Increase fellowshipping to match Church growth

Improve fellowshipping skills

Be aware of newcomer's discomfort- Be there to lift, support

With the "explosive unfolding of the Lord's work . . . we all have to improve our fellowshipping skills," said Elder Carl B. Pratt of the Seventy.

"Brothers and sisters, we have the richest blessings that God can give to His children," Elder Pratt said Saturday morning. "We have the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We ought to be the most open, friendly, happy, kind, considerate, thoughtful, loving people in the whole world."

Elder Pratt, giving his first general conference address since being sustained to the First Quorum of the Seventy last April, recounted how he and his wife and their children have spent many years among the "kaleidoscope of cultures."

"In the past 22 years we have had a front row seat to watch the explosive unfolding of the Lord's work in Latin America," he said. "Literally millions have joined the Church in these years, and we have seen it grow from a mere handful of stakes to over 700 at the present time."

He said it has been "incredibly exciting, challenging and immensely enriching for us as a family . . . and we have learned new and deeper meanings for words like love,'joy,' service' andsacrifice.' " Elder Pratt told of families who save for years, and then ride up to 72 hours in a cramped bus in order to obtain their temple blessings.

"We have also learned that no one culture, people or country has a corner on love, warmth or kindness."

His family has experienced many types of responses as they have traveled from one place to the next, he said. Some welcomes were warm, some had a noticeable absence of warmth. At such times "we felt like `strangers and foreigners' in the very Church of Jesus Christ to which we belonged," he said.

"These experiences helped us become aware of the discomfort that newcomers might occasionally feel in coming to our chapels," he said. "We have all seen a need to improve our retention of new converts."

Elder Pratt noted that members "do pretty well at filling callings, going to meetings, paying our tithing, but have we really learned to truly live the second great commandment: `Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself'? (Matt. 22:29.)

"This has to spring from the heart of every true disciple of Christ, a person who will look automatically and without being asked for opportunities to serve, to uplift and strengthen his fellowman."

Elder Pratt asked, "Will non-members, new converts, and visitors to our chapels recognize us as His disciples by the warmth of our greeting, by the ease of our smiles, by the kindness and genuine concern that shine in our eyes?"

He encouraged all to "pay more attention to those who are new in our congregations."

"In building the kingdom of God," he said, "every positive act, every friendly greeting, every thoughtful kind note contributes to the strength of the whole."

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