Friends are an important part of our lives, especially when we are teenagers. As I think back to my teenage years, I attribute much of my activity in the Church to my friends. When I was in 7th grade, I was invited to attend Mutual by Michelle. She encouraged me to come to Mutual and participate in the activities and she befriended me. She always made me feel comfortable and part of the group. To this day, we are still friends and I’m very thankful she invited me to attend Mutual.
Michelle moved to Utah when we entered high school so I became friends with a boy named Robbie and a girl named Kate. Robbie was a few years older than me, but he and I spent many hours together discussing the gospel. He never made me feel stupid because I knew so little about the gospel.
My friend Kate stuck by me through thick and thin in high school. We talked about everything and she, and her family, allowed me to see an active LDS family in real time. Kate encouraged me to keep the commandments and was my escort at the temple when I received my own endowments. Kate’s life has since taken a different direction and though we aren’t close anymore, I’m so thankful for the time she spent with me and will always be grateful for her influence in my life.
Friends should always encourage us to be better and to do the right thing. “They will greatly influence how [we] think and act, and even help determine the person [we] will become” (For the Strength of Youth, p. 12).
My children have friends who live very different lives from them and have completely different value systems. Yet, their friends still encourage them to keep their standards. When my son was offered alcohol, his friend immediately jumped in to say that my son didn’t drink alcohol. My daughter has a friend that’s a Buddhist. Though they disagree on many core beliefs, this friend has defended my daughter’s beliefs over and over again. He has always supported her and encouraged her to follow her values.
Sometimes, we advocate that our kids only find friends that are LDS. While we want our children to choose friends wisely, if we shut ourselves off from others who aren’t of our faith how will we spread the gospel message? My kids’ friends may not be interested in the gospel today, but when they think of their friendships with my kids, hopefully, they will see the Church in a positive light and perhaps somewhere down the road they will be interested enough to investigate.
“To have good friends, be a good friend yourself. Show interest in others and let them know you care about them. Treat everyone with kindness and respect. Go out of your way to be a friend to those who are shy or do not feel included” (For the Strength of Youth, p. 12). Of course, the most important reason to attend church is to partake of the sacrament and strengthen our testimonies, but we can have a dramatic effect on others if we extend our friendship and make sure they feel included. A good friend can be the means of helping others to not only find the Church, but to remain active in it.
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