Nish Weiseth is a faithful Christian and an author. She is not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but until recently, she lived in an area highly populated by members of the Church, including Latter-day Saint author Emily Belle Freeman. The two became friends, and soon Weiseth began doing things that may have seemed odd from the outside looking in, such as watching every session of general conference and earning her Young Women medallion. Weiseth and Freeman recently sat down with All In podcast host Morgan Jones to discuss their unique friendship and their desire to learn more about each other’s respective faiths.
MJ: What was it that made you want to go to general conference or get your Young Women medallion? I wouldn’t even know where to begin in another religion, so I guess I just have so much respect for the fact that you did that.
NW: That’s a question I get asked often, especially by people on the Christian side. . . . Here’s the deal, and here’s what I’ve come to learn about general conference specifically. What every day [Latter-day Saint] members talk about, what they are teaching their children, what they’re talking about in their marriages and in their meetinghouses and just in the community, is in some ways kind of defined by what’s spoken about in general conference, right? So it’s kind of the place and the talks that are going to drive really what we would consider 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 whatever the case may be. So for me, it really was, I really do just want to know my neighbors well. I want to love my neighbors well, and frankly, even if I don’t necessarily agree with all of the theology that’s talked . . . about in general conference, I may not have a testimony of Joseph Smith, but at the end of the day, there are still wonderful, beautiful, faith-building elements to these talks that are in general conference. I always feel like I have something to learn. I always feel like there’s something that is going to help me just in my own journey, even if it looks differently. 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 frankly, we’re just not respecting our elders. We’re not looking to the people that have wisdom anymore and who have lived some life and have some things to say. We’re not taking what they’re saying seriously. I have a kind of deep, abiding love for doing that, and so that’s another piece.
As far as a Young Women is concerned, you guys are going to laugh at me about this, but when I decided to do my Young Women medallion, and I didn’t know I didn’t have to get my honor bee but I did, we were actually at Emily’s family’s house in Heber. We were both on a writing retreat. She had a project she was working on and I had a project I was working on, and we were taking a break from writing and we were in the kitchen. We were having some sort of conversation about something in the scriptures, so she pulls out her scriptures, and I don’t know why I had never noticed it before, but I noticed she had all of these, like, ribbon bookmarks. And I was like, “What?” I have this huge study Bible and I was 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 them?” That’s when she kind of told me about the Young Women’s program, and I kind of stopped and immediately 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, 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 [Latter-day Saint] girls and [Latter-day Saint] 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 stuff. She may even get invited to participate in some of that, and just from a parental perspective, 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.” So 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—I found so many things that just built my own faith. I learned so many things about myself, about being a mother, about what it means to be a woman, just through doing that program. It’s an amazing discipleship tool, and I was honored that I completed it and that I got my medallion. I did get my ribbons, they are in my Bible, and it was huge. It was just a wonderful, wonderful experience that I’ll always cherish, always.
Listen to the entire episode of All In with Nish Weiseth and Emily Belle Freeman here. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast to ensure that you don't miss an episode!