True and loyal friendship

Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,

Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel.'- William Shakespeare, "Hamlet," Act 1, scene 3.

Few possessions are more precious than a true and loyal friendship. Those who lift and inspire us, give us comfort, tend our needs and lend us courage truly bless our lives.

"Next to a sense of kinship with God come the helpfulness, encouragement, and inspiration of friends," said President David O. McKay. "Friendship is a sacred possession. As air, water, and sunshine to flowers, trees, and verdure, so smiles, sympathy, and love of friends to the daily life of man! `To live, laugh, love one's friends, and be loved by them is to bask in the sunshine of life.' " (April 1940 general conference.)

As stars brighten the night sky, a friend's smile, words, deeds or very presence can light up an otherwise gloomy day.

Gaining and maintaining friendships is a lifelong endeavor. From our earliest days, we feel a strong need to belong, to be accepted in a society that not only includes but also extends beyond the family circle. We need to know, in short, that someone cares, that someone likes us, that someone will "be there" for us, that we have a friend.

Friendship's road runs two ways. We receive and we give. Usually, we get out of a friendship what we put into it.

At times it might seem that some friendships are instant, cropping up suddenly, in full bloom. In reality, most are the product of long care and much nurturing. American clergyman and writer Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) noted: "We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses, there is at last one which makes the heart run over."

Shared experiences reinforce friendships. Bonds are strengthened as we applaud one another's successes and sympathize in disappointments, rejoice at good news and weep together in moments of sorrow and despair.

One of the unusual characteristics of a friendship is that it takes time and energy to nurture, yet it can survive even years of separation. Many friends, upon being reunited after a long separation, are delighted to discover that they are able to pick up where they left off. "It's like we saw each other just last week," they say. The bonds of friendship outlast time and distance.

Through friendships we learn to be more like the Savior as we think less of ourselves and more of others. And He gave the greatest example of what a true friend really is:

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

"Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.

"Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth; but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you." (John 15:13-15.)

In our own dispensation, He referred to members of His Church as friends: "And again I say unto you, my friends, it is expedient that I give unto you this commandment that ye become even as my friends in days when I was with them, traveling to preach the gospel in my power, . . ." (D&C 84:77.)

The scriptures hold many examples of friendship. Among them are Daniel and the three brave youth (Dan. 1:8-16); David and Jonathan (1 Sam. 13-23); Ruth and Naomi (Book of Ruth); Alma and Mosiah in the Book of Mormon.

Trials sometimes enter into friendships, but love and forgiveness make it possible for them to survive. W. W. Phelps wrote a letter asking forgiveness after he had betrayed the Prophet Joseph Smith and fellow Saints at Far West, Mo. In that letter Brother Phelps declared: "I have done wrong and I am sorry. The beam is in my own eye. I have not walked along with my friends according to my holy anointing. . . . I want your fellowship; if you cannot grant that, grant me your peace and friendship, for we are brethren, and our communion used to be sweet, and whenever the Lord brings us together again I will make all the satisfaction on every point that saints or God can require."

The Prophet Joseph responded, in part:

"Believing your confession to be real, and your repentance genuine, I shall be happy once again to give you the right hand of fellowship and rejoice over the returning prodigal. . . .

" `Come on, dear brother, since the war is past,

" `For friends at first, are friends again at last.' " (History of the Church 4:141, 163.)

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