YA Weekly
4 Tips to Help You include Members from Different Cultures
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4 Tips to Help You Include Members from Different Cultures

Many young adult members around the world attend wards that aren’t in their native language or familiar with their culture. But there are ways we can help know they belong at church.

Multicultural Illustration

I grew up as one of the few Latino children in my English-speaking wards. My mother immigrated to the United States from Mexico, so at home I lived a Mexican lifestyle, eating sopes and speaking Spanish, but outside of the house I had an American lifestyle, eating hamburgers and speaking English. The Latino community in my area was very small, so I had few chances to interact with other Latinos. And my parents and I always attended English-speaking wards, so I learned everything about the gospel in English.

When it was time for me to go to a young single adult ward, I had two options: the local English ward or a stake-wide Spanish ward. I didn’t know which one to choose—I had never attended a Spanish ward before.

I decided to attend both ward’s activities and sacrament meetings to see where I felt more comfortable. I felt prompted to join the Spanish YSA ward because the members there continually made me feel included and welcome.

But despite feeling welcome, transitioning into that ward was surprisingly difficult. Through this experience, I’ve found a few ways that we can help new ward members feel like they belong, especially if they are from a culture that’s different from yours. This could include immigrants, international students, or even refugees. Regardless of where we come from, we are all children of God and should feel comfortable among other members as we worship the Lord together. Here are some tips that might help:

Help Them Get Familiar with the Culture

I didn’t grow up in a Latino culture, so when I first went to the Spanish YSA ward, I experienced some big shocks. Everyone gave air kisses to everyone else, which was a cultural norm I wasn’t used to. Everyone used Church terminology in Spanish, which I was unfamiliar with. And the ward consisted of dozens of dialects of Spanish, which made me feel overwhelmed.

However, the ward members were always happy to answer my questions and often invited me to activities that introduced me to their different cultures. One time we had a big dinner with members from Mexico and Colombia where we tried pupusas and tlayudas while getting to know each other.

You can help new ward members who aren’t familiar with the culture of your ward by getting to know them and answer their questions and inviting them to ward activities (and being understanding if they aren’t comfortable attending them), so that they can experience the new culture of your ward and know they are welcome.

Regardless of our heritage, we are all part of the same gospel. Elder William K. Jackson of the Seventy taught: “New members from around the world bring richness, diversity, and excitement into our ever-growing family. Latter-day Saints everywhere still celebrate and honor their own heritage and heroes, but now they are also part of something far grander. The culture of Christ helps us to see ourselves as we really are.”1

Become Friends

I decided to go to a ward with a new culture I didn’t know very well because the members quickly befriended me. They asked how I was, invited me to participate, and expressed genuine interest in my life. They went out of their way to greet me and made sure that I never had to sit by myself. I looked forward to attending my new ward because I knew I was wanted there. All of us want to be wanted, especially at church.

Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy once said, “If we truly want to be tools in the hands of our Heavenly Father …, we need only to be a friend.”2 A cultural divide can make new members feel shy and anxious. They can easily feel like they don’t belong, and it can be hard to take the first step in making friends. The efforts of ward members to fellowship new members will make a huge difference to them and help them choose to stay in the ward.

Learn about Their Background

When there’s someone new in your ward, ask them about their culture and if they feel comfortable doing certain activities. Learn about and respect their boundaries. Ask them if they mind sharing some of their culture with you.

Over time, my ward members came to understand my background and accommodated for me the best they could, whether through the language they spoke to me or by not hugging me as often, out of respect for my personal space. Their empathy, love, and effort to understand helped me feel heard and respected.

Help Them “Come unto Christ”

I’m grateful for everything my Spanish ward has done for me. Despite our different cultures, I’ve felt welcomed and loved by the members. I have felt the culture of Christ in this ward. I have decided to attend church on days I didn’t want to because of their influence. They have helped me more fully “come unto Christ” (Moroni 10:32) and to recognize His influence in my life.

We can do the same for new members in our wards by extending Christlike love to them. We can remind them that they are not alone and assure them they can trust Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

Ask Heavenly Father to guide you to who could use a helping hand to overcome any culture gaps and to tell you what you can do to help them feel included and loved. Doing so will bring you closer to Christ as well as to the members you serve.

By helping people from different cultures, we can help teach everyone that they have an important place in the gospel. By accepting and welcoming them, we support each other on the covenant path and assure them there is a place for them in this gospel, regardless of cultural differences.

Notes

  1. William K. Jackson, “The Culture of Christ,” Liahona, Nov. 2020, 50.

  2. Marlin K. Jensen, “Friendship: A Gospel Principle,” Ensign, May 1999, 65.