Every Convert a Great and Serious Responsibility

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Friendship

Putting an arm of friendship around new members and easing them through a major adjustment period as they become active members of the Church has been a major emphasis during the five years President Gordon B. Hinckley has presided over the Church.

"It is not an easy thing to become a member of this Church," he said during the priesthood session of the April 1997 general conference. "In most cases it involves setting aside old habits, leaving old friends and associations, and stepping into a new society which is different and somewhat demanding."With the ever-increasing number of converts, we must make an increasingly substantial effort to assist them as they find their way. Every one of them needs three things: a friend, a responsibility and nurturing with 'the good word of God.' "

To emphasize his point, President Hinckley told a personal experience of a young man he baptized while serving a mission in the British Isles.

"I felt he had all of the qualifications [to] someday. . . become a leader among our people," President Hinckley said.

The young man was in the course of making "the big adjustment from convert to member when he was given a small responsibility in the London Branch."

"He knew nothing of what was expected of him. He made a mistake. The head of the organization where he served was. . . short on love and strong on criticism.

"In a rather unmerciful way, he went after my friend who had made the simple mistake.

"The young man left our rented hall that night smarting and hurt by his superior officer. He said to himself, 'If that is the kind of people they are, then I am not going back.' "

He drifted into inactivity. Over the years, after losing contact with him, President Hinckley learned of his location and wrote letters. "I went out of my way to find the village where he lived," President Hinckley said, describing a trip to Switzerland. "We spent the better part of the day together. . . but it was evident that the fire of faith had long since died.

"I tried every way I knew, but I could not find a way to rekindle it," said President Hinckley, describing his efforts to bring this man and his wife into the Church.

"He died a few months ago. His wife wrote to inform me. She said, 'You were the best friend he ever had.'

"Tears coursed my cheeks when I read that letter," he said. "I knew I had failed. I have only one comfort: I tried. I have only one sorrow: I failed.

"The challenge now is greater than it has ever been because the number of converts is greater than we have ever before known. A program for retaining and strengthening the convert will soon go out to all the Church. I plead with you, brethren; I ask of you, each of you, to become a part of this great effort. Every convert is a son or daughter of God. Every convert is a great and serious responsibility.

"This is a work for everyone. It is a work for home teachers and visiting teachers. It is a work for the bishopric, for the priesthood quorums, for the Relief Society, the young men and young women, even the Primary. . . . Your sense of responsibility is needed."