I received a poignant letter recently from a man who regrets his anti-Mormon zeal on the woman he wanted to marry, inspired by the rhetoric he heard at his church. The relationship he damaged may be beyond repair, but he gave me permission to quote from his letter in hopes that it might benefit others. I disagree with his suggestion that he should have converted for love without necessarily believing in the religion (though investigating, attending services, and learning what the religion is really all about from our perspective would have been a great step), but I find value in his painful recognition that his intense anti-Mormon efforts were misguided and morally wrong. I hope things work out for him somehow.
A few months ago, I started dating a Mormon woman. I came to love her dearly, and still do.
After imagining spending my life with her and raising a happy family together, she told me that there was no longevity in our relationship because of religious differences. She didn’t want there to be any “friction” in her family. I now understand why it is important for her to maintain religious cohesion in any family she might have, but at that time, I felt like she might as well have said that we couldn’t be together because I’m Scotch-Irish and she’s a German Swede. I was devastated. I have come to believe that the biggest concern was her desire for a celestial marriage in the Temple. Obviously I couldn’t be in the picture unless I converted. If we couldn’t be together forever, we couldn’t be together temporarily on Earth either.
It was a two-way street though; I think it always is in this life. Having been brought up in a church that often espoused anti-Mormonist rhetoric, I have been conditioned to manufacture poorly constructed arguments against their beliefs and, having had a potential spouse at stake, my fervor to defeat the forces keeping us apart was increased tenfold. My strategy, attempting to apostate her so we could be together, was fundamentally and morally flawed. If I had been more tactical, I would’ve known that the people in my life are more important than their beliefs. I would’ve happily done whatever necessary to gain the Priesthood and enter the Temple with her. I would’ve known that the idea of being together forever is a beautiful thing, not a wrong thing. Now she very well may be lost from my life forever because of the offenses I have committed.
This kind of inter-religious contention shouldn’t be happening. It is counter-productive to the peaceful harmonization that I know Christ wanted. As long as we love all things, the mechanics of religious doctrines are completely unimportant. This is evident in the early disciples’ readiness to conform to certain aspects of a target population’s dogmas so that they might be more willing to accept the message of Jesus Christ. It is our duty to Christ to love those who we think are “lost” even more than we love those who are “found.” Slanderous conflict is in opposition to His will.
There are real and meaningful differences between various Christian that can’t be glossed over, especially when you have folks like us who really believe that a divine restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ has occurred, but we all can recognize that we each may have some very strong reasons for waht we believe that we can discuss and even debate, when appropriate, without destroying friendships, stirring up hostility, and belittling those who disagree. And yes, this cuts both ways.