In the October 2020 general conference, President Nelson extended a plea to church members worldwide to gather Israel from both sides of the veil. In addition to missionary, temple, and family history work, he also charged us to help build faith and testimony “in the hearts of those with whom we live, work, and serve.”  In response to this call, the Area Presidency has extended several invitations to all members in the Asia Area, one of which is to gather Israel to sacrament meetings where every new or returning member feels welcome, loved, and needed.
Many years ago, during my graduate studies, I had to go on a student exchange to Monterrey Mexico for a few months. To save money, our family decided to drive the four-day, 1,500-mile-long journey from Provo, Utah to Monterrey. The most challenging part of the entire journey was the last 150 miles. Soon after we crossed the Mexican border, everything familiar—the road signs, food, language, culture—was gone, which caused some overwhelming feelings of anxiety and fear for us. It was indeed an uncomfortable and frightening experience, to say the least.
My Monterrey experience reminds me of a similar experience when the missionaries took me to sacrament meeting for the very first time. Like many, I felt totally out of place and uneasy, particularly when I noticed I was quite underdressed for the meetings. I felt blessed that the members made me feel very welcome and comfortable. Things could have turned out quite differently if the members did not go the extra mile. So, what can we do as ward or branch members to help new or returning members feel welcome, loved and needed? Here are a few important principles I have learned from my own experiences and from the units I have visited in the past few years.
We are also referring to building faith and testimony in the hearts of those with whom we live, work, and serve.President Russell M. Nelson
The Worth of Souls is Great
In Alma 31, Alma prayed earnestly to God that he and his missionary companions could successfully convert the Zoramites to the Lord. From his prayer, we could easily tell that Alma had great love for the Zoramites and recognized the infinite worth of these souls. As he uttered: “Behold, O Lord, their souls are precious, and many of them are our brethren; therefore, give unto us, O Lord, power and wisdom that we may bring these, our brethren, again unto thee.” Like Alma, when we recognize “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God,” we will be motivated by love to do all we can to help those people around us, especially new and returning members, to stay on the covenant path.
Simple Acts of Service
Twenty years ago, our family moved to a new area for my new job. When we attended sacrament meeting on the first Sunday, Bishop Petty warmly invited us to his office for a brief chat. The next Sunday when we walked into the meetinghouse, Bishop Petty was there to welcome us and called each of our three children by their names. I often call my children by the wrong name. His kind, though seemingly small act of kindness made us feel loved and welcomed. Sometimes simple acts of service—a smile, a greeting, a handshake—are all that are required to bless and lift others. As Sister Bingham taught, “Sometimes we think we have to do something grand and heroic to “count” as serving our neighbors. Yet simple acts of service can have profound effects on others—as well as on ourselves.” We are surrounded by people in need of our attention and our support, and our simple acts of service can transform lives beyond our imagination.
In addition to individual efforts, we should make a united effort to make our branch or ward become more welcoming and friendly. Last year I had an opportunity to visit a ward. When I walked into the meetinghouse, I noticed there were already a few very friendly ushers at the entrance greeting and talking to people. After the meetings, the bishop told me that the ward had paid particular attention to the new and returning members, making sure that they were greeted and would not sit alone at the sacrament. The ward also made a conscientious effort to make recommendations for assignments or callings to help them grow and feel needed. Indeed, the branch or ward council can play an essential role in helping gather Israel by making every new or returning member feel welcome, loved, and needed.
Brothers and sisters, we are all given the charge to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.” As we earnestly pray like Alma, we will receive the needed revelation and guidance from our Heavenly Father to assist in this effort.
May we all find the joy that comes from the sacred service of welcoming our new and returning members to sacrament, where they can feel the Savior’s love.
 See Russell M. Nelson, “Let God Prevail,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2020, 92–95.
 Alma 31: 35
 Jean B. Bingham, “Ministering as the Savior Does,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2018, 104-106.