Mason's Farewell Talk from Sunday September 28, 2014
Friendship: A Valuable “Treasure” in Our Lives & A Pretty Good Way to Share the “Good News” of Jesus Christ
John 15:14 “Ye are my friends. . . .”
This is the phrase that Jesus uses throughout the scriptures to refer to his disciples, to his followers, and to those he teaches.
Why would he call us his friends? Even more important, what does it mean in our life that Jesus considers himself “our friend?”
Let’s start with the definition of a friend:
1. a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.
2. a person who gives assistance; patron; supporter:
3. a person who is on good terms with another; a person who is not hostile
Another way to look at friendship may be in the form of a poem
The Miracle of Friendship
by Author Unknown
There is a
that dwells within
the heart and you don't
know how it happens
or when it even starts.
But the happiness
it brings you always
gives a special lift
and you realize that
is God's most precious gift.
If we go back to the New Testament to read more of Christ’s teachings about friendship, what we can see is that being a friend is really one of the primary commandments that Jesus taught:
John 15: 9-17:
9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
15 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.
16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.
From these scriptures we learn that being a friend means to “love one another”. That love is unconditional and should be given freely to all, not just to those we like or those that act and believe the same as we do.
I think it is also very important to note that Jesus explains to us the He is our friend and that whatsoever we ask the Father in his name, he will give it to us.
As we strive to be like the Savior, that should be our goal as well. To give all that we can to those around us, especially to give them our friendship, unconditionally.
I truly believe that the best way to share the message of the Gospel and the blessings of participating in Jesus Christ’s church is to first and foremost be a friend.
We cannot just preach and teach the commandments, we must demonstrate by our true friendship and love the same caring and concern for others that we know and feel from Jesus himself.
I would like to read a story about a man who used true friendship and service to reach out to other. And how in the end, the Friendship he offered to others came back around to bless his life in a meaningful and significant way.
From Mzungu to Friend BY DAVID DICKSON
A mzungu in a tree? What was a mzungu doing up in a tree? And what was this tool he was using to cut through branches so quickly?
Such questions ran through the minds of Ugandans watching a foreigner (mzungu) using a battery-powered reciprocating saw to trim dead limbs from a massive shade tree. The tool itself was a marvel to the locals. Many of them had never seen anything like it before.
But even more amazing to them was the mzungu himself. Elder Roland Harris, a senior missionary from Utah, USA, trimmed branch after branch, cutting dead limbs from lofty perches. The people below were amazed that a foreigner would do such a thing for one of their own.
Ultimately, Elder Harris’s simple act of service would mark the beginning of a friendship with someone who had wanted nothing to do with the Church or anyone in it.
Getting to Know Godfrey
Elder Roland Harris and Sister Janet Harris were serving a 23-month mission in the Uganda Kampala Mission. Sister Harris, a registered nurse, was called as medical adviser to the missionaries. Elder Harris, a retired construction superintendent who can fix almost anything in the universe, cared for Church facilities and mission vehicles.
Shortly after arriving in Uganda, Elder and Sister Harris hired a local Church member, Mary, to assist in cleaning their home.
Mary had been baptized three years earlier. “We just grew to love her,” says Sister Harris. “She helped teach us the ways of Uganda.”
The more they got to know Mary, the more their friendship deepened. They learned quickly about her husband, Godfrey—a good man who nevertheless kept his distance from members of the Church, especially missionaries. “He wouldn’t let missionaries in his home,” explains Sister Harris. However, Mary still wanted Godfrey to meet them.
She invited the Harrises over for a brief visit. “We had no expectations,” Sister Harris explains. “We told Godfrey that Mary is our dear friend now, and we want to know her family.” Godfrey chatted with them but didn’t really warm up to the idea of getting to know them more than as acquaintances.
That all changed the day Elder Harris showed up with power tools, a ladder, and an offer to serve.
The Turning Point
Godfrey and Mary’s home was surrounded by towering shade trees full of dead branches and overgrown limbs that stretched precariously above their roof.
Elder Harris set to work straightaway. He spent four hours in the treetops lopping off limbs up to 10 inches (25 cm) in diameter. The task was definitely overdue. “I was at least 20 feet (6 m) off the ground,” Elder Harris says. As people walked by, they could hardly believe their eyes.
For his part, Godfrey was astounded. “He thanked us profusely,” says Sister Harris. Even relatively simple activities like tree trimming can carry serious risk. “They have no money for medical attention,” Sister Harris explains. If someone fell out of a tree and broke an arm or leg, for example, they would likely have to heal on their own.
That large pile of tree clippings on the ground laid the foundation for a cherished friendship. “Godfrey would come out and greet us from then on,” Elder Harris says. Godfrey and Mary also began welcoming other Church members into their home.
Crossing the Nile
Elder and Sister Harris grew closer to Godfrey and Mary as the months rolled by. Ultimately, this friendship became a strength and support for the Harrises when an unexpected tragedy struck halfway through their mission. They received word that their son Brad had been killed in a freeway accident.
As soon as Mary and Godfrey learned about this, they both put on their best clothes and headed out on a treacherous journey to be at the side of their dear friends.
In Uganda, few people own a vehicle. They either walk or hire a taxi. By far, the most common taxi is a boda boda, a motorcycle that can often be seen carrying as many as six people at once.
“In the dark, riding a boda boda is dangerous,” Sister Harris explains. “They crossed the Nile on a boda boda in the dark.”
After traveling dangerous roads in the dead of night at significant personal expense, Godfrey and Mary showed up to “mourn with those that mourn” and “comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:9).
That evening, compassion and love truly came full circle. Mary and Godfrey were the ones providing service. “It was quite remarkable,” says Sister Harris. Mary suggested that they all kneel together in prayer. Godfrey joined without hesitation.
Service is a key that can unlock doors otherwise barred to us. As President Thomas S. Monson teaches, “When selfless service eliminates selfish striving, the power of God brings to pass His purposes” (“Willing and Worthy to Serve,” Ensign, May 2012, 68).
I would like to finish today by telling all of you about a very dear friend in my life, a man who accepted me for who I was and took the time to teach me valuable lessons about life and friendship.
Val and I did not have your typical friendship. Val was a 68 year old man when he came into my life and I was just a 15 year old teenager. He was retired and looking for someone to do some work around his yard and I had been out looking for work.
At first Val was just someone that I worked for. I would show up when he would ask me to work, I did what he had asked and then I would leave and go home. This was how it was for about six months, but during this time we began to gain each other’s trust and to enjoy the new friendship that was beginning to grow.
I started to realize that Val trusted me to be able to do what he had asked, even if it took some figuring out or took him working side by side with me to help me learn how to do the job. This was one of my favorite things about Val, he wanted me to be able to learn right beside him. This was such an incredible opportunity to learn not only skills, but to learn more about Val as a person and through this process we became very good friends.
Val and I were at completely different stages in our lives. He was retired and I had just started working. He was truly like a grandfather to me and I enjoyed every minute that I got to work with him. Although some of the time it was tedious, every minute was time that was spent building an unbreakable friendship.
I loved Val like he was family and I was willing to do anything for him and his sweet wife. I greatly enjoyed seeing the friendship that they had built and the caring and trustworthy manner that they lived and treated each other with. They were an example to me of what the perfect friendship should be.
Our working relationship and friendship went on this way for nearly a year and a half, and then Val started to get very sick. He had a triple bypass surgery and was recovering well until he became even more ill and was diagnosed with cancer. It was a very hard thing to see my close friend get so ill.
Val was someone who believed in me and because he believed in me, I was able to learn many new and useful things. Not only did he teach me new skills, he helped me learn about myself. Val has passed away, but the lessons that he taught me will live forever. These principles are something that I will always remember about Val. They are examples that I will be able to live by and pass on to others throughout the rest of my life.
After all is said and done, what I truly believe it means to be a friend is not just to spend time with and have the same interests as someone else, but to be able to meet people and learn new and different things.
Although it is important to have the same interests and hobbies, that is not what makes a friend a friend. A friend is someone who is willing to help you to learn and progress, try new things, and to experience things that you yourself would not try on your own.
I know that without all the friends that I have made and learned from, that I would not be anywhere close to the man that I am today.
I would like to share my testimony that I know that this church is the true church of God and that he loves and cares for every single one of us; regardless of our faults and trials.
I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and that Joseph Smith restored this gospel to the earth.
I know without a doubt in my mind that Mexico is exactly where I am supposed to be going and that I will have the opportunity to make many new friends and learn so much.
I cannot wait to see what lies ahead in my life, but I know that if I take the opportunity to befriend others that they will be able to help make sure that whatever lies ahead will be a great and wonderful journey.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.