I arrived at BYU an earnest, active Mormon and graduated 4 years later semi-active and a proud gay rights and feminist activist. In my Junior year, I began asking increasingly difficult and controversial questions about the Church, pierced a third hole in my ear, attended church less and less, and started hosting Feminist Home Evening in my house. For my friends that met me in my early BYU days, the change was sudden and alarming. Though I found losing my previous faith a heartbreaking and extremely difficult experience, I also found a great deal of self-confidence, empowerment, and authenticity in my new identity. But the hardest repercussion for me has always been the damage done to some of my closest friendships due to our inability to see eye-to-eye on issues within the church.
Friends that I love and care about very much have said things to me that I have found very hurtful and frustrating. Though I try to be compassionate and remember that their words usually came from feeling that their deeply held religious beliefs were being threatened or attacked, and to recognize that I have not always articulated my thoughts in the most respectful way, these incidents still sting. I hate more than anything that I sometimes have to choose between acting and speaking authentically and friendship with those around me. As the Ordain Women action approaches, I dread the possibility that my relationships with friends or ward members might be hurt by my participation, even as I remain certain that it is important for me to attend.
It is easy to blame others for being intolerant of my convictions and opinions, but I do not think it would be productive to dwell on the ways in which I have felt wronged. Instead, I want to talk about the things that have helped repair my friendships when things have gotten difficult.
Since a friendship necessarily involves at least two people, there is always something you can do and always a limit to how much you can do. I have found that the first and most important step to maintaining friendship is to forgive people for their hurtful words. I have also found that doing things that we both enjoy that don’t have anything to do with Church helped my friends and I remember that we liked each other for reasons besides being the same religion. But ultimately, all friendships have to be based on mutual respect. I love having friends with different faith perspectives than my own, and I highly value their thoughts and ideas and they value mine. Being able to listen to each other and be alright with disagreeing has been the foundation of some of the best friendships of my life. It is my hope that Mormon friends of all levels of belief will be able to learn to talk to each other, rather than hide from each other by insulating themselves in groups of like-minded people, and that through these conversations the church will become a more welcoming and comfortable place for all.
I know that I am far from the only person in this community who has experienced this. What other ways have you found helpful- or not helpful- in maintaining friendships with people who are more or less faithful than yourself?