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To Mormons: Baptisms and Bar Mitzvahs

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I popped on Facebook one morning last week, and was excited to see that I had some notifications and a couple of messages. The first item I clicked on was an invitation to a friend’s daughter’s mission farewell. Sitting alone, I said, “Aw.” I’ve never met my friend’s daughter, so I was even more touched by the invite.

After reading the specifics about the farewell, I clicked on Facebook’s Message icon. There were two short messages from my friend—the missionary’s mother—written less than 15 minutes apart. The first note kindly explained that I was welcome at the farewell, but my friend didn’t want me to feel obligated if it wasn’t my “thing.” She wanted me to know that she was thinking of me…and that we should do lunch again.

I loved it.

The second note said the following:

“Okay, if that came across as trying too hard, or me separating you out somehow, I apologize. It's been a few years since I lived outside of Utah or was outnumbered. I have no idea anymore how to extend this sort of invitation. Just know it was with the best intentions, even if a bit dorky.”

I loved that, too.

My reply:

“I saw your invite before I read this message. Thank you! I felt...like a friend...included in an important and special event for a girlfriend's daughter. I love your candor and your sincerity. I didn't receive the invite, or your messages, as trying too hard or dorky. I receive both with gratitude. Wonderful that your daughter is heading out on a mission!”

I’m not a member of the LDS Church. In my book I discussed experiencing paranoia, confusion, and hurt feelings when I felt solely like a missionary opportunity to everyone I met after moving to Utah County. That was honest and real. However, when we have friendships, when we care about one another as human beings, it’s an honor and a privilege to be invited to joyful or important events. Bar Mitzvahs, baptisms, confirmations, First Communions, mission farewells, mission homecomings, any farewell or homecoming, weddings, civil unions, births, and life celebrations when someone dies.

We don’t have to believe the exact same thing to develop friendships or care about one another. No one needs me to point that out.

I’m honored when I receive an invitation to a special life event. And I extend similar invitations to people who will clap, smile, or cry right along with me. I used to edit my attendee list based on someone’s religion or beliefs. My bad. Way to underestimate the majority of people, especially people I consider friends or kind acquaintances.

If I suspect someone is rolling their eyes at an invitation, whispering “weird” under their breath, or wouldn’t consider attending because of judgments about what is right, wrong, true, or false, I should probably scratch that person from more than my party lists.

Friends support one another when they’re able. They’re happy for each other’s joys, and empathize or sympathize when life is difficult, regardless of where or if church is attended.

Clearly, Utah—especially Utah County—is unique with its predominant Mormon population. The correct assumption is that more people are LDS than are not. But it’s an incorrect assumption to believe that nonmembers don’t want to be invited to baptisms of their LDS friends, or that members wouldn’t be honored to attend a Bar Mitzvah or Catholic confirmation.

Because…that’s what friends do.

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