We congratulate you on your recent baptism and welcome you most warmly. What a wonderful step you have taken in joining the Church! We stand ready to assist you in any way that we can.
At this critical time you may feel like the woman who wrote this letter:
“My journey into the Church was unique and quite challenging. This past year has been the hardest year that I have ever lived in my life. It has also been the most rewarding. As a new member, I continue to be challenged every day.”
She continues: “When we as investigators become members of the Church, we are surprised to discover that we have entered into a completely foreign world, a world that has its own traditions, culture, and language. We discover that there is no one person or no one place of reference that we can turn to for guidance in our trip into this new world.”1
What you are going through as a new member should be exhilarating. Your faith in the Savior is strong. Your excitement to learn more and more about the restored gospel is sincere. But it is also easy to feel overwhelmed by new words, new meetings, new teachings, and new challenges. Even new people may be something to deal with. You may wonder if you can ever measure up to the standard of being a true Latter-day Saint. I have a simple message for you: Of course you can! Don’t give up!
Remember what Nephi said:
“Ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son. …
“And now, … after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.
“Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life” (2 Nephi 31:18–20).
Joining the Church is a serious thing. Each convert takes upon himself or herself the name of Christ with an implied promise to keep His commandments. But coming into the Church can be a perilous experience. Unless there are warm and strong hands to greet you, unless we reach out to you with love and concern, you may begin to wonder about the step you have taken. Unless there are friendly hands and welcome hearts to greet you and lead you along the way, you may drop by the side. We have the challenge of helping you to strengthen your testimony of the truth of this work. We cannot have you walking in the front door and out the back! Every one of you is precious. Every one of you is a son or daughter of God.
I have said before, and I repeat it, that each of you as a convert needs three things:
A friend in the Church to whom you can constantly turn, who will walk beside you, who will answer your questions, who will understand your problems. You also have home teachers, visiting teachers, and other members who will help you on your marvelous journey of faith.
An assignment. Activity is the genius of this Church. It is the process by which we grow. Faith and love for the Lord are like the muscles of my arm. If I use them, they grow stronger. If I put them in a sling, they become weaker. Each of you deserves a responsibility.
In handling that responsibility you may make some mistakes. So what? We all make mistakes. The important thing is the growth that will come of activity. Your leaders can help you find ways to be involved. Be willing to accept new challenges, and trust that the Lord will help you be equal to them. If you get discouraged, ask for help. But don’t give up. As you keep trying you will find that your abilities increase.
To be constantly “nourished by the good word of God” (Moroni 6:4). You will be affiliated with a priesthood quorum or the Relief Society, the Young Women, the Young Men, the Sunday School, or the Primary. Come to sacrament meeting to partake of the sacrament, to renew the covenants you made at the time of your baptism. Read from the scriptures every day. Pray every morning and every evening, that you may stay close to the Lord.
You know and we know that there are many good people in other churches. There is much of good in them. Your family and your prior religious traditions may have taught you many good things and established many good habits. As the Apostle Paul said, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Bring the good things with you, keep them, and use them in the Lord’s service.
We rejoice with you in the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are many blessings in store for you. We know at times it can be terribly lonely. It can be disappointing. It can be frightening. We of this Church are far more different from the world than we are prone to think we are. But the gospel is nothing to be ashamed of. It is something to be proud of. “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord,” wrote Paul to Timothy (2 Timothy 1:8).
To those of you who are new, I plead with you to continue with us. We need you. We will put our arms around you and be friends with you. We will do our best to comfort you, to make you feel welcome and accepted. We love you, and we know the Lord loves you. Forgive our faults and weaknesses. Come and work with us side by side as we grow and learn together.
This is God’s holy work. This is His Church and kingdom. The vision that occurred in the Sacred Grove was just as Joseph said it was. There is in my heart a true understanding of the importance of what happened there. The Book of Mormon is true. It testifies of the Lord Jesus Christ. His priesthood has been restored and is among us. The keys of that priesthood, which have come from heavenly beings, are exercised for our eternal blessing. Such is our testimony—yours and mine—a testimony which we must live up to and which we must share with others. I leave this testimony, my blessing, and my love with each of you and my invitation to continue to be part of this great latter-day miracle that is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
After prayerfully studying this message, share it using a method that encourages the participation of those you teach. Following are some examples.
Bring three objects that represent the three things mentioned in the article that every new convert needs. For instance, you could bring a gift from a friend, a Church handbook, and scriptures.
If you are teaching new converts, discuss how these things will help them rejoice in their membership in the Church. Also help them see what contribution they can make as new members.
If you are teaching longtime members, discuss why a friend, a responsibility, and nurturing by the word of God are so important to new members. Invite them to help meet the needs of new members of their ward or branch.
Have family members imagine they have just entered a foreign country where they do not know the language, traditions, or culture. Ask them how they feel. What are the first things they want or miss? Compare this to what a new member might experience. Read the last section of President Hinckley’s message, and testify of the blessings of becoming “part of this great latter-day miracle.”