With greasy fingers from succulent fried chicken and over-salted but perfectly deep-fried French fries accompanied by the chilling gulp of a milkshake during what should have been math class, I was introduced to a new religion I hadn’t heard of through a close friend—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Little did I realize that I was being divinely guided, meeting people and having experiences that Heavenly Father had perfectly planned for me.
I had developed a belief in God early, being raised Catholic. But as I entered college, I distinctly remember having the thought that I wanted to know more. I wanted an even closer relationship with God. That very thought and openness to the Lord allowed for my friend to introduce me to the gospel and invite me to church.
When I attended The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the first time, I was a little shy, but I felt warmly welcomed because everyone was so kind, inviting, and genuine. Though I had never met these people, I was treated like family. I started going regularly, and after a lengthy investigation and a life-changing priesthood blessing, I joined the Church. But after a solid five months of being active and involved in Church activities, my faith was to be tried. I was guided to go back home.
Back in my home city, I attended my new ward and was even given callings. I tried to remain active, but everything in life felt like it was against me, resulting in my dwindling church attendance.
I continued along on a crazy rollercoaster ride through life but never lost faith in what I believed in. I knew that the Church held the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and everything I needed in life.
I had occasionally attended different wards during those years of being less active and saw the difference between being welcomed and being unnoticed. Fortunately, missionaries bridged the gap and ministered to my needs until I finally came back to church. My home ward truly welcomed me home. I felt like I belonged the moment I stepped through the doors. Because of those welcoming members, I continued to attend and enjoy all the blessings of the gospel.
I believe you should attend church for yourself and not for the people. But it infinitely helps when you are lovingly welcomed. Luckily, there are things you can do to make yourself and others feel more welcome at church.
How you can help yourself feel welcome:
Attend institute, service projects, and Church activities. Though daunting at first, especially not knowing anyone, putting yourself out there opens up doors to meeting new people and making lifelong friendships.
Surround yourself with like-minded people. This is especially important when you’re a convert or returning member. Surrounding yourself with people who are like-minded means you not only won’t be compromising yourself but you can also learn a lot from them and gain good support.
Attend the temple. Striving to attend the temple means you are making choices that align with the Lord’s will. You will find you become strengthened in obedience.
Remember who and why. Who are you doing this for? Who is important to look toward, and why are you here? It can help you put into perspective what is beneficial for your progression.
How you can help others feel welcomed:
Show love. Be a genuine friend. We are all on different journeys. Getting to know others will help you find the best way to support them. Inviting them to activities, keeping them in the loop, and introducing them to new people at church will help them make connections and new friends.
Listen to the promptings of the Spirit and trust in the Lord’s timing. I strongly believe that Heavenly Father guides us and places people in our paths intentionally. Doing your best every day will bless you and allow you to bless others.
Heavenly Father truly does know us and love us individually. I hope that you are able to feel His love but also that you are able to see yourself—and others—as He does. I hope you will share the love He has for you with others, especially visitors, new converts, and those who are returning to church. I know I am so grateful for every single person who reached out to me, and I now look for opportunities to do the same.