Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Monday, April 04, 2005

A Great Example of a Ward Welcoming Visitors

My family (wife and I plus our two younger boys) went to Mexico for spring break, arriving in Oaxaca, Mexico at about noon on Sunday, March 27 (two days later than planned due to serious overbooking by the airlines). The first thing we did after checking in to our little downtown hotel (Casa Cue) was to catch a taxi and head to a couple of local LDS churches in hopes of finding services to attend. Our second try was a success: the Antequra Ward, where we caught the tail end of sacrament meeting and then attended Sunday School. We were delighted at how warm the members were. Over a dozen people came to shake hands and greet us. During Sunday School, after I tried to answer a question in my poor Spanish, a beautiful 5-year-old girl came over to me and handed me the note shown below from her mother, and then the cute little girl gave me a kiss on the cheek with a delightful smile. My wife got a kiss from her, too. The sister who wrote the note to us later chatted with us for a while and just went out of her way to make us feel welcome.


A note we received during Sunday School from a sweet Mexican LDS woman in the Anteqera Ward of Oaxaca, Mexico. The note says something like, "Welcome to our Antequera Ward. We hope that you will feel just as happy as we do at having you present here. With much love, Sister Veronica and daughter."

OK, I'm not suggesting that you need to send your children around to kiss strangers that walk in the door - I would frankly discourage that in most cases - but my point is that the courtesy and warmth the members of that small ward showed to us as total strangers left a strong impression. If I were going to be living in that area, it would be hard not to want to go back. How wonderful it is to be welcomed by people who genuinely seem to care.

On the other hand, once I attended a ward in a wealthy part of California where I went out of my way to give people a chance to greet me, but was almost completely ignored. As a test, I stood by the doors at the end of sacrament meeting to see how many people would just walk by the stranger on their way out, and I don't think a single person stopped to greet me or inquire if I was moving in or anything. Maybe they often had too many visitors to deal with (but it was not a tourist area), or maybe I looked too familiar and not like a stranger, but I certainly left with little desire to ever be part of that ward. If I had been an investigator or less active member, that kind of treatment could have been devastating.

The little things we do make a difference. I hope we will all go out of our way to look around and reach out a little more to those around us, especially to the strangers and newcomers and weak ones in our midst. A pound of preaching might do far less than an ounce of simple human kindness.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry for your experience in California. I live in Southern California and I think that it must be part of the culture of people here (and other parts of the country). There is a quote and I can not remember by who but it says that there are no strangers only friends that you haven't met (or something to that effect)but here not only are you a stranger, you aren't even considered a brother or sister. Our family visited another ward in Big Bear California one Sunday, not one person said hello to us, in fact they seemed to go out of their way to ignore us. I remember sitting in Sunday school and in the lesson the teacher was talking about the women who was crying at the Lord's feet and drying his feet with her hair. It was an open discussion so I made a comment, The teacher tried his hardest to not make eye contact with me. He did not say anything to me after I commented. He just went on. After class I commented to my husband that it was a good thing that we were not investigators. This one sister over heard what I said and she came up to us and started talking to us as if we were not members. I said, no that we were memebers and she then got very embarassed. I didn't talk to her again after that. We are in the military so we've been to a lot of different wards and it concerns me how inconsiderate and unfriendly members can be towards visitors. It makes me wonder if this is how the members of the church fell away in the book of Mormon times. When they got "puffed up" with pride in their hearts. I think a lot of members are becomming this way, you don't have to look any further than the parking lot on Sundays. Just looking at the parking lot full of large SUVs. Watching people talking on cell phones at church. Looking down their noses at investigators who come to church not "dressed according to standards". Eyebrows were raised about the Martha Beck fiasco a month or so ago, they don't need to worry about what she has to say. All they would need to do is walk into a sacrament meeting on any given Sunday! This has probably discouraged more non members and less active members than the Beck book ever could. Don't get me wrong, I'm not bashing the church or the gospel, these are perfect. I'm just saying we all could learn a thing or two from members outside of the U.S.

Bro. Brandon B. said...

Hmmm... sounds like someone needs to be reminded of our council to continue "perfecting the saints". Anyway, my folks vacation every summer in up-state NY at Lake George. Last summer (my first vacation as a newly-baptized LDS) my now-wife came with us all and on Sunday we borrowed a telephone book to look up where the closest ward building was, I don't remember the name but the service and members were a joy! I will never forget the talk from a member who was clearly less on the traditional intelligence scale, but abundantly more blessed in his understanding of Christ's love than most I've met. After sacrament, we even got tips from members as to good hiking spots that were not tourist-y. I guess all I can say is this year I can't wait to visit again. Score one for the NY Saints!

Steakburger said...

Then again, maybe that woman in Mexico is simply a Metlife agent hoping so sell you some insurance.

Just kidding, smile, smile. hehe.

Down here in Texas, you'll find some of the friendliest wards in the Church.

Mormanity said...

The California experience (Orange County) stood out because it was rather unusual. Most wards I've attended while traveling have been very friendly. Utah wards have usually been great, for example. I particularly remember a ward in a small town west of Nashville (Morristown??) where I went away regretting that I didn't have more time to socialize with the members, accept invitations to dinners, and so forth - such warm, friendly people.

I do think I've seen a correlation between affluence and hospitality. I'm usually treated much better by the humble and the poor than by the wealthy, but there are plenty of exceptions. There are warm and Christlike wealthy people in the Church, too.

Capt Jack said...

If there was ever anything that would bring me back to the Church, it would be a note like the one the little girl gave you.

Most of my relatives are Spanish speaking Mormons, and I can tell you that your experience is the rule rather than the exception in their wards.

Nathan said...

I enjoy being welcomed in the wards I have attended and I also enjoy welcoming others and introducing myself. But I think it unfortunate when people highlight how wonderful a ward was based on whether someone actively said hi to them, or more unfortunate pointing out its deficiency to do so.

If you want people to be friendly to you, be friendly yourself-the onus isn't solely on those with the home advantage. Perhaps the same sociality we enjoy here (and in heaven) is that which we create.

Anonymous said...

The people with the "home field advatage"? Gee when ever some one visits you at your house, do you expect them to be the one to show hospitality? I come from the Aloha state and I'm a member of the church, so to be kind to strangers is ingrained in you from the time you're little. Remember, Christ said "I was a stranger, and ye took me in... the righteous said, when saw we thee a stranger and took thee in?... verily I say unto you , Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethern, ye have done it unto me." We all are not perfect especially me, but I think this is a real problem with in the church. In fact in our own ward a sister who is a recent convert brought her sister to church one Sunday. No one said anything to her, not a hello or anything. The next Sunday her sister, our ward member came back to church and was in tears and said that her sister didn't want to come again because she didn't feel welcomed. I was so ASHAMED of myself for not saying something to her. But I have determined to try harder to say hello to everyone now.

Nathan said...

It just may be there is a problem in the church, especially when even members who are visiting another ward won't say hello unless spoken to first. "anonymous" clearly missed the first sentence of my post.

Of course I extend hospitality to those who visit my home! Of course we greet all those around us! But to sit back in judgement saying "No one is saying hello to me, what's wrong with this church/ward/branch" is just as contrary to turning away the stranger as Christ's sermon on the mount wherein he states:

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them

Or earlier in the same sermon:

Judge not that ye be not Judged...And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?... first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye

And again Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.


Or one might apply to our discussion: Say hello and you will be greeted. Introduce yourself and you will be welcomed in. Greet others and you will find a new friend.

I believe we are saying the same thing differently, we both think that we should be Christlike within the Church, I just maintain that this applies whether we are visiting abroad, in our home ward, or even newly baptized, thou certainly the onus is on those with a greater knowledge of light and truth and ability to employ it.

I loved how the Hawaiin ward we attended constantly said Aloha throughout sacrament meeting, it was warming and inviting to participate in their services.
Your determination can only help things get better!

Anonymous said...

Nathan,
First let me say ALOHA to you. I'm the sista from Hawaii. I'm not trying to judge other people. I am just pointing out that there is a problem. I also include myself in this as well. You have made some very valid points. It was never my intention to offend you, and if I have done so please, let me apologize. I was not trying get into a beef with anyone. Part of fixing a problem is admitting that there is one. And you're right we are both trying to say the same thing, that we all need to be more Christ-like.
Don't you agree though that it is very hard for some people to be outgoing? That there are those who may have been inactive for a while and coming back to church is hard for them, and that they may have a hard time walking around introducing themselves. I know I did when I was coming back to church after being inactive for a number of years. I was dealing with a lot of shame and guilt and feelings of being unworthy to be among the members. I felt as though I was not even worthy to be in the presence of these faithful saints who themselves had never gone astray, here they were enduring to the end and I went off of the path. See, when you've been inactive in the church and you first come back, that is how you view all of the members of the ward that you are coming back to. Right or Wrong. Luckily for me, I didn't have to go around and introduce myself too much in that ward, there was this really kind sister.