t want to be Jewish anymore; the main reason I was converted was because I learned then and know now that Jesus Christ is the Messiah and he set up His Church to be a guiding beacon in our lives. He was able to restore His true gospel through Joseph Smith so we can have peace in our lives. That brings me great comfort. As an adult, I have come to love and appreciate the Jewish culture. I am from the tribe of Judah. My grandparents would speak in Yiddish when they didn’t want us to know what they were talking about.

At 18, our family was sealed together in the Washington D.C. Temple, and at 21 I married my eternal companion in the Salt Lake City Temple. We had 9 children together and he passed away suddenly in 2006.

I know Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon and restored the true gospel of Jesus Christ on the earth. I know Jesus Christ is my Messiah from my own personal study of the gospel. I know the sealing power of the priesthood has linked our families together and I will see them all one day. I have never taken the Church for granted and I am happy to be counted as one who belongs to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Valerie Steimle