Young Women: I call you 'my friend'
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If I were to guess, I'd say one of the most referred to topics in For the Strength of Youth is "Friends" (second only to "Dating"). The section begins, "Everyone needs good and true friends. They will be a great strength and blessing to you. They will influence how you think and act, and even help determine the person you will become. They will help you be a better person and will make it easier for you to live the gospel of Jesus Christ" (p. 16). I know this counsel is true.
As presidency members, when we visit young women around the world, the following questions/answers are common:
What makes you happy? Friends.
What are your greatest worries? Friends.
What do you like to do in your free time? Be with friends.
Why do you come to Mutual? To be with friends.
Why do some youth become less active? Pressure from poor friends.
What helps you to choose the right and be virtuous? Good friends.
Each of us needs a true friend, yet we seldom take the time to ask ourselves how to make friends, or how to be a true friend to others. As parents and leaders, it is our responsibility and opportunity to teach and model the importance of good friendships.
Why is having good friends important?
While visiting a local pharmacy, I saw a sign that said, "A child is 13 times more likely to smoke if his or her friends smoke." I do not doubt this statistic. However, I also believe that a young woman is probably 13 times more likely to do well in school if her friends do well in school, will honor her parents if her friends honor their parents, be honest and virtuous if her friends are honest and virtuous, and so on. Our friends can lift us to become better than we may otherwise have been.
Am I a good friend to others?
I believe most of us would benefit from asking ourselves this pointed question. I asked Jennifer, a Laurel from Spring, Texas, to share her ideas of what makes a good friend. She taught me the following. A friend is honest and sincere, someone who will reach out to me and to others. They look me in the eye and greet me by name. They listen when I share my feelings and are willing to trust me and share in return. Our conversations are not one-sided. They kindly remind me when I'm doing something that isn't right. They encourage and support me in my beliefs even if our values aren't the same. They think of my feelings before they do something. They are willing to apologize. Good friends help you to be more forgiving and open to say "I'm sorry." Jennifer said, "I know that I'm a better person because of the friends I keep around me — even the friends who aren't LDS but still help me to keep my standards, without tempting me to do something they know I don't want to do."
How can I become a better friend?
Each of us can become a better friend by applying the teachings of Alma in the Book of Mormon, "Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places" (Mosiah 18:9). We must be continually mindful that each individual we encounter is a child of God and must be treated with our love, kindness, empathy and respect.
What do apostles and prophets teach concerning friends?
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said, "Our friends should be companions who inspire us, who help us to rise to our best" ("Valued Companions," Ensign, November 1997). Elder Robert D. Hales wisely counseled, "Don't criticize. What you say about others may (and usually does) get back to them. See the good in people, and develop that goodness by your unwavering friendship, acceptance, loyalty, trust, and love" ("Ten Axioms to Guide Your Life," Ensign, February 2007, 26-31). Elder Jeffrey R. Holland advised, "Living the gospel and being true to gospel principles is the key to true, lasting, triumphant friendship" ("Real Friendship," New Era, June 1998, 62). And President Thomas S. Monson taught, "This is a day for developing friendships. I like the phrase, 'New friends are silver, but the old are gold.' And how do you find old friends? You make new friends, don't you? I think we should have it as an objective for each one of us ... to make new friends and ensure that no one goes friendless" (BYU Devotional, Oct. 15, 1991, byutv.org).
Whom can I look to as an example of a good friend?
We can look to our Savior, Jesus Christ, as our example of true friendship. He exemplified attributes each of us must emulate and practice in all of our friendships. To name just a few, we must be faithful, hopeful, charitable, loving, virtuous, forgiving, patient, humble, diligent and obedient (see Preach My Gospel, p. 126). We can study the scriptures and recognize that the truths found there, when applied, will bless our friendships now and eternally.
I hope that each of us will strive to be a good friend to others — starting with the members of our families. Make a specific plan to strengthen individual friendships and create new friends. It is my hope we can earn the eternal title of "friend," which is reserved for those who choose to follow Jesus Christ and live as He lived: "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth; but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you" (John 15:14-15).