1. You might feel like you don’t fit in
Everyone wants to “fit in” and be accepted. As a new member you might worry because before you joined the church you lived a different life. You might worry that people will not be able to connect with you. Or that that you won’t have anything in common with others. There are three things that you need to remember in these circumstances:
- You have a new life. That’s right – a new life. One of the most important pieces of advice I have ever received as a new convert was from an older, life-long member. They said, “Why worry? Just enjoy your new life.”
- Its OK to have a past. I am very proud of mine as it has made me the person I am today, our experiences shape us, the mistakes we make define us. Every convert to the church will have that one truth which initially got them interested in the Gospel. This lead them to talk to the missionaries, and be baptized. Without your past that might not have happened.
- People in the Church have pasts too. No one is perfect! By worrying about this, you are judging others and holding them to unrealistic exceptions.
2. You will make mistakes
So you clapped inappropriately, turned up to an event in Church dress and everyone is dressed in jeans, sat in the wrong class. These things happen. In fact, all of these things have happened to me at some point. It’s embarrassing at the time, but does it really matter? The Church can be a very difficult place to navigate – it has its own language and culture. You WILL make mistakes, just laugh about it and move on.
3. You will have to make decisions
We use our agency to make decisions all the time. Once you join the church you’ll find you have to consider things from a Gospel perspective, and that can be daunting. At your baptism you were given the gift of the Holy Ghost. So, if you’re unsure about something, pray about it. Just be aware that you either might need to be patient for an answer or that Heavenly Father’s plan and yours might differ somewhat. Also don’t be frightened to ask for advice from someone you trust or, if it’s a big decision, a leader in your ward. People are happy that you have joined the Church and want to help.
4. Don’t force yourself to do things
Joining the Church is supposed to be a joyous occasion, but sometimes we can force ourselves to do things we are not comfortable with and this can turn joyous into anxious. Part of the Gospel is learning and progressing, but if something is making you stressed and uncomfortable, that’s OK. When I first joined the Church I found having visiting and home teaching very intrusive. My visiting and home teachers were very respectful and patient with me and now I love having them in my home and consider them close friends. Just be patient with yourself – no one is perfect.
5. You will need a support network
Having friends in the Church has been an amazing blessing to me. They have helped me through rough times, talked to me about the Gospel, and sometimes it’s just great to spend time with people who have the same outlook in life that you do. Making friends can be hard though. What I did was attend everything: all ward events, Relief Society, the Stake Choir, etc. I even invited people to events and over for dinner to get to know them better. But make sure you don’t put on a persona. True friends will love you for yourself!
6. You need to work at your testimony
There is so much information out there about the church that, as a new convert, can seem overwhelming and confusing. But often the most simple answer is the most effective. There is a reason why most official church publications tell you to pray and read your scriptures. That’s because they are the most effective ways to strengthen your faith. Developing a relationship with Heavenly Father through prayer has been an amazing blessing in my life. However, it has not always been easy for someone who is used to praying to saints and saying rote prayers. Having questions is fine, too! I’ve found that asking someone face-to-face is always better than Google, though – you can explain yourself much better.
7. The Gospel is the ideal
I can remember sitting in Gospel Principles and being so overwhelmed. “I can never live up to these standards” I thought. Or, “my life isn’t like that” or “my family haven’t been sealed so that isn’t applicable to me”. Just know that the truth isn’t always applicable to a lot of other people in the Church, either. God has high standards and the things you will read and discuss in Church are the ideal. Heavenly Father can see everyone’s heart. He knows how hard you are trying and how much you want the ideal – even if right now it seems that it’s something which will never happen. You just need to have faith that eventually everything will work out and this will get easier, the longer you are in the church.