The purpose of this lesson is to motivate us to strengthen Church members through fellowshipping.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 18:10. Why is each individual important to Heavenly Father?
Regardless of who we are, where we live, what language we speak, or to what race we belong, Heavenly Father’s work and glory is to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life (see Moses 1:39). To help Him in this work, the Lord has restored the priesthood to earth and given us the responsibility of loving one another as He loves us. It is our responsibility and privilege to help our brothers and sisters receive the blessings prepared by Heavenly Father for those who are faithful.
Missionary work is important, but helping our brothers and sisters does not stop with baptism. President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “There is absolutely no point in doing missionary work unless we hold on to the fruits of that effort. The two must be inseparable. These converts are precious. Every convert is a son or daughter of God. Every convert is a great and serious responsibility. It is an absolute imperative that we look after those who have become a part of us” (“Find the Lambs, Feed the Sheep,” Ensign, May 1999, 108).
Read Luke 22:32. How can we as priesthood holders strengthen others?
We are here to help each other progress. We need to take care of one another as children of the Lord. President Hinckley said, “I am convinced that we will lose but very, very few of those who come into the Church if we take better care of them” (Ensign, May 1999, 109).
Fellowshipping means encouraging and helping each other to enjoy the full blessings of the gospel. It is showing courtesy and kindness, sharing experiences, and extending service and love. We fellowship by being a good friend and neighbor.
When we share our time, talents, and possessions with others, we develop a spirit of unity. Paul described this unity when he said that the new members of the Church were no longer to be strangers “but fellowcitizens with the saints” (Ephesians 2:19).
Although we should be friendly and neighborly and try to show our love to all people, giving help and friendship to new and less-active members is a basic priesthood responsibility. The Church helps us do this in many ways. It provides programs such as home teaching that encourage us to serve our brothers and sisters. It provides meetings where we can associate with each other. And it provides instruction in the correct expression of our love and concern.
We should also be concerned with those families among us who have a father, mother, son, or daughter who is not a member. These families need us. By fellowshipping them and sharing with them our understanding and love, we may help these part-member families become united in the gospel.
Write on the chalkboard a list of those who need our fellowshipping.
How we fellowship a person depends on the circumstances and our relationship to him or her. The members of one family explained how they fellowshipped a stranger at church: “The stranger beside us was uneasy. He looked straight ahead and scarcely breathed. He didn’t even smile at our two young children, who always made friends for us. After church, my husband asked the solemn fellow home with us for dessert. A smile relaxed his long face. ‘I was just baptized last week, and then moved into your ward,’ he explained. He dropped in on us several times a week thereafter, excited about his [growing knowledge of the gospel], eager to discuss the scriptures, anxious over his personal affairs. Ours was the great joy of watching our brother grow. He was no longer a stranger” (Susan Spencer Zmolek, “The Strangers within Our Gates,” Ensign, Mar. 1976, 49).
Home teaching also provides opportunities for fellowshipping. One woman told how her home teachers included her and her son in their activities: “I wanted to make a fresh start after a painful divorce, so I took my young son and moved south to finish a college degree. Supposing that the climate would be hot, we left our sweaters and blankets in storage. Oh, we were cold in our drafty summer cottage that winter, but were too afraid to light the space heaters or ask to borrow blankets. I didn’t know anyone. I felt I didn’t fit in with the people at church because I was divorced, and I certainly didn’t want anyone to think I was a [burden]. I was so glad when home teachers came! They really wanted to make us welcome and they came regularly, even though we didn’t have a telephone and weren’t always home. They often included us in their families’ activities. Eventually I didn’t mind asking to borrow blankets from them” (as quoted by Susan Spencer Zmolek, Ensign, Mar. 1976, 47–48).
List on the chalkboard the different ways to fellowship that were demonstrated in the above experiences.
When we feel genuine love for others, our fellowshipping activities extend beyond Sunday meetings to other times and activities throughout the week. Such activities include inviting them to our homes, social activities, and community and Church events. Fellowshipping is a sign of a true Saint, to whom Jesus referred when He said, “I was a stranger and ye took me in” (Matthew 25:34–36).
The following story shows how two brethren demonstrated genuine fellowship:
A young man was lonely and unhappy. His church attendance was irregular, and he found difficulty being dependable in Church assignments. Two men, both widowers, invited the young man to join them for family home evenings.
Before long, Monday evening became the most important time in his week. There he engaged in many gospel discussions and gained a desire to begin praying more diligently. It was not long before his testimony changed from a passive knowledge to a burning witness of the truth.
The two brethren accepted him and extended their friendship in the most total way they knew. They sat with him at Church meetings, invited him into their homes for dinner, and helped him fix up his home.
Before long he was reaching out to others, and he became responsible in his Church assignments. One day as he discussed with an acquaintance the joy in his life, the other asked, “What do you think caused it to happen?”
“The kindness of two friends has been the most important part,” he said. “I have come to trust and feel secure in their love, which has helped me do things I never even dreamed were possible” (adapted from Relief Society Courses of Study, 1977–78, 130).
Add to the list on the chalkboard the ways these two brethren fellowshipped the lonely member.
One brother told the following story about fellowshipping:
“Susan Munson [was] an active member of the Church who [had] waited patiently for her nonmember husband to show some interest in the Church. He [had] always said, ‘Oh, that’s fine for you and the kids, honey, but I’m just not interested.’
“That’s partly true. But Jack [was] also shy. … Susan [finally] asked Brother Caldwell, the ward mission leader, if there wasn’t something that could be done. He promised to take the matter up in his weekly missionary meeting.
“The group … decided a ‘block party’ might be the best way to begin. They asked three member families in the area to plan a backyard party for the Munsons and the Nobles, an investigating family. … All three joined in the fellowshipping.
“Jack, initially reluctant to come, was surprised and delighted with the easy, natural friendliness of the group. By the evening’s end, he enthusiastically supported the idea of a second party, a picnic in two weeks. No one said anything about going to church, but Allen Westover, who had discussed Jack’s house-painting project at the party, showed up on Saturday with his own ladder—and came back evenings after work. Steve Caldwell and Glen Rivers also helped several times.
“Later that month when the elders quorum had a project, Jack was anxious to help them. … As the summer progressed, Jack spent more and more time with Church members. There were chats about fishing rods and politics and raising children, about gardening, working out marital difficulties, and handling job pressures. Jack was talking as well as listening. Social evenings with different families included family home evenings and spiritual discussions. To Susan’s great joy, Jack told her one evening that he was ready to take the next step of being taught by the missionaries and … joining the Church.”
He added: “There is nothing more transparent than ‘friendshipping’ activities without friendship feelings. The feelings must come first.” He suggested that we be good listeners, find out about the individual’s likes and dislikes, family activities, and business. He stressed that those being fellowshipped need to know we care. (Ernest Eberhard, “That Part-Member Family,” Ensign, July 1978, 38–39).
Fellowshipping is an important priesthood responsibility. It helps new converts and other Church members feel wanted and needed and motivates them to participate in the Church. As we accept the responsibility to help others become active in the Church, we will experience joy and satisfaction. The Lord promises that this joy will be eternal.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 18:15–16. How can fellowshipping bring us joy?
Ask the assigned class member to bear his testimony of how fellowshipping helped him.
Identify a new convert and fellowship him. Increase your fellowshipping of your assigned home teaching families. Select a less-active family, and fellowship its members back into church activity. Be friendly with all Church members, especially those who are strangers. If there is a part-member family in your area, include the nonmembers in Church activities.
Before presenting this lesson:
Ask a class member to bear testimony about how fellowshipping helped him. He could be a recent convert, a member brought back into church activity, or someone who helped bring another into activity.
Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.