Everyone wants to feel as though they belong. Often we call this “fitting in”. It’s important to our health that we feel as though we are part of something greater. Elder D. Todd Christofferson discussed “The Doctrine of Belonging” and how we as Latter-day Saints can belong and help others feel like they belong in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The image above is of our family dinner table. This is one of the times when our children’s friends have been over. This is one way in which we try to help others feel a sense of belonging.
“Thus, the doctrine of belonging comes down to this – each one of us can affirm: Jesus Christ died for me; He thought me worthy of His blood. He loves me and can make all the difference in my life. As I repent, His grace will transform me. I am one with Him in the gospel covenant; I belong in His Church and kingdom; and I belong in His cause to bring redemption to all of God’s children.”
This definition describes how I know I belong in the kingdom of God. I can affirm every statement detailed above. I also know that I can share this affirmation with others in the hope that they too will one day be able to know and state the same.
Isms and Comparison
There are two detractors to feeling like we belong. The first of these is the “isms”. Racism, sexism, and more are ways to divide us. We must root out these dividers from our lives in order to help others belong to the gospel. We must have empathy for those who do not believe as we do. We can be empathetic and still believe in the doctrines of the gospel that others disagree with. Showing empathy allows us to root out the isms and prejudices we may have and show true Christlike love.
The other detractor to the feeling of belonging is comparison. In my opinion, this is the greatest trap of Social Media. For the most part, people only show their best sides on Social Media. This causes us to make comparisons between their best and our worst. We want our lives to resemble what others have posted, thinking that they have it way better than we do. How can I feel like I belong to Christ’s church when I’m not doing everything Brother Doe shows he is doing on his Instagram feed? I’m so not even close to that!
Comparison in this way negates all the good things we are doing. Instead of comparing ourselves to others’ best on Social Media, we need to turn to God and allow the Holy Ghost to give us the feeling of peace associated with what we are doing. We can then look for ways to improve ourselves and strengthen the bond we have with God. He knows we aren’t perfect, and all He asks is that we strive to be better every day.
Going to Church to Belong
Over the years, Cheryl and I have faced many challenges. We have had times when given certain situations we could have walked away and not gone back to church. The problem? Our testimony that the truth resides in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We knew, and know, deep down that to be part of Heavenly Father’s kingdom, we needed to continue to go to church. We needed to put our love of God above our frustrations and fears. We needed to renew our covenants and show our willingness “to take upon us the name of [the] Son, and always remember Him” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:77). That was to be the way in which we could belong and stay.
There are other reasons to go to church. We make and maintain friendships that are eternal. We learn more about Christ and His gospel and how we can live better lives. We can volunteer to help out in the various organizations of the church as well as learn about service opportunities. We testify to the truth of the gospel and that testimony is then verified and validated by the Holy Ghost.
Covenants and Belonging
When we make and keep covenants with God we create a bond that ties us to Him. This bond brings with it a feeling of belonging in His work. Elder Christofferson quotes President Nelson on this topic.
“Once you and I have made a covenant with God, our relationship with Him becomes much closer than before our covenant. Now we are bound together. Because of our covenant with God, He will never tire in His efforts to help us, and we will never exhaust His merciful patience with us. Each of us has a special place in God’s heart. …
“… Jesus Christ is the guarantor of those covenants (see Hebrews 7:22; 8:6).” (Russell M. Nelson, “The Everlasting Covenant,” Liahona, Oct. 2022, 6, 10.)
What Can We Do?
Finally, what can we do to help others feel like they belong? As mentioned above, we must root out our racism, prejudice, and other dividers from our lives. I believe that we all have them due to the environments we have grown up in. If we can quickly recognize the feelings and thoughts of these dividers and change them, we can help others feel as though they belong in the gospel.
Because the doctrine of belonging centers so much on Christ, another way we can help others feel like they belong is by sharing what we know to be true. Our example is the best way to show this. People see our example and know that actions are louder than words. If our actions show our love of God and Christ and that we have overcome our dividers, then others will be more open to knowing more about our beliefs.
I have had several experiences where others have asked questions about what I believe because of how I live my life. I’m not perfect and there have been times when I have been overzealous or have said or done the wrong thing at the wrong time. I have learned from those situations. I do know that through my example others have felt the desire to know more about the gospel.
Every one of us wants to feel like we belong. The doctrine of belonging as outlined by Elder Christofferson gives us a goal to strive towards. It also teaches us how we can be instruments in God’s hands to help others feel as though they belong in His kingdom.
Tips for Teaching
If you are teaching this topic, consider the following in your lesson:
- Discuss with the class what it means to belong to a group or organization. You might discuss how you become part of that group or organization. Discuss what it means to belong to the gospel of Jesus Christ
- Discuss the definition of the doctrine of belonging given by Elder Christofferson. Have the class discuss why it would be important to affirm the things he lists. Talk about ways in which people can come to know what is in the definition such as “Jesus Christ died for me”
- Relate stories in your life where you felt as though you didn’t belong. Especially relate stories where you then did things or others did things that helped you gain that feeling of belonging.
- Have the class share what they can do to help others feel like they belong in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Want to Learn More?
If you are interested in learning more about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its teachings, please visit the Church’s website. If you would like to visit one of our meetinghouses and experience our church services, please visit the meetinghouse locator.