Q&A: Questions and Answers

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

Many times at school I see members of the Church doing things they are not supposed to and not representing the Church by their actions. How can I be a good example to them without being annoying or bothering them?

New Era

  • Always be friendly and nonthreatening.

  • Invite your friend to church or church activities.

  • If your friend has Word of Wisdom problems, is in danger of being hurt, or is hurting others, tell a responsible adult. Otherwise, keep the confidences you’re entrusted with.

  • Let your friend know he is welcome, even if he feels he doesn’t fit in at church.

  • Encourage the other people in your class or quorum to be welcoming to outsiders.

The difference between success and failure in handling this challenge is all about how you approach it. You may often hear the scripture, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned” (Luke 6:37). You probably also know that you are responsible to care for others and look out for your brothers and sisters in the gospel. It can often be difficult to reconcile these two principles when you are dealing with people who aren’t living the way they know they should. The best way to handle this situation is to learn the difference between being judgmental and exercising good judgment.

Judging others involves looking for fault in and condemning them, verbally or in your thoughts. It’s pretty easy to fall into this trap, since you may be embarrassed by what the other person is doing. After all, Latter-day Saints are often judged as a group, rather than as individual people. But when you judge or condemn others, you place yourself above them, often not knowing all the facts or circumstances which led them to behave in a certain way. It’s this seemingly self-righteous attitude that most people find objectionable.

Using good judgment or discernment, on the other hand, is what our Heavenly Father wants us to do, using the Holy Ghost to distinguish right from wrong. Instead of being motivated by anger or embarrassment, you will be motivated by love and a desire to help the other person. It will allow you to assess the situation and do what you can to make it better, instead of deciding whether or not the other person’s behavior is acceptable. Remember it’s not your responsibility to decide how others should live, even if their actions are embarrassing to you. Take comfort in the fact that your personal example of honesty, integrity, and righteous living may have a stronger, longer-lasting effect than the negative actions you see in others.

Good judgment, combined with spiritual promptings, will give you the courage and understanding you need to help a friend or acquaintance navigate rough waters. Good judgment will lead you to be friendly without being overbearing, to offer your friend alternatives to activities and situations where temptation is present, and to show the way back to living the gospel fully.

Don’t give up, and keep yourself strong. Don’t compromise your standards. You may feel that in order to be fair, you must participate in activities of the other person’s choosing. That’s fine as long as you avoid situations or activities where the Spirit cannot be present. In any case, choose activities you’re both comfortable with.


Outside of being friendly and nonjudgmental, there really isn’t much you can do or say. Work extra hard to show your friends that you are accepted and respected for the choices you make.

Jennifer Wright, 13 Edmond, Oklahoma

Just be a good friend. If a subject you don’t like or don’t think is appropriate comes up in conversation, try to casually change the subject.

Carley Smith, 15 Republic, Missouri

Through your friendship and your enthusiasm about the Church, your friends will see how happy you are. They will come to church and their testimony will grow.

Scott Carter, 18 Rokeby, Tasmania, Australia

If these friends come to you for advice, ask them if they would act the same way at home or at church as they do in school. It may help them see how they can change.

Catie Holdsworth, 13 Seaford, Delaware

Pray for help and live so that the Holy Ghost can guide you. Reassure your friends that Heavenly Father loves them and wants them to be happy. Find ways to associate with them and be their friend.

Theresa Yvonne Ansah, 16 Accra, Ghana

The Church is, and always will be, true. However, the members may not always live up to Church standards. These members need you and your strength. Show them that you care about them and love them. Your friendship may motivate them to change.

Ata Samuelu, 21 Canberra, New South Wales, Australia

[photo] Photography by Kelly A. Larsen. Posed by models

[illustration] At the waters of Mormon, Alma explained the covenants we accept at baptism. Living up to your covenant to “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places” (Mosiah 18:8–9) may be the best way to help your friends who aren’t representing the Church by their actions. (Painting Alma Baptizing in the Waters of Mormon by Arnold Friberg.)