What Is a Friend?


(Adapted from an October 1973 general conference address. See Ensign, January 1973, pages 41–43.)

President Abraham Lincoln was once criticized for his attitude toward his enemies. “Why do you try to make friends of them?” asked an associate. “You should try to destroy them.”

“Am I not destroying my enemies,” Lincoln gently replied, “when I make them my friends?”

A friend is a possession we earn, not a gift. “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14). The Lord has declared that those who serve Him and keep His commandments are called His servants. After they have been tested and tried and are found faithful and true in all things, they are no longer called servants, but friends. His friends are the ones He will take into His kingdom and with whom He will associate in an eternal inheritance. (See D&C 93:45–46.)

For a few moments enjoy with me some very simple yet powerful conversations I’ve had in seeking the true significance of friendship. I asked an eight-year-old girl, “Who is your best friend?” “My mommy,” she replied. “Why?” “Because she is nice to me.”

A priest-age young man was asked the same question. “My bishop.” “Why?” “Because he listens to us guys.”

A thirteen-year-old boy: “My Scoutmaster.” “Why?” “He does everything with us.”

It was Emerson who said, “The only way to have a friend is to be one.” A friend is a person who will really take the time not only to know us, but to be with us. One of the finest presents you can give anyone is your best self.

Joseph Smith gave us a glimpse of his measure of friends when he said, “If my life is of no value to my friends, it is of no value to me.”

Our Savior pointed the way to reap friendship with our associates and with Him, when He declared, “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

“… Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matt. 25:35, 40.)

[illustration] Abraham Lincoln

[illustration] Joseph Smith

[illustration] Ralph Waldo Emerson