Last weekend, my wife and I went to see “Once I Was a Beehive,” a coming-of-age comedy about an LDS girls camp that’s all the “buzz.”

I was expecting a salt-of-the-earth conversion story.

What I got was a salt-of-the-earth friendship story — a film about how young women from different worlds find ways to trust, care and connect.

I think it’s an important film — which is an odd thing to say about a teenage romp filmed on a small budget.

But then I think that learning how to be friends with people who are not of our faith can be a major threshold in life.

Back in the 1990s at the Deseret News — an era we geezers call the “heyday” — the staff featured both active and nonpracticing members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and many who had never been LDS.

I made a lot of friends at the paper in those years, and I’ve held on to most of them.

So, for me, learning to connect heart-to-heart with people who don’t know Moroni from macaroni has been vital.

There were times when I wondered whether I should approach them as a friend or as a missionary. I always chose being a friend.

It's not an official position. It's just my official position.

I believe that if you find yourself worrying too much about a person’s eternal soul, or worrying if they’ll be with their family in heaven or worrying about being chastised if you hold your tongue about religion, you’re focusing too much on being a missionary.

Friendship is not about wishing the other person were more like us. It’s about finding things we already have in common. It’s about affection and curiosity, about seeing our differences as a chance to grow.

If you bring an agenda to a friendship, don’t be surprised if the other person lumps you in with that marketing guy who hijacked the last class reunion to make a pitch.

That sounds harsh, I know.

Your friends, if they’re truly your friends, already know who you are and what you’re about. They might be curious about your faith. Or they might not be interested. But it doesn't have to change the friendship.

And one more thing.

Real friends listen.

It was poet William Stafford who said as long as we’re beating our swords into ploughshares, let’s also beat our megaphones into ear trumpets.

In fact, friends do more than listen.

They understand.

Be more than a good listener.

Be a good understander.

That’s just one more thing I learned at girls camp the other night, the girls camp that serves as a miniature version of the world in the honey-sweet little picture “Once I Was a Beehive.”

Email: jerjohn@deseretnews.com