The Message:

Who’s Your Friend?

by Elder Theodore M. Burton

of the First Quorum of the Seventy

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    I have three darling little granddaughters. One is five years old, and the others are three and one. The oldest is Amy Christine, but I call her Love-Love. The second is named Melissa. Her parents call her Missy, but I call her my Dolly. The third little girl whose name is Natalie Ann is so soft and cuddly that I call her Pinky.

    Nicknames are fun, but I had an experience recently that caused me to think. Minnie, my wife, held Missy in her arms, gave her a big kiss, and asked, “Who’s my love?” and Missy answered, “Amy.” When it was my turn to give her a squeeze, I held her tight and said, “Who does grandpa love?” And Missy answered, “Your Love-Love.”

    “Yes,” I answered and then asked, “and who else does grandpa love?” Missy replied, “Your Love-Bird,” which is an affectionate term I use for my wife. Missy did not think we loved her because we didn’t use love in her name.

    After we compared notes, we realized that we had to do something special to let Melissa know that she was loved too. Now I call her my Love-Dolly, and my wife calls her Missy-Love. In the future, as our smallest grows up, we must be also careful to let her know that she isn’t just Pinky. We’ll choose another name for her that includes love so she also will know that she is loved as much as her sisters.

    Too often we think it is smart to greet our friends in disparaging terms. We really don’t mean to hurt our friends when we call them Stinky or Freckles or the Wasp. It’s just our way. We know they won’t be hurt. They understand. Or do they?

    How do you feel when someone greets you and says, “Well, if it isn’t Dopey!” You know they don’t mean it, but it doesn’t improve your self-image either.

    Wouldn’t it be better to greet a friend in a more polite way? It isn’t necessary always to say something complimentary. Nor should you be so self-conscious when you meet friends that you have to be formal or stiff. But if you form a habit of looking for positive things to say and do, it helps both you and your friends.

    There is great unity among the General Authorities. We are thrown in very close contact with one another and really do enjoy one another. I like my associates, and they find ways and means to let me know they like me. It makes our association very pleasant. I have never enjoyed working with men more than I have this group of men. In my opinion, this pleasant association is due to the fact that they always try to be positive.

    My association with the General Authorities has been filled with many great experiences. A few years ago while Elder S. Dilworth Young was caring for his first wife who was very ill, he invited Sister Burton and me to their home to sample his homemade bread. He is an excellent cook, and we enjoyed not only a fine meal, but excellent company. After the meal he showed us a picture he was painting, and we expressed our admiration for his talent.

    “I wish I could do that,” I said.

    “Why don’t you then?” he asked.

    I told Elder Young that I had bought some paints, brushes, and canvases just for fun but didn’t even know how to mix colors, let alone paint. He then offered to show me how and suggested I learn by actual experience. He said we could take a day off sometime when we were both free and go up into the mountains together and paint.

    I thought he was just making conversation, but he soon followed through. Free days are rather rare for General Authorities. Their busy schedules often conflict. But finally we did find two such days before winter came. I didn’t learn to paint, but I did learn to love that great man. We sat together, ate lunch together, and talked a great deal. Between brushing away flies, we even did a little painting. During those hours together I learned to appreciate Elder Young as a fine storyteller, a warm companion, a great friend, and a man of God.

    I could go on and tell of similar experiences with other General Authorities. Just before a recent general conference, we attended a luncheon at the Hotel Utah. Elder LeGrand Richards had recently undergone an operation and was walking with his cane. Elder Packer gave him his arm to steady him going down the steps and along the walk to the Church Office Building, matching his steps to those of Elder Richards in a show of affection. As we passed them, Elder Franklin Richards said, “Take good care of him, Elder Packer.” He replied, “I surely will. He’s precious.” And he is.

    Never has one of the General Authorities told me an off-color story or used a vulgar expression in my presence. Never have I heard one of them say anything mean or derogatory about another. These men are not supermen. They are only human beings.

    They have their weaknesses as do all people, but they try to be positive, and they try to be helpful and friendly. You have noticed, I am sure, how President Kimball goes out of his way to greet people and make them happy with his warm smile and hearty handshake.

    As a message to young people, I would say: “Be natural and look for things you can admire in people. Learn early to be kind to your friends. Learn to say positive things about them.” It is not hypocrisy to try to be nice to others. As you practice being considerate, this will become your honest life-style. People cannot help but like you when you try to be kind to them. You will find that it pays great dividends to share your friendship with someone else.

    May I return to my granddaughter? Instead of just saying, “How’s my Dolly?” I now say, “How is grandpa’s Love-Dolly?” To hear the cries of joy when grandpa and grandma come to see them is worth waiting and working for. Try something similar with your friends and see if I’m not telling you the truth!

    Illustrated by Dale Kilbourn