"En Guard!" - On Defending, Faith and Who's Right

Challenging discussions are great, in my mind, because they make you really look at where you stand. And the only way you can be secure in where you are standing is by being aware of why you stand there.

Last night I had a great discussion with my friend and her husband who I had gone to visit. You know the joke that you should avoid religion and politics if you want to have a polite discussion?

Nah! Avoiding those topics are for sissies :P So we jumped right in and and a good discussion, which gave me alot to think about.

I really feel there are some heavy misconceptions of what it means to defend our faith and how we really do that.

 I have a firm testimony and knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ and specifically in the gospel as taught and outlined by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Though I grew up in the Church I had a falling away period, which then gave me the opportunity to really come to know for myself - outside of family, culture and and other pressure. I believe there is right and wrong and absolute truths. But I also confess to not knowing the meaning of all things - I cannot always explain why some things are the way that they are, when juxtaposed against absolute truths I wholeheartedly believe in.

For example, as stated in The Family: A Proclamation to the World it states, "Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal and eternal identity and purpose." I believe gender is eternal, but I can also freely admit to not understanding then why life and who they are for those that are transgendered, is the way that it is. I cannot dismiss them as simply being confused or brainwashed - having interacted with a number of transgendered individuals, I have witnessed the difficulty and confusion.

Thus, I can stand and/or defend my beliefs without condemning people simply because I have no right to condemn anyone. Christ will be the judge because He can judge perfectly and knows the thoughts, intents, desires, and experiences of each of us. And this is where I think much confusing arises in "defending" our beliefs - defending is not EVER about attacking. Any time contention is present, the "defense" has gone contrary to what the Lord would have us do as His disciples. I can say that since in the scriptures it clearly states, "...he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil... (3 Ne 11:29).

Its also not about proving the other person wrong. Do we think they are in the wrong? Of course, we wouldn't need to defend our beliefs if that weren't the case. The problem is, THEY think they are in the right. So if both people go in with the attitude or belief of proving the other person wrong, contention will inevitably arise. Doing that also makes it about us - it makes US the attempted teacher, which in  the Church we know is not the case. If someone is to ever listen and be touched by what is said, the spirit MUST be present.

Thus, it is about calmly stating what we personally believe and know, this allows the spirit to be there, and if someone's heart is going to be touched it can then happen. Doesn't mean it will since everyone is in a different place and are seeking different things. In acting this way we can also have the spirit with us to guide us what to say since sometimes speaking specifically about something, or in a certain way is what that person needs at that moment. But we will not know that of ourselves.

THAT is defending our beliefs.

Too often as members of the truth we act as if we have the monopoly on goodness and truth. I want to use an analogy to illustrate what I see happening far too often.

Consider that truth and the way to eternal life is a big lake. The gospel and Church is A boat or way we partake in the truth and the means to keep us connected to and "afloat" atop the truth. But members of the Church aren't going to be the only ones on the lake. There will be large numbers of other people with different types of boats also on the lake.

Now imagine the scenario, where two boats draw close together and the occupants of the different boats proceed to try and convince the other occupants why THEIR boat isn't float-worthy. It would end up with upset feelings on both sides, and neither would be any closer to accepting the other as right. What is even more unhelpful is that if we as members of the church think we should be able to tell the other boat's occupants why their boat is not good, shouldn't be on the lake, etc. and then *GASP* in horror when they don't immediately abandon their boat and jump into ours, but rather start pointing out why we should get in THEIR boat. Or we grab our paddles and try and bash them in the head, make a hole in their boat and hotly say, "You shouldn't be on this lake." Seems so silly when stated in those terms, yet too often we act that way in "defending" our beliefs.

The thing is, the different people on the lake are going to come from a wide variety in background, beliefs, and current state in their life. Even people who SIN (oh my goodness!!) will be on the lake. But given that we ALL sin, that shouldn't be a surprise. There will be those that believe things against what we believe and/or what we call wrong. I say this because if we think about what will occur during the Millenium this fits. The only people that will be burned at the Second Coming are the "wicked." I put that in quotations because wicked DOES NOT equal sinful. We are all sinful - the state of the world during the Millenium will be a Terrestrial state. This means all people that truly worked to make the world a better place, and tried hard to be good people will be on the earth. There are certain parameters that will govern things, i.e. Christ will reign and be the Ruler but as far as how it will work for all of us during that time, we don't know. But it won't only be members of the Church. And thankfully at that time, Christ will get to figure out where justice and mercy is to be applied in all of our cases.


Stand for and defend your beliefs by stating and testifying of what you know.

Avoid trying to prove anyone wrong or pointing out the faults of others.

Listen to others beliefs and positions just as you want them to listen to yours

Focus personally on coming closer to Christ....

....not pointing out to others how you think they should be doing this

Don't attack anyone or feel like you have to have all the answers

In the end sometimes it simply comes down to faith - we do what we do because we have faith in our Heavenly Father, His Son Jesus Christ, in His perfect plan, that the Prophet is His mouthpiece and that He loves His children but we can't always explain why things are the way they are.
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One Of The Most Damaging Fallacies We Live By

I've had it said to me explicitly

I've seen it in actions, implied implicitly


Its scary and very damaging because every single one of us have needs and in connection with that we need other people. 

I will admit I'm a recovering "no-needs." I lived a large part of my life not giving any note or attention to my needs. Then I shifted to being more aware and at least recognizing my needs but expecting people to be "mind readers" - meaning I didn't ever want to have to say out loud what my needs were. I will forever be grateful for the time I volunteered at the women's shelter and a couple of awesome women I worked with. They taught me to recognize, understand and express needs. 

Since that time I've spent alot of time thinking about needs and had a great desire to share what I learned with others because it is so damaging as it undermines every type of relationship and also hurts us individually. We don't understand how to have our needs met or to help meet others needs and this eats away at the very foundation of what human life should be about.

So lets talk about where the belief may come from and how we can change things for ourselves and to benefit society, personal interactions and our relationships.

Our Mask of Perfection

 Trying to project a life of perfection leaves no room for needs because if we are perfect (as we work so hard to project) then we don't have any needs. And if we have such a thing as needs (picture gingerly picking up a dirty sock by two fingers) then they are all being met, thank you very much. So not only do we kill ourselves trying to project this perfection, we systematically ignore the very things we need to function the best we can, to learn and grow and to really be authentic. 

Needs Are All About Vulnerability...
...and society teaches us to avoid vulnerability like the plague. Expressing what we need places us in vulnerability. There is no way around it and no ifs, ands or buts about it. Asking for what we need places us in a position that we may be disappointed. If only expressing our needs meant they would be met - sadly I will break the news to you - it doesn't. 

You may be thinking, then why would I ever express them if it requires me to feel vulnerable AND they might not even get met?!?!

Well because they NEVER will if you don't express them. 

It helps you to know where the people are at in your life. YOU will know what your needs are, which helps you to understand yourself, how your life experiences have shaped you and to begin to recognize your UNHEALTHY coping skills. Because when your needs aren't being met, you must employ something to help you make it through. But its like drinking salt water when you are thirsty - it may seem to help for a SHORT period but ultimately doesn't help and even makes it worse. 

Above all it creates the POSSIBILITY of connection. Vulnerability is what allows us to create deep, strong connected relationships. 

Being Aware of Needs Asks Something Of You
Needs are two sided when talking about any kind of relationship. Meaning it is important for both people to strive to be aware of their needs and create a safe place to share them and strive to meet them. 

This is scary for people. This in fact is the biggest thing I've heard people say - "If I know what the expectations (needs) are then I have a responsibility and maybe I don't want that. I can't always do it so then they would be disappointed."

Am I the only one that is like, "Um, really?!" 

What kind of life and society are we continuing to perpetuate/create by not being willing to engage fully with others because we don't want any responsibility towards them? 

When there is an open dialogue about the needs of both people, part of that dialogue and awareness is that neither person is perfect meaning it isn't about being everything all the time. But it is surprising what an honest and sincere effort does in a relationship especially when both are committed to that. This also helps both to set appropriate boundaries that are respected and a foundational part of the relationship.

Sometimes you CAN'T do what they need - that is a needful and necessary part of life to recognize that just as it is by being willing and able to say when you can't. When both of you are expressing needs and giving sincere effort there is a space created to be able to say - I'm sorry I can't do this or I need this tonight but here is what I can do.

And other times it simply means you put aside yourself for a few brief moments - it doesn't mean you ignore your needs - as they will be expressed to - but that we strive for selflessness. Selflessness does not mean an ignoring of ourselves, but a recognition that part of life and relationships is putting someone at the forefront for a time. 

Relationships are the strongest when there is a balance of give and take on both sides. At some point one might need more than the other, but that balance always shifts when the needs are being met. 

Misapplication of Doctrine

2 Nephi 4:34 says: "O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm."

I think this scripture and others similar have been misapplied to mean we shouldn't need people. That needing people is "putting our trust in the arm of the flesh." If we weren't to need people I'm pretty sure Heavenly Father would have created the dynamics of our world much differently.

When Alma is talking to the crowd asking them if they are ready to be baptized he says they are to be willing to "mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort," which means part of being a member of the church is to need other people. Since if no one needed anyone else there would be no need to mourn with anyone or offer comfort to anyone. 

Part of our mortal journey is to learn how to be there for others and to learn how to accept help from others. Doing that adds an element of learning and growth for us. Often times the Lord answers prayers - which are often an expression of need - through other people. He wants us to learn how to recognize and respond to needs. 

Of course ultimately, others cannot save us or do things for us that can only be done through the Savior and His Atonement but much of what we need in this life can be given or at least supplemented by people around us. We must always rely on the Lord but not to the point where we close ourselves off to expressing needs to others and being willing to help meet needs. 

We often are willing to meet needs around us in a removed capacity - the neighbor that needs some yard work done or the ward member that is moving and needs some help but are unwilling to engage with those we have a closer or more daily relationship. Yet those are the relationships and interactions that have the most purifying potential because they will ask more of us. 

My parting words are 

Where do you start?

First, ask yourself what your needs are? Do you know? Identify what they are. Let go of the projection of perfection. No one is perfect - so just STOP IT. 

Second, identify those people in your life (family, spouse, friends, etc.) where needs play a vital part in a strong, healthy relationship. 

Third, have a conversation. Don't be afraid to start small - perhaps only expressing one need. Ask the other person to do the same. When both people in a relationship are vulnerable together it creates a safety bubble around both of your where the vulnerability doesn't seem or feel as scary. 

It will be hard at first as anything new is. It won't feel comfortable or fun. But if both people willingly engage, the relationship will be strengthened beyond what you know or have experienced. 
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