Several years ago seven men—all converts to the Church—were presented for ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood during stake conference. Following the session they were asked to bring their wives and meet with the stake presidency. I also made my way to the stake offices. At the time, I was serving as the mission president of the Texas South Mission, and I too wanted to meet these new converts.
When I arrived, they were already there waiting. We introduced ourselves. The group included a businessman, a lawyer, a medical doctor, a schoolteacher, a physicist, a salesman, and an air force officer.
Soon the stake clerk appeared and announced that the stake presidency was tied up with an unexpected problem; there would be a short delay. Sensing this to be an opportunity for meaningful feedback on the conversion process, I informally asked these men what single factor or event contributed most to their conversion to the Church.
Their answers surprised me because they were essentially the same. With only slight variations, they all said the turning point in their conversion came the first time they attended a Latter-day Saint church service.
So I asked what impressed them most about our services and what members could do to help investigators. What they mentioned taught me a great deal:
Be united and dedicated. The converts were impressed by the spirit of love and true fellowship the members demonstrated. They often felt a very real and genuine spirit of unity among the members and a dedication to keeping the Sabbath day holy. The lawyer said, “I wanted to be a part of it.”
Focus on people. Making sure investigators meet members is also important. The air force officer observed, “The real warmth of the members will be more impressive to investigators than the physical surroundings of the church.”
Teach investigators what to expect. The first meeting the schoolteacher attended was sacrament meeting. The friend who brought him to church had prepared him by explaining in advance what to anticipate. Consequently, he attended the meeting without worrying about the unexpected. Because he was prepared, he enjoyed the services and the people.
Live your religion. Several of the converts were amazed that the members seemed so dedicated to living all of the commandments. Of course the members weren’t perfect, but these men sensed their genuine efforts to be obedient. They noted that it was easier to attend church knowing that the members lived what they believed.
Share unique truths. When investigators come to church for the first time, they are excited to learn about the Church. Learning that the Church has an unpaid ministry or that living oracles guide the members is often surprising to investigators. “But keep the information simple,” the lawyer observed. “Intricate explanations and deep doctrine only confuse investigators.”
Bear your testimony. The informal testimonies that several members shared were very powerful in the lives of these men. When members testified of the restored truths of the gospel, the Holy Ghost bore witness of their veracity. It is difficult for investigators to dispute the feelings that come as a result of those testimonies.
That night I drove back to the mission home and mentally recapped the details of our conversation. I was grateful that I had met these men and had learned from their conversions. As I pondered their experiences, the Spirit testified of the importance of bringing investigators to church and of recognizing their needs. As we strive to do this, we become more instrumental in paving the way for investigators to enter into the fold of God.
Dale M. Valentine has passed away since submitting this article.
Worship, by Howard Post