In my last post, I talked about the value of good friends for our youth. But the same is true, of course, for adults.
President Hinckley taught his now-famous triplet about what new members need: a friend, a responsibility, and the nurturing of the good word of Christ. In my parents' early days in the church, I think the new friends they made there were exceptionally important. We were fortunate to be introduced to the church by another family, neighbors up the street. So we had friends (one of their children first invited me to Primary) close by at the beginning. And others reached out to my folks, as well, helping them to feel a part of the branch from the outset.
I know for me, my best friend in the world is my wife. And having her with me at church has been critical to many of my choices, including my continuing activity. I know when we have moved to a new ward, she was there with me, and we've made the transition together. When she or I have assignments that take us away from our home ward, I miss being with her in church.
Most of my other church friendships come along with my assignments for service. I become close to other members of the group I'm serving with. And sometimes those friendships change a bit when the assignment does, just because we don't have circumstances that keep us together. But there have been a few lasting friendships – some closer than others – over the years.
When I was in high school and at a critical time for making key decisions about my life in the church and my future, I made a new friend in our ward. His simple friendship (and he really didn't do anything except be nice to me and be willing to hang out, beat me at tennis once in a while, and be a friend) tipped my scale in favor of continued activity and choices that led to a mission and a temple sealing. Could I have gotten there without him? Maybe. Would I have? I don't know. But I know having his friendship was important to me that senior year.
Several years ago in a period of pretty deep depression, I was able to open up to a friend who patiently listened. He didn't offer solutions, but allowed me to talk my way through my own. And his presence in my life that year made a huge difference to me.
For me, these friendships have been almost accidental. They have begun under the assumption that friendship would be agreeable to both of us. In other words, I have had to be open to friendship in order to find it. I could not simply wait for it to be bestowed upon me.
In some moments of reflection, I find myself asking if I'm doing enough to cultivate new friendships. Those new friendships would benefit me, and others, too, perhaps. Perhaps one day I can be a friend who will listen as another stews over doctrine, or puzzles over how to help a child in trouble, or faces big challenges just as others have been such a friend to me.