When I was young, going to church wasn’t really a priority for me. I didn’t dislike it while I was there, but I would rather be sitting home either sleeping in or playing video games. I went off and on, but I think you could have considered me “inactive.” I was in denial, and I remember when one of my friends brought it up, I strongly denied it.
It wasn’t until just after I turned 18 that I decided to really make an effort to go to church. I wanted to serve a mission, so I worked hard to get my life together so I could go. I was able to leave a few months after my 19th birthday and enjoyed serving in the Argentina Resistencia mission. After returning home, I fell into the same rut as before and slowly became less and less active until I reached inactivity once again.
Then, one day my (now) fiancee moved in next door, and she inspired me to get back on my feet. I found it very difficult to get myself up and moving in the right direction. It was just so comfortable to sit at home instead of going to three long hours of church on Sunday. I could play games all day and get everything done that I didn’t do during the week. But, I liked her and thought to myself, “If I want to date her, I’m going to have to be a better person.”
So, I started working and was able to eventually get back to where I am today. I share this story so you know that you’re not alone. It’s really hard to come back to church, and it’s just as hard to shift into Mormon culture when you’re newly baptized. I’ve laid out five simple things that helped me become active, and I think they’ll help you too.
1. Read One Scripture Per Day
Gospel Library is one of the greatest blessings we have. We’ve got access to more gospel knowledge than anyone has ever had before. Thinking about it now, it’s astounding how little I find my finger straying to the gospel library button on my home screen and instead tapping on Pokémon Go. When I was struggling with becoming active, I made a goal to read one verse every day. So when I went to bed I popped open my gospel library, clicked a random scripture, and read it.
Doing so helped me keep a connection with the Lord through the words of the prophets that are written in the scriptures. Some days were harder than others to remember exactly what I had read, but other times I would find myself reading something that related exactly to what I was dealing with at the time. Eventually the one-scripture-per-day habit became two and then a page and then a chapter. While I’m still not perfect, I’m grateful that I am able to at least read one thing from the scriptures daily.
2. Start Out Small
This is going to be a hard pill for some to swallow, but here goes.
You don’t have to do it all at once.
Crazy, right? In my experience, I found it hard to go to Priesthood Meeting and Sunday School. It just seemed like there wasn’t anything else to learn — I was definitely wrong, by the way. So, I stopped going and as I mentioned above, eventually didn’t attend any Sunday meetings.
So, I made another goal to make it through the Sacrament. Not the entire meeting, mind you, just the ordinance. The first few times were really hard because I knew that I hadn’t been choosing the right. I felt guilty about not having gone and forsaking my covenants.
Eventually, however, it became easier and easier, until one day I made it through the whole meeting. I kept building my goal from there, and today I can proudly say I stay for all three hours of regular meetings at church.
Some of you might be thinking, “I can’t take the Sacrament so what’s the point?” The point is to be there. Nobody attending church is perfect and it’s surprising to note that a lot of people have really crummy things going on in their lives. But, as you attend church, the Spirit can touch you in ways you don’t know you’re missing out on until you’ve felt them.
3. Pray Every Night for One Minute
Prayer can be really hard sometimes. There are days that I’ve felt unworthy to pray and other times that I’ve felt silly to be doing so. However, prayer is extremely important in the process of strengthening ourselves and our testimony.
Keeping a consistent connection with Heavenly Father through prayer helped me leaps and bounds in the struggle to continue forward when I had stumbled on the path of faith. Setting a goal to pray every night was extremely crucial to my return.
I set the goal to pray every night. It was uncomfortable at times, and other times I forgot to do it. But, after reinforcing the habit through trial and error, I was able to continue praying and received several meaningful answers from the Lord. I can honestly say that prayer has changed my life.
For those of you who are just converting to the Church, remember that you’re talking to a Father who loves you. He’s spoken with you before and wants to continue to do so. I can promise that as you practice prayer, you’ll feel closer and closer to Heavenly Father.
4. Write In a Journal for Five Minutes Every Day
There’s something deeply therapeutic about writing down your own life story. Even further, looking at a testimony written by your own hand can be much more convincing than memories in your own head. Journals are meant to be written, read, and then re-read. There’s a reason the Lord has asked us to write in journals every day.
Pouring your soul onto the page is a very beautiful way to see and read your own testimony. Throughout the scriptures we see the prophets pour their souls onto the page and speak of that which was difficult for them. Your journal doesn’t have to be public, maybe it’s something you write for yourself and once you pass to the next life, leave instructions in your will to destroy it.
The most important thing to remember about journals is to look through them after you’ve finished. I feel like I’m pounding this nail pretty hard on the head, but I can’t re-iterate enough how good I’ve felt when I have read things written by my own hand.
5. Look for Small Ways to Serve Others
Service is the ultimate connector. Something new converts and returning members share is that they need to connect with people. When I was trying to come back to church, service helped me break the ice with other members of the ward and grow closer to them.
There’s a special spirit that we invite when we’re serving others as well. I know that as I’ve served, I’ve felt more connected to not only the people I serve with, but also to the people I serve and those who serve me. It doesn’t have to be some large service project either. It can be something as simple as helping them with groceries or telling them that they left their headlights on.
What are your stories? What has helped you adjust to a new Mormon lifestyle after your baptism? For those of you who have come back or are currently returning to the Church, what helps you keep moving forward? What would you have liked others to know or have done to make the transition easier? Leave your answers in the comments!