“Q&A: Questions and Answers,” New Era, Dec. 1988, 17
New Era Answer:
That’s one great debate that has raged through the centuries. Even Christ had to deal with it when the Pharisees criticized him for eating and associating with people they considered to be in a different class and less righteous. But what did Christ tell them? In one instance, he told them that the woman in question treated him better than they did, and loved him more (see Luke 7:37–50). In another instance, he told them that there is much rejoicing when a shepherd leaves the ninety and nine and reclaims the one lost sheep (see Matt. 18:12–14).
Now, that doesn’t mean that your non-LDS friends are a bunch of lost sheep. On the contrary, we know that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do not have a corner on the righteousness market. There are multitudes of righteous people outside our stakes, and a number of unrighteous ones within. To miss out on the friendship of the good people of this world, to miss out on their different points of view and the opportunity to help them find the gospel would be a terrible shame. If we only associated with people of our own faith, we, as a people, would be considered intolerant, unsociable, and uncompassionate. Not to mention the fact that no missionary work would ever be accomplished.
There is a catch, though. Those who tell you to only associate with LDS friends might be worried about the influence non-LDS people could have on you. After all, many do have different standards, and sometimes concerns about them are valid. The secret is to do as a Mormonad cautioned awhile back. It said, “Take hold before you reach out,” and pictured a boy with a firm grip on the iron rod as he reached out to a friend with his other hand. It’s important to have a firm conviction of what you believe, who you are, and why you live the way you do so that you won’t be easily swayed by what people of different beliefs and lifestyles tell you. President Harold B. Lee said, “You cannot lift another soul until you are standing on higher ground than he is” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1973, p. 178).
If your friends do start encouraging you to loosen your grip on the iron rod, you might want to loosen your grip on them as friends, not because they’re not LDS, but because they’re encouraging you to do things you know you shouldn’t.
We all know how rough negative peer pressure is and how important it is to be accepted. Whether your friends are LDS or not, the people you’ll be happiest with are ones who don’t put pressure on you to disobey the commandments, and who accept you for who you are and what you believe without making you feel uncomfortable about it.
My school has about 475 students. The only LDS kids are myself and members of my family. The only time I see Church members is on Sunday or at other LDS activities. My classmates and teachers know about my religion. My nonmember friends have not tried to pull me the wrong way or asked me to do anything I shouldn’t. I am next to the youngest of 13 children. Our family has always tried to be a good example for the Church and let our friends see our actions. In my case I can do something positive for my friends by living my religion.
Joanna Shoaf, 15
Where I live I have friends who are not LDS, and they know that I am LDS. I know that some of them do things that are wrong, but they know my standards and don’t ask me to go against them. My best friends, though, are members of the Church, and we do a lot together. I don’t think it is wrong to have non-LDS friends, because if we don’t become friends with them they will think we are self-centered, and they won’t know what the Church is about. That way we can be missionaries to our friends.
David Flint, 16
I don’t necessarily find it wrong to associate with nonmembers. You’ve just got to make sure that you keep doing what you believe and be an example to them, that you in no way let them influence you to lower your standards. My favorite scripture is Matthew 5:16. [Matt. 5:16] It talks about being a light, an example. I used to go to a school where I was the only member. In one way it was really hard, because there were always temptations. But in another way it was kind of easy because I knew that everybody was watching every move I made to see what the Mormon girl would do, and I liked to be different and stand up for what I believed in. Some people made fun of me, but many people respected me. So I think it just depends on you, but you must use wisdom and not let your beliefs slip.
Tracy Clark, 17
Woods Cross, Utah
No, it is not wrong to hang around with non-LDS people. If you watch who you choose for friends, you will have no problem. If you are around your friends long enough they will watch you and your ways. They will know what you believe and they won’t pressure you.
Cindy Hooten, 12
I don’t think there is anything wrong with hanging around with non-LDS people. At my school there are about 12 LDS kids, and we all have a good time together, but I also have many friends who are not members. I think the most important thing that you can do for your non-LDS friends is to set a good example. My non-LDS friends know my standards and what I do and don’t do, and they respect me for it. They never ask me to do things they know I won’t do, and I am grateful for that. I think if your non-LDS friends know what you believe in and do not put pressure on you in any way, then I see nothing wrong with associating with them. I know some of my friends probably do things that I don’t believe in, but that doesn’t mean that they are not true friends. It takes a lot of courage to stand up for what you believe in. Some kids make fun of who we are. If you can set a good example for your non-LDS friends then maybe they will follow you. Just remember that you know what’s important, and it doesn’t matter what other people think.
Lori Lybins, 17
I think it depends on what your friends are like. If they are going against LDS principles and standards, you shouldn’t be friends with them. But just because they’re not LDS doesn’t mean you have to stay away from them. If they are good people you can be friends with them, and not every good person is LDS.
Leilani Hokum, 17
North Salt Lake, Utah