- I believe we members do not have the option to extend the hand of fellowship only to relatives, close friends, certain Church members, and those selected nonmembers who express an interest in the Church. Limiting or withholding our fellowship seems to me to be contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Missionaries put a great deal of effort into finding, teaching, and bringing people to Christ. It is our responsibility to nourish those new testimonies as they enter the church and continue along the path of discipleship.
- Brothers and sisters, we must ever keep in mind the time, effort, and other resources that missionaries and others spend to find and teach one of our Father’s children. Surely, every one of us ought to be alert, looking for ways to be of service to the newcomer. We might ask ourselves how the newcomers in our wards would be treated if we were the only ones they ever met. Every member of the Church should foster the attributes of warmth, sincerity, and love for the newcomers, as the missionaries are taught to do.
We each can play a role in the conversion process by making our wards a place to feel comfort and a place that all people feel welcome.
- Brothers and sisters, we members must help with the conversion process by making our wards and branches friendly places, with no exclusivity, where all people feel welcome and comfortable. You bishops have been given many who can help you foster fellowship. Teach the children, youth, and adults that being warm and friendly are Christlike qualities. In your ward council meetings, consider ways to improve the feeling of fellowship in your ward. Be sure the missionaries introduce you to every investigator before he or she is baptized.
Elder Ballard gives some advice on how to make the ward more welcoming.
- Assign someone to greet at the doors, paying special attention to newcomers and guests. On occasion, use priesthood and Relief Society meetings to teach home and visiting teachers how to fellowship all who live within the ward. Take advantage of the flexibility you have in using high priests and stake and full-time missionaries to lead the less active and new converts into full fellowship. In the true spirit of shepherding, bishoprics can help create a friendly atmosphere by mingling with members when they are gathering together.
We need to focus on these things now so new members feel welcome and people investigating the church will want to know more because of the genuine love and support they feel from members of the church.
- Brothers and sisters, my message is urgent because we need to retain in full fellowship many more of the new converts and return to activity many more of the less active. I urge you to increase the spirit of friendship and pure Christian fellowship in your neighborhoods. A new convert or recently activated member should feel the warmth of being wanted and being welcomed into full fellowship of the Church. Members and leaders of the Church should nurture and love them as Jesus would.
Whether a person is interested in the church or not, we should show our hand of friendship, love, and support. To follow the Savior, we need to treat all of God's children with genuine love and show our Christian faith through our actions.
- We need to reach out and extend our friendship to others regardless of whether they are interested in the gospel or not. We must not be too selective in identifying those we feel are worthy or appreciative of our attention. The spirit of true Christian fellowship must include everyone.
Our friendships should extend to people everywhere, not just within our circle of friends and family.
- We should extend our love far beyond family, close friends, and fellow members of the Church. Our hearts should be open to everyone.
It is our obligation as disciples of Christ to show love for all of God's children. Truly, we must show the love of Christ in our action and help others find Christ through us.
- As disciples of Christ, we need to feel genuine charity for one another. As we do, new light will come into our own lives. This charity is essential in missionary work, but we must never allow ourselves to treat our neighbors only as potential converts. We have had the sad experience of seeing members of the Church who attempted to convert their neighbors and friends and, when they did not respond, withdrew their friendship and neighborliness. We must not be so anxious to share the gospel that we become insensitive to the feelings of others.
Elder Ballard offers some final words of encouragement to each of us.
- I encourage you to build personal, meaningful relationships with your nonmember friends and acquaintances. Interest in the gospel may come later as a natural extension of a good friendship. Invitations to participate in gospel-related activities often will strengthen relationships with acquaintances. If they are not interested in the gospel, we should show unconditional love through acts of service and kindness, and never imply that we see an acquaintance only as a potential convert. Members must understand that when a nonmember declines one invitation to investigate the gospel, he has not necessarily rejected the gospel.
To be a disciple of Christ, we need to show His love towards all of His children. We cannot hope to have people come to Christ and remain in His presence if they feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, and unloved. It is our responsibility to help people feel genuine the love that God has for them. Whether a person accepts the gospel or not, our Christian duty is to love God's children and show them that God loves them through our actions. A disciple of Christ expresses the Saviors love in all they do and say. We can all be better disciples of Christ by showing genuine love and concern for those that are in the church and out of the church. Being a nice person because the of the blessings we have from the Savior will show in our actions if we let it. Today, let's show someone our testimony of the Savior by the way we treat them. Today, I challenge you to show someone your testimony, with any words.