Welcoming and Fellowshipping Others

Welcoming and Fellowshipping Others

When we talk about Fellowshipping, what are we really talking about?

We are talking about showing love, real Christ like love, to each other and to our fellowman. And isn’t that what the gospel and living the gospel is all about? Love? We are told ‘…God is love.’ (1 John 4:8)

As Latter-day Saints we share beliefs that are different than other Christian denomination in the world. While we know these beliefs come from God, they also bind us and separate us from the rest of the world.

-We believe that we are the literal children of loving heavenly parents, a mother and a father.

-We believe that God the Father and Jesus Christ have physical bodies of flesh and bones.

-We believe in eternal families and marriages.

-We believe that if we fully accept the gospel and its ordinances, repent and seek to follow Christ we can one day be in fact Gods ourselves.

Those are pretty amazing beliefs and they unify us and help to make us one. That is in fact what we seek to be as a people. We seek to be one. We are commanded, “…I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.” (Doctrine & Covenants 38:27)

Where do we learn how to be a united people? Where do we learn to ‘BE ONE’? Where do we find this example of perfect fellowship, this perfect ward or stake who love each other, fellowship each other and are welcoming?

The answer, as always, can be found in the scriptures. We refer to our stakes in the Church as Stakes of Zion and it is in the scriptural example of Zion that we can learn what we must become as a people. “And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” (Moses 7:18).
Zion Photo

Isn’t this what we are trying to become as a people? A Zion people? If we are, we must come to be of one heart and one mind. Now that may sound like a very tall order. I struggle with obtaining that kind of unity even within my family. But if we are truly seeking to be disciples of Christ then that is the Lord’s expectation for us. Now in case you feel a bit overwhelmed with this expectation I’ll remind you that it took Enoch 365 years to get to the point where his people were so righteous they could be translated.

So if we are going to be a Zion people we must truly come to love each other. Where do we start? Well home teaching and visiting teaching are ways we come to know each other. What do we know about those families? Are we seeking to really know them or is it just an assignment? Do we look for opportunities to serve them and help them? Do we know their needs? Their birthdays, their health concerns, their struggles? What are we doing outside of our assigned responsibilities to come to really know each other?

When my wife and I first moved to a new ward some 27 years ago we really felt like outsiders. We did not feel welcomed and we felt outside of the circle that was the ward. So as my wife and I talked about our feelings we decided to do something about it. We started a tradition of inviting people over for dinner. If a new family moved into the ward, we invited them over at the earliest opportunity. In this way we built a deep and meaningful relationship with the new members of the ward and also filled our own need to feel a part of the ward.

My favorite story of inviting a family for dinner happened long before we moved. Thirty-five years ago my wife and I were married. That meant leaving our Young Adult Ward in Edmonton and going to the dreaded ‘Adult Ward.’ The first week in the family ward a young couple our age sat down beside us. Chris and Mina Miller were newly married too and, as it turned out, lived very near us. We immediately invited them for dinner.
Zion Photo

They came for dinner the following Sunday after church. As we approached the door of our small apartment a billow of smoke greeted us. I had set the timer on the stove to stop cooking dinner hours before we arrived home, but we had never used the stove timer and it didn’t work. We turned off the smoke alarm and the oven, scraped the black off of the ham, cooked some more potatoes (this was before the days of microwaves) and sat down to a barely edible meal. We created a great memory which none of us will ever forget and created a bond that remains today.

Those are the kinds of relationships we can build in our ward and in our stake. Those are the kind of relationships that go so much deeper than just fellowship. Those are relationships “of one heart and one mind”.

Now I’d like to suggest another level of love and fellowship and welcome. What about those in our ward who we might see as different than us? Those from different races and cultures? What about those who suffer from a variety of syndromes and health difficulties. What are we doing to reach out to them? Do we seek to avoid them because we are uncomfortable around them or, with ‘Christlike Love’, do we reach out to lift them, to help them and to bless their lives? How did Christ treat those suffering? Yes, he had the power to heal them, but we have the power to help heal their hearts as we look for opportunities to befriend them and reach out to these special children of God.

It is very much my desire to live in Zion. Is that your desire too? If it is, we have the opportunity to create a Zion, a real Zion right here in our own stakes and wards. To be Zion we must be of one heart. Will you decide from this day forth to follow the Saviours command to be one and reach out to those around you in love and fellowship?

In perhaps the most beautiful prayer ever recorded in scripture the Saviour gave what has come to be known as the Great Intercessory Prayer. In it he prays for his twelve disciples, and not only for them, but also as he says, “... for those which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us:…” (John 17:20-21). That’s you and I. In those few words He made clear how the Gospel of Jesus Christ can allow hearts to be made one.
Zion Photo

He who gave his life for us, also prayed for us, that we might be one; that we might love one another. It is my prayer that we will seek to be one, that we will seek to love each other and to serve each other and to come to know each other, and that together we will seek to build our own Zion.