This earth life can be messy and painful. It can also be full of wonder and joy. Occasionally, it is both at the same time.

Heavenly Father has given us a variety of methods to assist us as we maneuver through mortality, including the Savior ?s atonement, prayer, scriptures, prophets, patriarchal blessings, the gospel, and the priesthood. The list is endless. While all of these systems are available to us whenever we seek and are worthy of them, I have found that at times throughout my life there are one or two approaches that stand out as THE way to help me through a particular challenge, heartache, or blessing.

Currently, He is helping me find the joy of the journey ? through people – specifically through friends.

Good friends are willing to talk with you, listen to you, laugh with you, cry with you. They are the ones we turn to in times of crises and in times of joy. True friends see us at our worst and can look past those moments to appreciate our best.

Occasionally these friendships are instantaneous and just flow naturally from a deep-rooted connection. At other times, these relationships develop profoundly over a short amount of time as mutual respect and trust grow. And sometimes there are people who serve a purpose for a time and make an indelible impression on us that will never leave, even when the circumstances that brought us together are past.

I am the second of seven children, and my earliest friendships were with my older siblings. With the age gap and then my marriage and subsequent move across the country, my friendships with my three youngest siblings formed later in life. We are all now somewhat scattered across the globe, and there are challenges and heartaches that have touched (and even divided) my family over the years, but our childhood friendships have given each of us a foundation on which to build as we strive to do our best on this journey through mortality.

I was blessed with some great friends throughout junior high and high school. As I expanded my world (as all children do) we helped each other navigate the journey. We talked and laughed and cried as we helped each other through the highs and lows of our experiences.

As I grew up, I met others who made a difference in my life – specifically for me, I met lifelong friends at BYU summer youth programs. Through these friendships I gained confidence, courage, strength, and appreciation. I learned to serve and I learned to love. I met my eternal companion and my first sister-friend ? at these summer programs. These friends have guided me throughout my life.

Over the 21.5 years of my marriage, we have lived in four states and met a variety of people. There are more friends who have made a difference than I can count. My life has improved because of the examples of my friends. I am a better mom. I am a better friend. I am better able to recognize needs. I am better able to serve others. I am a better listener. My friends have helped me develop these characteristics.

Last summer I was introduced to a new form of friendship – blogging. Ray read to me a hilarious post at Mormon Mommy Wars, Adventures in Arizona, at a time when I desperately needed to re-learn how to laugh as I was surrounded by challenges and stress. I attended a Time Out for Women with friends and discovered some of them had personal blogs. I started my own. I linked a few favorites I had encountered, which led to more time spent with friends at Mormon Momma. I have found friendships among those I have never met in person but who offer support, perspective, advice, differing viewpoints, and even occasionally wake up calls. ? I have found out more about my friends in my ward than I could ever possibly discover during the brief talks between meetings at church – simply through sharing aspects of our lives in a blog post: parenting skills, learning processes, stresses, goals, vacations, accomplishments, and blessings we recognize in our lives. I have found a support group I previously never knew existed.

We all have people who impact our lives for the better, those who help us find joy in every circumstance in life. I ?m sure you could make your own lists of friends who have made a difference and have helped you through any number of situations.

Of all those who have made an imprint on our lives, there is One who has made the most lasting and essential impact of all. Our greatest Friend is Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. He is our Exemplar. He epitomizes the ultimate meaning of friendship.

Love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.(John 15:12–13)

He knows what it feels like to be lonely, to be bereft, to be scared, to be happy, to be of service. He knows how to succor us. He knows how to bless us. He understands us. He believes in our ability to succeed. He loves us. Truly, He is the ultimate Friend.

Some people have been a part of our earthly journeys only briefly, and others are eternal friends. But they have all impacted our lives for the better. Our lives are enriched because of the blessings of friendship that Heavenly Father included in His plan to help us find joy in mortality.