First Counselor in the Asia Area Presidency
Many years ago, while serving as a Bishop, I asked our ward council, “How could we become the most welcoming and friendly ward?” We counselled together on what it would be like to come to our ward for the first time. Who would greet us? Would someone sit with us? What would happen if we weren’t dressed correctly or were clearly struggling with an addiction to smoking? We talked about the Savior’s love and how we could ensure that those visiting our ward felt of that love. As we continued to counsel together, each member of the ward council considered and talked about the contribution they could make to help our ward become more welcoming and friendly. Together, we developed some ideas and as a ward council committed ourselves in the coming weeks to try to:
- Personally shake hands with new members and investigators and help them feel welcome and comfortable.
- Discuss ways of becoming a most welcoming and friendly ward in each auxiliary and quorum meeting.
- Invite young men to be in the parking area before meetings to greet everyone and to provide assistance to anyone that needs help.
- Invite young women to be greeters in the foyer and help all entering the building feel the Savior’s love.
- Introduce new members and investigators to a member of the bishopric.
- Welcome and recognise new members and investigators at classes, auxiliary and priesthood meetings.
- Avoid making any judgement of, or suggestions to, new investigators or returning members who are not dressed in normal church attire.
- Make recommendations for callings and assignments to new members that will bless their lives and help them feel needed and learn and grow.
- Assign ministering brothers and ministering sisters to care for new members.
- Work shoulder-to-shoulder with full time missionaries so that their investigators are connected and have ward member friends who love them as soon as they start attending church.
As the ward council continued to implement their ideas and to review progress, we quickly became a happier ward. As we learned together how to be welcoming and friendly, we all felt more loved and united. Church became a joyful experience and people attending the ward for the first time felt like they were home.
In a letter to all stake and ward council members immediately following the last general conference, the First Presidency wrote: The Savior’s ministry exemplifies the two great commandments: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” and “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”1 In that spirit, Jesus also taught, “Ye are they whom I have chosen to minister unto this people.”2
During general conference, President Nelson invited us to minister to each other in a higher and holier way. Ministering is not limited to our Priesthood or Relief Society ministering assignments. As we fully understand the invitation to love God and love our neighbours, we will find opportunities to minister in almost every situation.
In the Book of Mormon, there are many wonderful examples of ministering. During the mission of the four sons of Mosiah, thousands of Lamanites were converted unto the Lord. The new converts took upon them the name Anti-Nephi-Lehi. As part of their repentance and change of heart, they buried their weapons deep in the earth as a testimony to God that they never would use weapons again for the shedding of man’s blood.3 These wonderful new church members were attacked by the remaining Lamanites on at least two occasions and many were slain. Nevertheless, they remained true to their covenants. In a great act of ministering and sacrifice, the people of Zarahemla took them in, saying “Behold we will give up the land of Jershon… unto our brethren for an inheritance.”4 The Nephites also set their armies around the land of Jershon and provided protection to these new members.5
Later, Alma and Amulek led a mission to the Zoramites. Many of the poor amongst them joined the church and were expelled by their proud and wealthy brothers. The new converts travelled to the people of Ammon, who in a great act of love and ministering “did receive all the poor of the Zoramites that came over unto them, and did nourish them, and did clothe them, and did give unto them lands for their inheritance; and they did administer unto them according to their needs and wants.”6
As we follow these examples of ministering, it is my prayer that we will welcome, love, care for and minister to all new members and investigators who attend our wards and branches. I hope that we will reach out in friendship, that we will help them learn and grow and that we will invite them to participate through meaningful callings and assignments. I know that as we do this, we will experience great joy and they will feel the Savior’s great love for them through us.
Caption: Elder Peter F. Meurs
1 Matthew 22:27, 39
2 3 Nephi 13:25
3 See Alma 24:18
4 Alma 27:22
5 See Alma 28:1-3
6 Alma 35:9