Do you still remember the feeling you had when you attended church services for the first time or moved to a new neighborhood or started a job in a new company? To many this kind of experience brings conflicting feelings of excitement and anxiety. I had the opportunity to meet with a group of recent converts after a stake conference in Asia. As they shared their conversion stories, I sensed that though excited, they also felt anxious about whether they would be accepted in the Lord’s Church. May I suggest several principles that will help us welcome others into the Church and help them feel they belong.
- Reaching out. In a stake I visited a few years ago, the stake presidency extended a special invitation to all stake leaders to visit and reach out to new and returning members, greeting them, and getting to know them in person. Simple acts, such as greeting others with a warm smile, introducing them to other members in the congregation, offering to sit with them during meetings or taking time to genuinely get to know them and their interests can make a lasting impression and help create a sense of connection and belonging. Elder Soares has reminded us that “[new members] need brothers and sisters in the Church who are sincerely interested in them, true and loyal friends to whom they can constantly turn, who will walk beside them, and who will answer their questions.”
“interact with others in a higher, holier way.”Russell M. Nelson
- Respecting diversity: We also need to always acknowledge and appreciate the unique backgrounds, cultures, and experiences of others. When I served as a missionary in the Texas Houston mission, we had Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Japanese, Korean, Laotian speaking members in the area. Despite their cultural and language differences, they embraced one another by respecting each other’s diversity and contributing to the Church in their own way. As Elder Robert D. Hales taught, “We all belong to a community of saints, we all need each other, and we are all working toward the same goal. Any one of us could isolate ourselves from our ward or branch family on the basis of our differences. But we must not shut ourselves out or isolate ourselves from opportunities because of the differences we perceive in ourselves. Instead, let us share our gifts and talents with others, bringing brightness of hope and joy to them, and in so doing lift our own spirits.” President Nelson also encouraged us in this past General Conference to “interact with others in a higher, holier way.”
- Being patient: Furthermore, we need to recognize that everyone's spiritual journey is unique, and that all progress at a different pace. Sometimes we must exercise patience and be supportive as others explore their faith and develop their own testimony. I joined the Church when I was 19. It was not an easy transition for me, especially when it came to keeping the Sabbath day holy because many of my friends outside the Church always got together on Sunday. I am forever grateful for the loving leaders and members who were patient enough to help me gradually ease into the fold. They were not judgmental! In his October 2018 General Conference talk, Elder Soares shared a helpful hint to help new members make their transition into the Church. He said, “recognizing the adjustments and challenges our new friends make in becoming members of God’s family, as our brothers and sisters, we can share how we have overcome similar challenges in our lives. This will help them know that they are not alone and that God will bless them as they exercise faith in His promises.”
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have a sacred responsibility to help others, especially new and returning members, feel like they are “no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints.” May we all strive to be true disciples of Jesus Christ, and to follow His example of love and service by helping others to experience the blessings of belonging to our spiritual family. As we are united in faith and “all one in Jesus Christ”, we can become “a mighty force for good in the world.”
 Ulisses Soares, “One in Christ,” Ensign October 2018, 37.
 Robert D. Hales, “Belonging to a Ward Family,” Ensign March 1996, 16.
 Russell M. Nelson, “Peacemakers Needed,” Liahona, May 2023.
 Ephesians 2:19
 Galatians 3:28
 Ulisses Soares, “One in Christ,” Liahona, November 2018, 37)