I probably would have been a Mormon years before if Boyd had asked the question right.
To his credit, he’d done all the right things—he’d dragged me along to stake dances, to firesides, and even to church a few times. But after all those months of preparation, and after he’d finally built up the courage to pop the big question, he asked: “Do you want to hear the missionary discussions?”
I had no idea what he was talking about.
“Don’t you have to be a Mormon to do that?” I asked, guessing that missionary discussions were intended to get young folks ready to go on missions.
“No,” Boyd said.
I had no idea what I was turning down when I said, “Uh … I guess not.”
Boyd’s not to blame. He was a good friend and a good Mormon. The only trouble was, he was speaking Mormonese—a language most people do not understand. Eventually, I did join the Church thanks to his and others’ good influence. But from their actions, I’ve learned a few things about being friends to those not of our faith which might help you teach your friends a little about the gospel.
We have our own language and our own weird ways. For example: We have stake houses without A1 sauce; we have 19-year-old “elders”; we have fast and testimony meetings where people sometimes cry as they talk; we have missionary discussions for people who are not planning to go on a mission. The list goes on and on.
If your friends look confused about something, they probably are. Try to be a good teacher and explain even the most obvious Church stuff. But remember, it’s not important for them to understand our world all at once. It’s more important for them to understand that you’re a decent person who believes in living a good life, in being honest, and in following the teachings of the Savior.
When we first met, Boyd was too embarrassed to tell me he was a Latter-day Saint. He thought nonmembers saw Mormons as—well—a pretty strange bunch. You might also be a little embarrassed about telling new friends that you’re a Mormon.
But the reality is, most of your friends will be interested in your religion because it’s so different. Follow the Spirit, and try to bring your friends along slowly. That means you don’t have to be pushy. In fact, it actually might be better to invite them to a stake dance before you invite them to church, or to a fireside before sending the missionaries over.
There really are many young people who are ready to accept the gospel today and are just waiting to hear about it. Trevor, a friend of mine, probably would have accepted the gospel when I did, but I was too embarrassed to talk to him about it. He had asked about the Church when I joined, but I shrugged him off because I didn’t think he’d really be interested. After years of friendship, I finally asked him if he’d like to hear more about the Church. He said “Sure,” and after his first lesson with the missionaries he told me, “This is what I’ve been looking for all my life.”
Can you take your friends to a stake dance one weekend and then accompany them to a drinking party the next week? No.
It’s best to try to avoid situations that may test your morals or values. Anyway, whether you live in London or Iowa, there are about a bazillion fun things to do that do not involve drinking, drugs, or immorality. Just use your creativity and find some activities that you and your friends can do together. I know it can be a lonely solution, but if your friends are never interested in doing “your” things, then maybe it’s time to find new friends.
You may not believe it, but nonmembers are really interested in your family life. Most Mormon homes are loving and kind and supportive and fun. Your friends might not feel those strengths at their homes.
So don’t be afraid of hanging around your family. Ask your parents if it’s okay to invite your friends to a family home evening, video party, or weekend vacation. Give your family a chance to be involved in the friendshipping process. Sure they’ll embarrass you—and probably enjoy it—but family togetherness is one of the best selling points of our religion. It’s true. Take it from a former nonmember.
Before I joined the Church, my Mormon friends were just a lot more goofy and alive than my other friends. My Mormon friends and I filmed funny movie parodies, recorded Beach Boys songs at the mall, and had all-night Kung-Fu video parties. My other friends liked to drink beer. Period. It didn’t take me long to figure out which group was more fun to be with.
In fact, having fun is probably the single most important part of your assignment as a friend. Just have fun, try to be yourself, keep your standards, and be supportive if your friends are interested in the Church.
That’s it. After all, this isn’t rocket science. But your friendships could lead to wonderful things.