Talk for University 3rd Ward Sacrament Meeting
Elizabeth Willis Barrett
August 28, 2011
Just for a moment, open up the eyes of your imagination and consider this question. What would our University 3rd Ward be like if every member were exactly like you? Awesome? Cool? Hot? Kind? Shy? Quiet? Self-conscious? Happy? Miserable? If everyone were exactly like you, would there be anyone to teach Sunday School? Help with the music? Organize the sports? Bring dessert for the ward parties? If everyone were like you, would there be any parties? Would the Visiting Teaching get done? If everyone were like you, would you feel the love of our ward family? Would there be anyone who could forget about themselves long enough to reach out to you and become your friend?
I know how I felt last year when we were first called to this position. It was scary. All of these strange, yet beautiful--of course--faces and names that had to be put with them. Some of you have come from out of state not knowing anyone. I admire you greatly for your courage. The entity that will make your experience here a wonderful one is friendship.
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that friendship is one of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism.’” And according to Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy: “That thought ought to inspire and motivate all of us because friendship is a fundamental need of our world. In all of us there is a profound longing for and a deep yearning for the satisfaction and security that close and lasting relationships can give.”
Friendship is what has made our University 3rd Ward the wonderful ward it has become in its first year of existence and Friendship will keep it that way through the years. Each person in our ward needs to feel surrounded by love and friendship. That can only happen when we each forget ourselves and reach out to someone else. I know it’s hard. It’s really hard for me.
For one thing, we are all really busy. That will probably never change. There was only one time in my life when I felt like I was ahead of the game. That was when my two youngest children were in their car seats looking out the back window as we sped along the freeway. As they saw all the cars racing behind us they said with excitement, “Hey, Mom, you’re winning!”
If you are a good friend now, most likely you will be a good friend later in your life. But if you are too busy to share the love of friends now, you’re not going to have any more time later to be a good friend.
I know, you don’t believe me! I thought that I would have time just hanging around waiting for me to do all the things I ever wanted to do when I got to this stage of life. But I don’t and neither will you. It’s rather a shock!
Besides the lack of time, the lack of charity can get in the way of befriending others. We might discount someone because of one thing we find objectionable in them and then we won’t take the opportunity to know that person better. What a loss!
At times we might put ourselves and others into classes: rich, not so rich, gorgeous, not so gorgeous, brilliant, not so brilliant. And then feel like we need to stay in our own preconceived circles. Many chances for friendships are lost that way, too.
If we are taking time to analyze and find fault with others, we won’t have as much time or desire to look for and see the good.
Perhaps we have finally found a group of our own that we feel comfortable with and we don’t want to rock the boat of acceptance by opening up the group to let someone else in.
One of the greatest inhibitors of friendship could possibly be our own shyness or our own self-consciousness. We are so concerned about our own deficiencies that it is hard to worry about anybody else.
As Elder Jensen said: “How selfish we can be. How unwilling to be inconvenienced, to give, to bless and be blessed. What kind of parents or neighbors or servants of the Lord Jesus Christ can we be without being a friend?
“The power,” he said, “is in each one of us to be a friend. Old and young, rich and poor, educated and humble, in every language and country, we all have the capacity to be a friend.”
Being a friend takes time and effort, but think of the great benefits. Here are eight pointers on how to be a good friend.
First: forget about yourself. Maybe you didn’t have time to do your hair just like you wanted, maybe you spilled ketchup on your tie, maybe you couldn’t find just the right thing to wear but you are not the only one. Each person here has something about themselves that they don’t feel so great about. So forget about you and find someone that you can help and include. Be aware of other people and what they might be feeling. Be sincerely interested in others, and more people will be interested in you.
Second: “act as though.” C. S. Lewis said it so well: “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him.”
You learn to love others by investing in others.
Another way to “act as though,” is to assume that the people around you actually like you. Sometimes we expect someone to snub us or talk about us or reject us and we’re looking for anything in their actions that will prove us right so we can say, “See, I told you he didn’t like me!” Often that person is just reacting to our own action of insecurity or rudeness. Act as though everyone likes you. They probably do! How could they help it, right?
Just as you are trying to “read” other people, they are trying to “read” you. Sometimes you get it wrong.
“Act as though” you’re not shy and self-conscious. Most people here didn’t know you in high school. They didn’t even know you last month. You can remake yourself. Thinking more about others than about yourself is a good start.
Get out of your comfort zone. Stretch a little. Charity, the pure love of Christ, will help you do that.
So that’s the Third thing you can do when working on friendships: Pray for charity. Pray that you will be helped to think about others and what they need. Then you can forget about your mind that goes blank when you try to think of something clever to say and you can forget about your tongue that gets thick when you’re attempting to express yourself.
Keep in mind the message that the Savior taught us over and over in His actions and words: Love one another as I have loved you.
As Mother Teresa said, “It is not how much you do, but how much Love you put into the doing that matters.”
According to an Ensign Article by Shirleen Meek: “Our Father in Heaven can give you the courage to talk to others, the motivation to try something new, or the desire to go out of your way when you just don’t feel like it. And he can comfort you when your efforts don’t turn out quite as you had hoped.”
One of my favorite quotes is from the author Willa Cather, “Where there is great love there are always miracles.”
Fourth: Live the Gospel. A true friend makes it easier for you to live the gospel when you are with him or her.
Fifth: Get involved. Make the effort. Be where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there and good things will happen in your life. There are so many activities in our ward and stake. That doesn’t happen in home wards. The goal here is to bring young people together often to meet each other, learn from each other and to make memorable friendships. And to help get some eternal families going, of course. You never know, your one and only may be at the fireside that you are trying to decide whether to go to or not or at the FHE that you are just too tired to attend. Get up, get going, make your life happen.
Sixth: Remember what people tell you so it will give you something to talk about when you meet again. And be sure to compliment those around you even if you think they already know they look great or taught well. They probably don’t know it already and everyone needs praise.
As Garrison Keillor of Lake Wobegon fame said:
“They say such nice things about people at their funerals that it makes me sad that I’m going to miss mine by just a few days.”
Seventh: Learn everyone’s name. That won’t be easy. You’ll have to work at it. But as you know, nothing is as sweet as the sound of your own name. And besides, it would really help me if I asked you what someone’s name was and you could tell me. Can you imagine the positive impact it would have on our ward if everyone knew everyone’s name?
We are a ward family: some brothers and sisters, a mother and father and a few loving aunts and uncles thrown in. We help each other. Sometimes we have to take out the garbage. Sometimes we have to clean our rooms. Sometimes we are needed to share rides or to comfort and uplift and encourage.
Hopefully, in this ward and in the many wards you’ll be in in your life, you will choose to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.
As it says in Romans 12:5: “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”
And it helps to be one when we know each other’s names.
Eighth: and last: Be your best self. President Spencer W. Kimball once said: “What are your eccentricities, if any? I think nearly all people have some. If so, then go to work. Classify them, weigh them, corral them, and eliminate them one at a time.”
That, too, will take time and effort but know that we are all striving to grow to be a better people, a better ward family. We can learn from and help each other.
Our Bishop and his counselors love you. I know that each of them would call each of you “friend” and so would the other adults assigned to this ward.
What greater gift dost thou bestow,
What greater goodness can we know
Than Christlike friends, whose gentle ways
Strengthen our faith, enrich our days.
You enrich my days and I am very grateful for your friendship. Thank you for your love and devotion to each other. May you be willing to reach out to those you don’t know yet and help them feel the outpouring of love from this ward. Be a friend!