22986_000_006Answers are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.
At school the few Church members my age either make fun of me or avoid me. At church they pretend I don’t exist. My only good friends are nonmembers. How can I make friends with youth in my ward when it is easier to spend my time with nonmember friends who seem to be more Christlike?
This question really has two parts: What should I do about the Latter-day Saint youth in my ward or branch? And what should I do about my nonmember friends?
Unfortunately, Latter-day Saints do not always live exemplary lives. Youth in particular sometimes struggle with kindness and love. Consequently, young people are sometimes ignored or ridiculed by those who should be their friends.
If you find yourself in these circumstances, try to remember one very important point: You are a child of God. Your Heavenly Father loves you and is grateful for your every effort to live the gospel and to be active in your ward or branch. While Heavenly Father won’t force others to live the gospel, He will sustain you in your attempts to be patient and not to give up.
While you can’t make others’ decisions for them, you can choose how you react to those decisions. The most important thing you can do is try to be Christlike in your response when others tease or ignore you. Be friendly and try to set an example without being self-righteous. Sometimes your kind behavior may make the situation worse. If that is the case, pray for hearts to be softened—yours that you may not be bitter, and theirs that they may see you for the person you are. If you treat others as children of Heavenly Father, perhaps they will eventually remember who they are and act accordingly.
You may not be able to handle the situation alone, so seek appropriate counsel and assistance from parents or Church leaders. The bishop or branch president is responsible for the spiritual welfare of the members he presides over, and he can seek guidance to know what to do.
But above all, don’t let others determine your activity in the Church. If you give up trying to have Latter-day Saint friends, you will give up opportunities to serve and to grow. Look around your ward and branch for others—perhaps older or younger than you—who need your friendship. Is there a Primary child you could help? A widow? A mother with small children? You may find that many ward or branch members are grateful for your friendship.
The other question—what to do about your nonmember friends—is an easier one. If they are Christlike and treat you well, then spend time with them. Good friends are an asset—and if they really are your friends, they will respect your beliefs and will not ask you to do anything against your standards. And if you live your religion around them, they will likely be interested to know more about it. But even if they never show any interest in the Church, you probably share many positive values and can be a strength to each other in avoiding the world’s temptations and evils.
“Treat Everyone with Kindness and Dignity”
“Everyone needs good friends. Your circle of friends will greatly influence your thinking and behavior, just as you will theirs. When you share common values with your friends, you can strengthen and encourage each other. Treat everyone with kindness and dignity. Many nonmembers have come into the Church through friends who have involved them in Church activities.”—President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency (“That We May Touch Heaven,” Ensign, November 1990, 46)
“Be a Good Friend”
“To have good friends, be a good friend yourself. Show interest in others and let them know you care about them. Treat everyone with kindness and respect. Go out of your way to be a friend to those who are shy or do not feel included” (For the Strength of Youth: Fulfilling Our Duty to God , 12).
I try not to pay attention if someone teases me. It hurts to be treated in such a way, but when I think of Jesus Christ, I realize my hardships are insignificant in comparison, and I continue trying to be kind. It is important for me to go to church not because of friends but to obey the law of the Sabbath and to worship the Lord.
Sri Martini Wardoko, Jakarta South Branch, Jakarta Indonesia District
We need to have friends both in and out of the Church, and we need to break any barrier that keeps us from being friends with Church members. We need to spend time with members because they can help us as we walk the path to eternal life.
David Cristóbal Vallejo Domínguez, Choloma Ward, Fesitranh Honduras Stake
I am helped by two questions: Should I love others? Or should I try to be loved? I try always to love others. This choice has obligated me to love those who are unkind. It helps me concentrate on their positive points and prevents me from avoiding them.
Elder François Ngindu Ngindu, Democratic Republic of Congo Kinshasa Mission
If we find that some people who should be our friends turn against us, our obligation is not to retreat from them. We should show them that we love and care for them. Sometimes all we need to do is go to our knees. Our Heavenly Father will make us strong.
Elder Ihuoma Chidiebere Loveday, Nigeria Port Harcourt Mission
Some members haven’t accepted the idea that we are to do unto others as we would have others do unto us. Nonetheless, we should treat them with love in return. Base your behavior on the principle that “Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matt. 5:39).
Catherine Slight, Mascouche Ward, Montréal Québec Stake
We should never forget that the best friends we have are God, Jesus Christ, our parents, and our family members. Continue to endure in faith, for this may be a trial you have to pass through.
Cristiano Sölla, Porto Velho Ward, Rio Grande Brazil Stake
We are on earth to be tested and proven (see Abr. 3:25), and some tests may come through family members, friends, or neighbors. No matter how hard the test, we can press forward with an eye single to the glory of God (see D&C 88:67–68).
Simboe Doe, Logan Town Ward, Monrovia Liberia Stake
If the members your age are making fun of you or ignoring you, you must take the initiative to greet them and get to know them better. Make every effort to invite your nonmember friends to Church activities, and take this opportunity to share the gospel. It is possible that these friends will become members of the Church.
Chen Yu-chuan, Dyker Heights Fourth (Chinese) Branch, Brooklyn New York Stake
The easiest step toward gaining a friend is to conjure up a smile, even if it is hard to do. If ward members don’t want to be your friend, forgive them for acting as they do, put a smile on your face, and try again. Maybe they will change when they see that you won’t give up trying to win their friendship. This difficult situation will be easier if you approach it with patience, a good attitude, faith, and prayer.
Bianca Borchardt, Halberstadt Branch, Hannover Germany Stake