Good afternoon brothers and sisters. It is great to be with you today. Brother North reached out to me over a month ago about this talk and I have thought and prayed a lot about what I would share with you. The theme continues to be about friendship and love I am hopeful that the spirit will be here and touch your heart by some of the ideas and things I share.
To start off with I want you to think about a few questions:
1. Why do we need friends?
2. Why do I need to be a good friend?
3. How do I be a good friend?
4. What is the single most important thing we can learn in this life?
I am going to talk about some things we can each do and they wont be in any particular order to these questions.
The most important thing we can each learn in this life is how to love. We need to learn how to love ourselves, how to love our families, siblings, how to love our spouses, our children, neighbors, coworkers, friends, enemies, strangers and anyone that we come in contact with.
As we know… we are all our Heavenly Father’s children and he wants us all to get along and to love one another. This answer is given to us by the Savior himself: During the time of the Savior’s ministry, the Pharisees asked questions, hoping that He would say something they could use against Him.
“Master,” they asked, “which is the great commandment in the law?” (Matthew 22:36).
In that hope the Pharisees were disappointed, for the Messiah turned and answered their question directly:
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind,” he said. “This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37–40).
And in learning to love I think the first step is to become friends.
It is easy for us to be friends and love someone that is just like you. It is easy when one thinks and believes just like yourself. But in this life everyone is not just the same. God doesn’t want this nor did he intend to make us all be the same.
I love these words shared by Elder Holland:
He said: “on those days when we feel a little out of tune, a little less than what we think we see or hear in others, I would ask us to remember it is by divine design that not all the voices in God’s choir are the same.”
God made each and every one of us to be unique and perfect in his eyes. Everyone is different in size, appearance, likes, dislikes, shapes, interests, talents, skin color, beliefs and abilities…
God loves diversity. That is why he made us all so different. This also seems to make it hard for us to love everyone. Loving someone that is different can be challenging.
The Savior taught us how to love and how to have compassion and care for others. That is what being a friend is all about. Just read through the stories of Jesus and look who he helped. He ministered, had love and compassion to everyone. He taught and helped the rich and the poor. He taught and ministered to his followers and also those who opposed him.
We learn in the account when Lazarus dies how Jesus mourned with his friends Mary and Martha. They were sad and heartbroken. Jesus was there offering his love and support. He did this with full knowledge that he would bring Lazarus back from the dead. Jesus didn’t push aside what his friends were feeling and simply bring Lazarus back and move on. He cared for them in their time of need. He sat with them. He mourned with those that mourned. He comforted those that were in need of comfort and showed them love and compassion. All the things we are commanded to do.
In my reading and studying the Saviors life, I see Christ most focused on the people that were really struggling, hurt and that were cast out.
The marginalized and unwanted. He showed us that we simply love these people. We don’t forget them or ignore them. He did not discriminate against anyone. He knew and knows that each and every one of these individuals is a child of God. Each person is of infinite worth. And that they all are to be loved. We are not to be rude to them….. We are not to judge them. We are to have compassion on them.
We need to follow Jesus Christ’s example and we simply need to love and be friends with everyone. It is not our job to save anyone. We are not saviors. And we are not the ones to judge. That was never what the plan was. Those two important things are up to Jesus Christ .This is what the atonement was for. This was the plan and he paid the price to be our savior and advocate at the time of judgment. He provides us with his grace as we do our best to follow him.
I am so grateful that I am not the one that has to judge. I simply need to meet people where they are and get to know them and love them.
Loving others is what God wants us to learn.
Love is the binding force that binds us all together and to our Father in Heaven forever. Loving others is the most important thing we can learn in this life. It also answers some of the question of why do I need to be a good friend. But I believe there is even more to this.
In last general conference President Eyring shared this experience in the talk he gave called Try Try Try:
“Many years ago, I was first counselor to a district president in the eastern United States. More than once, as we were driving to our little branches, he said to me, “Hal, when you meet someone, treat them as if they were in serious trouble, and you will be right more than half the time.” Not only was he right, but I have learned over the years that he was too low in his estimate.”
This is the answer to why we need friends. This is the answer of why do I need friends.
We are all in serious trouble. Everyone of us has things going on. Life is hard.
Each and every one us has struggles. We each need help. We each need support. We need friends. We need love and compassion. We need someone to listen and support us. We need each other. God knew that we would need friends and compassionate people and he wanted to be clear that we are to help and love one another. And as critical as it is for us to love and support others we don’t need to judge or shame or belittle anyone. That is not the way of God.
Right now my family and I are struggling down the path of life. Many of you know that our son Samuel is gay. And this has made life very difficult and hard. We love and support and wouldn’t change anything about Samuel. He is the way God made him. And we know that God loves him. But because Samuel is different he has to endure one of the hardest roads.
You would think that living in the place that we do everyone would be so loving and accepting and encouraging. This is not the case though. You would be shocked at the things he hears as people have bullied, and harassed him over the years. And it happens weekly if not daily.
And he is not the only one that has to go through this type of abuse. It is not right. It is not ok. And it is definitely not what Jesus has taught us.
I love and support my son. I love and support those people that are LGBTQ. They are some of the ones that are marginalized in our day and time. They are the ones feeling alone and pushed out. My son needs the unconditional love and compassion and so do the many others that are out there. And this is for all the people that have come out to share their truth and for all the ones that are keeping it to themselves on that lonely road.
As you can see today I am wearing a rainbow tie. I have many things with rainbows on them. One of my favorites is a hat that a friend of mine has made. On the front of it is the state of Utah that is rainbow colored. I wear it so that people will know I love and support them. And just about every time I have it on I get a response.
For example, last week I was at Costco with my wife and we were back getting water. As we loaded up and started to walk down the aisle a young teenage boy came up with a huge smile and said “I like your hat.” I love to get that response. I just want him and others that are like him to know that I support and love them.
But on this same day I also had three other people at different times look at me with a look of disdain on their face. Like how dare I wear something like that. I simply smiled at them and walked on. How sad it is for them to feel that way and the need to act like that.
Do you think this is how Jesus would react? I sure don’t.
I would like to add that while we may not be able to choose how we feel when we first find out someone we love is LGBTQ, we can chose how we react. We can choose to judge and reject them, or we can choose to embrace and love them. No matter how uncomfortable we may feel, it is nothing compared to how our LGBTQ children, siblings, parents, friends or people we don’t know are feeling. PLEASE leave the judging to our most loving Savior, Jesus Christ.
I hope that more of us will chose to follow the commandment that the Savoir gave, In John 13:34-35 “ A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
And lets also remember the words of our prophet, President Russell M. Nelson shared with us a few weeks ago:
“The differences in doctrine are real and they’re important, but they’re not nearly as important as the things we have in common…. And the importance of building bridges of friendship instead of building walls of segregation.”
We need to each ask ourselves – what are we building?
I want to share part of Elder Robert C. Gay’s talk from the October 2018 conference. This was one of the most powerful talks I have heard. Elder Gay said: One of my favorite scriptures is John 4:4, which reads, “And he must needs go through Samaria.”
Why do I love that scripture? Because Jesus did not need to go to Samaria. The Jews of His day despised the Samaritans and traveled a road around Samaria. But Jesus chose to go there to declare before all the world for the first time that He was the promised Messiah. For this message, He chose not only an outcast group but also a woman—and not just any woman but a woman living in sin—someone considered at that time to be the least of the least. I believe Jesus did this so that each of us may always understand that His love is greater than our fears, our wounds, our addictions, our doubts, our temptations, our sins, our broken families, our depression and anxieties, our chronic illness, our poverty, our abuse, our despair, and our loneliness. He wants all to know there is nothing and no one He is unable to heal and deliver to enduring joy.
I believe that Christ chose this particular person to not only tell all the people of Samaria that He was the chosen Messiah, but to console and be a friend to this woman. And to demonstrate to each and every one of us that he loves and will save even those that appear to be the least of the least. The marginalized. The outcasts. The people that we don’t want to be around.
Jesus is incredible…. I want to be a friend like Jesus is.
Now I want to move on to one of the things we can do to be a good friend. This lesson is taught by someone that has taught millions of children all over the world for many years.
It occurred to Pooh and Piglet that they hadn’t heard from Eeyore for several days, so they put on their hats and their coats and together they trotted across the Hundred Acre Wood to Eeyore’s stick house.
Inside the house was Eeyore.
“Hello, Eeyore,” said Pooh.
“Hello, Pooh. Hello, Piglet,” said Eeyore, in a glum sounding voice.
“We just thought we’d check in on you,” said Piglet, “we hadn’t heard from you, and so we wanted to know if you were okay.”
Eeyore was silent for a moment.
“Am I okay?” Eeyore asked, eventually. “Well, I don’t know, to be honest. Are any of us really okay? That’s what I ask myself. All I can tell you, Pooh and Piglet, is that right now I feel really rather sad, and alone, and not much fun to be around at all–which is why I haven’t bothered you. I figured you wouldn’t want to waste your time hanging out with someone who is sad, and alone, and not much fun to be around at all.”
Pooh looked and Piglet, and Piglet looked at Pooh, and they both sat down, one on either side of Eeyore in his stick house.
Eeyore looked at them in surprise. “What are you doing?”
“We’re sitting here with you,” said Pooh, “because we are your friends. And true friends don’t care if someone is feeling sad, or alone, or not much fun to be around at all. True friends are there for you in all situations and under all circumstances. And so here we are.”
“Oh,” said Eeyore. “Oh.”
And the three of them sat there in silence, and while Pooh and Piglet said nothing at all; somehow, almost imperceptibly, Eeyore started to feel a very tiny bit better.
Eeyore felt better because Pooh and Piglet were there. No more; no less.
This is what love and compassion looks like. This is how you can be a good friend. When someone comes to you, shares a personal struggle, or finds themselves in a difficult spot, compassion and empathy allow you the chance to sit with them and listen. There is no advice necessary to share and nothing to fix; just listen… Just be there.
We must open up and share personal things for this to happen. We have to be vulnerable. We have to share what is in our hearts and on our minds. And we need to be able to do this without feeling judged or that this would make us look lesser than we are.
Be a safe person. Be a good friend. Keep the confidence and trust of those around you. Grow that relationship and bond that you have. Have that relationship move from just being a friend to someone that you can love, trust and depend on.
Sometimes we just need someone to listen to us and validate what we are feeling. We need someone to just sit with us in our pain.
I pray that each one of us can be better friends. I pray that we can each learn to love the way that our Father in Heaven and our Savior Jesus Christ do… That each of us can learn to love everyone. I pray we can be like Jesus.
I hope that especially in our homes and in our ward and in our community we can have more love. I pray that we can be there for people and be with them in their time of need. I pray that we can love one another like the savior has asked us to do.
I hope that we can all be a friend like our Savior Jesus Christ is to each and every one of us, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
The following is shared with permission from Sister Emily Nelson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.