Questions and Answers


Answers are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.

I have a friend who seems interested in the Church. He watches me very closely to see what Latter-day Saints are like. But I make many mistakes. How can I be a good example when I’m so imperfect?

Liahona’s Answer

It can be a bit intimidating when you discover that someone is judging the Lord’s Church by your actions. You feel a big responsibility. But instead of panicking, try focusing on the good that can come from this situation.

If your friend is truly interested in the Church and if he is indeed watching your every move, consider it a compliment. Your friend obviously looks to you as “an example of the believers.” This phrase comes from the Apostle Paul’s first epistle to Timothy, and Paul’s counsel can serve as a guide as you strive to set a good example for your friend. “Be thou an example of the believers,” Paul writes, “in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12).

Paul lists several ways we can be examples. Our words, for instance, can either build faith or destroy faith in others. If we use profanity, gossip about people, or are constantly critical, we are not speaking as the Savior would. We should try to use clean language, speak positively about others, and give compliments.

The term conversation, as Paul used it, refers to behavior or conduct. If our behavior is not in harmony with gospel principles, we may drive people away from the Lord’s Church. We can set a good example by dressing modestly, paying tithing, keeping the Word of Wisdom, being honest, and performing selfless acts of service.

Charity, Peter tells us, “shall cover the multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8). If your friend is convinced you care about him, he will be more inclined to overlook any faults you may have. Joseph Smith revised this verse slightly in his translation of the Bible to say that charity will prevent a multitude of sins. When you experience the pure love of Christ and receive forgiveness for your sins, you may have a similar experience to those who heeded the words of King Benjamin. They had “no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2).

Being an example in spirit may refer to our attitudes. President Gordon B. Hinckley, for instance, is guided by the Spirit and thus has a positive outlook. This outlook is undoubtedly part of the reason he is able to accomplish so much. He is constantly looking forward and working with faith and energy and purpose. It is extremely difficult, on the other hand, for someone who is not striving to be guided by the Spirit to exercise faith or, indeed, to accomplish much in life.

Do we trust the Lord? Do we have confidence in Him, in His servants, and in His plan? How do we show this confidence? Do we demonstrate our faith as Nephi did, or do we complain about how hard life is and criticize parents and leaders as Laman and Lemuel did?

Finally, Paul tells Timothy to be an example in purity. Nothing would turn your friend away from the Church faster than if he were to hear you telling dirty jokes, see you watching inappropriate movies, or discover that you were breaking the law of chastity. By the same token, nothing would convince your friend of the Church’s positive influence in your life more persuasively than seeing you shun the world’s impure influences.

Consider it a blessing that your friend is watching you so closely. His observing gives you added motivation to choose the right. Of course, nobody is perfect. But even this fact can help your friend learn how important the Church is in your life. If you offend someone, make amends rather than excuses. If you make a mistake, learn from it and try to do better next time. If you sin, repent immediately and completely. If your friend is watching you carefully, he will surely notice this and realize that the Church does indeed “make bad men good and good men better” (see “Words of the Living Prophet,” Liahona, December 1996, 8).

Readers’ Answers

We are all imperfect, and even as members of the Church we err. But we can help our nonmember friends see that, in spite of being imperfect, we try each day to reach toward perfection. We need to free ourselves of bad habits and show our friends that although we do not succeed perfectly in following Christ, at least we try to follow Him.

Jaqueline Soares Santos, Jardim Ipê Branch, São José dos Pinhais Brazil Stake

Conversion is a process, and it takes time and effort to learn from our mistakes and do them no more. As we live the gospel by faith and obedience, the Lord will help us be good examples even though we’re still trying to overcome our imperfections.

Carlton Julius D. Escandor, Sorsogon First Branch, Sorsogon Philippines District

Many people do not have much time to read the Church publications or learn about the Church. The publications they find easiest to read are our attitudes and behaviors as members of the Church. If we strive to be a light to others everywhere, anytime, and in any circumstance and do not allow our imperfections to overwhelm us, then our friends will know that we are truly disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Elder Charles Iheanacho Ekwonye, Ghana Accra Mission

Our patriarchal blessings can give us the desire to change, to do all we can to prepare for Christ’s return. It is necessary to pray to the Lord and ask for His help, for as we read in Genesis 18:14 [Gen. 18:14], “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?”

Tahia Mou-Fa, Uturoa Ward, Raromatai Tahiti Stake

We need to be examples of repentance, so others will know we realize when we’ve made mistakes and we want to correct them. We can let our friends see that we know how to turn to our Heavenly Father and seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost.

Victor Antonio Canales Villa, Industrial Ward, Querétaro México Stake

The doctrine of the Church is perfect, but we are not. The best thing we can do is let others see that despite our imperfections we are trying to follow the Savior’s example. We know we won’t achieve perfection in this life, but Father in Heaven has promised us that if we endure, He will give us the victory.

Alejandra Carolina González, Jardín Ward, Posadas Argentina Stake

Our nonmember friends remember what we do more than what we say. We must constantly exercise great control over our actions. Even though we are imperfect, we must always strive to be “followers of God” (Eph. 5:1).

Muhongo-Kabwabwa Tarin, Likasi Branch, Democratic Republic of Congo Kinshasa Mission

We are like a candle that lights a dark room, yet we must remember that a flame flickers, dimming and brightening at times. We must let our light shine, even though it flickers in our imperfection. As long as we are trying to improve, our examples will help others to also “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him” (Moro. 10:32).

Elder Nathan Lloyd Jones, México México City East Mission

My colleagues at work notice everything I do, and they say that not all of these actions can be of Christ. The best thing I can do is love them and share everything I have learned from the gospel. We always have to remember that God is with us and that He lives. Be patient, tolerant, and honest.

Anthony Silberie, Rotterdam Second Ward, Rotterdam Netherlands Stake

If we make an objective evaluation of our weaknesses and strive each day to improve upon them, we will, if we persevere, succeed in making our light shine brighter.

Norma Ramírez Noriega, Pedro Beltrán Ward, Ventanilla Perú Stake

[photo] Photo illustration by Welden Andersen