By Garrett Hall
“[I] don’t care what a [man’s] character is if he’s my friend.—a friend a true friend . . . I will be a friend to him[.] Friendship is the grand fundamental principle of Mormonism.” Joseph Smith
Over the last year I have really learned to treasure and value true friendship. I am typically one that doesn’t like to share a lot of personal information. However, I’m going to go outside of that and share some events that have shaped my life over the last year and the benefit of true friends in the process.
Before I get going I’ll give you my résumé. I was born and raised in the church. I graduated seminary and institute, served a full time mission, married in the temple, served as ward and financial clerk, served as ym counselor, ym president, stake ym 2nd counselor, and probably some other callings that I don’t remember right now. I have 3 kids that have been brought up in the church and trying to do all the stuff that good Mormons do. My checklists of righteousness have been filled with check marks.
A little over a year ago I began to pass through a crisis of my faith. I began to question much of what I was raised to believe. I am not going to discuss the details of my faith crisis in this post. I am finding out everyday that I am not the only one that this has happened to, but in the moment I felt alone. I felt like the world was coming down on me. I felt all the wind taken from my sail. I had always been taught that if I did the things that the church taught that everything would be peachy…and Heavenly Father would bless me and my family. Here I was with all my world that I had ever known now crashing down on me. I was lost.
I have a friend, Michael, in my ward who through some email communications realized that I was struggling. I would soon find out that he had been passing through a crisis of faith for close to 5 years…I had no clue. Without me knowing, he knew what I was experiencing; he knew what my struggles were. In my moment of hopelessness and despair my friend invited me over to his house one evening. I was very nervous about talking with him because I knew that I would be opening myself up and sharing things that no one else knew, other than my wife.
I showed up to his house that evening and we started to talk. What happened next is something that I will never forget. For the next 2 hours he listened to me…then he listened some more. He never once tried to correct me. He never tried to tell me to pray harder or fast longer or read my scriptures more. He validated my concerns and showed empathy for the things that I was experiencing. After we were done talking he told me that I could call, email, stop by, at anytime…and I knew he meant it. He didn’t ask me if I was sinning, or if I was lax in my prayer/scripture reading/devotion to my calling/fasting. The fact that I knew I could talk to him about anything without judgment was so important to me.
Shortly after my conversation with this friend I found another friend…perhaps a friend that I would have never expected to ever be friends with. I was on the Feminist Mormon Housewives (FMH) Facebook page and I saw a posting from Jerilyn, a member of my ward that I was not friends with and I didn’t interact with at all. She was one of those crazy feminist liberals and I had no desire to deal with her….we had nothing in common. After seeing her comment on the FMH page I shot her a message and in jest I told her I was going to report her to the bishop for being involved with FMH.
That message to her led to what we now refer to as the greatest feminist love affair that ever existed…and the most unlikely feminist love affair. We started to talk about why I participated in the FMH community. We talked about my faith crisis. We talked about the pain that I felt. We talked about a whole lot that 12 months ago I would have never imagined discussing with her at all.
This wonderful friend told me that I had said some things in the past that had really hurt her….I was a very judgmental person, to put it kindly. I was the type of person that said what was on my mind without regard to the person on the other side. I was very vocal with regards to my political, moral, and just about everything else beliefs. However, in spite of the hurt that I had caused in the past, she told me that she had a new respect for me and the journey that I was on. She also told me that she loved me and would be there for me no matter what. The fact that she could look past our past history and still find it in her to show love to me was an example of true Christlike love. Her words were not hollow. I have since found that she meant every word she said. We talk all the time. She listens to me…she supports me…she backs me up….she loves me unconditionally.
We now talk on a daily basis. I share with Jerilyn when things aren’t going well. We spend time together. After pantspocolypse I received an email from my parents questioning me on many things. We were set to head to Wyoming to visit them for Christmas the next week and I wasn’t very comfortable with the direction things were going. I messaged Jerilyn and asked her if I could come talk. We spent a couple hours that night talking. Once again she showed me how a true friend acts. She listened. She empathized with me. She laughed with me.
Through many experiences like this over the last 6 months I have learned what true friendship really is. True friends want to make you a better person. They want to be there for you when you need them.
Most of the people in my life that are tied to me by Mormonism don’t know that I was ready to leave the church this summer. I could have left the church and never looked back with any guilt. I was willing to throw away all my Mormon history as a result of my faith crisis. My relationship with the church is still very complicated but I continue to go because of the friends that have shown true love to me…friends that were willing to listen…friends that don’t judge me…friends that truly care about me and want to be a part of my life. For those friends I say thank you. I love you. My life has been blessed because of our friendship.
Many of us have gone through a faith crisis or we know someone else that is going through a faith crisis. In these times it is important to extend a hand of fellowship, lend a listening ear, show love, and not judge. Without these friends that have stepped up and been there for me I don’t know where I would be.
My hope in writing this is that we can all learn to be better friends. I hope that we can learn to listen better. I hope that we can be less judgmental of others. I hope that we can learn to love unconditionally. I hope that we can be willing to set aside past differences and just show love. The new friendships that I have developed have changed me and made me a better person and a better friend.
By Jerilyn Hassell-Pool
I am, much to my parent’s dismay because they believe they raised me better than that—and they certainly tried their best—a liberal Democrat. After the 2008 election of President Obama, I saw a lot of ugliness on Facebook from the more conservative members of my ward. They said terrible things about liberals like me, which was hurtful and made me feel like I had very little in common with most members of my ward. I felt misunderstood and judged for my politics. I was told Garrett Hall was one of them and I avoided contact with him.
As time passed, I got more involved with fMh and one day, I received in my Facebook inbox a message from Garrett that said, “Sister Pool, your involvement with fMh is against the principles of the church and I’ve alerted our bishop.”
I responded with “You don’t scare me, Brother Hall.” when in fact, I was scared.
I discovered he was a member of the fMh Facebook group and did a search for things he’d said, afraid of what I would find, protecting my heart from attack with my guard and defenses up.
Instead, I found the words of someone who was struggling, who felt misunderstood as a member of our church and who was afraid of what people in our ward would think if they knew about his trials with faith.
My heart broke for him and I messaged him, telling him that he was safe with me and that he didn’t have to worry about me “outing” him or his struggles. At the same time, I felt the spirit bear witness to me that Garrett is deeply loved by our Heavenly Parents and I am meant to love him as They love him.
In the scriptures we are taught that charity is the pure love of Christ. People who match up with our beliefs and looks and financial status are easy to love. The pure love of Christ is the ability to love everyone, regardless of qualifiers. Every being on earth is deserving. Every. Being. Garrett Hall, in all of his gun-loving, conservative-voting, Obama-bashing ways is no exception.
In the months (can you believe it’s only been a handful of months?!) since then, I’ve grown to know Garrett and his wife, Tamara, very well. I love them as if they are my own siblings and it’s an honest love, based on admiration and respect. When I’ve had a rough day as a liberal feminist Mormon, Garrett is always among the first to rush to my aid. When I have a bad day as a regular human being, I know I can count on Garrett. When Garrett has a struggle, he knows I will open my heart, my home and my arms to him. We battle for each other. I feel understood, appreciated and loved—by Garrett Hall!
My feminism isn’t about militant action that elevates women above men. My feminism is about searching out and loving the people who, like me, feel marginalized or misunderstood and enlisting their help to create equality in our experiences, regardless of gender. The most powerful lesson I’ve learned in my relationship with Garrett is that sometimes my greatest allies in my quest for equality and love are found in the least likely of places.
Garrett and Jerilyn attend the same ward in Oregon. Garrett is married to his wonderful wife Tamara with whom he has been married 10 years. They have 3 children ages 6,4,1. He is most proud to be a great husband and father to his wife and kids. Jerilyn is the technical brain behind the Feminist Mormon Housewives Blog (and the new like and dislike buttons!). Both are active and popular members in the FMH FB Group.
This post initially appeared on the Feminist Mormon Housewives blog.