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To Everyone Disparaging or Belittling My Religion on Social Media:

Let me start out by thanking you for your opinions. I know it's not easy to voice them, because someone is always out to bash on your beliefs. Let me assure you I have no desire to be a basher of any kind.

The second thing I'd like to mention is that no matter your religion or lack thereof, even and especially if you are an ex-member of the LDS Church, I respect your spiritual journey and the lengths you've gone to to know yourself better. I appreciate your struggles and triumphs and battles. I respect your decisions. I respect you.

Now, please allow me to voice my own opinion.

There is nothing in my life that has helped me more than Jesus Christ's influence. I have come to know Him on a deep and complex level through the guidance and teachings and morals of my religion. I have read about Him in the scriptures and have come to recognize His infinite grace in my life.

That is what I believe.

I have no qualms with what you believe. I have no qualms with what you think about what I believe.

I have one qualm, though. It seems to be a recent trend that my spiritual journey is dismissed because of what I believe. More and more, I see people I respect and love categorize members of my religion as sheep, or blind followers. More often than not, it's because I, along with others of my faith, trust and depend upon the advice of our religious leaders.

Please don't assume that I don't have a deep-seated reason for doing that. Please don't assume that I, like you, haven't questioned, haven't pondered, haven't studied, haven't received a witness.

It just hurts a little to be discounted as thoughtless when I put more thought into this than anything else.

The more I learn about my religion, the deeper it pulls me in. However, I realize that, while I fully believe that anyone and everyone has a place in my religion, it just doesn't make sense to people. There are many reasons people don't join up, and there are plenty of reasons people don't stick with it. As a believer, I don't understand those reasons fully. But I do know they're there.

It works both ways, though. There are infinite reasons I will never leave. There are far too many reasons for me to stay. I've thought about it, prayed about it, struggled with it. There are aspects of my religion I don't understand. There are aspects of my religion that I struggle with. That's natural. But the endgame of living my religion is personal happiness. I don't live my religion upon the obligation of my parents, nor do I simply follow blindly the direction of men four times my age. To do that does sound really crazy, but you have to know what kind of person I am. I am skeptical. I don't trust very easily. I have come to trust my church leaders through a careful, meticulous and at times soul-crushing process. I test things out. I question things. I try to understand. Sometimes I fail. But living my religion, and moving forward on this path with faith and with Christ, has made me into a person I am confident in and proud of, someone I am happy with being. This has been my personal spiritual journey, and it has been hard-fought. It's not even close to over. My faith is ironclad. It's had to be.

Here's another thing: I don't believe my religion is the only religion being bashed, nor do I think my own personal path the only one being scrutinized, judged too harshly, or laughed at. I acknowledge that this whole post might sound hypocritical because I'm LDS and your personal experience with people of my faith has been that they disparage your life choices and discount your spirituality or lack thereof because it's not like theirs.

I sincerely apologize for that. I don't believe anyone acting in accordance with the LDS Church could've intended you personal harm or offense; but I also recognize that when someone says they've been hurt by me or people who share my faith, I don't get to decide if they truly are hurt or not. Your feelings are valid.

Additionally, in defense of my religion, let me be very clear: the belittlement of others' faith is not something taught in the doctrine of Christ. It's not something our church leaders have ever intended to preach and it's not something I've ever felt inclined to practice in association with being a member of the LDS faith. As someone who attempts to love as He loves, allow me to reiterate that I commend everyone, LDS or no, for establishing and deepening their own beliefs. I have the utmost respect for anyone willing to stick to their convictions in this crazy world. I apologize for any persecution you have been subjected to by anyone of any faith for what you believe. I understand how that feels. It's no fun to have your core beliefs and dearest values mocked, slandered, or torn down.

My message to those who are doing the mocking is a message of love. I love you. Understand the difference in minds. Mainly: don't assume that anything you don't understand is immediately wrong. People are doing what they feel is right. That's all we can expect from anyone.

I hope this came across the way I intended: not angry, just hopefully thought-provoking. I just want there to be more kindness and love in the world.

Arguing about and putting down any religion, or the lack thereof, isn't going to achieve that.

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