LDS convert, returned missionary, wife, and blogger Heather Collins took to Twitter this week to share the reason she joined the Church.
Collins began her message, "Let's talk about being a convert in the church, because there is a cultural tension between me and a lot of lifelong members to which I'd like to introduce y'all. Church the organization and church the people love to share what they believe with new people. They each sacrifice and give a lot to make that happen. Millions of dollars and years of their time throughout their lives, whether they're full-time missionaries or not."
Collins then goes on to explain her own experience of being embraced after her conversion:
How I came into the church is a beautiful example of this. My community didn't have missionaries, so the members found me, loved me, taught me, and were there to baptize me when I decided to join. They did everything for me.
Everything about my story is a testimony of how genuinely church members just love other people. What I'm about to say is in no way a criticism of them. They did the best with what they had, and what they knew. And I will love them forever because of it.
One of the most important things they did for me was give me space to figure out and adopt what changes I wanted and needed to make in my own life. They didn't treat my conversion like it was their job.
They didn't expect my end results to look anything like theirs. I was a very different person from a completely different background, and they understood me being exactly like them was never going to happen, and wasn't the point.
I didn't join the church to be like them. I joined the church to be like Jesus. To do everything in my power to be changed by him, according to his wisdom, will and timing. They understood that.
The number one praise I heard as a new member was how grateful they were to learn from me and my perspective. They valued me for the unique talents/perspectives I brought with me from outside of the church. They listened and learned from what I had to say.
After detailing the love with which she was embraced in the Church, Collins points out this isn't always the case. In some places she has lived, there exists a paradox between wanting new converts and fearing the differences they bring.
Collins explains, "That hasn't been my experience in every place I've lived. People I've met in other places have expectations for converts to erase any and all differences in thought and method, to become just like one of them. . . . To them, uniformity and acceptance are totally synonyms with each other."
Jesus did not bring me into his church to be someone else. He brought me here to be myself, and to become the best version of that person, with all the gifts, talents, and experiences he gave me before I ever knew the church existed.
He brought me here not just to learn from others, but also so they could learn from me. Growing through our differences is the wisdom of God, and it's only possible if I bring those differences to the table.