In his epistle to the Ephesians, Paul welcomed newly joined members of the church, telling them they were, “no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” Paul knew it was important for people to have a sense of belonging and feel welcome.
In 1999 President Gordon B. Hinckley gave the same welcome and asked every member of the church to make a serious effort to make each other feel welcome.
“I plead with you; I ask of you, each of you, to become a part of this great effort. Every convert is precious. Every convert is a son or daughter of God.”
He then listed three things new members of the church need.
- A friend
- A responsibility
- Nurturing with “the Good Word of God” (Moroni 6:4)
Every member of any church needs these three things, and the order of these things is not by chance. President Hinckley showed great wisdom in listing these things in this order.
BELONG (a friend)
In any religious group a person should first belong (have friends) and feel welcome. We all want to feel accepted, loved, and appreciated. Christ commanded that we make others feel accepted by not judging. It is extremely difficult to grow in the gospel (be nurtured by the “Good word of God”) if we feel we do not belong or are constantly under scrutiny. The “household of God” should be a safe place where people are free to be themselves, and are loved and appreciated for who they are and who they can become.
BEHAVE (a responsibility)
When we feel we belong we then feel a desire to behave and fulfill responsibilities. Behaving is a life-long process, and no one perfects it. When we join a religious group we accept such responsibilities as obeying God’s commandments, helping and supporting others, being good citizens; in short, doing our best to emulate Christ.
BELIEVE (nurturing with “the Good word of God”)
When we feel we belong and are accepted, we can then take joy in “behaving”. This leads to believing and growing in gospel knowledge.
It is extremely important that we FIRST belong. Without belonging, the other things become extremely difficult, if not impossible. One of the worst punishments a human being can suffer is shunning or isolation. It’s unfortunate that sometimes members of the church get the order mixed up. Sometimes belong gets moved to third place. It’s very sad when a person is accepted only when he behaves. In any organization there are many norms, traditions, and practices, which, in reality are relatively unimportant in the big picture. Unfortunately, some people place an inordinate value on some very trivial things. When this happens people feel they don’t belong and are not acceptable.
One life-long member of the church said he could judge the strength of a man’s testimony of Christ by whether or not the man wears a white shirt to church.
A young women leader judged the morality of young women by the length of the shorts they wore to girl’s camp.
Another man believes that any “true follower of Christ” is clean-shaven.
All of these are trivial and petty and should never be a reason to make someone feel unwelcome. Making such judgments privately is sad, but when the person outwardly shuns or criticizes, it becomes a hindrance to fellow children of God.
Even when people commit serious, grievous sins, we can always extend a welcome hand reminding them they are fellow citizens in the household of God.
In his April, 2012 General Conference address, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave us simple to follow advice.
“This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following: Stop it! It’s that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children. God is our Father. We are His children. We are all brothers and sisters.”
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Main Title Image (Kids holding hands) by: morguefile.com, jdurham
Cookie friends by: morguefile.com, kakisky
TEXT: “Every Convert is Precious” President Gordon B. Hinckley elaborates on the three things each member of the church needs. (Source – lds.org)
VIDEO: “Judging Others? Stop it” President Dieter F. Uchtdorf teaches this simple two-word lesson. “Stop it”. (3:19, Source – lds.org)
QUOTES ABOUT FRIENDSHIP
Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend. – Albert Camus
Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light. – Helen Keller
It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
See all QUOTES ABOUT FRIENDSHIP.