“Where Do I Go from Here?” Ensign, Oct. 2006, 24–27
Am I the only one who may feel alone in this experience? You may be the only recent convert in your ward or branch, but worldwide, more than 200,000 people join the Church each year. Members of your ward or branch rejoice with you in your conversion. During lessons and meetings, you will hear some of them share feelings about their conversion. You can also read about such experiences in the Ensign.
Will I be able to do all that’s expected of me? There is much to do in the Church, and it can seem overwhelming, especially if you come from a religious background that involved attending meetings less frequently. But the Lord wants us to achieve our potential, so He has provided many opportunities to live a Christlike life. Participate faithfully, and you’ll be amazed to see how much you accomplish over time.
How do I prepare to attend the temple? One of the most important goals you can set as a new member is to receive your endowment and be sealed to your family in the temple. Simply put, the endowment involves making sacred promises to Heavenly Father and receiving blessings from Him. Being sealed means receiving the blessing, through priesthood authority and personal worthiness, to be together as a family throughout eternity.
The temple is sacred, so we need to be worthy to enter it and prepared to receive what we learn there. Your bishop or branch president may ask you to attend a temple preparation class. To prepare to attend the temple, you need to continue to pay tithing, support Church leaders, repent of sins or wrongdoings, attend church regularly, keep the Word of Wisdom and law of chastity, and strengthen your testimony.
Soon after their baptism and confirmation, Church members 12 and older can receive, after an interview with their bishop or branch president, a limited-use recommend to participate in baptisms and confirmations for the dead. One year after baptism, adults can seek additional blessings and covenants in the temple. Arrange interviews with your bishop or branch president and your stake or mission president. If you are worthy and prepared, they will sign a recommend for you to enter the temple.
What is family history? It’s a record of your ancestry and of your own life. Members of the Church are asked to keep and research family records, including genealogy, journals, and personal histories. Such records are helpful in providing the blessings of the temple to those who have died. Family history will also help you and your children appreciate the eternal nature of family relationships and help you record your spiritual experiences. For example, take a moment to remember your baptism and confirmation. Then write down your thoughts and feelings. As you write of such events, you and your children will come to treasure your own spiritual record.
Family history specialists in your ward or branch are eager to help you. You may also wish to visit the Church’s family history Web site, www.familysearch.org.
Where can I find friends in the Church? You are already surrounded by friends. When you join the Church, you join a great circle of fellowship and love. Your bishop or branch president, his counselors, and other leaders and members are eager for you to find joy in the gospel. Two men who hold the priesthood will serve as your home teachers. At least once a month, they will visit you and share a gospel message. If you are a woman, two women will also be your visiting teachers. Over time you will make friends with many Latter-day Saints.
Remember, the best way to have a friend is to be one, so don’t be afraid to reach out in kindness.
How can I get involved? Church members are given responsibilities so they can learn and grow through service and use their time and talents to bless others. You might be asked to speak or pray, read a verse of scripture, join the choir, or accept a specific assignment known as a calling. Don’t be afraid. Training is available, and other members and leaders will help you. You may make some mistakes; we all do. But do your best, and trust the Lord to help you. It is His work; He will bless you.
What about helping others? In the Church you will regularly have opportunities to serve those in need. While some service will come by way of Church-sponsored service projects and assignments, you can also do much good by following the example of the Savior: visit the sick, cheer up the sad, lighten what burdens you can. Ask yourself, “What would the Savior do?” Then do your best to do it.
Is there time to have fun? Most wards and branches hold social activities, which add a lot of enjoyment to membership in the Church. If you’re shy or uncertain about what to do, just show up. Get to know those around you. Ask if you can set up chairs or help clean up. In the Church we all pitch in to work—and play—side by side.
How will I continue to learn the gospel? One of the best ways is to prayerfully read the scriptures each day. Of course, attend Sunday meetings to learn more about the scriptures and teachings of latter-day prophets. There are also weekday study programs: seminary (for teens) and institute of religion (for young adults). Ask other members; they can help you know what is available.
What is a patriarchal blessing? It is a blessing of counsel and wisdom to guide your life, given under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost by a man ordained to the office of patriarch in the Melchizedek Priesthood. Your bishop or branch president can help you know how to prepare to receive it.
Besides tithing, what donations am I expected to make? Once a month (usually the first Sunday), members fast for two meals and donate a fast offering—the money they would have spent on those meals—to help care for the poor.
The Church is also involved in a variety of humanitarian, temple, and missionary efforts worldwide. You can donate to these efforts if you are able. Use the same donation envelopes you use to pay your tithing and fast offerings.
How can I share the gospel with others? Let your example be a light to them, and share your excitement about joining the Church. Invite them to meet with the full-time missionaries. Share a copy of the Book of Mormon. Share your testimony as you feel prompted by the Spirit, but be gentle and kind, not confrontational. Members and missionaries will be happy to include you in their efforts and to guide you as you share the gospel.
How can I stay close to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and continue to feel the influence of the Holy Ghost? One of the best ways is to partake worthily of the sacrament each week. The sacrament prayers will remind you of the promises you made to Heavenly Father when you were baptized and confirmed—that you are willing to take upon yourself the name of Jesus Christ, always remember Him, and keep His commandments. By doing those things, you are promised that you may always have His Spirit with you. You will also be blessed by keeping the Sabbath day holy.
Also invite the Spirit to be with you by praying often, reading the scriptures, and keeping God’s commandments.
What else do I need to know? Most of all, remember that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true. Heavenly Father is merciful and kind, and He is pleased with your decision to become a member of the Church. Be of good cheer, and remember that with God all things are possible.
Be sure to get to know your bishop or branch president. He is the presiding priesthood leader of the ward or branch and has particular responsibility for the youth. He conducts interviews with members and can help you know how to prepare for the temple or for a patriarchal blessing. He will also help you find ways to serve, and he or another leader can provide you with gospel study materials.
Every April and October, the Church holds general conference: two days of meetings during which general Church leaders speak. The conference is broadcast on some TV and radio stations, via satellite to local meetinghouses around the world, and on the Internet at www.lds.org. Talks are published in the May and November Ensign.
To find meeting times and addresses of Church meetinghouses around the world, use the Meetinghouse Locator under “Other Resources” at www.lds.org. Your bishop or branch president, area office, country Web site, or even the phone book may also have some of this information.
One of the privileges of belonging to the Church is having a membership record that follows you when you move. Along with your name and date of birth, it contains a list of important dates and events in your Church life, such as your baptism and confirmation. Please give your ward or branch clerk your new address so your record can be sent to your new ward or branch.
Visit a distribution center if there is one in your area. Distribution centers provide pamphlets, manuals, magazines, posters, videos, and other Church materials at low cost or for free. In the United States and Canada, you can also order items at www.ldscatalog.com. Church magazines are available for all ages: the Friend for children, the New Era for teens, and the Ensign for adults. You can subscribe to them at a distribution center, at www.ldscatalog.com, or by phone in the United States and Canada (1-800-537-5971).
There are many resources: Ask other members. Read Church materials such as Gospel Principles (item no. 31110) and True to the Faith (item no. 36863) that include lists of words. Also, check the glossaries at www.mormon.org and on page 33 of this issue.