Be a friend. That is probably the most important thing we could do to help our brothers and sisters who have fallen away from the gospel. When members of our ward choose not to come to Church it is our responsibility to help them and be their friend.
- Do not judge or criticize them. Isn't moral agency what we fought for in the pre-mortal life? We might not know the greater reason for the absence of those who are less-active. Something could have happened to them or a family member that made them think they needed some space to think, or maybe something was said that caused ill feelings.- Invite them to Church and ward activities. However, if they make it clear they are not interested, still be their friend.
- Let them see the happiness you have by living active in the Church. The 11th Article of Faith says we allow men the right to worship (live) according to the dictates of their own conscience, and unfortunately we have to allow some people to find out for themselves that the Church is worth their time, and that they do have a testimony. They just forgot it was there.
But with living the right way, we strengthen each other and the weak, and we can all live with the true happiness that comes from the gospel. - Teri Bledsoe, Lompoc, Calif.
How we did it:
I am a missionary serving in the Korea Seoul Mission, and I find the best ways to help those who are less-active are example and friendship. Missionaries here in Korea focus a lot on helping those who are less-active.
I had one particular experience that really made me feel good. My companion, Elder Travis Dick, and I were regularly visiting a member who has been less-active for about four or five years. In the time we visited him, which was once every week, we made it a goal to keep him the center of attention. When we talked we asked all about him, then listened to his replies. We found our relationship turning into a friendship, and before long he started to attend Church. One Fast Sunday, he bore his testimony, and this is one of the things he said: "Because I have made two friends who showed a good example and made me feel good, I realize that Church is where I need to be."
The key words in his testimony were "friends" and "example." I realized that these two steps are very valuable in helping those who are less-active. I'm sure that as members practice these two steps, those who are less-active can become active. - Elder Steven C. Dawson, Korea Seoul Mission
Making a difference
Keep in mind that people do not like to be "helped." It makes them feel inferior to the person who is "helping them."
Try to find a way that the less-active person can help you or someone else. Try to find something that the less-active person has a special interest or talent in. This will help to make the person feel that he or she is truly making a difference in someone's life. It will also create a new friendship. - Denis Nurmela, Sun City, Calif.
Recently, on the day of a very dear friend's funeral, I called a less-active man who had known this friend well and treasured the association a great deal. I asked him if he were planning to attend the funeral of our mutual friend. He told me he felt he would very much like to go, and so we agreed that I would pick him up and together we would go to our friend's funeral.
The funeral service was very inspirational. Following the service, my less-active friend invited me to have lunch with him so we could have a good visit together. This good man told me that going to a service like we had just attended made him feel deeply that he was missing something important in his life and sincerely wanted to get back to Church activity.
I suspect that a great many of us know people like this whose lives we could touch for the good if we would just reach out and show them friendship, kindness and caring. - Larry Lawlor, Orem, Utah
Looks for new faces
When I returned to Church, after 17 years of being less-active (from 17 to 34 years old), the most important conditions that made it bearable for me were unconditional acceptance and love. Although I allowed a visiting teacher to come, it was still a long time before I came to Church. Even when I moved to a nearby ward, she still came, leaving me some small idea to ponder each month. We became good friends. I was so afraid of being judged. It never happened. That first day stepping in the door was the scariest. I only knew a couple of people and didn't know where to go.
Since becoming very active five years ago, it has been my goal each Sunday to look for any new faces and make sure I welcome them, member or not. I visit less-active sisters as a visiting teacher and have found that building a caring friendship with them has been most successful. Even if they do not attend Church regularly, they have warm feelings about the gospel and a contact with the Church. In a nutshell, never be judgmental. Always show unconditional love and never give up on anyone. The worth of each soul is great in the eyes of the Lord. - Helen F. Turner, Grass Valley, Calif.
Many times when I have contacted those who are less-active for the first time through home teaching, I have heard them say, "I am not interested in the Church." I do not ask them why they are not interested. I merely say to them, "I understand your feelings, and even though you are not interested in the Church, I just want you to know that the Church is still interested in you. Because of that interest, I would like to know if I could come by your house once a month and make sure you are all right."
Very rarely have I ever been turned down, and quite often a conversation follows and a friendship begins. - Roger Bjork, Winter Haven, Fla.
Our ward includes a small rural community, and we do have some who are less-active. We try to include everyone in all the activities - community or Church-wise. Everyone is invited.
As home and visiting teachers we visit everyone, even the non-members. This is possible because we have such a small community. We include the community in our Church activities. This not only creates a unity but also makes those who are less-active feel a part of the Church.
I feel this helps others in the community - the less-active and non-members - realize we don't look down our noses. They can feel a part. - Brenda Tingey, Grays Lake, Idaho
How to checklist:
1 Be a friend to less-active; reach out, show an interest.
2 Be an example of the happiness the gospel can bring.
3 Don't judge or criticize; show love, kindness, acceptance.
4 Don't give up; realize the worth of each soul is great.
WRITE TO US:
May 13 "How to cope and find peace after the death of a child."
May 20 "How to find joy in work."
May 27 "How to turn trials into blessings."
June 3 "How to protect your home against evil influences."
June 10 "How to be tolerant of others' lifestyles without compromising your standards."
June 17 "How to become a greater asset at your place of employment."
Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, or send fax to (801) 237-2121. Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.