E5: Emily Belle Freeman and Nish Weiseth: Different Faiths and Deep Friendship

Episode #5: Published Nov 7, 2018

How can we do a better job of building on common ground rather than creating artificial divides? Authors Emily Belle Freeman, a Latter-day Saint, and Nish Weiseth, a non-denominational Christian, are best friends who have built a strong friendship on a foundation of Christ.

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MORGAN JONES: When Emily Belle Freeman and Nish Weiseth first met for dinner, they talked for over three hours Emily is a Latter-day Saint and Nish is a non-denominational Christian, but that dinner was only the beginning of a beautiful interfaith friendship. 

This is All In, an LDS Living podcast where we asked the question, what does it really mean to be "all in" the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I'm Morgan Jones, and I'm here with authors Emily Belle Freeman and Nish Weiseth. We're excited to learn more about their unique friendship. One quick note for those listening,  while we know that Latter-day Saints are Christian, for the purposes of this conversation, we're going to refer to Nish as a Christian simply to differentiate her faith tradition. Emily, Nish. Thank you so much for being here with us.

EMILY BELLE FREEMAN: Well, we're excited to be here.

NISH WEISETH: Yeah. Thanks for having us. 

MJ: First of all, can you both tell me how you became friends?

Emily:  Yeah, this is going to be tricky. Who should start Nish? 

Nish: You.

Emily: Okay.

So I had the opportunity to watch a Christian conference about five years ago, entitled "The Ith Gathering." And it was my first time watching a Christian conference and I loved it. And when I was done, I reached out to the woman who produced it, Jenny Allen, and told her that it just been a really awesome experience and was there anything I could do to help out with what they were doing it here in Utah. And she emailed back and said, "I'd love to get on a call with you. And I have a friend in Utah, a Christian friend, who I'd also like to have on the call. And so would you mind doing that?" So we hopped on the call, it ended up being an hour long. And we all just talked about all the things we love, religion, faith, family, things that we believe and felt strongly about. And she said to Nish, "I think you and Emily should go out for coffee, and just continue this conversation." And it was awesome because Nish was like, "Well, or hot chocolate." And we ended up deciding to go to lunch. And that was a three-hour lunch, that we just sat and talked and realized how much we had in common and how much good there was to be done in the world. And that three-hour lunch conversation has never ended. It's been ongoing since that first afternoon. And what do you want to add Nish?

Nish: I mean, you kind of touched all of it, it was probably one of the most significant meetings of my life. I can't really express how much my own life and the trajectory of my life and the work that I do and the things that I think about really did change significantly, just with that three hour meeting and getting to hang out with Emily and realizing like, oh my gosh, we see, we see something here. This is something very special. We see a way in which like we can try, we just love each other. Despite all these things that we feel like we have, they're so different. We realized we really do have more in common than we have that's different. And that was just super inspiring. And I mean, I just loved her. I just loved her. And I just wanted to spend all my time with her. And the more time I spent with her, the more I found myself changed. And it's just been, you know, one of the most rewarding and beautiful friendships of my adult life for sure.

MJ:  I love that even before you two met in person Nish was showing respect for your beliefs. I think that's powerful. Do you remember your first impressions of each other?

Emily: It's interesting because just how Nish talks about filling that being drawn to me and that love for me, that is instantly how it was when we got together for the very first time. It was just that connection, a very deep connection, right when we met.

Nish: Yeah, I agree. 

MJ: In your time together. How have you seen that you are the same? And you mentioned that you have some differences? How are you the same? And how are you different?

Emily: I think some of the ways that we are the same is we both love the Lord. We both love scripture. We love teaching scripture, both of us are writers. So we both have that in common. And we have conversations about that. We love to ask questions. Both of us love other religions of all sorts. And so what our conversations aren't just Christian and LDS based conversations, but they are also transcended into Jewish and Muslim. And we just love religion, both of us do. But also we're both mothers, we both have strong relationships with our spouses. And we love to talk about that we love going on date nights together. So just the everyday things that you have in common are things that we both have in common.

Nish: Yeah, I would say one of the biggest things that we do have in common, which actually plays off of one of the ways that we're different. It's kind of funny how that works. But what we actually believe about who Jesus Christ is, is different. But we both have a very, very strong belief that he is the one that we're modeling our life after, and that we take his teachings and what he says and how he lived his life to like the highest degree of seriousness like that's, that's how we model our life. That's how we want to live our life and raise our kids and be in our marriages, and being our communities is the way in which Jesus would. And that, to me, despite all the different like, you know, minute theological differences, even though what we may believe about Jesus Christ is different, we both agree that like, oh, no, this is the guy we're modeling our lives after and our marriages, and how we mother. And so that is, I think probably the thing that is the strongest about us and the things that we have that are in common.

MJ: Yeah, absolutely. So when the two of you met Nish, you were living in Utah, and now you live in Idaho. But what was it like for you being a Christian, that was not a Latter-day Saint in the state of Utah? I imagine that would be an interesting experience.

Nish: Yeah, when we first moved to Utah, it was definitely, definitely interesting. I'll just leave it there. But the more I got to know, my Mormon neighbors, the more I really kind of made myself what I call a student of the culture. And I just wanted to learn, I wanted to learn what is it about this place? Like, what is it about these people that kind of like, makes them tick that makes them... what is the lens through which they see the world?

MJ: Right. 

Nish:  And I really believe that I can't truly love my neighbor, unless I take the time to educate myself and really understand how it is that they view the world and people of faith will always view the world and understand the world and interact with the world, through that particular lens, whatever lens that may be. Whether it's you know, LDS or Christian, or Jewish or Muslim or Hindu that, I mean, faith is a defining factor in so many people's lives. And so I really just decided, right after moving there that like, I'm as uncomfortable as this is, I'm just going to dive in. I'm just going to learn. So I started going to General Conference, I started reading the Book of Mormon, just trying to get like a good sense of like, okay, what is it that my neighbors see? What is it that they're experiencing, and that, in particular, made my time in Utah, not just like tolerable, it went way beyond just being tolerable. It was truly just transformational in my own life. And it was some of the most rewarding years. I mean, I can't think of a time in my adult life that was more transformational than my time in Utah. On my own faith and how I parent and how I'm in my marriage, all those things, it was just, it was the best thing. And I don't, I don't think I would be who I am today with the same passions and the same perspective that I am today without being in a very deeply LDS culture.

Emily:  I think that's something we all can learn from Nish to that is something that is so true about her is, she was so interested in understanding her neighbor, so she could love us well, that she dove right into the culture. I'll never forget when she called me right before General Conference weekend and said to me, "I want to go to General Conference, like can people like me go to General Conference? And it was one of those moments that I'm like, oh, my heck, I am the worst missionary ever because I didn't even think of extending the invitation. And she said to me, I was like, "Okay, what do you want to do? You might like the women's session, you should do that." And she was like, "Well, how many sessions do you go to?" And I said to her, "I go to five." And she said, "Okay, that's I'm going to do that. I'm going to do all five." And I was like, "That's like, the whole weekend." And she was like, "That's okay. That's what I want to do." And we actually came downtown for the women's conference. And she called beforehand to ask what she should wear. And then she showed up there, and she'd gone to Deseret Book and bought a triple combination. And that she had brought with her in case she needed it while she was there. And I just love that she dove in. It was about a year later, she called me and said, "I think I'm going to get my young women's medallion." So I went into Deseret Book and told the ladies there what I was trying to do, I think I got everything I needed. And she had taken a picture of it on the phone and shared it with me. And she did! She did the whole thing got her personal progress medallion and her honor because she thought you're supposed to do both. And that was an awesome experience because she ended up coming into my ward and meeting with my Bishop because you know, that's part of getting your medallion and going through that interview process with him, which was such an awesome memory that I won't ever forget. And she just was so interested in finding out what made us who we are, and the parts of our culture and accepting and embracing us for that culture, which I think is a really unique talent. And it makes me want to ask myself, How can I be better at doing that with my neighbors? Because it's easy for us to love the people who are like us, and who are in our same arenas and doing the things that we're doing. But how often do we walk outside of what is comfortable for us and experience someone else's way of life in order to love them better? And each of us could probably ask ourselves that question right now, how could I be doing that better today?

MJ: Absolutely. I feel like I should clarify, I have like a million follow up questions that I want to ask based on what the two of you just said. But I recently had the opportunity to get to know both Emily and Nish through a project that we've worked on together. And it's interesting because I have just kind of watched your friendship and watch the way that the two of you are and you both have a light about you. But it's interesting to hear the background for me because I didn't know any of this. So first of all, Nish, what was it that made you want to go to General Conference or get your Young Women's medallion? I feel like that's so, I wouldn't even know where to begin in another religion, which I guess I just have so much respect for the fact that you did that.

Nish: Hmm. That's a good question. It's a question I get asked often especially by people on the Christian side, like, what but why, but why? Here's, here's the deal. And here's what I've come to learn about General Conference, specifically. What every day LDS members talk about what they are teaching their children, what they're talking about in their marriages, and in their meeting houses, and just in the community is, in some ways, kind of defined by what spoken about in General Conference, right? So I mean, it is it's kind of the place in the talks that are going to drive, really what we would consider like the discipleship of your members for the next six months. And if your faith is the most important way in which you engage the world, and it's the lens through which you see the world, me listening to General Conference and hearing what it is that your leaders are saying is going to help me understand, oh, I understand why you're talking about that with your kids. Elder Holland said that. Or, you know, whatever the case may be. So for me, it really was this, like, I really do just want to know, my neighbors well. I want to love my neighbor as well. And also there are I mean, frankly, even if I don't necessarily agree with all of the theology that's talked in General Conference, or talked about in General Conference, I may not have a testimony of Joseph Smith. But at the end of the day, there is still wonderful, beautiful faith-building elements to these talks that are in General Conference that I always feel like I have something to learn. I always feel like there's something that's going to help me just in my own journey, even if it looks differently. And so I'm always anxious to hear what just older, wiser people have to say, regardless of their faith tradition. I think that's a huge problem that we're seeing in our culture right now is that we're just not, I mean, frankly, we're just not respecting our elders, we're not like, you know, looking to the people who have wisdom anymore, and who have lived some life and have some things to say. We're not taking away they're seeing seriously and I just have a really kind of deep abiding love for doing that. And so that's, that's another piece. 

As far as Young Women is concerned, you guys are gonna laugh at me about this. But when I decided to do my, my Young Women's medallion and get, I didn't know I had to get my honor bee, but I did. We were actually at Emily's family's house in Heber. We were both on like a writing retreat. She had a project she was working on, I had a project I was working on. And we were taking a break from writing. And we were in the kitchen. And we were having some sort of conversation about something in the scriptures. And so she pulls out her scriptures. And I don't know why I had never noticed it before but I noticed she had all these like ribbon bookmarks. And I was like, what? I have this huge study Bible, and I was like, oh, man, like, where did you get that? I would love to have a bookmark that has like a lot of different ribbons that I can mark different places. And she was like, well, "You have to earn them." And I was like, "What do you mean, you have to earn." That's when she kind of told me about the Young Women's program. And I kind of stopped in immediately I was like, "Well, of course, I'm going to do it because I want those ribbons." But the second piece was, the more I thought about it, I mean, obviously, we live in Idaho now. But at the time, we were in Utah and had no plans to leave. And I thought you know what, I have a daughter. And she's going to be raised in this culture. And she's going to be raised alongside LDS girls and LDS young women who are going to be going through this program who are going to be doing these things and earning their ribbons and all of that. So she may, she may even get invited to participate in some of that. And it just from a parental perspective, like I would love for her to be able to come to her mom and talk about those things that she's learning alongside her friends or questions that her friends have of her or vice versa. And so, I mean, just from a parenting perspective, I thought, okay, this will probably be useful. What I wasn't expecting was the Young Women's Program and getting my medallion was like, I found so many things that like, just built my own faith, I learned so many things about myself, about being a mother, about what it means to be a woman. It's just, just through doing that program. It's an amazing discipleship tool. And I was honored that I completed it. And then I got my medallion. I did get my ribbons, they're in my Bible. And it was huge. It was just a wonderful, wonderful experience that I'll always cherish. Always.

MJ: I love that it was the ribbons that made you want to get your Young Women medallion, because I'm feeling, I'm feeling a little bit like I didn't get my reward. I didn't get any ribbons.

Nish: You can still get ribbons.

Emily: You were denied.

MJ: I'm going to work for those ribbons. Do I have to work for them still?

Emily: Yeah Morgan, you still have to work for the ribbons. Nish will tell you how to do it. 

MJ:  Perfect!

Emily, in watching the efforts that Nish made to kind of embrace this culture that she was surrounded by, what did you learn about what we as Latter-day Saints can do to be less exclusive, and more inclusive and more open to learning from people of other religions? 

Emily: So that's such a good question. It would be interesting for you to know what my journey was looking like at the same time as Nish’s journey. Because both of us were so intrigued by how the other lived out their faith. And so I started attending Christian churches with Nish and fell in love with not just Christian music, which I think all of us enjoy Christian music, but a certain type of Christian music, which is called Worship. And just fell in love with worship music and how music is such a part of their culture and the way that they do church. But also one of the things I fell in love with was there women's Bible studies that happened during the week. And I started attending one itself Mountain Community Church in Draper. And it was life-changing for me to be there. And having that experience of meeting with women and talking about faith and talking about scripture. And that's something that many Christian women devote an hour and a half of their time to every week is really getting in scripture and talking about scripture together.

MJ: Which we don't really do.

Emily: Yeah, we don't do that as much outside of church. And one thing that I learned is when you are meeting with a group of women, and you are talking about spiritual things, the friendship bond that is formed in a situation like that is so powerful, and so sweet because you're sharing some of your most intimate thoughts and your beliefs. And those things for me were so important in helping me to understand just as Nish was trying to understand our culture, allowing me the opportunity to do the same. And one of the things for me, that was so defining as a Latter-day Saint is one day when I was driving to a Bible study. And it was in the evening, and all my ladies were gathering together in Herriman. And as I drove through the neighborhood, I was looking at how many kids were out running through that neighborhood. And it was summer and some of the teenagers were around and we got to that house and the cute lady who was hosting said how she had a daughter who was going through some really tough medical things. And she had said, we've had to fly my mother-in-law in to watch her son who was there because they were gone so much at the hospital. And I said to her, "Why don't you just call, I'm sure there are some darling girls in your neighborhood who would be willing to help out." And she said this, "We don't know any of our neighbors." And I looked when I left down that street and thought that ward and that neighborhood has to have at least 50 young women in it. It just was that kind of neighborhood. And I immediately thought to myself, just I took ownership as a Latter-day Saint that we felt that woman in that time of crisis. Why did no one know who she was, and why was no one helping in that situation? It was a couple years later, I had a total opposite experience. I was going to a different one of our Christian women in that same Bible study who lived in Lehi. And she had just had twins. And then she had a two-year-old and a three-year-old. So imagine that life change. And I had gone over to take dinner. And when I call to ask when I could bring dinner in she said, "Oh, the Relief Society president has already been here. And they've signed up the Relief Society for the whole month. And also the Young Women's president has called me and they've assigned girls to come over every afternoon to play with my boys so I can have it too hour nap." And I was like, "Who is your Relief Society president? I want to go meet her. I just wanted to hug that woman and be like, this is what it looks like to love your neighbor. This is it somehow that little neighborhood had figured it out.

MJ: They got it?

Emily: Yep. 

MJ: I love that so much. I think that it's interesting how siloed we can make ourselves and we just it just takes reaching out. And I think both of you are such a great example of that. Before meeting Nish, had you been involved with other churches? Or was she kind of what inspired you to become more involved?

Emily: Yep, she was for sure what inspired me. I have always loved other religions. And I've read books about them. And I've studied them. And I've been intrigued by their traditions. And I call it holy envy. I just I love what we can learn. But I had never had a friend this close that was a different religion. So that for sure was eye-opening for me.

MJ: I love something that Emily said about the foundation of that friendship. When you have studied the scriptures together or learned about God together. It made me think about the scripture in the Book of Mormon in Helaman 5:12, where it says, "A foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall," referring to Jesus Christ. And I've always thought that that's interesting because I think that if you have a friendship that's based on the Savior, it cannot be broken. And Nish for you. How do you feel like your friendship with Emily has been built on a foundation and a love for Jesus Christ?

Nish: Well, I mean, pretty much in every way. I mean, if we look at who Jesus was, and how he, you know, ministered and walked in the world and interacted with people, it was out of this, like, you know, deep love for the person regardless of where they were in their lives. And I mean, I can attest to Emily's character, and just how she lives her life. Never once, in the moments where like, I have felt like things are falling apart, or I'm having a really hard time or what, I have never once felt judged, I have never once felt like I was getting a lecture, I have always felt so loved. I have always felt so welcomed not just by her, but her entire family, which is a testament to how she's raised her kids and her marriage. I mean, I can't imagine how this type of relationship works really in any other way without that, just really deep understanding and deep love for the other person. And the way she has chosen to like model her life and the way that she loves Jesus is evident in how she treats others, including myself. And so I think just having that, that that welcome spirit that hospitable spirit that says, you are welcome here doesn't matter who you are, you just come to me as you are. She embodies that with like, every fiber of her being. And I mean, that's like a huge foundation of any relationship is just, you know, having that, you know, true love for the other person.

Emily: And we should say it hasn't always been easy. And I think it's important for people to realize that you don't just jump into a relationship like this, and everything is sweet. And everybody learns amazing things. And it's just easy because you love Jesus Christ. That is not true for either of us in this experience. And I think that's important for people to realize. We have gotten a lot of feedback, both camps, even, you know, within our own families and close friends of people saying, "What are you doing? Why are you doing this? And what's the agenda behind what you're doing?" And so we've had to answer those questions and really look, you know, inward and say, why am I doing this? And what is it that is prompting this friendship and why is it so important? But we've also had lots of like fo pause of funny little things that happen because you can't guarantee what your own people are going to do when you bring someone else into that situation and we've both had to learn how to give each other grace and the same, you know, people in our communities.

I'll never forget one time Nish invited me to house church. Do you remember this Nish?

Nish: And oh, do I?

Emily: She had invited me weeks before and then forgotten that she invited me. And I'd never been to house church. House church is when you go to someone's house after church in the evenings and talk about what happened to church while you eat dinner.

MJ: I've never even heard of that. 

Emily: I know. Don't you want to have house church?

MJ: I do. Can we do that?

Nish: You talk about the sermon. You read your scriptures. You pray together. It's essentially just like it makes your church community small— like you have kind of your, like, small group of people in a big community that you kind of unpack what you heard about at church that day that go to church together that sort of thing. So that's what it is just to give people context.

MJ: Okay.

Emily: So I show up on her doorstep, knock on the door, she opens it, looks at me smiles really big for a second cause she likes me. And then this look of horror comes on her face, and she steps out and shuts the door behind her on the porch. And she's like, 'Ah, I forgot you were coming. And I better tell you the topic of the evening." Can you remember what it was Nish?

Nish: Yeah, it was about, I mean it had something to do with like the LDS church and being a Christian amongst the LDS culture.

Emily: How can you live as a Christian among the community of the LDS church. That was the topic for the evening. And she was like, should you stay? And I was like, oh, totally, I'm so interested in saying like, I can barely wait, you know.

MJ: So do you like participate? Or do you just sit down watch in that situation? 

Emily: Right, exactly. You know me well enough. I just jumped right in, why not?

MJ: Emily, what would be your advice, because you are the type of person that just dives in? What is your advice to people to Latter-day Saints or really, to anyone who has concerns about attending or is nervous about attending meetings of other religions?

Emily: The best advice I can give you, I actually learned from Michael Wilcox, who is one of my very favorite people in the world. We love him. And I'm great. He talked about you know, those math compasses that have the two ends, their points at both ends like you can drop perfect circles with them. Do you know exactly what I'm talking?

MJ: I do know exactly what you're talking about. 

Emily: And how you put the one end in the pointy end, you stick it in. And then you draw that little circle, right. And he said this, "If that foot is planted, that that first side is planted firmly, that circle can get as big as you want the circle to get and the foot stays firmly planted where it is. And I love the thought of that. Because for us, what we have to do first is ask ourselves, am I firmly planted where I am? And am I confident in my belief system and where I am. And when you have that assurance, that confidence, it allows you to go into a different situation, without fear, but more with an open heart that is wants to see the good that can be found somewhere else, and not just see it, but figure out how you can take that good and bring it back to what you already know. And I think for Nish and I both of us are in a place where we are so firmly planted in what we believe that every time we reach out and we ask questions and we explore an all of those things, but everything in a way that will build our own faith that will make us better in the place where we already are.

MJ: Nish, Is there anything you would add to that? 

Nish: No. I mean, it's a perfect description. I mean, the only thing that I would maybe add to that is to say like, listen, we all go through seasons of doubt. I think that's normal. I think asking questions is good. But if you are in a place where you're just struggling with your own faith, if you're asking some really hard questions of your own tradition, now is not the time to go and look elsewhere or to go and explore elsewhere. That it kind of piggybacks off of what Emily was saying, just be honest about where you are in your own faith journey. And have other people be willing to speak into that and say like, I don't think that's a good idea. Now, obviously, Emily and I have received pushback from other folks in our individual camps often about like, maybe that's not a good idea. But it's, it's not when based on like love and mutual understanding. It's always kind of based on fear. So just be aware of where you are. Be aware of your surroundings. Be aware of what the people in your community are saying. And just take all of it into account and move forward in faith if that's, you know, the direction that you want to go.

Emily: And I think it's important to remember, I love when Jesus said, it's easy to love the people who are like you. That is easy. The greater commandment is to love the people who are not exactly like you. And to be able to look out and ask yourself really who is my neighbor? Because it's easy to love the neighbor who goes to church where you go to church and who dresses the way you dress. And who does all the things the way you do things? 

MJ: Basically just loving yourself.

Emily: Yeah, really, it is just, it's comfortable. But what about loving your Christian neighbor? What about loving your gay neighbor? What about loving the people who live in your community who really need love. They need love. And Jesus said, love everyone. And that kind of love requires us to love boldly. It does. And you have to set fear aside, in order to love boldly.

MJ: Which I think oftentimes that takes the most courage. Loving when it maybe is not the most socially acceptable. And I love that both of you have mentioned push back. How do you handle that? Does that hurt your feelings ever? Do you ever feel yourself becoming defensive? Because I feel like I would. I would be like, "Nish is my friend, don't tell me how to love her." But how do you handle that?

Emily: One of the things that it does for me is it always makes me look at my motive. So every time I get pushed back, I'm always like, it's good for me to sit back and reflect. Why am I doing this? Why do I feel so passionate about doing this? And where's my heart? And sometimes it's just explaining to someone else. This is where I'm coming from and why I'm doing it because maybe that person if they understood the perspective, they might want to also be involved in doing something like this. But sometimes it's just educating people to the blessings and the influence, that someone else who's different than you can bring into your life.

Nish: Yeah, and for me, I would say similarly. And I would also add that the pushback, it's so difficult. But one of the things that I try to explain to folks is, and this is probably the hardest piece for both of our camps is well why you in a relationship with one another? And with without like converting each other? 

MJ: Which is a very valid question.

Nish: To approach, kind of our friendship to like, almost like a conversion experience. Like, okay, well, why do you keep having these conversations if you're not trying to convince her you're right?

That's just really hard for some folks, and which is fine. But we are able to just love each other for each other's faith. And I have just learned over time that I don't have all the answers, there are always things that I can learn. And so by being in a relationship with Emily, not only is it just a wonderful friendship, like, if you know, my marriage was falling apart, or something like she would be at the top of the list of people I would call, she's just a good friend. But other than that, like, being in a relationship with Emily like I learned something from her every time. And it, there doesn't have to be this motive of some sort of like end game. Like there doesn't have to be an end game, it can just be a good loving friendship for the sake of being good loving friends with one another. And that that can be really hard for folks. And so I, I do try to educate, I do try to, you know, have people understand what my motives are, and like why we have these conversations and what it is that I'm learning. And if they can see kind of the fruit of that relationship in my own life, they there's kind of a less of a reason to criticize or ask those questions. 

MJ: Right.

Nish:  And the more people actually see that and go, oh, that makes total sense. You, you get less and less push back.

MJ: And together, the two of you formed, this group multiply goodness, where I feel like it's kind of like an extension of your friendship, you've allowed other people to be a part of this mutual understanding and respect for one another's faith. And that's continued to extend. But one thing that I love when you do, so they do some Bible studies here in Utah, and online, and allow people to invite people into this conversation and studying the scriptures. And one thing that I love, Emily, that you've talked about is that it's important to understand that we're not trying to convert one another. And you say, you know, we are just coming together to appreciate the faith that we have an add to the faith that we share. Why do you think that that is so important for that to be a, to be understood in forming friendships with people of other faiths?

Emily:  Well, one of the things that I feel strongly about and it's been interesting, because as Nish and I have had this friendship, people all the time come up, and they'll say one of two things. Either, "I have a friend like you," and they'll talk about that sweet experience. But most commonly, what I hear is, "I have someone I know who has a different religion than me that I would like to be friends with, but I don't know how I don't know how to do it." And so it's been interesting, because initially, I had the opportunity to start multiply goodness, specifically for that reason to help other women realize how to build bridges. And then recently, we've combined with the small seed because there are so many women asking right now, how do I develop a friendship like this? And how do I have experiences like this? And when I look at the why, behind that, why are so many people interested in in doing this? And and both Nish and I come from churches that proselyte. We've been raised with, you know, that that conversion mentality, but this is a different call. And I think for me, when I look at it, there's we have the missionary effort that goes on both of us do, but there is also a need for what we call bridge building. And when I look at the world right now, and I feel what is going on in the world, and I see the places where the world is hurting. I see the places where we are combating so many influences of the adversary, and we're fighting against that. And it's things that Nish and her community are fighting against, as well as me and my community. And I look at it and think we are stronger when we combined together than anything we can do separately. And there is something about building these bridges in our communities and allowing people to see that our faith actually transcends our fear of those conversations and those situations. And that by building those bridges together and having those conversations and talking about scripture, with as many women as we can be talking about scripture with, we're actually creating a force for good in all of these little places where we can be making a difference for good.

MJ: Nish, why do you think that there is so much power behind this idea of women joining together to study the scriptures? And why has that been so important to both of you that you've been put it into action, you've actually acted on that?

Nish: I would piggyback off of what Emily said, I do have a very strong belief that we are able to accomplish so much more in the world together than we can on our own. That's 100% true, there are a thousand different things that need love and care and attention in our world. And the more we can combine forces with one another, to love our neighbor as well, the more good we're able to do in the world. That's, that's one piece. The other piece that I would probably say and answer the question of like how this is resonating and why this is resonating with women, is that right now, I think where our culture is, with the influence of social media, obviously, we can talk about politics, we can talk about all these different things, but we are actually now more divided. And we all feel I think a little bit more alone than we ever have. And there is something really special and powerful about getting out of our silos and getting out of our homes and actually going someplace and meeting together as women in person and not just opening up the scriptures together and opening up The Bible together like that, in and of itself is an immensely powerful experience. But the other piece that is also incredibly powerful is just sharing each other's lives with one another. It's something that we're not doing as much anymore. 

MJ: We're just sharing them on social media. 

Nish: Yeah, that's right. I mean, we are looking constantly at someone else's highlight reel, right? But my life is 99% bloopers and 1% highlight reel.

MJ:  39:45  

I want to see all the bloopers, Nish.

Nish: They're a hot mess. The truth is, is that like I want like, I may not say it out loud, but my desire, one of I think everyone's desire, at some level is to be known and to be loved for who they are. And that's really hard to do unless we are in each other's lives. And we see what it is that we're struggling with every day, where our victories are every day. Like, I want to know what another mom is struggling with, with her kids. Like that helps me know her and helps me know how to love her better. And we don't have those conversations enough. And so by coming together, over what we have in common over you know, the thing that is probably the most informational thing in our life, which is our faith and The Bible and the things that we have in common there, we're able to open ourselves up to one another in a way that you wouldn't otherwise be able to do. And I think that's why women are flocking to this. Like I hear from more and more women saying like, I would love to be a part of this. And one of the reasons why is they say, I just feel so alone.

Emily: I think that is also something that we feel like we're missing right now is that feeling of being included, and belonging. And just providing a space where someone can be invited in. I know a year ago Nish and I have a Bible study and one of our cute friends Rhonda had joined and she was like, have you ever thought about doing this live? And Nish was like, "I don't think anyone would watch." And it was so surprising that like, four weeks later, 6000 people got on to be a part of that conversation because, yeah, people want to be involved in that. And to be able to open up a situation where you can come and gather and talk about scripture and celebrate faith. We don't have a lot of places where we're doing that in the middle of the week. And to be able to, to provide something like that I think is unique. But we Nish and I both were so shocked at the end of that week that we were like, "Where did all these women come from?"

MJ: Well, I think that that's what people are searching for on social media through likes and comments. They want to feel connected to something, to someone. And by allowing them to observe and then now you're inviting people to take that into their homes, which I think is really neat.

Nish: I think one of the other pieces too is that I think women I mean, I can say this about men too. But women specifically just because it's you know, my own experience in the conversations that I've had, there's a deep desire in women to allow our faith and what, what we believe to shape every aspect of our life. And it's really hard to do that if all of my faith development or discipleship, however, you want to couch that, just happens on a Sunday. And I think I think women really want this to be a part of their every day every week life. And so there is that, that that deep desire to allow our faith to truly inform who we are in every aspect of our lives. And by gathering together weekly with other women in your community in person, it kind of takes it like takes it out of the Sunday context, that kind of official Sunday context and like, plops it right in the middle of your messy life. And I think women are really resonating with that and saying like, no, this is what I wanted. This is what it means to really live out my faith in every day.

Emily: And I'll never forget when my daughter got married. And we had sent out all the invitations and you know, how receptions are where people come all through that hour and a half, they come and go and come and go and you see everyone who you know and love. And I will never forget that my 10 Bible study lady showed up at the very beginning, and sat down at a table and stayed at that reception until the very end. And I took everyone in my family over to meet them and to talk with them and to experience that. And I just kept looking over from the line on all night long and thinking, those are my ladies. Those are the women that I share my heart with every single week and the power of the women at that table and their influence in my life. And I look back at that wedding day and that is one of the memories I will never forget is those 10 women sitting at that table and just being part of a life moment for me and being there for me. And I think some of that comes just from the fact that we are sharing, you know, those intimate and vulnerable details of our hearts with each other and it makes us want to be invested in each other's lives.

MJ: Yeah, that's so beautiful. And it reminded me of a post recently that Nish posted on Instagram. And it was being there at one of those life moments, which is when your daughter went through the temple for her endowment. And I thought it was so sweet what Nish said. She said, "When your best friend's baby arrives at a pivotal moment in her life in faith, a moment she's been waiting for her whole life. Of course, you show up." Nish, why is it important for you to be there at times like that. 

Nish: I mean, it's kind of all-encompassing of everything that we've talked about. Right? Like, I mean, this is that that was a moment that Emily and her husband, Greg, have you know, invested in their daughter, Grace, who is about to serve her mission. I mean, that was a moment that they have invested in as parents. For years, it was a moment that they have walked alongside their daughter to prepare for, for years. It was a pivotal moment. And I don't, I obviously have never been through the temple. But I know enough now after, you know, being a part of Emily's life, and learning about the Mormon tradition, to know that like, this is a really big moment. This is super important.

Emily:  She drove down seven hours from Idaho, to be there and sat in the waiting room and waited while we went through that whole thing and sorry that it chokes me up a little bit. But, you know, everyone needs a friend like that. And I love that Nish, even though she couldn't come in and experience that with us, made it such a priority to come down and be with us and be in those pictures that we took after. And it was such a defining moment for Grace, also, to have Nish there. And part of that, what was going on in her life. Grace invited three friends to that moment and Nish was one of the three that she invited,

Nish: it was super special. It was super special. And I mean, it was one of those things to where like I knew I I couldn't go through, I couldn't participate. But you better believe I was going to be the first face that she saw when she walked out. Because her, her whole family was going to walk out with her, which is beautiful. It was a beautiful moment to witness walking into the waiting room with her brother and her sister.

MJ: I feel like there's a recurring theme in this conversation that I really appreciate, which is that this concept of building bridges and being friends, regardless of religion requires showing up. Being there. Whether it be showing up at your house church, or showing up at General Conference or driving seven hours or going to Bible study. All of these things they add up and what they add up to is a beautiful friendship. I admire both of you so much for that example. We just have one last question for you. And that is what does it mean to both of you to be "all in" the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Emily: For me, that's something that I feel really strongly about is that thought of just giving everything I am and everything I have to teaching people about Jesus Christ, whatever I can do. And I've learned in my life, there is nothing that brings me more joy than to be able to share my witness of who He is, and what He has done and what He has the power to do for all of us in our lives. And so for me, it's whatever I can do for Him today. That's the most important thing I can do. 

MJ: Thank you. Nish?

Nish: Yeah, I think just what Emily said there's, there's no greater cause. There's, there's no greater thing that you could invest your time in, that you can shape your life around, that you can build your life around other than the life and work of Jesus. And so, being a disciple of Jesus, and teaching my children, to be disciples of Jesus is not only just the greatest responsibility, and it's the thing that I ultimately desire to do, but it's, it's also the thing that has brought me the greatest gifts and blessings of my life. I can't imagine how my life would be different without it. It's just it's too great of a difference. And so to be "all in" means to be just that. Is to transform, to be transformed by Him, by His words, by His teaching, by His Spirit, and to allow that work in me to be shown to others and hopefully it would transform them as well.

MJ: Thank you, Nish. And thank you, Emily. Thank you both so much for being here with us and for taking time out of your busy schedules. We really appreciate it and I feel like people will be inspired to build friendships like yours and their own lives. 

Nish: Thanks for having us. 

Emily: Thanks for having me. 

MJ: We hope you love listening to this episode. If you're interested in learning more about Nish and Emily, two of Emily's most popular books, 21 Days Closer to Christ and, Becoming His have been combined into a paperback titled, Closer to Christ, which is available at Deseretbook.com And Nish is the author of Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World. To hear more episodes of All In, visit ldsiving.com/allin.