When I was a child, friendship became a sore point for me. I had trouble making and keeping friends. It seemed every friend I made at school eventually decided they would rather be friends with someone else. I did not have the worst or most lonely childhood, but I did often reflect on the nature of friendship and wondered if I would ever have enduring friendships outside of my family.
Friendship came to mind as I read Mosiah 21:30-32, in which the writer records a change of attitude toward Alma and his people. Alma and his followers had fled into the wilderness to escape King Noah and his goons. It is safe to say that Alma and his people had made themselves social outcasts by embracing the Gospel and entering the waters of baptism (the rest of their society was still wicked). It is also safe to say that Noah’s people were not friends with Alma’s people and they didn’t really care what happened to Alma’s group.
The change in attitude recorded in Mosiah 21 is striking. First we read that the envoys from King Mosiah feel sorrow for the loss of Alma and his people, “[y]ea they did mourn for their departure” (v. 31). Ammon’s group had never even met Alma! But because “they themselves had entered into a covenant with God” they “would have gladly joined with [Alma’s group].” Both Ammon’s group and Alma’s group had made covenants with God and it seems to me that Ammon’s group felt an immediate kinship with them. As I read verse 31, I felt that Limhi’s people were implicitly included in the kinship hinted at because “king Limhi had also entered into a covenant with God, and also many of his people” (v. 32).
I no longer worry so much about friendship, partly because I have discovered wonderful people to become friends with. But also because I have learned the power of covenant friendships. When I have lived and travel abroad I feel an immediate and close attachment to people I meet in whom I sense a deep commitment to God. Shared belief creates a foundation on which we build our friendship. My covenants lead me to try to see people as God sees them. I focus on service and Christ-like love. The shared experience of our faith knits our hearts together.