The Friend

At the Last Supper, Jesus urged His disciples to love each other as He loved them. He explained that we demonstrate that love by making sacrifices, and He gave an extraordinary example:

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

John 15:13

Earlier in the meal, Peter had vowed to lay down his life for the Savior. Jesus had responded that Peter would not follow through on that promise. (See John 13:37-38.) Even though Peter could not yet fully reciprocate the Savior’s friendship, his impassioned words indicated his desire to be that kind of friend.

Nephi taught that the Savior offers this gift of friendship to all of us:

He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him.

2 Nephi 26:24

Many times in revelations received by Joseph Smith, the Savior refers to His listeners as friends, beginning with this passage in 1832:

As I said unto mine apostles, even so I say unto you, for you are mine apostles, even God’s high priests; ye are they whom my Father hath given me; ye are my friends….

And again I say unto you, my friends, for from henceforth I shall call you 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…

Doctrine and Covenants 84:63, 77

As with Peter, this friendship is asymmetrical: Jesus offers us His perfect friendship and encourages us to work on becoming good friends to Him in return.

In his history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Joseph Smith wrote, “Friendship is one of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism to revolutionize and civilize the world, and cause wars and contentions to cease, and men to become friends and brothers” (“History, 1838–1856, volume E-1 [1 July 1843–30 April 1844],” p. 1680).

When Joseph was incarcerated in Carthage Jail, John Taylor twice sang one of his favorite hymns: “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief.” These words in the sixth verse must have been particularly poignant: “My friendship’s utmost zeal to try, he asked if I for him would die. The flesh was weak, my blood ran chill, but my free spirit cried, ‘I will!”

Shortly after, a mob stormed the building, killing Joseph and his brother Hyrum. No one knows for sure why Joseph ran to the window, where he was hit by several bullets before falling to the ground outside, but his friends in the room—John Taylor and Willard Richards—believed that he did it to save their lives. After he died, the mob disbursed, so his action did have the effect of saving the lives of his friends. (See “History, 1838–1856, volume F-1 [1 May 1844–8 August 1844],” p. 183.)

Elder Marlin K. Jensen spoke of friendship as a foundation for all other relationships:

What kind of parents or neighbors or servants of the Lord Jesus Christ can we be without being a friend?

Friendship: A Gospel Principle,” General Conference, April 1999

Today, I will strive to be a better friend. I will follow the example of Jesus Christ, who made sacrifices on behalf of His friends and who offers His friendship to everyone.

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