I have a friend who claims to be an atheist. I want to try to convince her that there is a God. Nothing seems to get through to her. What can I do?
As a Church, we have a great deal of respect for other people’s beliefs. You only have to read the 11th article of faith [A of F 1:11] to be reminded: “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”
And that includes your friend who has chosen not to believe.
Even today in some places, those holding LDS beliefs can be considered extreme by others who are not well acquainted with the Church or its members. We ask that we be allowed to worship God and Jesus Christ as we choose. And if we ask this favor of others, we must return it. We should not criticize, belittle, or harass someone because they do not agree with us.
Since she is your friend, you probably care a great deal about her and her future. Since you both have strong opposing beliefs, you should look for areas of agreement that will give some common ground for beginning a discussion. Friendly discussion may be possible, but try to avoid contention. In other words, you can agree to disagree.
This solution won’t be very satisfying when you know that the Church could bring a lot of joy and contentment to your friend. Your efforts to explain what we believe may be falling on deaf ears now, but you need to remember that it is the Spirit of the Lord that converts. In other words, when your friend is ready and is open to learning more, she may then come to you for help in her search.
Until then, you need to be an example of what you believe. If she sees that you are a kinder, more giving, more compassionate person because you believe in Jesus Christ, then she may be willing someday to investigate the beliefs that have made you that way.
Some remarkable accounts of conversion are found in the scriptures. In the Book of Mormon, the story of Korihor, the Anti-Christ, in the 30th chapter of Alma is a wonderful example. Korihor came to the people of Zarahemla, preaching against the coming of Christ. He was a powerful speaker and convinced many people that Christ would never come. And he persuaded them to live evil and wicked lives, committing many sins. Finally he was taken before Alma, the chief judge. No matter what Alma said, Korihor argued back, and finally demanded that he be shown a sign.
Alma told Korihor to look at all the beautiful and wonderful things in the world. Alma said, “Even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator” (Alma 30:44).
Still Korihor did not believe. And because Korihor was leading so many people away from the truth, he was given a sign. Korihor was struck dumb. He could not speak. When asked if he now believed, Korihor wrote he had always known there was a God. The news about what had happened traveled quickly, and those who had followed Korihor repented.
Don’t be persuaded by friendship to compromise what you believe. Continue to study the gospel, read the scriptures, and pray. And if you are unsure how to answer your friend’s questions, go to your parents, your seminary teacher, or your ward leaders.
And until your friend is ready to turn to God, concentrate on being a good example of what you believe.
I heard a quote from my seminary teacher that I’ve never forgotten, “You might be the only scripture your friends ever read.” Where talk fails, actions speak loud and clear. Don’t tell her there’s a God. Show her there is a God through your own example.
Elder Ian Vassilaros, 19 Sacramento California Mission
I’m in the exact same situation. It hurt me to see my friend wandering around in the dark, so I thought I should step in. I did tell her I was a much happier person because I was involved in the Church and how reassuring it was to know that someone loved me all the time. From my experience, I’d advise you to not force it because she’ll probably just back away. It sounds like a cliche, but be an example. Most of the time it’s the only thing you can do.
Elizabeth J. Long, 15 Pasadena, California
This year in biology, we studied the cell theory, that all cells come from preexisting cells. But where did the preexisting cells come from? Learning things like this in school has strengthened my testimony of Heavenly Father and that he instructed Jesus Christ to create this earth and everything on it.
Jeremy Muklewicz, 16 Wintersville, Ohio
I have a friend like that. We used to get into fights about who was right, but as we grew older I realized that doesn’t do any good. I just try to be an example to her.
Stacie Stuart, 17 Dalton, Pennsylvania
If the opportunity arises, bear your testimony. If it doesn’t, by your example, you will still be planting the seed that may someday sprout. Pray for her.
Jessica Buck, 13 Shelley, Idaho
We allow people to believe whatever they want, but this does not mean that you should do nothing. I suggest that you give her a Book of Mormon with your testimony. Then it would be her decision what she wants to believe.
Lana Healey, 14 Raymond, Alberta, Canada
All we can do is to have strong faith, pray, and fast that they will soften their hearts to believe that there is a living God.
Elder Vincent Pardo Philippines Baguio Mission