Questions and Answers
February 2004

“Questions and Answers,” Ensign, Feb. 2004, 56

Questions and Answers


As a young single adult, how can I maintain a positive atmosphere in my apartment and have good relationships with my roommates when their lifestyles conflict with my Latter-day Saint values and standards?


My heart sank when I saw my new roommate for the first time. It was obvious that our lifestyles were different, and I worried that our little dorm room would get unbearable in a hurry. However, I knew I had to try to make it work, so I welcomed her and helped her get settled. She warmed up to me as I asked her questions about her life and shared experiences from my own.

I was soon surprised by the wonderful person I found beneath her prickly Gothic exterior. Here was a woman who was reading the New Testament in ancient Greek! I shared my standards with her, and she respected me for them. Although I knew she dabbled in tobacco, alcohol, and drugs, she respected me enough to keep them out of our room. She saved me from my naiveté by steering me clear of places and activities that would have been dangerous for me.

I gained a good friend that year because I focused on her good qualities and never condemned her for her lifestyle. Her efforts to respect my beliefs and find activities that were comfortable for both of us strengthened our friendship. The Spirit was able to abide in our room, and we both enjoyed the haven we had worked hard to create.

Meaghan James, Parkland Ward, Lakewood Washington Stake

I had more than 30 roommates during my college years. Because I attended Brigham Young University, most of my roommates were Latter-day Saints, and I didn’t have the problems others might have. But there were plenty of times when the Spirit was not dwelling in our apartment. I found that the greatest thing I could do to maintain a positive atmosphere was to work on my own habits and attitudes rather than trying to change my roommates’ behavior.

One thing that helped was to rise early in the morning. By setting my alarm clock a half hour earlier, I was guaranteed some quiet time to myself. This was a wonderful time to pray and study the scriptures without interruption. The day was always much better when I had this time. I also tried to maintain a broad perspective. Life with roommates is just temporary, and I had to remind myself of that. The key is to like people for who they are and to look for the good in them while setting the best example you can. If you’re doing all you can to progress spiritually and be happy, the Lord will bless you in your efforts.

Dan Baker, Bremerton First Ward, Bremerton Washington Stake

Is it hard to live with roommates who do not lead the same kind of life as you? Yes! But it is also a wonderful opportunity to teach and to learn.

I attended a Catholic university for four years and was the only Latter-day Saint at the school. I remember one Friday night near the beginning of my freshman year. I sat in my room in tears, frustrated and lonely. My friends had all just left for a night out at the movies. I had found out the movie they planned to see was not up to my standards, so I had told them to go ahead without me.

This type of situation was starting to become a regular occurrence, but it was getting old. Finally I vowed to plan some wholesome, fun activities we could all enjoy together. As we took part in these activities, things began to change. I also found some true friends along the way who likewise wanted to lead clean lives and choose the right.

My roommates and I began to have dinner together regularly. We would cook together, eat together, clean together, and discuss the day’s events. We came to know each other’s needs through these nightly discussions, and we were able to serve each other better.

We also had event nights, similar to family home evenings. On these nights my roommates and I would make crafts, write letters, participate in service projects, go on bike rides or hikes, and do other activities. We had so much fun during these nights that our friendship flourished.

College is a time of exploration for many. I found that I could help others find the strength and courage to make good choices and head down the right path. I received strength through prayer, scripture study, church attendance, and the love Heavenly Father has for me. We all lived our lives in a more righteous way.

Jenna Johnson Smith, Eugene Ninth (Spanish) Branch, Eugene Oregon Stake

Waking up to the smell of coffee in the morning and opening the refrigerator to find a six-pack of beer can be quite unsettling. Even more unsettling is coming out in pajamas to find your roommate’s significant other eating breakfast or getting out of the shower. I also experienced coming home to find roommates smoking, watching offensive movies or TV shows, or having parties where most of the guests were intoxicated.

Despite our different standards and lifestyles, I was able to develop positive relationships with my roommates. Here are several ideas that might also help you:

  1. Pray. I petitioned Heavenly Father to give me patience and love and to soften my roommates’ hearts. I also asked Him to help bring the Spirit into our home and to help us all become better friends.

  2. Discuss and negotiate solutions. I tried to help my roommates understand that I was not trying to change their lifestyles. No one has the right to take away another’s agency, so we must try to find mutually agreeable solutions to problems that might arise. I asked that everyone in the common area be fully clothed, that I be given advance notice about parties and movies I might find offensive, and that smoking occur only outside. In turn, I agreed to leave the house when there were going to be parties or activities I did not want to participate in. I also ignored the coffee in the morning and the alcohol in the fridge.

  3. Fortify yourself. No matter how your roommates respond, it is important to continue to nurture and strengthen yourself spiritually. I found a place of personal retreat where I could meditate and build my testimony when my home was too full of distractions. For you this may be your room, a quiet place outside, or another location. In addition, I leaned upon Latter-day Saint friends and family to help reinforce my righteous decisions.

Kara Kelley, Arrowhead Ranch Ward, Glendale Arizona North Stake

When I was attending a polytechnic school, there were few Latter-day Saints on campus. I was the only Church member out of the approximately 150 male students in my dormitory. I worried because our backgrounds and lifestyles were so different, so I prayed to Heavenly Father to know what I could do.

I felt inspired to do several things. I never forgot my daily prayers and scripture study, especially of the Book of Mormon. In addition to that, my room was always full of gospel-oriented pictures. These pictures invited questions that opened an avenue for sharing the gospel. I invited my friends to attend sacrament meetings and institute classes with me, which helped them better understand my beliefs. Eventually I noticed that many of my friends were adopting standards similar to mine.

I came to better understand the importance of maintaining our standards at all times and in all things and in all places (see Mosiah 18:9). When we do so, we can make a difference.

Isaac Kofi Morrison, Mpintsin Ward, Takoradi Ghana Stake

As a recently baptized member of the Church, I lived with three girls who did not share my new beliefs. Over the year we lived together, I discovered that in order to maintain a positive atmosphere in our apartment, I needed to do the following:

  1. Have an optimistic attitude. Seeing roommates every day can get exhausting sometimes. We may start to notice negative things about them because we are around them so much. We need to remain optimistic about our situations and seek out our roommates’ virtues. No matter if it is taking the time to write a note thanking them for their friendship, stopping what we are doing to listen when they’ve had a hard day, or rearranging our schedule to fit in a quick trip for some ice cream and a talk, the little things we do can reinforce an optimistic attitude among roommates.

  2. Set a good example. Roommates see us at our best and at our worst. Living the standards of the Church every day, not just when it suits us, makes a strong statement to others. When we continually do the things we are asked to do, we are blessed, and the people around us often live through the experience with us. For example, my roommates saw me pay my tithing even when I was struggling financially. They later saw many of the blessings that came to me when I did this.

Angela Rowley, Thousand Oaks Second Ward, Thousand Oaks California Stake

During the second semester that I attended BYU—Hawaii, I decided to move off campus to a house in a nearby town. All eight of us in the house were students at BYU—Hawaii, but not all had the same standards.

While I never became close with some of my roommates, I was able to maintain positive relationships with all of them and to work out problems as they arose. This I attribute to some gospel-related habits I developed throughout that year. Prayer and scripture study were two of my staples. I found that if I would pray about how to resolve conflicts peacefully, the answers would come either to my mind or through the words of the scriptures. Another staple was attending church every week and encouraging my roommates to do the same.

While this wasn’t the easiest semester of my college life, I am grateful for the opportunity it gave me to stand firm in my testimony of the gospel even when others around me did not.

Kim Flewallen, Timpanogos Sixth Ward, Pleasant Grove Utah Timpanogos Stake

Tips for Getting Along with Roommates

  • Do not condemn your roommates for their choices. Respect their agency, knowing that you can only control your own behavior.

  • Know that this will be a time to prove yourself. Will you follow the crowd, or will you be strong enough to stand up for what you believe in?

  • If your roommate situation is unbearable or unsafe, find a new place to live. But if your situation is not extreme, at least have a refuge so you can get away if you need to.

  • Suggest activities that all of you can enjoy together.

  • Look for your roommates’ positive qualities.

  • Try to maintain a clean, uplifting environment.

  • Be open to answering questions and sharing what you believe. Also be willing to learn from your roommates’ beliefs.

  • Seek inspiration regarding how to get along with your roommates. Stay close to the Lord through prayer and scripture study.

Photography by Robert Casey; posed by models