Who Are Your Friends?
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“Who Are Your Friends?” New Era, Sept. 1984, 9

Who Are Your Friends?

Not everyone who calls himself friend can be trusted with your heart.

The sun was just touching the water of the Great Salt Lake on a warm Sunday evening one August, when the radio speaker nestled snugly between windshield and handlebar of my police motorcycle crackled into life. “Motors 38 and 40,” said a female voice, “report of a noisy motorcycle in the neighborhood. Vicinity of Glendale Circle and Navajo Street. Complainant does not wish contact.”

I wrestled the radio mike from its clip and acknowledged the call. “Motors 38 and 40, 10–4.” My partner and I were on motorcycle patrol for the Salt Lake City Police Department. The cooler evening air felt good against my face as we picked up our pace, riding straight and tall, side by side, to answer this complaint. It had been a quiet day so far, for which I was grateful.

We soon arrived in the vicinity of the complaint and rode around several streets looking for the offending motorcycle. No such vehicle was seen, and I was just reaching for my mike to report GOA (gone on arrival) to the dispatcher, when around the corner came a new Harley Sportster. It was ridden by a handsome young man wearing a T-shirt and jeans. He was well groomed and tan, just the kind of a fellow who would attract a 16-year-old girl like the one who was riding behind. She was very pretty and obviously enjoying the ride, her arms wrapped tightly around the boy’s waist and her hair blowing in the breeze. I cringed as I noticed her bare legs and shorts, knowing what injury she might receive if an accident were to occur.

My partner and I pulled up near this young couple and the cycle, and I listened to the pipes. It certainly wasn’t too loud, but perhaps they had been cutting up a little too much around the neighborhood. I was sure this was probably the culprit and decided to stop them to advise them to be a little more cautious. I moved up, nearly alongside the other cycle, and beeped my horn. The young man looked around, saw the police uniform, and suddenly, without warning, screwed the throttle handle full on, and away they went at a high rate of speed. I was surprised and shocked, not expecting such a response. I quickly kicked my motor into a lower gear, and the chase began.

Around and around several streets we went, siren wailing and lights flashing. My partner dropped back to use the radio and give locations as I continued the pursuit. Out of the subdivision and onto California Avenue we went. This was a major street, long and straight, and speeds increased. Soon we found ourselves sliding and scraping around the corner and heading north on Redwood Road. This main highway was heavy with traffic. The sun was gone now, and most cars had their lights on. My young man turned off his lights to try to lose me. My wailing siren was causing traffic to pull to the right and into his path. I slowed a little, giving him room because I feared an accident might occur. He was really desperate now. I could see him turning, looking back to see how close I was, and turning again, trying to turn the throttle tighter to get more speed. Still I stayed with him.

As we approached another major intersection at North Temple, I saw something that I will never forget. This young man, as he went around the corner, suddenly turned quickly on the cycle seat, bringing his elbow back and into the side of the young girl behind him. His blow knocked her off the bike, landing her in the middle of the busy intersection. His motorcycle fishtailed as he lost his burdensome load, but he regained control and sped away without so much as a backward glance as she went skidding and sliding along the gravel and asphalt.

Of course, I stopped my pursuit to give first aid and call for help, and the young man made good his escape—for a while. What a tragic way for a fun afternoon ride to end. How disillusioned this young girl was as her newfound “friend” had sacrificed her so willingly to save himself. I suppose if my partner and I had not come along that day, he could have pretended to be a friend to this girl for a long time, and perhaps she might have been hurt in even more significant ways. The young man was caught and arrested several hours later. It was determined that he was AWOL (absent without leave) from the Marine Corps, and he was returned to them under military guard.

It is easy to see that true friendship did not exist between this fellow and his temporary “girl friend.” The dictionary tells us that a friend is a person attached to another by respect and affection. These attributes are in harmony with the gospel and are highly thought of by the Lord. Perhaps one of the highest compliments paid by the Savior was when he referred to his servants on the earth as his friends. “Verily, I say unto my servant Joseph Smith … I will call you friends, for you are my friends, and ye shall have an inheritance with me” (D&C 93:45). Friends are so important to us and mean so much in our lives that it is very important that we choose them carefully and wisely.

It is natural, during our growing-up years, to place a high value upon friends and to look to our peers in almost everything we do for approval and support. In doing so, we sometimes overlook those people who are truly our best friends—our parents and other family members, our bishop and other church leaders and teachers who love us. If we let these special people really be our friends, they will be of great assistance in helping us to choose other friends—friends who will not leave us skidding across the pavement of life as they flee to save themselves.

Satan has long recognized that God’s children are easily influenced by the things of the world. He makes them look very attractive, and he often uses people over whom he has special influence to entreat others to indulge in these things. He will have these people present temptations to those he would entrap using the guise of friendship to lower their defenses. The handsome boy on the motorcycle is just one such example.

In the Book of Mormon the story is told of Korihor, the anti-Christ. He taught and worked diligently against the kingdom of God and led away many. Now Korihor was called to answer for his sins by Alma, the great high priest. Korihor continued to deny that there was a God. Finally Alma, being very frustrated I am sure because of Korihor’s unwillingness to admit the truth, said to him, “Behold, I know that thou believest, but thou art possessed with a lying spirit, and ye have put off the Spirit of God that it may have no place in you; but the devil has power over you, and he doth carry you about, working devices that he may destroy the children of God” (Alma 30:42).

Well, Korihor would not take this from Alma and challenged him to show him a sign that he could “be convinced that there is a God” (Alma 30:43). At his own request then, and after more warnings of the consequences of his request, Korihor was told that he would be struck dumb as a sign that there was a God. “Now when Alma had said these words, Korihor was struck dumb, that he could not have utterance, according to the words of Alma” (Alma 30:50). When Korihor found that he had really been struck dumb and could not speak, he put forth his hand and wrote the following message to Alma:

“I know that I am dumb, for I cannot speak; and I know that nothing save it were the power of God could bring this upon me; yea, and I always knew that there was a God.

“But behold, the devil hath deceived me; for he appeared unto me in the form of an angel, and said unto me: Go and reclaim this people, for they have all gone astray after an unknown God. And he said unto me: There is no God; yea, and he taught me that which I should say. And I have taught his words; and I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind” (Alma 30:52–53; italics added).

Korihor was cast out and went about begging in the streets until finally he was run down and trodden to death by a group of people called the Zoramites. In the final verse of the chapter telling the story of Korihor we read these words: “And thus we see the end of him who perverteth the ways of the Lord; and thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell” (Alma 30:60).

Satan will not support his children. Those persons who would entice you with the things of the world are acting like Korihor. They may think they mean well. They may think that they really are your friends, but they are deceived, and you must not be. Those who would tempt you to do that which you know is wrong or questionable are those who you should not embrace as your friends. A true friend will not take away your precious chastity. A true friend would not ask you to disobey your parents, to steal, to cheat on an exam, or to do anything that would make you less pure or holy as a child of God.

In my career as a police officer and in my dealings with the youth of the Church in many capacities, I have become aware of the temptations and conflicts young people face. Satan is strong in the world, and he will try every way he can to make you his. Be sure that your friends are “on the Lord’s side.” First, make our Father in Heaven your very best friend. Pray to him for guidance every day in all that you do, including the selecting of new friends. Let your parents and family members be your close friends also by sharing your life with them, your hopes and dreams, your successes as well as your failures.

Never try to hide your associates from your parents. Bring your friends to your home and make sure they know the love and respect you have for your parents. Don’t be afraid to go to Mom or Dad for advice and a good old-fashioned talk about things, including your friends. Remember that it is all right to lift others but never at the price of compromising your own values. You must always stay on higher ground and lift. No friendship is worth the loss of your eternal salvation.

I remember a cold winter evening as I was on radio car patrol on the east side of Salt Lake. Suddenly the silence was broken by the beep, beep, beep of an emergency radio call. “Car 16,” came the dispatcher’s voice. “Such and such an address, 9–40.” Nine-forty was a police code meaning unknown trouble. It might be a cat in a tree, family fight, lost child, or even a homicide. Calls like this were always tense because you just didn’t know what to expect.

I arrived at the address, an old two-story home surrounded by a rickety picket fence. I made my way toward the front porch along a broken and weed-choked sidewalk. The paint was peeling off the house, and it looked like it could have been the scene for a good Halloween movie. I knocked on the door, and as I did, it came partially ajar. There was no sound. I pushed the door open a little wider and cautiously poked my head inside. “Hello. Did anyone here call the police?” No answer. I opened the door wider and stepped inside.

I found myself in a small vestibule, no more than four feet square. It was nearly dark inside and smelled of a strange and musty odor. To my left was a narrow and steep stairway going to the second floor. “Hello,” I called again. “Is anybody there?” This time I heard a sound. It wasn’t much of a sound, just a quiet sound like a sob. The beam of my flashlight cut through the gloom as I pointed it up the stairway toward the sound.

There, huddled miserably on the bare wooden stair, was a young girl. She was barefoot and poorly dressed, with long, straggly hair. Her eyes were red, and I could see she had been crying hard. Her breath came in gasps, and I inquired again concerning the call for help. “Did you call the police?” All she could do was sob and point through the open doorway at the top of the stairs.

I made my way past the girl and entered into a scene of true desolation and tragedy. The room was small. No carpet covered the bare wooden floor. It was littered with the obvious signs of drugs and alcohol. Empty beer cans were strewn about, and evidence of marijuana was everywhere. Lying in the center of the floor was a young man. A dark pool of blood surrounded his head, and near his lifeless fingers lay a small, shiny revolver. I was heartsick as I called for assistance and began the investigation of a terrible tragedy.

I share this experience to emphasize again the fickle nature of the friends that Satan might send to tempt you to take part in such parties as these. We learned from our investigation that there had been 20 to 30 young people at the party. The gun was a plaything, and a game of Russian roulette seemed exciting to those using drugs and alcohol. No one expected to be hurt, yet tragedy struck and a young man’s life was lost. No friends stayed behind to help. No friends even did anything to comfort the one who did stay—the sister of the poor dead boy.

Friendship is precious. It is a sacred gift and once given should be honored always. I like very much the description given by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his classic poem The Song of Hiawatha (section 6). It goes like this:

Two good friends had Hiawatha,

Singled out from all the others,

Bound to him in closest union,

And to who he gave the right hand

Of his heart, in joy and sorrow;

Chibiabos, the musician,

And the very strong man, Kwasind.

Straight between them ran the pathway,

Never grew the grass upon it;

Singing birds, that utter falsehoods,

Story-tellers, mischief-makers,

Found no eager ear to listen,

Could not breed ill-will between them,

For they kept each other’s counsel,

Spake with naked hearts together,

Pondering much and much contriving

How the tribes of men might prosper.

May you each try to be that kind of a friend to those you choose to make your friends. And may you strive to find those kinds of people to be your friends—friends who will honor your values, who will strive to lift you to higher ideals and goals rather than drag you down like the Korihors of the world are trying to do. A friend is to honor, to love, and to trust; and if we choose our friends wisely, we can all help each other come again into the presence of our best friend of all, even Jesus Christ.

Photo by Michael McConkie