When a new member or an investigator comes to the . There is no one, other than the missionaries who will eventually leave, for them to turn to with questions or concerns. I remember, as a new member, being embarrassed to ask questions or express doubts. My lack of a complete testimony, even after baptism, embarrassed me and I didn’t really feel safe enough to admit to anyone that I lacked a complete testimony at that time.
Every member can adopt a new convert or investigator without waiting for an official calling as a ward missionary. The most important part of this mentoring opportunity is to listen without being judgmental. Not everyone comes into the church with an instant testimony. It can take years to work through the gospel to the point where they know it’s completely true. In the meantime, the investigator or new member needs someone who feels safe—someone who will listen to his doubts and help him understand the gospel.
Often this involves just listening for a long time, without judgment. Then the mentor can acknowledge the validity and reality of the doubts and guide the member to the steps necessary to find the truth. The mentor should be prepared to suggest scriptures, books, and talks to the member, perhaps loaning something from his own collection. It’s also important to remind them to pray, since God is the One who really knows the answer.
It’s important to respect the privacy of the member. When he confides in you, be certain not to pass that information along to others. He needs to know he can trust you with his feelings.
Try to pay attention to things a new member might not know. By being aware, you can prevent the member from being embarrassed or from making a mistake. I joined the church in high school, and the few other LDS students looked out for me. They warned me when an upcoming school event violated church standards, so I didn’t participate. They let me know if I needed to wear church clothes for an event. Before any new experience, they explained to me how it would go and what was expected of me. If I was among people who didn’t know me, they made sure I wouldn’t get called on to pray before I knew how. They helped me figure out how to explain a temple trip to my non-LDS parents. These things made me feel more secure in the first year, when every experience was a new one.
Mentoring a new investigator or member is a wonderful way to serve the Lord while making a new friend.
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.