Music and the Spoken Word: ‘The secret of true friendship’

Editor’s note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square broadcast. This will be given Jan. 26, 2020.

What does it mean to have a genuine friend? We may have many acquaintances, and we can be friendly to all of them, but true friendship is more than that. It requires more from us, and it gives us more in return.

A Greek legend tells of two young men, Damon and Pythias, who exemplified true friendship. Pythias was unjustly accused of plotting against the king and was sentenced to die. He pleaded for a few days’ freedom so he could arrange care for his family across the sea, promising to return before the day of his execution.

Suspicious that Pythias was merely trying to escape his punishment, the king said he would allow Pythias to go only if he provided a substitute, someone who would be put to death if Pythias didn’t return in time. Damon agreed to stand in his friend’s place.

Sure enough, days went by and Pythias didn’t come back. The day of the execution arrived, and Damon was marched to the palace. Just then, a man was seen racing desperately through the crowd. It was Pythias, who fell into the embrace of his beloved friend. Exhausted, he explained that pirates had captured his ship and thrown him overboard. Terrified that this would mean Damon would die in his place, Pythias swam to shore and arrived just in time.

Pythias races to save his friend Damon, who stood in his friend's place while Pythias went home to arrange care for his family before Pythias' execution.
Pythias races to save his friend Damon, who stood in his friend’s place while Pythias went home to arrange care for his family before Pythias’ execution. Credit: H.A.Guerber (Public domain) via Wikimedia Commons

The king was so astonished by this amazing display of devotion that he freed them both — and begged to be the third member of that friendship.

In the Gospel of John we read, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Friendships like that don’t just happen. They are carefully built over a lifetime — as we sacrifice our own interests, as we offer love with no strings attached, as we reach out during the hard times, as we remain loyal when it seems the rest of the world has turned away.

To have a friend like Damon and Pythias is among life’s greatest treasures. And the first step to having a friend like that is becoming a friend like that.

Tuning in …

The “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast is available on KSL-TV, KSL Radio 1160AM/102.7FM, ksl.com, BYU-TV, BYU Radio, Dish and DirectTV, SiriusXM Radio (Ch. 143), the tabernaclechoir.org, youtube.com/TheTabernacleChoiratTempleSquare and Amazon Alexa (must enable skill). The program is aired live on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. on many of these outlets. Look up broadcast information by state and city at musicandthespokenword.org/schedules.