“Questions and Answers,” Liahona, Mar. 2000, 26–29
Friendships are among our most important relationships here on earth. Friends not only provide companionship and fun, they can also have a lasting impact on us. We all have weaknesses, and good friends can offer invaluable support and help through trying times.
Sometimes, however, our friends have habits that are incompatible with the gospel or with family standards. Parents are charged to bring up their children in light and truth (see D&C 93:40). They are entitled to receive inspiration for their children and are naturally concerned when they see their sons and daughters choosing friends who do not share their family’s values. Because our parents are motivated by love and concern for our well-being and because they have the advantage of experience, we should pay close attention to and obey their counsel. Parents know how devastating the consequences of lowering our standards can be. They also know that a true friend will never encourage us to deviate from the worthy goals we have set for ourselves.
Fortunately, staying true to gospel principles and honoring your parents does not necessarily mean you must abandon your friend who has problems. With the assistance and counsel of your parents, you may be able to help your friend set and reach his own worthy goals.
When in such a situation, however, you should first honestly consider several questions: How strong am I? Am I more likely to influence my friend by my example or be influenced by his? Will he respect my decision not to participate in unrighteous activities or will he try to drag me down with him? Many people who intend to help a wayward friend soon find themselves sympathizing with and accepting their friend’s sinful behavior. It is vital for you and your friend that you remain true to gospel standards. If you are not strong enough to keep the commandments when you are with your friend, you may need to sever the ties altogether.
If you do have the spiritual stamina to be an unwavering example for your friend, talk to your parents and make a plan for helping your friend. Explain your standards to your friend, and let him know how much your beliefs mean to you. Let him know you are concerned for him and want to help him, but you will not lower your own standards. You might invite him to Church or youth activities or encourage him to meet with the missionaries. Invite him to spend time in your home where he can see the happiness that comes from living the gospel. Remember him in your personal and family prayers.
Consider doing as one of our readers suggests—asking your family to fast and pray with you for your friend. As you seek inspiration together about how to best help your friend, your parents will likely recognize your strength and realize that their concern for your spiritual welfare is reflected in your concern for your friend. Involving them so directly will probably make them more eager to welcome this friend into their home so he can see firsthand what a gospel environment is like.
Although this is not an easy situation, if you remain true to your testimony of the gospel and seek the Lord’s help, you and your family can bless the life of your friend.
Our parents are right to be concerned about us. We need to ask ourselves, Are we so dedicated to the gospel that no other influence can separate us from the Lord? If the answer is yes, we need to talk to our parents, set their minds at rest, and then invite this dear friend to a Church activity. We can help him see how the good qualities he has can be used to best advantage in the Church.
Gerardo Salvatierra Fernández,
Chilecito Branch, Argentina Córdoba Mission
Some time ago I was in this same situation. My friend, who is not yet a member of the Church, went to a bar and brought back two bottles of beer. I said to him, “Don’t you know my Latter-day Saint principles?” He answered, “Excuse me, I had forgotten; so I have no friend to drink with.” Then he surprised me. He threw the two bottles in the garbage. He always goes out with me now, but he does not drink.
Our examples influence other people. We need to follow the example of Jesus Christ.
Humberto Marambaia Junior,
Vila Nova Ward, Rio de Janeiro Brazil Campo Grande Stake
When a friend has problems, the first thing we should do is evaluate ourselves and make sure we’re firm in our determination to do what is right. Inviting our friends to participate in activities with our parents and with others who have high standards will help them feel the Spirit and others’ love for them. And we’ll be living the gospel at the same time.
Juan Carlos Sivira,
Los Laureles Ward, Ciudad Ojeda Venezuela Stake
A while back I became so focused on what others thought of me, I began to do things I knew I shouldn’t to show that I could be cool. I even considered leaving the Church—not because I had stopped believing in the gospel of Jesus Christ, but because I had such a guilty conscience. Fortunately, I realized I would be giving away my eternal, spiritual joy for a shorter, make-believe joy.
Because of support and lots of love from my friends in the Church, I got my thoughts in order and began a hard and painful period of repentance. I am so grateful my friends never left my side. This experience helped me realize Heavenly Father loves me and will help me.
Stavanger Branch, Stavanger Norway District
I would invite my friend to a family home evening. He could spend some time with my family, and we could show him how important he is to us. I’d invite him to Church meetings, and little by little I’d teach him the fundamental principles of the gospel.
Ask your parents to fast and pray with you about how to help your friend. Remember, Latter-day Saints help their neighbors.
Jorge Ramón Sorto,
Refinería Ward, Apopa El Salvador Stake
I was raised in an atheist family that didn’t respect certain values. But my best friend, Maud Dominault, and her family, who are members of the Church, never turned away from me, even when I made mistakes. Her family accepted me, even though I was different. Today, we feel bound together as if part of the same family.
However, if in the long run your friend pushes you to do wrong, disparages your values and your way of life, and tries to turn you away from the truth, he is not a good friend for you. In that case, it would be better for you to stop associating with him, because there is always a risk that he will pull you down.
A friend of the Church residing in the Bordeaux France Stake
I could visit this friend with another member of the Church. If I’m not very strong in the gospel and I were to visit him alone, I would risk falling into the same error. For this reason I would take a friend who is a member of the Church. Each time we visit I could leave a message about the gospel and show him a good example. Above all I could pray and fast for him.
As members of the Church, we should teach our friends by our behavior. Wherever we are, we should reflect the image of Jesus Christ.
Bibiche Aka Mwanzambi,
Foncier Ward, Abidjan Ivory Coast Stake
At issue here is whether the person realizes that what he is doing is wrong. Many people don’t, but some people do—yet they keep on doing it.
It could be that this friend doesn’t realize his behavior isn’t right. Because I care about him, I would lovingly encourage him to change his behavior for the better. I would also remind him of his good qualities to be sure his wrong behavior doesn’t destroy those good points. I would also try to help my parents see his good qualities.
Surabaya Barat Branch, Surabaya Indonesia District
I was living a life that would never help me in any way. But through the help of a friend, I came to know that God lives. If my friend had allowed me to remain in darkness, I wouldn’t have seen the light of God. Let us look for the lambs who wander, because our Heavenly Father loves us all and wants us to return to Him.
Nkem Beauty Okor,
Emuoha Ward, Port Harcourt Nigeria Stake
The first thing we have to do is obey our parents. They love us, and that’s why they protect us from anything that isn’t good for us. Our friend might lead us into temptation or take us away from our Heavenly Father spiritually.
As far as our friend is concerned, we should help to the degree we can. If possible, we should help him learn what he needs to do to return to our Heavenly Father.
Linda Hayde López Fierro,
Nueva Aurora Ward, Guayaquil Ecuador East Stake
My parents always know best, but I should not abandon my friend who is at the brink of ruining himself. I must encourage him to act in an appropriate way and point out the effects of his actions to his health, to his whole being, to his family, and to his community; convince him to pursue his education; and let him know he is capable of any good he wants to do. But best of all, I must help bring him closer to Jesus Christ, so he may realize he is not alone in this world.
Marilou Valera Millare,
Bangued Ward, Narvacan Philippines Stake