I recently joined the Church, and I feel I don’t measure up to others in my ward. What can I do to move beyond those feelings and become a strong Latter-day Saint?
I have been in the Church almost 35 years, and I fought this same battle for about 20 of those years. But with age has come a little wisdom that I share with those feeling they don’t measure up: Stop measuring. Enjoy the wonderful blessings of the gospel.
There are no perfect Latter-day Saints. There are a lot of people just like us, striving to live the gospel to the best of their ability. Some are more advanced in one area, some in another, but all struggle daily to overcome weaknesses and improve over what they were the day before.
Realize that you already are a strong Latter-day Saint—strong enough to have struggled until you found the gospel and then strong enough to have accepted it.
Jane Stringer, Dallas Fourth Ward, Richardson Texas Stake
I joined the Church in Ecuador four years ago. When I first started going to church, I felt out of place. I didn’t know anybody besides the missionaries and my family. I felt I couldn’t do anything right. Other people in my ward knew so much about the gospel, about the Presidents of the Church, about everything. Every time they talked about the scriptures, I couldn’t say anything; I just tried to follow the conversation.
I decided to start reading the scriptures. I loved the feelings in my heart while reading, so I tried to study more carefully. I felt peace, and I kept learning. I also accepted every calling I received, and I learned a lot from each of them. I tried to go to the activities, and I met more members and felt that the Church was my home. Soon I found that I felt stronger, I was enjoying every word in the scriptures, and I was enjoying every time I was at church. I’ve realized it is not just what you know that matters; more important is how much love you feel and the desire you have to become more like Jesus Christ.
Daniela Carchi, Greenville Second Ward, Greenville South Carolina Stake
Coming from outside the Church did not make me inferior or superior to anyone else; it was simply where the Lord wanted me to start. When I joined the Church, I brought everything I had that was good and true. Over the years, immeasurable good and truth have been added to what I had. As I teach and serve in the Church, I find repeatedly that my experiences before I was a member have added a dimension to my testimony for which I will always be grateful.
Terri Brown, Garrison Creek Ward, Renton Washington Stake
Ask Heavenly Father for help with your challenges. Listen, write down any ideas you think of, then choose some ideas to implement.
Read your scriptures and study the Gospel Essentials manual, Gospel Principles (item no. 31110000; U.S. $3.00), even if your ward or branch doesn’t have a Gospel Essentials class. You can order the manual from the Church Web site www.lds.org. Church members living in the United States and Canada can also order the Church magazines through this Web site.
Howard Coons, Oak Hills Eighth Ward, Provo Utah Oak Hills Stake
Remember the Apostle Paul’s teaching that every member is a vital part of the whole body of the Church (see 1 Cor. 12:12–27). We all are important and are needed in the Lord’s great work. If you come upon one of us “veterans” in the gospel who seems impatient with you, please gently remind us that you are new at this and need help. Sometimes we forget you have not grown up with the Church as we have.
Prepare to receive the blessings of the temple. There you will receive the full blessings of the gospel, and you can feel a sweet spirit of peace and the conviction that you are God’s child and He loves you. That’s what really matters.
Victoria Draper, Kimberly First Ward, Kimberly Idaho Stake
Comparing yourself with others is unproductive. While society trains us to be competitive, the gospel is essentially cooperative in nature. The comparison should be between what you are now and what you hope to become. Focus on improving your relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, gain strength from those in the Church who have strengths you do not have, and lend your strength to others who need it from you.
You are probably seeing others in terms of stereotypes instead of as actual individuals. Despite appearances, no member of the Church is perfect. When I was younger, I thought everyone else at church was the same: righteous, middle class, and happy. As I consciously looked beyond the stereotypes and labels and got to know people as individuals, I found a rich variety of personalities, many of whom have become my closest friends. It takes time to develop meaningful relationships with people, and the process is made easier when we don’t make assumptions about them.
Traci Dysart, Kent First Ward, Kent Washington Stake
When I joined the Church as a college student, I felt inadequate compared to many of my new friends. Most had been members of the Church their entire lives and had pioneer ancestors. I expressed my feelings to my branch president, and he said that as the first member in my family, I was a pioneer, and my descendants would be eternally grateful that I joined the Church.
A cloud lifted from my mind as I reflected on his words. I had made sacrifices to join the Church, just like the pioneers. Each day was a journey across my spiritual plains. I was part of the Church’s tradition of pioneer heritage.
I recently celebrated five years of Church membership. I still have moments when I feel I don’t measure up to other members, but those are eclipsed by my knowledge that in the Lord’s eyes, there is no measuring tape. Whether we are the first member of the Church in our families or part of a fifth generation of members, we can each be faithful in our testimony and commitment to the Lord.
Brandy Sanders, Ocean Branch, Santa Cruz California Stake
After I joined the Church, I asked a lot of questions at every opportunity. Often other members would thank me for asking a question they were too embarrassed to ask. (Apparently many Latter-day Saints believe they should know the answers if they grew up in the Church.) Your testimony is new and shiny. You can breathe life into other members’ testimonies simply by sharing how your own testimony has grown.
I have now been in three branches or wards. During my first meeting with a branch president or bishop, I always tell him I would like a calling. Serving in a calling helps me feel part of things, helps me interact more with others, and provides another reason to participate in Church activities.
Lori Solomon, Suncheon Branch, Suncheon Korea District
Shortly after joining the Church, I decided to serve a mission. It didn’t take long, however, before my enthusiasm was overshadowed by my feelings of inadequacy. How could I teach people about the gospel when I felt I had so little knowledge?
After I had been serving in Hong Kong for several months, a young, less-active girl taught me an invaluable lesson. We had been trying to get her to come to church for weeks, but she was evasive. Finally, one Sunday she surprised us by showing up. During Sunday School the teacher asked the class members to name the person in their lives who had shown them the most love. When it was her turn, A-Ling said, “The missionaries.” I realized then that what mattered most to A-Ling was that she could count on us to love her.
I learned that people who need our service probably aren’t concerned about whether we can recite all the Articles of Faith or sing all the Primary songs. What they will remember and what will help them the most is our love for them.
Patricia Porch-Hooper, Orland Park Ward, Chicago Illinois Stake
As a new convert, I shared with several other members my feelings of inadequacy. They opened up to me, and I learned that many of my new friends who I thought were almost perfect were actually coming back into activity. What a surprise to me! I learned that we are all imperfect and are on the same path. We are all working toward a common goal: to return to Heavenly Father. Along this path we make mistakes, but the important thing is to get back on the path and to help others who may be slipping. And as we exercise repentance and grow in faith, any mistakes we have made in the past no longer matter.
Karen Hansen, Lodi Third Ward, Lodi California Stake
Feelings of inadequacy are “common to man” (see 1 Cor. 10:13). Even the prophets Moses and Enoch expressed such feelings (see Ex. 4:10; Moses 6:31). In many cases we compare our weaknesses with others’ strengths without considering that every one of us has both weaknesses and strengths. If we will forsake these negative judgments of self and express gratitude for the gifts the Lord has given us, we will become more receptive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is a great equalizer and allows ordinary people to achieve extraordinary results.
Doug Mainord, Royal Oaks Ward, Keizer Oregon Stake