The friends we choose to associate with are main contributing factors in the formation of our character. We form social habits by association with our friends. These habits can be useful when directed towards the formation of a wholesome personality.
Our first friends are usually developed in family relationships. I was blessed to be a member of a loving family. In times of stress or disappointment, there was always comfort from the family. In times of success, there was always someone to share it with. My family has ever been numbered among my closest friends.
School and Church
School boundaries were usually much larger than ward boundaries, so on occasion we had to choose between school friends and church friends. I was blessed to have friends included in both of these social relationships, but I usually found church friends were more reliable. They had the same ideals I was trying to maintain.
The next friendships that were developed in my life were those with my missionary companions. We really developed a closeness from being on our knees together so many times during the day, and from engaging in service, one with another.
After a mission came service in the U.S. Marine Corps. But once, for a short time, I was separated from LDS companions. Some of the Marines I was with encouraged me to go on weekend leaves with them.
Finally, after a few weeks, they persuaded me to go with them on Saturday evening. We rode the bus into the city then boarded the streetcar. I could see the type of relationships they were starting to develop with the girls on the car. I knew this was wrong, and I moved to the rear of the car. There I found a different type of young people. I asked where they were going, and they said, “To a dance.”
I asked, “Where?”
They said, “It’s at the LDS church. Would you like to join us?”
Were they surprised to find I was a member of the Church! I got off the streetcar with them and had a delightful time with friends who shared the same values I did.
The next set of friendships that came to me were those I made in college. I chose to attend institute classes, which led me into the best of associations. Here I found an eternal relationship. There is no friend as close and loving and caring or more fun to be with than the one the Lord gives to you as an eternal companion.
Professional life is another area which provides opportunities for friendships. Once when I was working in California, I was offered a job in New York City. My employers told me people didn’t care about each other there.
I couldn’t believe people could live the way they described. It made me want to go to New York City just to prove them wrong. But after six months working there, I was ready to concede my California friends were right. Then I decided I hadn’t made much of an effort myself.
So I started a program to find out if New York City workers were really human. I lived in Scarsdale, about a 45-minute train ride from New York. The train ran exactly on schedule. I started noticing the habits of the commuters. They would leave home at exactly the same minute each morning, walk to the station, buy a New York Times, walk to a certain board on the platform, fold their paper, stand on that board until the train arrived, get on the same car, find the same seat, and read their newspaper all the way into Grand Central Station. They would never speak as they traveled their various routes.
I decided the only way to get to know them was to break the routine. I selected a man I thought I would like to get acquainted with, and after observing his routine for a few days, I planned a counter-routine.
I arrived at the station at about the same time he did. As soon as he started to walk down to his favorite board on the platform, I broke into a run and just beat him there, firmly planting my two feet on his favorite spot. This unnerved him so that he didn’t even unfold his newspaper.
When the train arrived, I jumped on and took his favorite seat. He rode all the way into the city visibly disturbed. I believe I ruined the entire day for him. The next morning I repeated the same process.
Then the most remarkable thing happened the third morning. When I arrived at the train platform, he was already there, firmly planted on his favorite board, reading his newspaper. I couldn’t help but laugh. He gave me a scowl, and then he couldn’t hold back either. I introduced myself as a new arrival determined to break the routine of a commuter. We had an enjoyable visit. We got on the train and talked all the way into New York.
From then on, breaking each other’s routine became a game. We would race each morning for that favorite spot. Soon others noticed what we were doing, and before we knew it, there were three, then four, then five, then ten, all racing for that particular board each morning.
The great friendships made then have endured many years. The cold New Yorker was just as friendly as anyone else. All you had to do was break through that city shell.
I have found that the right friends have a powerful influence on your life. Choose your friends wisely. Make certain they will help build within you the right standards with which to govern your life.
The Book of Mormon tells us about Alma and the sons of Mosiah, who were quite the rascals in their younger years. Then, through a marvelous visitation, their lives changed. They had to serve others. They all went on missions.
After many years of separation, a reunion occurs, recorded in Alma 17:1–3:
“Alma … met with the sons of Mosiah journeying towards the land of Zarahemla.
“Now these sons of Mosiah were with Alma at the time the angel first appeared unto him; therefore Alma did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord; yea, and they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.
“But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God.”
Do you see what happened? They remained true and faithful to their friendship and lived up to the standards they had set for each other.
May God grant you all the inspiration to choose the right friends, and to support each other in doing what is right.
How Do We Develop Better Friendships?
Learn people’s names and other important things about them. Be a good listener.
Show brotherly love and concern for them. Give them helpful service.
Graciously let them be of service to you when they offer.
Smile and be positive.