The first year of church membership is challenging. The new member has just made a tremendous commitment, and may be nervous and worried about whether he made the right choice. As he begins to see that members are less than perfect, and learns things about the church that puzzle him, he may find doubts creeping in. Old friends and family who are not members may work to plant those doubts.
As a friend, you can have a great impact on how the new member handles this time. He will often turn to you, as someone he trusts, to explore any concerns or questions he has. Perhaps he will say, “In my old church we never did this. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with it.” How will you respond? If you scold, he will never come to you again. If you agree that you don’t really like that rule either, and don’t offer anything further, you will reinforce his concerns. But suppose, instead, you said, “I can see how this might be challenging for you. I’ve thought about it, and here’s what I think.” Then if you explained why you feel this is the way Heavenly Father wants it to be, if you bear testimony and perhaps guide him to the scriptures or the words of the prophets, you not only reassure him, but you show him how to face similar challenges. Help him learn what you do when a doubt creeps in.
How do you talk about the church? Do you complain about your callings? Do you fuss about a rule that keeps you from teaching the way you want to teach? Are you cranky about meetings you have to attend? All of these negatives can affect a new convert’s view of the church. While you may know you don’t really feel this way, or don’t feel this way most of the time, your friend isn’t seeing that balance. Instead, he may begin to see the church as a burden, rather than a blessing.
Pay attention to how you talk about your faith. Remember to look for the good and to talk about the good. You know it’s there. You think about it and pray about it all the time. Now, remember to talk about it. Let the joy you have found in the gospel shine through your voice and your face. Let your attitude be a constant testimony of the good that comes from living the gospel.
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.