The REAL Mormon Test: Making and Keeping Friends

While I'm constantly encouraging LDS members to get out and share our Mormon beliefs, online, I'm also feeling compelled to give you a little friendly counsel to ensure that everyone has positive experiences.   I was just reminded of how easily an innocent comment can be turned into a negative conversation IF we don't keep in mind that our intent is not to defend or debate our beliefs, or to convert -- but rather to provide credible information to those who are interested in learning more about Mormonism.

This friendly advice is brought to you as a byproduct of my personal experience with online communication, discussing religion, over the past four years.  My earliest experience came in forums and on various blogs, as a commenter.   My sincere desire has always been to provide credible information about the Mormon Church.  I've always felt that I had good intentions.  And I know that you do, too.

It was from these early experiences that sprung my desire to never want to debate or defend Mormonism.  Believe me, I tried.  At times I actually thought I did a pretty good job.  And maybe I did?   But in hindsight I learned that those who want to debate Mormon beliefs, are generally not the ones really interested in what I have to teach.  In fact, the opposite is true...  rather it is usually their hope to correct what they believe are my misguided beliefs.

Trust me -- when you take a non-defensive approach while sharing your beliefs with others, who may have very strong opinions, even oppositional to your beliefs, it most always will have a positive result.   And that's the most important thing to always remember -- how people feel when they've interacted with a member of the LDS Church.

Please keep in mind that when we use Social Media to share the gospel online, we are broadcasting to a large audience.  Most often you will have a positive response.  However, not everyone that sees your message will necessarily receive it as intended.  When this happens, from my experience, you have only a few basic options to ensure that your message continues to be perceived as designed.

These suggestions are also general guidelines for interacting with others, online. 

You can completely ignore the response -- which I don't generally recommend.  Most often when taking this approach, particularly when a very negative comment has been made, debate often ensues with others commenting who feel the need to come to the rescue -- and it might not be yours!    
Correct any misinformation presented -- keep it very brief and factual, and include a link to a credible resource.  With this non-defensive approach it is very likely that your intent will be understood by others, with no further interruptions. 
Politely acknowledge differences -- often times our friends require validation that their opinions and differences are respected -- and they should be.   It really can be this simple.

In conversation DO use terms such as "in my opinion", "I feel", "I believe" and avoid absolutes such as "I know".  Always leave room for another person's perspective, regardless of how it differs from your own.  Who knows, you might learn something? 
Don't be afraid to engage --  whenever someone responds to something you share, acknowledge them.  This sends the message that you are open for discussion. 
Never hesitate to apologize if you might have unintentionally offended someone.

If you're new to having online conversations about Mormonism, with non-members, I can assure you that you are in for a treat!   Yes there will be the occasional negative response, but in general you will find that the majority of people appreciate your willingness to share your beliefs.

We can also help each other when we see another member reach out and share something about our faith, online.  Avoid being that "commenter" who feels the need to come to the rescue of another member and defend.  Remember, we don't need to defend or debate -- or even state our position.  If anything, perhaps you could provide some kind words to ensure a positive experience for others commenting -- who may not understand or agree with what has been presented.

I'm sure that others reading this post have had similar experiences.  I'd love to hear how you've taken a potential negative experience when sharing the gospel online, and made it a positive?


Mormons and Social Media - Getting Started

Mormonism Defined - Why We Believe

Facebook EVENT: Sharing the Gospel Through Social Media


  1. I think it's also good to keep in mind that you will not change everyone's mind about Mormons. There are some people that only want to pick fights...let them be. There are people who will only want to know the truth, but that's it. Don't be offended or hurt if not every one wants to join the church. My personal policy is just to state the truth, my testimony and to not argue or debate.

  2. @Atomic Mom -

    Excellent advice! Thank you for sharing:)

  3. Another key response is to acknowledge when they've said something which is right, even if it's painful. Professional anti-Mormons are usually right in their accounting of facts in Mormon history, and trying to argue that will probably put you on the wrong side of the question. Instead of challenging their facts, research the subject to gain a more complete context in which to understand that fact, and, possibly, offer a contrasting interpretation of those facts that is compatible with your beliefs. They aren't going to come up with facts that prove the Church false, but they might come up with facts that challenge your understanding of events. If that manages to shake your faith, then you've built part of your faith on something that isn't true, but that just means your understanding was incorrect. Time to do some prayerful study to gain a better understanding of the truth.

  4. @Blain -

    Very important advice! I cannot emphasize enough the value of this counsel. If you are not familiar with information someone has thrown your way, pleeeeeease go research it before you respond. I have spent countless hours over the years doing exactly this. But also, don't feel the need to know everything. It's perfectly alright to just respond by saying you'll need to look into that.

    And may I also add that if someone puts in the comments of something you've shared, that which is blatantly anti-Mormon or disrespectful you have every right to delete it -- and I would recommend that you do. This is one positive reason to have conversations about your faith in a place where you can moderate the discussion.

    I find the FAIR Blog to be an excellent resource for a more in-depth resource on Mormonism.


  5. There are two talks I like to use as my foundation for engaging those who may want to debate or bring up 'facts' (I think usually anti 'facts' are devoid of context and perspective on what our faith is all about). I thought I would share them.

    Engaging Without Being Defensive

    Christian Courage

    The rules of engagement that I gather from these talks are the following:
    1) Some concepts are distractions. Our purpose is ultimately to share truth in ways that can build faith.
    2) We should seek the Spirit's guidance and how and when to respond (or if we should not respond at all)
    3) We should seek to be Christlike. We can't share the gospel in effective ways if we violate what it means to be followers of Christ.

    My personal experience is that there is usually very little that can be said to those who want to analyze history and point out 'facts' that they think prove Mormonism wrong. I also have felt that sometimes it's best just to let people who do want to hash things out have their space to do that. Sometimes even in good will, we can come across as being defensive or combative when we are just trying to clarify misperceptions. I think one of the best things we can do is simply share what our faith means to us from a personal point of view, rather than try to engage in 'fact' arguments. (Of course, there can be a time and place for that, but my experience is that they are more rare than I have thought and I regret engaging as much as I have in the past.)

  6. @Mormon Women -

    Thank you for the links to both of those inspired articles -- giving us outstanding counsel on how to most effectively share the message of the restored gospel. I recommend to all a careful reading of both of these talks. If we were to follow these teachings as we go forward to share our beliefs with others, there's no telling how this could affect the growth of the Church, so powerful are these principle for interacting with our brothers and sisters.

    I also appreciate the personal comments that you have shared with such wisdom. Thank you for taking the time to contribute.

  7. Sorry that I keep forgetting to put my name on the comments!


  8. @Michelle -

    Well, I knew it was you, but wasn't sure how you wanted me to refer to you. So, I used @Mormon Women. :)