Have you ever heard this?
“You Mormons are so boring. Why can’t you date until you’re 16?”
Or maybe you’ve been asked, “Why do you want to go on a two-year mission? Does everybody have to go on one?”
You’ve probably heard this one at a party. “What do you mean you don’t drink alcohol? How about a Coke? Some ice tea? Well, what can you drink?”
Non-LDS friends can ask some tough questions. Sometimes their questions are asked out of friendly curiosity. Sometimes their questions are taunting. Other times, though, your friends may have a sincere interest in your beliefs and standards. You must tailor your responses to their intentions and level of interest. In a few situations, a humorous response can diffuse tension and create an atmosphere of good will. Generally, though, you will want to give your friends an honest, accurate answer that’s appropriate for their level of understanding.
Suppose one of your friends asks you, “Why do you have such a big family?”
One possible answer would be something like, “Well, I was such a wonderful child that my parents wanted to have another like me. They kept having more and more kids until finally they realized that I was one of a kind.”
A more serious answer might go like this: “You know, I’ve wondered that myself. It’s not easy for me having so many brothers and sisters. And I suppose it’s been difficult for my mom and dad too.
“But we believe that families are very important and worth sacrificing for. In fact, we believe families can be eternal. Sure, my brothers and sisters are a headache sometimes, but I love them, and I can’t imagine my family being the same without all of them.”
Here’s a question you’ve probably already heard, especially if you’re not 16 yet. “Why can’t you date until you’re 16?”
You might tell your friends that your church leaders and parents have counseled against dating before 16, and that you have decided on your own that that’s pretty good advice.
Then your friends will probably ask, “Why?”
“Well,” you can reply, “I think a lot of it has to do with timing. I think I’ve got plenty of time to date before I get married, so I’m in no hurry.
“And it boils down to trust and obedience. I trust my parents and Church leaders enough to think that they want what’s best for me.”
Your non-LDS friends might also be curious about your high moral standards. “How come you’re so straight?”
If they’re good friends and will not be offended, you can jokingly answer something like, “Well, what do you expect? You don’t want me to turn out like you, do you?” Or, “Haven’t you heard that morality is in these days?”
Later you can explain to them that you are opposed to immorality for religious reasons and that you know you could not be happy and keep your self-respect if you were to lower your moral standards. You might also tell them you think it is irresponsible to risk potential disease or pregnancy, and that you feel people should have more consideration for each other than that.
If your nonmember friends know you’re LDS, then you’re likely to be asked about the temple someday. “Why can’t everybody go inside the temple?”
“Hey,” you can say, “everybody can go inside the temple. They just have to be willing to join the Church and live the commandments first.”
A serious response might go something like, “Really, lots of people, people who aren’t members of the Church, have been inside our temples. Each time a temple is built or remodeled, and before it’s dedicated, it’s open to the public. But the ordinances performed there are very sacred, and that’s why only members in good standing are allowed to enter the temple after dedication.”
If they’re really interested in temples, they might also ask, “Well, what happens in your temples?”
Your parents and your bishop can help you answer questions about temple ordinances, or you can explain to your friend this way. “Two major ordinances we perform in the temple are eternal marriage and baptisms for people who have died without having the chance to be baptized. Baptism and eternal marriage are both very important to us.”
It’s likely that sometime in your young life, one of your friends will ask you to do something on Sunday. When you tell them you can’t, they’ll inevitably ask, “Why can’t you do anything on Sundays?”
“I do lots of things on Sundays,” you can answer. “I go to church, I spend time with my family, I write in my journal, I read the scriptures and other good books, I visit friends and relatives—I’m pretty busy on Sundays.”
“Or you might want to explain to your friend that you take seriously the fourth commandment that tells us to keep the Sabbath day holy, and you believe some activities are more appropriate for the other six days of the week than for Sunday.”
The time will come too that you’ll be offered coffee, tea, or alcohol by friends who may not understand the Word of Wisdom. When you politely decline their offer, they may be curious about why you don’t drink those things.
“Can’t you drink anything?” they might ask.
If the question is offered in a lighthearted way, you might give a not-so-serious answer. “No, unfortunately, I can’t drink anything. I’m allergic to all liquids so every night when I come home, my parents hook me up to an I.V. It’s not very tasty, but it keeps me going.”
If the situation requires a more serious answer, you can tell them about the Word of Wisdom. “Long before the findings of modern science, my religion has taught that coffee, tea, and alcohol have harmful effects on the body. I don’t want to put anything in it that might not be good for it. That’s why I don’t drink those things.”
A nonmember might also ask about missions. “Why do so many 19-year-old boys go on two-year missions? Does everybody have to go on one?”
“They go for two reasons,” you can joke. “One is that Mormon boys are so handsome that the only way they can get away from girls for a while is to go on a mission. The other reason is that so many people want to become Mormons, it takes every available young man to teach them.”
Of course, you’ll want to set them straight about missions. Explain to them that in the LDS church, it’s asked that every member be a missionary. Nineteen-year-old boys aren’t the only ones who serve missions. Single girls over 21, older single adults, and married couples also can serve full-time missions. But no one has to serve; it’s strictly a voluntary matter.
“We’re a missionary-minded church,” you can tell your friend. “And if you have any more questions, I’m sure I can find a missionary somewhere who will be glad to answer all your questions.”
If your nonmember friends keep asking questions and you keep giving them good answers, it may not be long before you lose a nonmember friend—and gain a gospel brother or sister.