Inviting through Fellowship

Reading: “Returning Home,” Elder Eduardo Gavarret of the Seventy, October 2008 General Conference, Sunday Afternoon Session

The gospel brings great joy into my life, and one of the things I can do for others is to invite them to also enjoy the joy of the gospel.  There are many, many members of the church who have stopped coming for various reasons.  In this talk Elder Gavarret asks us to reach out to those people in love and invite them back to church.  He says,

Oh, that each one of us would accept, as a beautiful demonstration of our love for our Heavenly Father, the responsibility we bear as members of this Church to seek after those who are not here with us! If through this loving service we should bring only one soul to the Church and if we would make it the object of our lives, how much rejoicing would we bring upon us and upon those whom we help return to Christ!

One of the main reasons that many people stop coming to church is because they feel unwelcome or something has happened between them and the people in their local ward.  If we can reach out to those people and show them that we care for them, in many cases they will come back to church.  Likewise, we can also through neglect or unkindness drive away people in our ward who are on the edge of not coming to church.  We should strive to make everyone feel welcome as part of our quest to be more like the Savior.

In my life, I have found it much more enjoyable to go to wards where I feel welcome and loved. I also know how miserable it can feel to go to a ward where you feel like nobody cares about you or particularly wants you to be there.

For example, when I was dating my husband I would drive down to Provo from Rexburg every two or three weekends, so I did not spend much time in my own ward.  Perhaps because of that the members of my ward really made no effort to befriend me or make me feel welcome.  Even the bishop seemed not to want to bother with me when I talked to him about what I needed to do to get ready to get married.  I also was having trouble getting along with my roommates at the time.  One the other hand, the members of my husband (then boyfriend)’s ward made me feel very welcome on the weeks I was down in Provo even though I wasn’t truly a member of their ward.  All of this made it an unpleasant experience to go to my own ward, and made it easier for me to make excuses not to go if I was feeling tired or sick.

For a good example, though, I have often talked about how welcome we felt in our last ward we were in just before we moved.  After two years of first being in the primary and then in the nursery, as well as being very shy, I was worried about really getting involved in our ward.  However, the people reached out to us with kindness and I was made to feel very welcome and very loved.  It was a joy to go to church and if we felt sick or tired we were much more likely to put in the extra effort to go when we could have stayed home.

Truly, I believe, that our testimony should be independent of how others in the ward treat us.  God asks us to go to church even when we feel like we don’t want to.  The fact that you don’t get along with your ward is not an excuse to stop coming.  However, I know first hand how huge of an affect our attitude has on the other people in our ward and that we can have a huge affect on the activity of those around us just by trying to be a friend to everyone in our ward.

Since we live in Utah, pretty much all of my neighbors are in my ward.  And, even if they weren’t they’re still my neighbors.  Today I am going to say hello to all of the neighbors that I happen to walk by or see and maybe even ask them how they’re doing.

Can you think of times that the people in your ward had a big affect on how you lived the gospel?  What can you do to help others feel more loved and welcome?

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