Baptism is only the first step to eternity. In some ways, the hardest work is still ahead. Many new members fall away after a time, and you don’t want to be one of them. Taking some preventative steps can help you stay strong forever.
1. Continue to build your testimony. No matter how sure you were when you were first baptized, there is always room for more testimony. Your testimony will continue to grow from here on out. You will need to continually nurture it in order to make sure it stays strong. Think of it as a beautiful but delicate plant. Planting it is important, but it will die if you don’t continue to take care of it.
2. Find work to do. If you don’t receive a calling (a church job), ask for one. If none are available for you yet, volunteer. Nearly every ward sends around sign-up sheets for volunteers and you can sign up without a calling or an invitation. Ask your auxiliary leaders (Relief Society and Elder’s Quorum) to call you when someone needs service. Stay after a party to clean up, bring refreshments, or come early and tidy the hymn books. Greet people who might be new and sit with someone who is alone. The more you serve in the church, the more a part of things you will feel.
3. Make friends. Friends make it easier to stay . They will notice when you’re gone and can answer questions that arise. They give a social reason for attending on the days when no other reason seems appealing. Your home or visiting teachers are your first friends. If you’re not in a ward where people are outgoing, make the first move. Sit with different people each week. Offer to teach something you know well. When I move to a new ward, I often invite people who want to learn to become writers to my home to talk about writing. These visits often lead to friendship. Let people know what you know how to do and find others who share your interest or would like to learn it. Don’t limit yourself to just those your own age. In the church, we can have friends who are like us, or who are very different.
4. Pray, ponder, and read scriptures (Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants and Pearl of Great Price) every single day. This keeps you close to Heavenly Father and the Savior, and when you’re close to Them, you are eager to visit each Sunday.
5. If doubts creep in, deal with them right away. Study the words of the prophets. Talk to your home teachers. Ask a friend to help you with it. Get your information from people who know the truth. There are many out there waiting to crush your testimony, but you know where to find truth. Seek it there. Pray and ask God the Father, who knows everything.
6. Don’t push the boundaries. People who leave the church seldom do it all at once. They move away step by step, and usually the steps seemed unimportant at the time. “It won’t hurt to skip church just this once.” “If I go to the bar just this once, and don’t drink, it will be okay.” “I’m too tired to pray.” Having done something wrong once, it’s easier to do it again, and what you were going to do just once becomes a habit. Doing things that are only a “little bit” wrong is dangerous, since it sets a standard of doing only what you have to, and that damages your testimony.
7. Deal aggressively with addictions. It is very hard to give up smoking and other addictions you might have faced before you joined the church. If you find yourself weakening after baptism, fast and pray for strength. Ask your bishop for help. Find a friend who will agree to talk you out of whatever you’re tempted to do. If you need medical help, seek it. Addiction can weaken your ability to receive the ordinances of the gospel and to feel the spirit.
8. Prepare to go to the temple. Meet with your bishop to learn what you need to do to be able to attend the temple. When he feels you are ready, he will invite you to attend a temple preparation class, but you can begin preparing today on your own. The process of preparing will keep you strong and focused on a goal.
The more actively involved you are in living the gospel, the easier it will be for you to stay a strong, faithful member of the church. After a while, it will be hard to imagine living any other way, so this is the time to establish good habits and routines.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.