I found that becoming a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was one of the most rewarding and remarkable periods of my life; however, at times it was still overwhelming. As the only member of the Church in my family, it was hard for me to fit into my role as a convert the way I would have liked to. There were many things that I did not understand and I was afraid to ask for help. I quickly learned that there are members who are happy and willing to help—sometimes I just needed to ask.
Here are some things that helped me when I joined, and I hope the ideas can help as you become a part of this gospel family. If you are already a member, perhaps some of these suggestions can help you help someone else feel more comfortable in their new environment.Fellowshipping
Fellowshipping became one of the most important things to me as a new member. The friendship of others was crucial, but I had to do my part to become involved. I found it helpful to attend Church functions as often as possible. Aside from the Sunday block sessions, there are also other programs that can help welcome new members and make them feel like they are a part of the Church family. Whatever your age, there is something going on for you; Enrichment night, stake or regional dances, pot luck dinners, youth activities and service projects, or Institute always introduced new friends and helped me learn about the role of each organization in the Church.
After Steve from Tualatin, Oregon was baptized, his family disowned him and he moved into a BYU student ward in Provo, Utah. “Everyone reached out and made me feel like I had my own little family within the ward,” he says. “Those first few months definitely would have been a lot harder without those friends.” Steve says he also received strength from the examples of the students around him. “They all were going through their own trials, too, but they all stayed faithful. And I started to see how the gospel blesses lives when people stay true to their testimonies.”
Work Hard to Learn About Your Calling
As a convert, receiving a calling may seem a little overwhelming at first. You may feel completely unprepared. When I was called to be the Relief Society chorister I knew nothing about reading music or keeping time but with the help of others I learned quickly. The Church website, [lds.org] also has an area that teaches how to be a chorister, as well as many other sections to help converts and investigators learn about their new callings.
For Justin from Weatherford, Oklahoma, the difference comes with having the Holy Ghost. “It’s like night and day.” In teaching, he recognizes the strength and light that comes from having the Spirit help him prepare.
Dealing with Family and Friends’ ReactionsUnfortunately, there are converts who suffer the painful separation of family and friends who strongly disagree with their decision to join the Church. This kind of abandonment can be a shock to converts who have always been close to family members. The means by which situations such as these should be handled must be very delicate and filled with compassion.
When Jerri joined the Church at eighteen, her parents refused to speak with her for over two years. There were many times when she came close to leaving the Church and she found herself missing some Sundays to attend her former church in order to maintain a relationship to her family, but there was something missing. “The light just did not burn as bright in my old church; it was nice to see everyone but it felt so hollow,” she says.
After two years Jerri approached her parents and told them how much she loved them, that she was happy in her decision, and that even though they had disowned her she forgave them. She conveyed to them that the atonement had taught her that love can endure anything and she prayed that one day it would remove their hate.
Jerri’s mother was taken aback by the word hate. She did not realize her daughter felt they hated her. After a few months Jerri was able to explain the basic beliefs of the church to her parents and many of the fears and prejudice dissipated. They now support Jerri in her decision and have become friends with member families and missionaries.
Jerri incorporated one of the most vital aspects of Christ’s teachings when speaking to her parents—compassion. The most solid wall can be pulled down by love. Although family opposition is painful, do not allow it to fester. Let those who oppose you know you love them, and always be their friend.
This is also a time to embrace ward member friends as well. When no one else in the family is a member of the Church it becomes hard to have some spiritually strengthening aspects of the gospel, such as family home evening. It is important to find a family with whom you can enjoy family home evening, and most members would love having extra people in their home to share such blessings.Learn About Church History
Many members who did not grow up LDS will more than likely know very little about Church History. The story of joy, love, and sacrifice is one with which each member should be familiar. LDS bookstores carry volumes of Church history, and there are numerous biographies of the early pioneers and prophets who were great leaders of the early church. Movies such as Legacy and Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration are powerful portrayals of Church history as well.
In addition to reading about the history of the Church, you will find a moving experience in visiting Church history sites such as Palmyra, New York; Kirtland, Ohio; Independence, Missouri; Nauvoo, Illinois; and Salt Lake City, Utah.
Before Beau, a recent convert from Sri Lanka, went to the MTC before his mission, a friend’s mom took him to see the Salt Lake Tabernacle. “I was overwhelmed and awed from what I’d read about the sacrifice of the early Saints who built the Tabernacle,” he says. “Seeing the building strengthened my conviction that the Church is real and true.”
Bear Your Testimony
It’s scary, getting up in front of so many people. Testimony meeting can be very special to converts and a great tool for building their testimonies. Testimony meeting is not meant for delivering a prepared talk or sermon, instead it is a time to express one’s love and faith in the Savior and the Church. When you bear your testimony, you create a bond between yourself and your ward family.
“It was scary in that getting up in front of people is usually intimidating,” says Steve, “but the elders and I talked about what I would say and they pointed out D&C 5–6. I just said how I felt and how glad I was to find the gospel, and it wasn’t as intimidating as I thought it would be.”
Visiting and Home Teaching
The loving support system of the Church through visiting and home teachers can be especially helpful when a convert needs a friend and priesthood support. The roles of these callings include fellowshipping, meeting both spiritual and temporal needs of members and their families, friendship, guidance, and support. I enjoyed the visits and spiritual discussions with other members, and found help and love when I needed it.
Beau was the only young adult in his branch. His Church leaders wanted him to be involved in as many aspects as possible to keep him from losing interest. They visited Beau and his mom every week and paired him and the first counselor in the branch presidency as home teachers. “I felt clueless about home teaching,” he says, “But everyone was patient and gave me pointers each Sunday.” Today, he says he never misses home teaching simply because he was shown how important it is. As a convert, become a friend to your assigned sisters or families. Do not worry about what you don’t know, just reach out and become involved. Someone needs your friendship as much as you need theirs.