When it comes to navigating relationships, the greatest answer ever given to us came in the form of a Savior: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16; emphasis added).
Whenever I find myself in the middle of a seemingly irreconcilable question or uncomfortable conflict, I turn to Jesus Christ and am comforted by the peace and love that flows from Him. His love, for me, fills the void.
The love of Jesus Christ was the answer I received when a close friend told me she was stepping away from the Church. Prior to this decision, she had shared her sincere questions with me, asking for my opinions and confiding in me about the hurt she was feeling. Her pain was real, her questions were heartfelt, and I felt honored to be a listening ear. However, the thoughts I shared often didn’t seem to reach her.
I would leave our conversations feeling unsure of how to support her. During one conversation in particular, she asked me a sincere question about something I had personally been feeling uncertain about and then called my bluff when I struggled to know how to respond. I remember her saying, “Em, you don’t really believe that. I know you don’t.”
She was right.
After that interaction, I felt myself drifting away from the friendship. I was uncomfortable discussing spiritual matters with her and felt frustrated by our differences in belief and my own lack of perfect answers. I felt hopeless. I slowly stopped asking her about her gospel questions out of fear of not having the answers. I started to think that we were too different to be friends.
It took a few months before I realized that in seeking answers to her (and my) questions, I had lost sight of the most important answer: God so loved the world—God so loves my friend.
In his October 2020 general conference address, President Dallin H. Oaks, First Counselor in the First Presidency, reminded us, “The Savior’s teaching to love [one another] is based on the reality that all mortals are beloved children of God.” He ended his message with a reminder about the perspective that this knowledge provides: “Knowing that we are all children of God gives us a divine vision of the worth of all others.”1
Those words struck me. Of course, this teaching is a fundamental truth. However, I realized that in my response to my friend’s transition away from the Church, I had set this truth aside.
Knowing that my friend—regardless of our differences in belief—is a beloved child of God changed everything for me.
Months had gone by with me feeling very distant from my friend, but I immediately called her after my realization, and I shared God’s love with her. I was able to explain why I had distanced myself from her. I articulated why it hurt to feel like something so precious to me wasn’t treated with respect. Fortunately, she was understanding, and we both apologized. We talked about how important our friendship was and how our similarities were stronger than our differences. I told her that I wanted to meet her where she was while maintaining my standards and faith, and that I hoped we could continue supporting each other. I was so grateful when she agreed.
Just as Zoram was “a true friend” to Nephi (2 Nephi 1:30), I aspire to be a dear friend to her, regardless of our differences.
I am grateful for the love of God—grateful that it is so pure, so powerful, and so pervasive that it can be with us in difficult conversations. I am grateful that the love of God is available to every human soul. I am grateful that the love of God allows us to love one another completely. What a divine, indescribable love.