Article from Jeremy Goff of mylifebygogogoff.com.
If it is one thing I cannot tolerate is watching someone walk into church and sit alone, whether it be an individual or a new family, and not having anyone show any form of being welcoming. I have felt that loneliness in my life before, as Jeremy describes in his article. I believe we should all take a moment to step out of our comfort zones and remember who we are, why we are at church, whose name we have covenanted to take upon us, and do what it takes to be inviting to ALL who step through the chapel doors. I will admit I wasn’t always good at this. But I made a promise to myself that I will always make that effort to welcome everyone. I love to see the relief on a visitor’s face when they have been noticed, thought of, and cared enough about that someone would approach them and help them to feel welcomed! – Emilia
Every chapel or meetinghouse in the church has the same sign: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Visitors Welcome.” The purpose of this sign is two-fold, first to declare it as His Church. Second to declare that Visitors are welcome. Period the end. Come as you are.
Countless times as a missionary in New England or helping the Missionaries when I lived in South Carolina I had investigators mournfully say “I want to come to church, but I don’t have nice clothes.” To that, I would always quickly reply, “If we wanted nice clothes at Church Missionaries would be sent to department stores to bring in mannequins.” I would then explain that the Lord wants all of His children to return home. Dress your best to show respect, but His Church welcomes visitors regardless of how they look or even smell.
Far too often when investigators or less-actives come to church and they smell or don’t look like the other members, the members put up a sign saying “Visitors welcome, but not wanted.” This sign was not a physical sign they held up but rather a sign their attitude painted. Sometimes this would come from judgmental comments about the visitor’s looks or smells. For some, these comments cause them to go buy Sunday clothes and try to fit in more. But more often than that, it fills them with shame, causing them to not want to return. When this concern is brought up often members will reply “But they did not reach out!” I flatly reject this notion. It is not the job of the visitor to reach out, but that of the ward they are visiting to help them feel welcome and wanted. A story that illustrates this idea was shared recently (9/23/2018) when Elder Holland spoke in my Stake Conference. He shared the story from his youth of a young man from Southern Utah who was on a rival sports team. He explained that this man had reached out to Elder Holland 50 years later to share his story. See, this young man came from an abusive family. His dad was an alcoholic, and he beat his wife and kids. As the oldest son, he would try to stand up for his mom and siblings. Feeling overwhelmed he remembered that when he was a kid he was baptized, but his family had not been to church since then. He was never ordained to the Priesthood but he thought he could go to the Church for help. He gathered the courage and walked into Sacrament meeting wearing his grungy clothes and the very first thing a member told him was, “What are you doing here? Did you lose your game last night?” He left. He did not come back to church. Over the next 40 years, this man grew up, got married, became an alcoholic himself, ruined his marriage, and hurt his kids. Decades later he has come back to the Church and he was informing Elder Holland that he was being ordained a High Priest. But he admitted shame and regret for years lost. For never being able to talk to his grandsons about missions, or about blessing or passing the sacrament. Elder Holland continued, “I don’t know if that member was too young or old to understand, or maybe they just did not get what they were doing.” And then he charged us (he literally was shouting), NEVER, NEVER, NEVER!!! Never do anything like this where you will look back with regret!
“The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are greatly concerned over the well-being of every new and less-active member of the Church. no ward or branch council should allow a new convert to feel insecure in his newly embraced Church membership. And yet there are still too many of them who do not feel warmly welcomed.”
M. Russell Ballard