Can I Really Love People Who Make Choices I Don’t Agree With?
April 2024

Digital Only: Young Adults

Can I Really Love People Who Make Choices I Don’t Agree With?

When someone close to me stopped living the gospel, I didn’t know how to react.

a woman pondering a question

Recently, I had a phone call with one of my close friends. It went like most of our conversations do—we laughed, joked, and talked about our lives.

But my heart sunk as it became clear to me that this friend, one of my very favorite people in the whole world, was no longer living in accordance with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I remained neutral and kind during our call but hung up feeling disappointed. I was sad that this friend and I no longer shared the same values.

I wondered if I should have said more. Should I have stood up for what I still believed in? I didn’t agree with the decisions my friend was making, but I also didn’t want her to feel like I was trying to condemn her. And I certainly didn’t want to jeopardize our friendship.

Five different points have helped me as I’ve pondered this situation.

1. Love and Law Are Connected

Standing for God’s law while still loving and supporting those who live differently from us can seem complicated. Sometimes it feels like remaining loyal to God and His commandments means appearing judgmental if we disagree with someone’s choices.

I’ve often felt confused about how to balance law and love.

President Dallin H. Oaks, First Counselor in the First Presidency, spoke on this very topic at a worldwide devotional for young adults, saying: “I have previously referred to our ‘continually [trying] to balance the dual commandments of love and law,’ but I now believe that goal to be better expressed as trying to live both of these commandments in a more complete way.”1

In other words, law and love are actually interconnected and inseparable. The apostle Paul wrote, “Love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:9–10).

And Heavenly Father expects us to love everyone—including those who disagree with us. In the New Testament, the Savior taught His followers to love even their enemies (see Luke 6:27–28).

Love is God’s law, not its opposite. We should never stop loving someone in the name of following Him.

2. We Are No One Else’s Judge

This can be a hard pill to swallow, especially when our motives for “judging” seem to come from a good place—I want my friends and family to understand the peace and joy that come from living the gospel. I want them to feel gratitude for the Savior and for what He’s done for us.

But I have to remember that I can’t force anyone to believe in the gospel or practice a certain principle. Each person has their agency.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, then the Second Counselor in the First Presidency, provided clear counsel when he said: “We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children. … I will even quote a bumper sticker I recently saw. … It read, “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.”2

We are all imperfect and all in need of forgiveness (see Romans 3:23). I’m humbled when I remember this fact.

3. Love God First

Jesus Christ taught that the first commandment is to love God and the second is to love our neighbor (see Matthew 22:37–39).

Like me, perhaps you know individuals who believe they must leave the Church to better love, respect, and include all people. This has sometimes made me wonder if it’s really possible to love God and love others simultaneously. The world certainly doesn’t think so.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles offered a helpful perspective when he explained that “ignoring the first commandment, or reversing the order of the first and second commandments, risks a loss of balance in life and destructive deviations from the path of happiness and truth.”3

He provided four ways we can “put the first commandment first” so we can love others while remaining close to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ:

  1. Keep the commandments

  2. Serve one another and help others come unto Christ

  3. Pray and study the scriptures

  4. Live with accountability to God4

It’s comforting to know that I can’t go wrong if I love God first. Following His law and staying close to Him and my Savior will forever help me love my neighbors, even when their beliefs and choices differ from mine.

4. Seek the Guidance of the Spirit

Now, going back to the phone call with my friend. Should I have said something more to her?

President Oaks offered helpful counsel when he said: “Whenever possible we will refrain from judging people and only judge situations. … We can set and act upon high standards for ourselves or our homes without condemning those who do otherwise.”5

When I find myself in conversations over a situation I may not agree with, I’ve decided to seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost to know how to respond. Sometimes I may feel that the right thing is to share my opinion; sometimes I may feel guided to share less. But in all cases, it is important to follow the Savior and not judge unrighteously.

5. Be an Example of Discipleship

My friend and I still talk about the gospel, and our openness with one another has helped deepen our relationship. Even though I don’t try to convince her of my beliefs, I still try to be an example of a disciple of Christ. Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “Each time you bear vocal witness or demonstrate through your actions your commitment to follow Jesus Christ, you invite others to ‘come unto Christ.’”6

I know that it is possible to love those whose choices we don’t agree with—it’s one of the core principles of the gospel. By following the example of Jesus Christ, I know I can love God and His children, even when it’s difficult. And I believe these same things for you too.