One of the main reasons I stayed active in the Church as a new member was because of the loving-kindness and fellowship I felt by many of its members. I came from such a different background. My faith in the church I had come from was weak, but my life was framed around its culture and practices. It’s all I knew and all we lived in our home. At age 19, I became the only member of my family to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although I had been welcomed beautifully, I could feel that I was different from the others. In many ways, I felt alone because I didn’t have much in common with them in terms of religion and background.
I have two experiences to share that will help you understand how important it was to have felt included and loved in a place that was so foreign and new to me.
First, as I had mentioned above, I felt warmly welcomed when I was baptized. I had received several dinner invitations and had made friends that were kind-hearted and thoughtful toward me. Many of the young single adults appeared to have been happy to include me in their activities. For the most part, I had begun to feel like family…like this was home to me.
As in any situation…home, work, school… there are always those very few people that for, whatever the reason, can be difficult and can make people feel a little peculiar, neglected, and lonesome. That was the case with me. Luckily, it wasn’t many people, but those who were like that sure did make things challenging for me, and although I didn’t question my faith, I did at times feel negatively centered out and misunderstood; therefore making it difficult to progress in the gospel.
I remember one time in Relief Society having one sister point out the many negative characteristics of a particular culture. I happened to have grown up in that culture and was the only one in our ward and stake who had. Everyone knew it, and everyone was stunned by what was being said in my presence…especially since the sister had stained an entire culture based on one woman she had worked with that she disliked. It was such a horrible, sad, and uncomfortable situation and I had left the room crying and swore I would never return.
Yes, I did return. But mainly because of the kindness and compassion of other members who were thoughtful and made a conscious effort to help me to feel like I was not only loved but an essential part of the ward family. This truly helped me carry on and appreciate the friendships that I did make. It also helped my desire to learn more about the Church to grow tremendously as I felt the joys of living the gospel.
This is why I love this article. I have lived it and know how imperative it is to help everyone feel included and loved. It is our duty as members of the Church to love everybody and respect their differences and choices. ~Emilia Julian
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another”.
When we look around our wards and branches, we see people who seem to fit in easily. What we don’t realize is that even among those who seem to fit in, there are many who feel left out. One study, for example, found that nearly half of adults in the United States report feeling lonely, left out, or isolated from others.
It’s important to feel included. It’s a fundamental human need, and when we feel excluded, it hurts. Being left out can produce feelings of sadness or anger.2 When we don’t feel like we belong, we tend to look for a place where we are more comfortable. We need to help everyone feel that they belong at church.
The Savior was the perfect example of valuing and including others. When He chose His Apostles, He didn’t pay attention to status, wealth, or lofty profession. He valued the Samaritan woman at the well, testifying to her of His divinity in spite of how the Jews looked down on Samaritans (see John 4). He looks on the heart and is no respecter of persons (see 1 Samuel 16:7; Doctrine and Covenants 38:16, 26).The Savior said:“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34–35).
Sometimes it’s hard to tell if someone feels like they are on the outside. Most people don’t say it—at least not so clearly. But with a loving heart, the guidance of the Holy Ghost, and an effort to be aware, we can recognize when someone doesn’t feel included at Church meetings and activities.Possible Signs Someone Feels Excluded:
- Closed body language, such as arms folded tightly or eyes downcast.
- Sitting in the back of the room or sitting alone.
- Not attending church or attending irregularly.
- Leaving meetings or activities early.
- Not participating in conversations or lessons.
These may be signs of other emotions too, such as shyness, anxiety, or being uncomfortable. Members can feel “different” when they are new members of the Church, are from another country or culture, or have experienced a recent traumatic life change, such as divorce, death of a family member, or early return from a mission. Regardless of the reason, we shouldn’t hesitate to reach out in love. What we say and what we do can create a feeling that all are welcome and all are needed.