“If This Happened Tomorrow—What Would You Do?” New Era, Nov. 1973, 48
Some of my good friends—even those who are supposed to be good members of the Church—use bad language and take the Lord’s name in vain. They know what I believe and I think they respect my beliefs, but I guess it is sort of a habit they have. Should I keep these kinds of friends? Should I try to help them?
The habit of profanity is not really something you can preach to a friend about. The very best thing you can do is keep your own standards of language high and hold the Lord’s name in reverence yourself. Your own example is the best teacher. Follow the advice given in Matthew 5:16 [Matt. 5:16]: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
In the Bible we find that Christ was accused of associating with sinners, but he felt that these were the people who needed him the most. In this situation these friends also need someone to help them. If we feel that we can help these people by setting a good example, we should not turn our backs on them. Because they are our friends, we should try to help them improve. We should set the example but not let them bring us down to their level. By the example we set they may come to feel embarrassed if a bad word slips out, but only if we live the gospel and don’t compromise. Elder Marvin J. Ashton once stated, “A friend is someone who is willing to take me the way I am”; and then he added, “We are less than a real friend if we leave a person the same way we find him.”
Elder Gary D. Midgley
Alaska-British Columbia Mission
I was in exactly that situation in a summer job one year; all but one of the other employees were Mormon, but their language, even among the girls, would have made a truck driver blush. One fellow managed to stick it out with clean language. I didn’t. And now, more than a year later, I still find that some of the words I picked up then come too readily to mind in times of stress.
As infants we learn to talk by imitating the words and phrases of those we love. It is a natural, involuntary thing to speak the words we constantly hear from people we favor. So anytime I find myself with a person or group of people, I listen to them carefully and ask myself, “Do I want to sound like that?” Because if I am with them long enough and intimately enough, I surely will.
Orson Scott Card
São Paulo, Brazil
If I were in your place I wouldn’t give up my friends but would rather help them give up the habit of using bad language. Your nonmember friends should respect your feelings; mine do. And I know your friends who are members will try to give up the habit if you ask them politely.
I think this individual should continue to have these friends. Then, maybe, he or she should try the experiment I did with my friends. I found that if you will come right out and ask them to please not swear when you are around, most of the time they will do as you ask. I did this and my friends were slightly upset at first, but soon they stopped swearing at all even when away from me. We have become closer friends this way, and we enjoy each others’ company a lot more. I would suggest trying this, and if it doesn’t work, try something else. I know from my own experience that your friends respect you more, and they themselves are much happier when you live as you believe.
“Should I keep these kinds of friends?” someone keeps asking, as if true friendship could be thrown out so casually. Maybe if you’d use the word acquaintance the question would be more valid.
A friend of ours (and most of us were recent converts) was getting into the drug culture with all its wrong attitudes and acts. Some might say we shouldn’t have kept this kind of friend, but we did. (Later he said that he had felt he was losing us even so, but this was because he had been failing to keep his part of the relationship.) At any rate, we didn’t throw him out of our lives for taking drugs, or for any of the other sins, small or great, that it led him to. Then we saw him turn to paths of repentance, and when he finally asked, we helped him climb back. The day of his temple marriage was a day of deep joy to us all.
First of all, I would pray and ask guidance on the situation from the Lord. Then I’d try very hard to help them. But if I got no results, I would make new friends. After being around people who use bad language and take the Lord’s name in vain a lot, you, also, begin to pick up this habit. And it is one that is very difficult to break.
Certainly we are all capable of getting out of tune with the Lord’s commandments. It wouldn’t be very Christian of you to just leave your friends alone. We are all human and make mistakes.
Habits are hard to break, but one must first recognize the bad habit. A friend is the best help, next to oneself, in alleviating such a problem. Once you have gotten a person to recognize his problem, promise to help him overcome it. While in navy bootcamp I had this habit myself. Here is my solution: I asked a friend to catch me every time I said something wrong and correct me. I soon caught myself, and with a little extra effort, I overcame the problem. It took some effort though.
Frederick M. Beall, U.S.N.
N.A.S. Imperial Beach, California
I’ve always thought it is uppity to drop friends because they don’t quite live up to our standards. Aren’t we supposed to “abhor sin, but love the sinner”? Now if you are worried that this bad habit of your friends will rub off on you, you have a good reason to leave them alone. But if you have hopes that your better habits will rub off on them instead, by all means, try to help them. Christ associated with sinners too. I knew a person who wouldn’t tolerate any profanity and asked anyone he heard swearing to please stop it. He is just as popular as always with these people, and they don’t swear anymore—at least not in front of him.
For myself it is a simple question to answer. Keep them as friends and try to help them by never lowering the standards you hold true. Of course, a non-Mormon friend can never be as close as a Mormon friend because you can’t share so much of your life.
A member of the Church once befriended me even though I drank and swore. As a result of her friendship I attended church, seminary, MIA, and other activities. I received the missionary discussions and became a member. I didn’t associate with my old friends as I didn’t want to go back to my old ways. Actually I was afraid I wouldn’t be strong enough to stay away from those things. After some serious reevaluating I decided I wouldn’t be a good, true member if I couldn’t uphold my standards under any conditions. I’m glad I changed my attitude. I’m attending a college where I’m a religious minority of one. My true friends respect my standards and would be disappointed if I fell away from them.