If everything works out the way it should, many of you will be reading this at the exact moment that I will be speaking it, in Church. In a sense…we can all be in Church together. How exciting is that? So, back story. When you move into or out of a Ward many times you are asked to give a talk during Sacrament meeting. I was asked to do this, this Friday. Here is what I’ll be saying…
Above All, Be a Friend
Good morning Brothers and Sisters. I’m grateful to be here on this beautiful Sabbath morning, with all of you. I want to thank Brother H for calling me this past Friday evening and asking me to give this talk. Yes, I’m sure Sister A, among others, can appreciate that perhaps baseball’s season isn’t over quite just yet — for I am this week’s pinch hitter. Hopefully my efforts will be as close to those of an Allen Craig as possible.
There may be a few new faces running around here. Just so everyone knows those belong to me. I would ask everyone to be nice to them, but that would be like asking water to be wet…a little redundant. If you do not know, my name is Brother Jonathan Hagar. Now you all know me…and now we are all friends.
I’m a convert to the Church. I was baptized on October 1st of 2011, so just over two years ago. I can remember the first time I met the full-time missionaries. I was a rebel of sorts, and my brother had warned them about me. I had noticed that they were at my brother’s house so I walked over to check out why they were there. I barged in without knocking, my brother quick to make introductions between us. I immediately sat down and lit up a cigarette, perhaps trying to prove to them that I didn’t need them, which was the furthest from the truth. The first question they shot my way was “Are you religious?” I answered in the negative and probably made some sort of face that would stray them even further from that topic. Every question after that was a personal question about me. What kind of music do I like, what’s my favorite television shows, favorite movies. What I like to do for fun. There was no ulterior motive. I could tell that they sincerely wanted to know more about me. They wanted to be friends with me. When it was time for me to leave they both got up and shook my hand, both offering to help me in Any Possible Way. “We’re young; we can lift heavy stuff if you need us to” Elder W told me. I believed him, and a lifelong friendship was made.
The subject for this talk is “Above All, be a Friend”. I was provided with two scriptures, the first being…
The first thing I thought of when I read this scripture was my Brother, who is serving in Afghanistan right now. On the Eve of Veterans day it’s hard not to think about him, and all others who are serving, and have served before him. Yes, he is my brother, but most importantly he is my friend. I know without a doubt he is willing to lay down his life for me, my family and for all the great men and women he is currently serving with. This is an important thing to realize, and learn from, but I think it’s even more important for all of us to build upon this idea. Is it enough to just be friends with those that we like? I don’t think so. We are all brothers and sisters under a Heavenly Father. Our Elder Brother, and Savior Jesus Christ has taught us in Mark 12: 30-31
30…thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
When it says “Neighbor” in this scripture it is referring to Brotherhood and Sisterhood. We must remember those that we don’t feel much love towards are those that need our love and friendship the most. I think we can also interpret, from John 15: 13, that a man laying down his life for his friends can also mean laying down the ways of the world. And in verse 14, which states ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Jesus isn’t telling us…Okay, if you do this, this, this and this…then you are my friends. No, he’s telling us that he can tell from our actions if we are his friends, rather than just from us saying we are. Do we walk the walk, or just talk the talk. The second scripture I was given is…
D&C 82: 19 which reads – Every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God.
This scripture reiterates and combines the two great Commandments, to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all they mind, and with all thy strength…and to love thy neighbor as thyself. If we can be conscious of our actions, keeping our Heavenly Father in mind with all of our decisions and choices we can, not just be good friends to the ones that we have in our life. We can be good friends to all people that we come in contact with. It is important to always be aware of what type of friends we are being.
In the October General Conference of 1972 Elder Marvin J. Ashton gave a talk entitled “What is a Friend?” In this talk Elder Ashton says…
This day I greet you wherever you are as friends.
Someone has said, “A friend is a person who is willing to take me the way I am.” Accepting this as one definition of the word, may I quickly suggest that we are something less than a real friend if we leave a person the same way we find [them]?
There seems to be a misunderstanding on the part of some men today as to what it means to be a friend. Acts of a friend should result in self-improvement, better attitudes, self-reliance, comfort, consolation, self-respect, and better welfare. Certainly the word friend is misused if it is identified with a person who contributes to our delinquency, misery, and heartaches. When we make a [person] feel [they] are wanted, [their] whole attitude changes. Our friendship will be recognizable if our actions and attitudes result in improvement and independence.
It takes courage to be a real friend. Some of us endanger the valued classification of friend because of our unwillingness to be one under all circumstances. Fear can deprive us of friendship. Some of us identify our closest friends as those with the courage to remain and share themselves with us under all circumstances. A friend is a person who will suggest and render the best for us regardless of the immediate consequences. Sir Winston Churchill became Great Britain’s greatest friend in his country’s darkest hour because he was courageous enough to call for “blood, toil, tears, and sweat” when some would have accepted him more readily as a friend had he advocated peaceful surrender.
President Abraham Lincoln was once criticized for his attitude toward his enemies. “Why do you try to make friends of them?” asked an associate. “You should try to destroy them.”
“Am I not destroying my enemies,” Lincoln gently replied, “when I make them my friends?”
Online dictionaries offer several different definitions of what a friend is, including…
- A person one knows, likes, and trust
- A person whom one knows; an acquaintance
- A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; a comrade
So, to simplify – a friend is a close acquaintance, whose company we enjoy, that we share a common struggle or cause with. Brothers and Sisters, all of Heavenly Fathers children here on earth struggle each day to find their way back to Him. Brothers and Sisters, we are ALL friends…we just haven’t met each other yet.
As some of you know I am indeed moving in two weeks. This is news to some of you, including the visitors I have here today, so…sorry about that, mom. I take comfort in knowing that I will have friends there to greet me and all I need to do is to meet them, and make them strangers to me no more.
In this past General Conference, during the Priesthood Session, we heard a talk from Bishop Gerald Caussé. His talk was entitled Ye Are No more Strangers. In the talk he offers…
The word stranger comes from the Latin word extraneus, which means “exterior” or “from the outside.” Generally, it designates someone who is an “outsider” for various reasons, whether it be because of origin, culture, opinions, or religion. As disciples of Jesus Christ who strive to be in the world but not of the world, we sometimes feel like outsiders. We, better than many, know that certain doors can be closed to those who are considered to be different.
Throughout time the people of God have been commanded to care for all individuals who are strangers or who may be seen as different. In ancient times a stranger benefited from the same obligation of hospitality as a widow or an orphan. Like them, the stranger was in a situation of great vulnerability, and his survival depended on the protection he received from the local population. The people of Israel received precise instructions on this subject: “But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
During His earthly ministry, Jesus was an example of one who went far beyond the simple obligation of hospitality and tolerance. Those who were excluded from society, those who were rejected and considered to be impure by the self-righteous, were given His compassion and respect. They received an equal part of His teachings and ministry.
Those that needed to hear His teachings and feel his compassion the most were the ones He gave it to. He would offer these things while others would turn away from them. Who would rather emulate? Would you rather turn your back on the ones that need you, or be more Christ like and give equal love to all those in need of it?
I challenge everyone to go out and build better friendships, with all that are in need of them. I have a strong testimony of this gospel. I know that our Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ live. Through His teachings we can remember to foster stronger friendships with those around us, and help bring them unto the Gospel and closer to our Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.