If This Happened Tomorrow—What Would You Do?

The following situations and responses from New Era readers are to provide perspective and insight. These suggestions are from youth and should not be considered counsel from the General Authorities or pronouncements from the Church.

My girl friend used to be very in tune with and enthusiastic about the gospel. But recently she’s been going out with people who have different standards than the Church teaches, and as a result she’s doing things that aren’t good for her. She isn’t attending Mutual and has started drinking and dating boys with bad reputations. I wrote her a letter, telling her how much I love her and the gospel, and I asked her if there is anything I can do. She wrote back saying she knows that what she is doing is wrong. Yet, she keeps doing it. Her family is really strong in the Church. They are trying to help her, but it’s not working. This problem is tearing her apart, and it’s hurting me as well. What should I do?

“When a young person is confused and not living the correct standards, she is in need of love and understanding from those who are around her, especially her friends and family. ‘A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity’ (Prov. 17:17). You mustn’t leave her alone to face the world in this troubled time of her life. A kind and strong hand can help lead her out of despair and back into the happy and secure life of the Church. The important thing is that she realizes she is doing wrong. Someday she may realize how unhappy her life really is and do something about it. That final decision must be her own. For now you can be a friend and pray for her to have the strength to see through the dark into the light of the gospel.”

Barbara Lords Aberdeen, Idaho

“Oh, boy! Does this situation sound familiar. This last year one of my close friends fell into this same situation. It was hurting me and her and everyone else involved, and it seemed that we had tried everything to help her. Then one night as I was praying for her, the idea came to hold a special fast for her. We contacted everyone who knew her and informed them of this special fast. Then after the fast we set a goal to be especially kind and loving to this girl (but not in an over-obvious way). Eventually, with the help of all these people and her family, this girl came back into the Church.

“The only advice I can give is to try what we tried. Pray and fast for her and constantly, by your actions, reassure her that she is loved. Don’t condemn her but follow the advice in 3 Nephi 18:23–24.” [3 Ne. 18:23–24]

Sherry Stott Bynum, Montana

“In our highly materialistic society, it’s easy to become caught up in the ‘worldly pleasures’ that are allowed to dominate in others’ lives. It is distressing when this happens to someone close to us, especially when he or she acknowledges his wrongdoing.

“As a friend you can help by continuing to show concern. Be an example and an encouragement. Invite her to join in Mutual, and in time, I’m sure she’ll come to realize that nothing can replace the gospel’s true teachings.

“Paul said that we walk by faith, not by sight. Faith is expressed in living so that our actions reflect our belief. Through consistent prayer and example, you can help lead her home, just as the lost sheep was found.

“‘Likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance’ (Luke 15:7).”

Cathy Piper Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, England

“Before you can really help her, you must truly love her. The Lord requires a great sacrifice from us when we have a special feeling for others. He requires that we do more than express our love and feelings for the gospel through letters or other one-time attempts. Not to say that these efforts aren’t important, but show her through consistent action what your true feelings are for her. Treat her as though she were active, and soon she will assume the confidence she needs. Change comes by example and practice. Show her by your example what the gospel can do to change lives. Only then will she really desire to change. Remember who you are first, be accepting of her, and then the Spirit of the Holy Ghost will help her to change her life.”

Debbie Mitchell El Dorado Springs, Missouri

“Your problem is not as uncommon as you might think. Coming from a community where Mormons are a minority, I have faced the same problem.

“Sometimes the reason a person becomes associated with people of different standards is because no one with the same standards will take time to be her friend. We can get so wrapped up in our own problems that we don’t realize that our friends need help.

“All you can do is be her friend. A letter is a great idea, but perhaps just a little impersonal. Wouldn’t a phone call, or better yet a personal visit to your friend, be better? Let her know that you’re concerned about what’s happening to her. Call her and offer her a ride to Mutual. Take action against the problem. Don’t expect her to do it all by herself.”

Dana Reid Redwood City, California

“Somewhat the same circumstance happened to a very dear friend of mine. The solution I have found is simply to love her, to accept her, and to be there with a kind, listening ear. That is what builds a divine friendship. To love one another is God’s simple plan, and it really works. One thing you must always remember is that everyone has his own agency to choose how he wishes to live.

“I guess all you can do is wait, and pray, and realize for your own life how great the Church really is. My dear friend is now very active in the Church and will soon hold callings in it. One last word would be, ‘People take time.’”

Jane Alice Kinser Norwalk, California

“The worry of rebellious children is no new concern; even the son of the prophet Alma in Book of Mormon times was led astray and was held for a time in Satan’s grasp. Much faith and many prayers pleading for his return to the faith were offered by both parents and friends.

“Of course, all wandering youth don’t have such a miraculous turnabout, but consider for a moment the teaching of Solomon, son of King David, found in Proverbs 22:6 [Prov. 22:6]: ‘Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.’ You must steadfastly continue your prayers, friendship, and good influence on this friend, and surely some day, after the rebellious streak has taken its course, your friend will find sorrow in her actions and return to the principles that she knows to be correct.”

Carol Shurtz Bountiful, Utah

“While we are responsible to set a good example and strive always to encourage and uplift our fellowmen, all children of our Father in Heaven have been given agency to choose for themselves between right and wrong. Even though our desires for a person may be for their benefit, we cannot make their decisions for them.

“I experienced a similar situation several years ago. I befriended a person to try and help him, and I associated regularly with him. Although I feel I helped him, I ended up having a lot of problems, which I brought upon myself. It was a hard and painful road back.

“The best thing to do is set a good example and love and encourage her, but do not allow yourself to be adversely affected by her choices. Do what you know is right, and even though it may not help right now, sometime in the future, this girl will look back and say, ‘He was so happy and at peace. What am I doing wrong?’”

Elder Don Patterson Korea Seoul Mission

“When a person is interested in reconforming her life to meet the gospel standards, she is often frightened and reluctant for fear of rejection by active Church members. Satan is also very active in telling her she is already past hope, so why try to repent. This can be convincing to a heart that feels both confused and guilty.

“The best you can do is to let your friend know that you and others love her and that Heavenly Father loves her, too. I suggest that you call her and offer to take her to Mutual yourself, then treat her as if she were still active.

“Talk to her leaders in Mutual—her class president, adviser, and Young Women president—and ask for their help and prayers. If she turns down your offer, respect her free agency, but don’t give up. Just keep offering her a ride. And keep remembering her in your prayers.”

Mary Ann Stout Rome, New York

“To help your girl friend, you must exercise your faith and prayers. You can ask her family to do the same. You must ask our Father in Heaven to help you to know what to say to your friend and how to say it so it will affect her. Don’t overwhelm her with lectures, or she will drop you and cut off communication. Pray for help and guidance and remember to let your light so shine that men may see your good works (see Matt. 5:16).

“You must set an example for her to follow. If you are strong and she is sincere about returning to the Church, she will follow what you do. You must pull her forward; don’t push from behind. She is watching you, so set the right kind of example.”

Kathy Belliston Provo, Utah

[photos] Photos by John Ramuno

[illustration] Calligraphy by Warren Luch