I’m not good at basketball. Call it genes, call it natural ability, call it whatever—it always seems like everyone else on the court has it, and I don’t. This often makes me feel out of place.
This fact didn’t stop my friends from inviting me to play basketball. I would just run up and down the court, pretending I knew what I was doing. I don’t think I fooled anyone. But, to their credit, my friends did their best to include me.
During one game, I took a shot and the ball flew toward the basket. It hit the backboard, the rim, then fell through the hoop. I couldn’t believe it. Purely by luck, I made the shot!
Understanding the uniqueness of this moment, my friends congratulated me. I didn’t contribute much to that game, but I felt like I belonged, and that meant a lot.
Belonging is a human need. Whether it’s with family, friends, colleagues, or people at church. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, not only do we want to belong, but we should also want others to feel they belong too. We should follow our Savior’s example and love and reach out to everyone who desires “to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people” (Mosiah 18:8).
Unfortunately, not everyone feels they belong—even at church. Some people may feel unneeded or even excluded. But when it comes right down to it, we are all needed. The Apostle Paul, speaking about the Church, said: “For the body [of Christ] is not one member but many” (1 Corinthians 12:14).
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said, “It is an immensely satisfying thing to be needed in the body of Christ. Whether I function as an eye or arm is irrelevant; the fact is I am needed … and the body is imperfect without me.”1
When we become part of the body of Christ—the Church—we join others in faith. And as part of the body of Christ, every member of the Church is needed.
Along with partaking of the sacrament, we go to church to “meet together … to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of [our] souls” (Moroni 6:5).
Those who are new or returning to church may feel a little uncomfortable. They may feel out of place, hoping someone will reach out and be friendly. We can be the ones to smile, say hello, and befriend them.
President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has said, “If we are truly disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, we will reach out with love and understanding to all of our neighbors at all times.”2
When the Savior appeared to the Nephites, He invited everyone to feel the marks in His hands, feet, and side. One by one, people came to Him (see 3 Nephi 11:15). He then healed the sick, the hurt, and afflicted (see 3 Nephi 17:7, 9). Then He blessed all the children and prayed for them (see 3 Nephi 17:21). A short time later, He tenderly said, “I have commanded that none of you should go away” (3 Nephi 18:25).
Regardless of your struggles, your background, your upbringing, or anything that makes you feel you don’t belong, remember that the Savior doesn’t want you to go away. If you’ve ever felt alone or excluded, He knows how that feels. He was despised and rejected (see Isaiah 53:3). He took upon Himself our sins and sorrows and experienced every kind of pain and loneliness (see Alma 7:11). Jesus Christ willingly experienced all of this so He can know how to help us. As we follow Him, we will find that we do belong.
The Church exists to help us learn how we can become like Heavenly Father. It also provides the framework and authority necessary to make sacred covenants and put us on the path to exaltation.
No matter where you are on this journey, remember, as Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said, “There is room for you in this Church. Come, join with us!”3
As we try to follow the Savior’s perfect example by loving, helping, and reaching out to each other, we can make church a place of belonging and unity. Even for people who can’t play basketball!