You've been investigating the LDS Church, and you're flying high! The missionaries are awesome -- they've been helping around the house and sharing spiritual thoughts with you a couple of times a week -- and you love and admire them! You've read the Book of Mormon and felt the Spirit witness of the truthfulness of its teachings, and you decided to get baptized. What a great week that was! You got to meet the Bishop and several more missionaries, plus people kept popping out of class rooms and stopping you in the hall to congratulate you. You're a Mormon Rock Star!
But suddenly the missionaries are coming around less
often. The members who came with them are coming less frequently, too; those new friends have been replace with the irregular visits of something called a "home teacher." Your friends think you've gone nuts and keep telling you weird things about your new Church's teachings. Do these people seriously attend 3 hours of Church EVERY SINGLE WEEK? And the words they use -- you feel like you're missing out on half the conversation.
To top it all off, the Bishop has asked to speak with you and asked to you accept a calling. Whoa now. A CALLING? "But I'm so new!" you exclaimed! But he just smiled and asked you to pray about it.
It all feels like a demotion ... to Mormon Worker Bee.
New Members Can Face A Difficult Transition
LDS leaders are acutely aware of the difficult transition to membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Here are some words from Elder Loren C. Dunn directed at new members:
As a new member you have now become a part of a ward or branch. You join with other members who, like you, are growing in the gospel and are striving to live Christlike lives. Some have been members for years. Most are trying to do their best and improve each day. Still there are the bad days, and occasionally someone may give offense, usually not intentionally; and if you are to help him, be patient and don’t take offense, thereby giving him time to overcome that difficulty. Such an experience would be rare, but could happen.
As you get better acquainted with your fellow members, you will probably enjoy all of them, but will relate especially well to a few, whom you will feel closest to because of similar backgrounds and interests. The members you will want to have special confidence in include your bishop or branch president and your home teachers. For the sisters, the Relief Society president and visiting teachers will be of additional help. The youth will also have special leaders. The greatest expression of love and appreciation that members can give each other is their visit to each others homes in the capacity of home teachers and visiting teachers. If you haven’t received it already, you will soon have such an assignment.
While you are new and somewhat inexperienced, you must remember that you are already making a most wonderful contribution. Your freshness and vitality are adding new life to the ward. Although the older members may not always say it, they enjoy being around you, because you radiate a spirit that warms them. Not that they don’t have their own testimony, but the newness of your spirit helps them remember the excitement of their own conversion. Our prophet, President Spencer W. Kimball, has also said that you do much to keep the Church vital and alive.
You, the new member, will have special challenges which will help you grow. Your testimony, as bright as it is, is also fragile. It must be nourished so it can burn with a brightness that can never be dimmed. This nourishment comes from such things as your sincere prayers, regular attendance at Church meetings, payment of tithing, keeping the Sabbath day holy, scripture reading—or, in other words, attention to all the commandments. In this way, the healing influence of the Holy Spirit will always be with you.
Finally, you may feel that, because of your newness, you are way behind those who have been in the Church longer than you. While there is much for you to learn, in another way the Lord will reward you and bless you with the same blessings as the person who has been in the Church all his life. (Loren C. Dunn, "To Our Friend the New Member," Tambuli, Apr 1984)
What new members can do
While "old" members have a responsibility to help you transition to the Church, there are lots of things you can do, too:
- Keep reading the scriptures and praying daily - You joined the Church because of the spiritual witness of the Holy Ghost, and the best way to keep him close to you is to read the scriptures regularly. Mark those passages that are especially meaningful to you. You can even write down your thoughts in a journal. Pray often to your Father in Heaven to help you in all you do. He loves you and will answer your prayers.
- Reach out - Ask lots of questions; join the choir; attend firesides; find out about Family Home Evening; and don't miss the ward picnic! Not all members are as outgoing as the missionaries, but they are all willing to befriend you. Help others reach out to you by extending your hand.
- Begin attending the Temple Preparation Course - Baptism is just the first step on the path of of membership in the Church. Living worthily to attend the temple will bless your life in many ways. When you attend the temple you will feel the Spirit very strongly. You will receive the blessings of the endowment to help you in your daily life. You can be sealed to your family with bonds that will last after death!
- Accept assignments - To a new member it may seem that those operating in Church callings are experienced and know exactly what they're doing. Don't be fooled by the neck ties! Each person serving in the Church has had to "learn the ropes" just like you are. They know what it's like to be unsure of their responsibilities and afraid of making a mistake. Just ask the Bishop how he felt when he received his calling. He was filled with the same feelings of inadequacy you are. Ask for help and instruction, and do your best to fulfill your assignments. The Lord will bless you for your efforts to serve his children, and you'll learn more about the Church and make new Mormon friends, too!
- Remember you're not alone - Many members of the Church were baptized as converts just like you! They will love to tell you the story of their conversion and will listen with sympathy when you tell them of the struggles you are experiencing.
Assisting Members: Resources
Susan W. Tanner, "Helping New Converts Stay Strong," Liahona, Feb 2009
David E. Sorensen, "Why Baptism Is Not Enough," Ensign, Apr 1999
M. Russell Ballard, "Members Are the Key," Liahona, Sep 2000