Several years ago, President Hinckley identified three things every convert to the Church needs as he or she matures in the gospel: “a friend, a responsibility, and nurturing with ‘the good word of God’ (Moro. 6:4).” I first heard President Hinckley’s remarks while I was serving a mission, and I thought about his words often as they related directly to the work in which my companions and I were engaged.
In the years since that time, I’ve come to feel that President Hinckley’s counsel is vital not just for converts but also for every son and daughter of God. Each of us yearns for a sense of community and belonging through close friendships with those who share various aspects of our life experience, we long to feel a deep sense of purpose and that we have something meaningful to contribute to the lives of those around us and toward the building up of Zion, and we all need a constant dose of the life-giving and regenerating power of God’s eternal Spirit.
Sheri Dew confirmed the powerful impact of having these three needs met in her own life as a single, adult member of a church where family is everything. Reflecting on her experience, Sister Dew said:
“I have often been asked why I feel so comfortable as a never-married member in such a family-oriented Church.
“I do not understand this question, which implies that I would be happier if I were not a member of the Church. It also implies that happiness comes only to those whose lives are ideal, which would make, incidentally, for a very small group of happy people. So perhaps the question on some people’s minds is really, How does someone in nontraditional circumstances feel a sense of belonging in The Church of Jesus Christ? . . .
“As I have reflected on my experience in the Church and on the reasons I have felt so at home within this divinely inspired organization, I have concluded that it is because I have been blessed to have [President Hinckley’s] three essential ingredients since the time I was young. . . .
“If there is anywhere in the world where every one of us, regardless of our personal circumstances, should feel accepted, needed, valued, and loved, it is within our Church family. And every one of us can reach out to others and help them feel a sense of belonging.”
As a thirty-something Latter-day Saint who has experienced same-gender attraction and who has wrestled to find answers concerning this complex issue, I understand what it is like to find oneself in “nontraditional circumstances” in the Church. Over the past several years as I’ve contemplated the reasons I feel so hopeful and happy, I have felt to echo the words of Sister Dew as my thoughts have repeatedly returned to these principles outlined by President Hinckley. Neither pen nor tongue can tell the gratitude I feel for the love I’ve received from family and friends who value me for all that I am, for a strong sense of spiritual mission that keeps me both grounded and growing in my faith in Jesus Christ, and for the eternal peace I’ve felt as the life-giving Spirit of the living God has nourished my oft-thirsty soul.