How would you feel if your community and family shunned you for your faith? What if you lost everything for being baptized? This was 14-year-old Orpha Troyer’s reality when she and her family left their Amish faith to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Troyer grew up in a tight-knit Amish community in Ohio where she and her family lived a traditional Amish lifestyle. She believed that by living her religion and abiding by the rules in her community, she would eventually make it to heaven. So when she found out her parents had been baptized as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, her world was turned upside down.
An Introduction to the Church
Troyer's parents were introduced to the gospel by Raymond Weaver, the son of an Amish bishop who had been given a Book of Mormon and searched to know the truth. He read and shared the book with his wife, and they were soon baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The couple shared their newfound religion with two other couples in the community: the Troyers and Hochstetlers. They accepted the gospel and were also baptized, and the three couples who were members of the Church were instructed by the Spirit to keep their new religion quiet for a while.
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The Troyer family, image courtesy of Orpha Troyer.
“They were having sacrament meetings in the middle of the night at the Weavers’ home . . . the mission president, stake president, and the bishop from the local ward would come out and help them,” Troyer says. Although these midnight sacrament meetings would take place every week, Troyer’s parents continued taking their children to their Amish church that was held every other week. Troyer recalls that during this time, she and her siblings had no idea about their parents’ new religion or their weekly sacrament meetings.
These middle-of-the-night meetings didn’t last long before the community found out about the three couples' conversion.
Troyer was understandably upset when she heard the news about her parents. She questioned how they could possibly leave the religion they had practiced their entire lives and placed so much value in. “I was so scared,” she says. “I wasn’t too happy about it because I was raised being taught that this is the way you have to live your life to make it to heaven. This was drilled in my head and that’s how it is for all of us.”
She would have discussions with her parents and try to understand their reasoning behind joining the Church. “I was just really frustrated for two weeks and I continually questioned my parents, 'Why?' and 'How? How could you possibly do something like this?'” Troyer worried that her parents’ conversion to the Church would risk their family's chance of making it to heaven.
“What We’re Doing Is Truly from God”
One day in August, Troyer was having a conversation with her mom when everything changed. “I just asked her again, ‘Mom, how can you do this? Why?’ And she said, ‘You know, I believe that what we’re doing is truly from God. And everything that we’ve heard and done, we’ve known and felt in our hearts that it’s from God.’”
Troyer continues, “When she said that, something burned in my heart. The Spirit was so strong and testified truth to me in that very moment. My heart and way of thinking turned around completely and ever since then I’ve been going forward.”
Troyer was especially touched when she learned about the plan of salvation for the first time. She had been afraid of death because she believed that there was only a heaven and a hell and that hell was an actual place of fire and burning. “I would worry so much about it that I had horrible nightmares of being thrown into that fire,” she recalls. But everything changed when she learned about the plan of salvation. “I was so happy and bouncing off walls. It felt like the deepest darkness was taken from my heart and replaced by the purest light.”
Though this was the first time she had been taught the plan of salvation in this life, the familiarity of it confirmed that she understood the plan long before she was even born. “Everything about the plan of salvation felt so familiar, including the pre-existence,” she says. “I never knew of anything like that. I had never given it a thought that we came from somewhere else, but when I heard it for the first time, I remember saying in my heart, ‘Where have I heard this before?’ It wasn’t something new. I was just being reminded of what I knew in the pre-existence.”
Facing Heartbreaking Opposition
Although Troyer felt a confirmation that this change was from God and that it was right, the trials that followed were numerous and heartbreakingly difficult. “Between August and January there was a lot of opposition,” Troyer says. “The Amish started shunning us in September and we lost all contact with our grandparents, aunts and uncles, and even my 200 cousins. It was really hard losing all of them.”
Looking back, Troyer understands why her parents were led by the Spirit to keep their membership in the Church quiet for such a long time. “The opposition was pretty bad when the community found out, and the Lord needed them to have a strong testimony,” Troyer says. “They needed to be converted to the Lord to withstand all of the opposition. They were built on the rock of our Redeemer, and the whirlwinds of Satan had no power to drag them down. They were strong for us kids so we could find our footing in the gospel.”
These difficult trials left Troyer wondering if it was all worth it at times. She was wondering what the point was in leaving her Amish community and joining the Church when she started reading the Book of Mormon. “The more I read the Book of Mormon, the greater knowledge I was receiving of Jesus Christ,” she says. “That’s what was keeping me strong and helping me to keep moving forward.”
The Book of Mormon brought Troyer comfort during this hard time in her life, as did the new people she met. “I was like, 'Okay, this is what I need to do and what I want to do. No matter how much I’m losing, I know I’m going to gain more.' And now looking back, I've gained so much more. . . . I never thought I could have so many friends!”
One particular scripture Troyer studied in seminary helped her through her trials and strengthened her testimony in the gospel. 1 Nephi 3:7 reads, “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”
“Every time I read this scripture I am reminded that Nephi did it with the Lord, and so can I,” Troyer says.
At only 14 years old, Troyer had to set an example for her seven younger siblings. She mentions how hard it was getting her siblings on board with the ideas that they could use technology, that they didn’t have to dress in traditional Amish clothing, and that they could believe new truths that went against what they had been taught their entire lives. “It was hard to let go,” Troyer says. “It was cool to see how I was able to be there for them and be like, ‘It’s going to be okay. We’re going to change, but we’ll have each other’s backs.’”
The Troyer family had two businesses when the community found out they were affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—a construction business and a bakery. Although they lost the construction company because the employees refused to work for Troyer’s father, the family pulled together to keep the bakery in business.
The Troyer family's bakery, image courtesy of Orpha Troyer.
“As a family, we pulled together. We read our scriptures every day and we had our family prayers,” Troyer recalls. We became super close as a family and the knowledge that we were receiving of Jesus Christ, that’s what kept us going.”
The Troyer family, image courtesy of Orpha Troyer.
Receiving and Sharing the Gospel
When Troyer’s baptism day came, she was “terrified” of getting in the water because she had never been swimming.
“I remember when I was stepping into the water I was shaking. But the instant I went under the water I was at perfect peace and saw something that I’ve never seen before but it was familiar. In Revelation 21:21 it says, ‘and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.’ And D&C 137:4 says, ‘I saw the beautiful streets of that kingdom, which had the appearance of being paved with gold.’ I saw that and felt that deep in my heart. I felt pure. I knew in that moment that I had been washed clean from everything I had ever done before in my life. I had been born into a new life and was able to start over. It was truly a beautiful experience.”
Troyer had another incredible experience after she was confirmed a member of the Church and received the Holy Ghost. She mentions how she was never able to remember anything she read out of the Book of Mormon, although she could always feel the power and truth that came from it. “After I was baptized and received the gift of the Holy Ghost,” Troyer says, “I went home, opened up the Book of Mormon and started reading. I could remember everything! I didn’t want to put it down. It felt like I was given a new brain.”
View this post on Instagram A few days ago marked 5 years when our family went to the Temple and were sealed together forever. It was the best day of my life! I would relive it any day! Our family has gained so much more happiness, joy, strength, and love because of the Temple! How we love the temple! Here are a few paragraphs from the “Why Temple Marriage? By Joshua J. Perkey; “What happens to our families when we die? If you are married by the law of your state or country, will that law have any authority over you when you die? No, because those laws are made by man and have authority only as long as you live under that authority. For marriage relationships to continue after you die, those marriages must be sealed together in the right place with authority that lasts through the eternities. That place is the temple, and that authority is the priesthood (see D&C 132:7, 15–19). By choosing a temple marriage and keeping those covenants, you choose to be able to live forever with your spouse. Maybe you already know that doctrine, and yet you still wonder, “But why else does it matter so much?” Maybe it’s not a matter of understanding the doctrine. Maybe it’s more a simple question of what marriage and family mean in your heart. The simple answer is that the greatest happiness and joy available to us come through living the gospel and gaining and maintaining a temple marriage. In the April 2013 general conference, Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy explained it this way: “No other relationship of any kind can bring as much joy, generate as much good, or produce as much personal refinement.” We also know that “happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.” #temples #familiesareforever #lds #theamishmormongirl A post shared by The Amish Latter Day Saint (@theamishlatterdaysaint) on Apr 22, 2018 at 12:22pm PDT
As Troyer grew in her knowledge of the gospel, she knew serving a mission was a possibility. During the first couple of years of her Church membership, she planned on serving and looked forward to it. However, as she got closer to actually being able to go, the desire subsided and she thought her mission would be in Ohio with her Amish brothers and sisters. “But the Lord wanted me to go serve a mission,” she says. “I prayed and thought about it a lot and was once again reminded of 1 Nephi 3:7, of Nephi’s faith and courage. He did it with the Lord, and so could I. He never asks us to do more than what we can, so I took the leap of faith.”
That leap of faith ended up being an incredible experience for Troyer. “I will forever be grateful for the time I had to serve,” she says. “There is nothing better than sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with others and watching it change their life as it did mine.”
View this post on Instagram I report to the MTC in 20 days. 🤗 Brothers and sisters, the gospel of Jesus Christ is simple, no matter how much we try to make it complicated. We should strive to keep our lives similarly simple, unencumbered by extraneous influences, focused on those things that matter most. What are the precious, simple things of the gospel that bring clarity and purpose to our lives? What are the flecks of gospel gold whose patient accumulation over the course of our lifetime will reward us with the ultimate treasure--the precious gift of eternal life? I believe there is one simple but profound--even sublime--principle that encompasses the entirety of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we wholeheartedly embrace this principle and make it the focus of our lives, it will purify and sanctify us so we can live once again in the presence of God. The Savior spoke of this principle when He answered the Pharisee who asked, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. “This is the first and great commandment. “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:36–40). M. Russell Ballard, April 2011 General Conference, Finding Joy through Loving Service I’ve asked myself why those are the 2 greatest commandments. I thought about it, prayed about it for a long time and soon realized that all the commandments hang on those 2 commandments. If we truly and honestly love the Lord with all of our heart and love our neighbor as ourself we will have no other desire but to keep the rest of the commandments. #lovegodfirst #loveyourself #commandments #oklahomacitymission #theamishmormongirl A post shared by The Amish Latter Day Saint (@theamishlatterdaysaint) on May 24, 2018 at 5:30am PDT
Previous to serving a mission, Troyer was able to go through the temple and experience the blessings associated with it. “It was definitely an enlightening experience,” she says. “It was another step of gaining that greater knowledge of Jesus Christ. And that’s something I just love to continually grow—my relationship and my knowledge of Him.”
Her mission, however, didn’t end when she took off her nametag. Troyer now uses her experiences as a source of light to members and non-members alike by sharing her story at firesides and on her blog, The Amish Latter-day Saint.
Troyer’s strength and unwavering faith in God are evident in the way she writes and speaks about the gospel. She says that one of the most important things in her life is the Book of Mormon and the blessings it brings. “[The Book of Mormon] truly does bring that power that the prophets talk about as you read it daily,” she testifies. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a good day or a rough day, you will feel the power and it will give you strength to continue on in life. As I have been studying it daily I have also come to know that I can receive personal revelation. I can hear and feel it as I read the Book of Mormon and I will treasure that forever.”