I was sitting on the curb of a dirt road on the edge of a town somewhere in the middle of Argentina. I was a missionary, and this was my first area. My companion was doing an interview, and rather than waste my time I figured I would sit down and study the missionary discussions.
Just as I opened the fifth discussion, I noticed a little boy running playfully across the street as though he was being chased. What was he running from? I wondered. What could be so terrible? Then I spotted the dreaded assailant coming at him from behind. It was a girl. He must have been considering the dreadful things that might happen if she ever caught up with him.
Just in time, the boy saw me. Surely she wouldn’t dare follow him to an American in a suit. He was right. Pretty soon it was just me, an empty street, and a 10-year-old boy hiding behind my coat.
Suddenly we were in the middle of a gospel discussion as he snatched the fifth discussion out of my hands and read the title. “Living a Christlike Life,” he said. I’m not sure what he said after that, but I gathered that his question was something like, “Who are you guys, anyway?”
I tried to give him a shallow explanation of what missionaries do, only to be humbled by his profound response. In an attempt to summarize everything I had said, he replied, “¿Ustedes son amigos de Jesucristo?”—“You are friends of Jesus Christ?”
“Yes,” I answered as he ran off to play, unaware of the effect he had had on me.
I couldn’t get his voice out of my head. “¿Ustedes son amigos de Jesucristo?” There was something about the way he said it in Spanish. Did he mean it as a mere statement of fact or as an actual question?
Am I a friend of Jesus Christ? I thought. What is a friend of Jesus Christ? A friend to Christ? A friend like Christ?
“Art thou a brother or brethren? I salute you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, in token or remembrance of the everlasting covenant, in which covenant I receive you to fellowship, in a determination that is fixed, immovable, and unchangeable, to be your friend and brother through the grace of God in the bonds of love, to walk in all the commandments of God blameless, in thanksgiving, forever and ever. Amen” (D&C 88:133).
I’ve never found a better definition of a friend. These were brethren who had a determination to be friends, and this prayer explained what that meant. A number of the qualities mentioned in that salutation impressed me: determined, fixed, immovable, unchangeable, loving, obedient, blameless. I realized that if these were required to be a friend of Jesus Christ, then I wasn’t qualified.
Christ set the perfect example of what it means to be a friend. He asks us to qualify as his friends and receive the blessings that he has made possible. In John 15:14 he said, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” The preceding verse reads, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). He is no ordinary friend.
“You are friends of Jesus Christ?” the young boy said. All of us need to decide for ourselves if those words are a statement of fact—or a probing question.