During the six years following my excommunication, I had moved many times. A young, persistent bishop encouraged me to stay in his ward for two years to "establish and activate" myself. During that time, he, his wife and their five children "adopted" me into their family. I shared family home evenings and other special events with them. This bishop called me to sing in the ward choir and to participate as a director of a stake play. His wife often brought me baked goods and produce from their family garden. The children wrote notes and made special efforts to seek me out at Church meetings.
Several months before my baptismal date, this family moved to another city in another state. They continued to call and write. The day before my baptism, the bishop made a special trip, flying some 1,300 miles in winter weather to perform that ordinance.Among the number of letters he, his wife and their children have sent me in the last year is a recent one supporting my request to have my priesthood blessings restored. This busy father, bishop and business executive and his family found the time to bring me into their family circle and to encourage my activity. This interest and support continued long after they had moved a great distance from me. - Name withheld, Ontario, Calif.
How we did it:
Show you truly care
Let them know they're not alone. Friends don't need to say a lot - just smile or pat them on the back. I know. I have had the support of ward members. I feel I've developed a stronger testimony and hope to be a stronger person in the long run. Go up to that special person, put your arm around him and say, "I truly care and we'll get through this together." - Blaine R. Solum, Georgetown, Idaho
`Seek me out'
What helps the most is to have people seek me out to greet me, show concern or offer encouragement. It's heartening to have someone sit by me in Church, stop by my house or just telephone me. "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." (James 5:19-20.) - Deon Jacobson, Byron, Wyo.
Nearly everyone, the bishop, visiting and home teachers, and the gospel doctrine teacher sought, received and followed inspiration regarding my needs. I was a single mother of teenage children, and the ward's love and support for me and my children made my disfellowship more of a fellowshipping process. Today I'm a ward Relief Society president who knows I wouldn't be where I am without the unconditional love of my ward. - Name withheld, Joseph City, Ariz.
Receive visits monthly
Since my excommunication, three families from my old ward have stood by me. My bishop here has been supportive of my spiritual needs, and I have wonderful home teachers and members of the elders quorum presidency who visit me monthly in prison. I also have received encouragement from the Brethren in Salt Lake City. A family has sent me the Church publications and other friends regularly remember me in their prayers. - James P. Schmidt, Jessup, Md.
Don't treat differently
The following are some ways we can ehlp:
- Don't treat them differently than before.
- Don't avoid sensitive topics in their presence.
- Involve them in activities in which they can participate, such as firesides and welfare projects.
- Show support to all members of their family.
- Make sure persons in positions of responsibility are aware of their circumstances and don't call on them to do what they are not permitted to do. - C. Russell Nickel, Seattle, Wash.
Don't judge them
Don't judge them. Don't question why or how. Give them extra fellowshipping until and after they've progressed enough to not feel quite so inadequate and lost. - Judy Wolter, Lafayette, Ind.
Prayer biggest help
The biggest helps in my struggle to return to the gospel were prayer and the steps of repentance. After 30 years of inactivity, I struggled to believe the Lord could ever forgive me. After soul searching and repentance, and encouragement from a loving wife and family, much scripture reading, learning to give of myself and humbling myself, the spirit returned. - Ward Cottrell, Upland, Calif.
Look for good qualities
Look for the good in them, praising talents and encouraging progress. Don't condone the sin, but let them know that none of us is exempt from making mistakes. Also tell them they are of worth to our Heavenly Father and have much potential. The road may not be easy, but repentatnce is sweet. Even if they disassociated themselves from the Church, they still need support and respect. - Name withheld, Salt Lake City, Utah
No place for gossip
There is no place for gossip, and the whys, wheres and the whos should not be asked. Treat them as you would want to be treated. It's such a lost and lonely feeling. Without encouragement, they may never come back. - Kay Chatterton, Clearfield, Utah
Share your testimony
I'm 12, and try to help by bearing my testimony to the person. Also show love, no matter how you feel. I promise it will have the strongest effect. - Janice Whitaker, Fallon, Nev.
Didn't affect friendship
When I told a close friend about my excommunication, he said, "I hope this doesn't change our friendship." If he could still love me despite what happened, I thought, I could do everything possible to repent and return. I set a goal and, as it neared, another close friend living 600 miles away, advised me of the first step I needed to take. He asked that I call him collect after completing that step. I later called him collect, and he gave me the second step. This continued through every step. He led me back one step at a time, so the process of returning to the Church didn't seem so overwhelming. - Name withheld, Salem, Ore.
Don't ask questions
True friends and family didn't ask questions or try to guess reasons, but gave love, support and prayers without judging. They supported and cared for the one excommunicated and the family - because the family feels the pain as well. Support shouldn't stop after a day or month, but must continue for years until the person is baptized again. Remember not the past, because the price has been paid. - Name withheld, Georgia.
How to checklist:
1 Don't judge, gossip or ask personal questions.
2 Support, compliment, visit, and encourage them.
3 Involve them in activities in which they can participate.
4 Be accessible for support, so they know they're not alone.
WRITE TO US:
March 5 "How to identify a spiritual prompting."
March 12 "How to draw closer as a family through family home evening."
March 19 "How to develop self-reliance and independence."
March 26 "How to improve the quality of your life."
April 2 "How to store important records."
April 16 "How to make time for exercise."
April 23 "How to raise a useful garden, especially with limited space."
April 30 "How to make Mother's Day memorable for your mother."
May 7 "How to grow old with a pleasant, positive disposition."
May 14 "How to prepare for natural or financial disasters."
Have you had 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. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.