Love Letter #2 From A Beloved (anonymous) LDS Member,
I love you. Whatever else you get from this letter, there is nothing more important to me than you knowing that I love you. I love you – not because we always agree, not because either of us is perfect in our understanding or behavior – but because you are you….
I know that in many ways we are both hurting. We are both going through our own grief and pain. I hurt, not only for my own pain and sorrow, but for yours. I am so sorry for the pain. I want you to know that I believe in you. I believe in your goodness. I believe that you are doing the best you can with the knowledge you have. I believe you are seeking to be as true as you can to what you believe to be right. I hope you believe the same thing about me. I hope we will continue to treat each other, not only with love and kindness, but with respect and dignity.
Neither of us can, or should try to, control the other. I promise you that I will always seek to believe the best about you – even when we come to different conclusions. I will always seek to interpret your words and actions with charity – believing that your motives are honorable, that you are doing your best. I will seek to see you as an individual – your own person. I will not judge you based on how others, even others who seem to be following the same basic path as you, believe or behave.
May I share a few hopes (and possibly cautions) for us both going forward? Both of us know people on both sides of this divide that are not honorable, that treat those they disagree with unkindly, that judge others unjustly. Active Latter-day Saints who believe that those who leave the church are deceived, unrighteous, lazy. Those who no longer believe in the restored church that believe that those who stay are deceived, lazy, judgmental. It’s easy to believe because we have each encountered such people…maybe the majority of those we have dealt with. I pray we will be wise enough to realize that our “sample” is not random – it simply does not represent the majority. We often end up in an echo chamber and we hear the same “story” again and again and again until we come to believe that it is representative. It can be tempting to stereotype those we disagree with believing that most are like these judgmental, unkind ones…and even worse, that they represent each other. I hope we will refuse to stereotype each other or those we disagree with this way. I hope we will give the benefit of the doubt, not only to each other, but to others we currently disagree with.
I shared above that it is likely we are both hurting. It is oh so tempting when we are hurting to lash out, to judge unkindly, to assume the worst and judge others based on the worst possible attribution of motive. I hope we will avoid this. Pain is real, anger is real, despair is real. We should not pretend they don’t exist. But pain, anger and despair do not justify hurtful behavior. I am positive neither of us will approach things perfectly. Mistakes will be made and we may unintentionally hurt each other. I pray we will both be patient and forgiving with each other. But I also pray we will both refuse to let our own pain become justification for lashing out. You deserve to be treated with kindness, honor and dignity. So do I. I hope we will act accordingly.
We both believe we are “right.” We both believe the path we have chosen is correct. We can believe in our own convictions, even advocate for those things we hold most dear, without demonizing the beliefs of others we disagree with. It is hurtful when others attacking your beliefs and those things you hold dear. That is true on both sides of this proverbial aisle. I hope we will both speak with respect and kindness – even about – perhaps especially about – those things we see differently. Respect and kindness do not require agreement – they require civility.
Though we see things differently, I will not assume you are ignorant, that you just don’t know what I know, that if you did you would believe as I do. I acknowledge that good, wise, intelligent people may know all of the same things and yet for honorable and even intelligent reasons come to different conclusions. I will not villainize you based on your conclusions. I will not assume the worst about you. I hope you will do the same for me. I will not make you an “offender for the word” – judging your words in the worst possible light. I will afford you the same grace and charity I hope you will afford to me. When I could choose to be offended, I will choose to believe the best about you, your motives, your heart. I hope you will do the same with me.
I hope we will both encourage each other to continue to learn and grow. I hope we will both encourage each other to be true to our very best understanding…and to continue to learn and grow going forward. I hope we will continue to cling to all that we believe to be right and beautiful – even if for now – we disagree on some of those things. I will never encourage you to be false to what you believe to be true and good. I hope you will do the same for me. No one is better off by being untrue to their deepest values. Let’s help each other as we aspire to be the best we know how to be. That doesn’t require us to be false to what we believe to be right and beautiful. On the contrary, it requires us to be true to the best we understand as we help everyone around us do the same.
I hope you know that I am always willing to talk and share together. I hope you feel safe to share your true feelings. I am secure enough in my own beliefs that your beliefs are not a threat to me. I also realize we both must feel safe and secure before such deep conversations are likely to be productive. If I can suggest something…before embarking on such profoundly tender conversations in depth, we check with each other to make sure we are both at a place where that can be fruitful. Then, if we both feel safe and we both decide to share our deepest beliefs together, perhaps it is wisest to start with why we believe what we believe to be true and beautiful rather than why we believe each other is wrong or misguided or deceived. It is not that the later discussion should never be had, but before entering into such tender territory, it might be wisest to give each other permission and to start with what we see similarly than what we differ on. Then I hope we will approach any such discussion with the greatest respect, humility and charity.
I will always wish the very best for you and I will do whatever I can to help bring that to pass. I hope you will do the same for me.
I love you….