Beliefnet
Dear Pastor Paul,
For some time now I've been curious about Mormonism. I haven't told anyone, but after some research on the Church of Latter-Day Saints, I am considering converting. My dad is a Methodist minister, my mum a devout Catholic, and I know she would be terribly upset with me for leaving the Church. (I think my dad would support me as long as I gave him a reasonable answer why.) One of my friends believes it's a cult. Is it a cult and I'm just being pulled in? What if I convert, then decide it's not for me?

--Wandering Heart

Dear Wandering,
As you've probably gathered from my columns, I support people in their conversions if the change is well thought out, spiritually inspired and not coerced. Since you're in the Christian tradition, I'd hope that you've spent a lot of time in prayer about this decision, as well as learning what it will mean to adopt the tenets of the Church of Latter-Day Saints.

Your friend's concerns about Mormonism are ungrounded. The Church of Later Day Saints has experienced discrimination from its beginnings when Joseph Smith and his followers were forced to leave up state New York because of their unorthodox beliefs. While some Christians continue to debate whether Mormonism is a Christian faith, Mormons consider their beliefs within the Christian tradition.

A cult is an organization does not allow people to leave of their own free will. The Church of Latter Day Saints is very active in recruitment, requires a lot of its members, and hopes and expects that you will maintain your connection to the church if you convert. However, if at any time you decide that it is not for you, you will be able leave if you desire.

Dear Pastor Paul,
I am a Catholic schoolgirl, as cheesy as that sounds. For a while now I have been having some feelings for my friend, she has the same feelings. I've told my dad how I feel and says it's just a phase, but i think it's more than that. She says she has great opportunities with a guy, but a recent e-mail I got from her says she still wants "something to do w/ me" relationship-wise. I'm so confused. Please give me some good advice!

--No Name Given

Dear Friend,
Well, it sounds like you are pretty comfortable with your feelings for your friend so I won't take time to make sure that you know that your feelings are ok - they are - but you know that. Your dad is right in a way. Some people have affectionate/sexual desires for people of the same gender that don't last after adolescence while others know that they will love people of the same gender for their whole lives. Your friend might be one of those people who wants to experiment with you but is really more interested in the opposite sex and I see a red flag when she says she has a "great opportunity with a guy," as if that would be more important than an opportunity with you. Hold out for a friend who will love you fully.




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Dear Pastor Paul,
What should I do when my friends turn against me to join the enemy team, and then talk against me? I love and respect God, so I walk away, but that makes me I feel I'm being a pushover. It makes me feel like I might be scared of what might happen if I retaliate.

--No Name Given

Dear Friend,
You don't make it clear what precisely you are facing, or what you're thinking about doing about it. But whether you're thinking of responding with physical violence or just fighting fire with fire and talking them down, neither option will make you feel good or solve the problem. Consider instead the spiritual approach Jesus outlines in the Bible: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also. (Luke 6 27-29)

Ask yourself what will allow you to live with more love and respect--not only for God (although that is of ultimate importance)--but for yourself as well.

It takes a strong person to choose the non-violent approach. In walking away you are not being "a pushover," instead you are following a deep spiritual path set out by Jesus and followed by people such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. who also used the non-violent alternatives to achieving the goal of love and respect for God and for themselves.

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