Elder Joni L. Koch
In Luke 15:4 the Savior teaches by posing a question: “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
Aligned with this charge received from the Lord, one of our area plan priorities is: “Reach out to other members of the church, one by one, rescuing those that are less active”.
Ours, then, is the responsibility to learn who and where are the ones we must personally go after to invite them to come unto Christ, and then help them come back to the fold. However, having so many that are lost, one could legitimately ask: Where and after whom should I go first?
President Thomas S. Monson, our dear Prophet, has taught: “We can’t do everything for everyone everywhere, but we can do something for someone somewhere”. (Dixie State College Commencement, 2011)
We’ll most likely be able to prioritize where to go and who to look for by paying special attention to:
1. Those to whom we’re assigned to visit as home or visiting teachers. Possibly in that group there will be some who are not as strong as they could be, and if we’re constantly visiting and nurturing them with the messages from the living Prophets, some will feel the desire to come back to living the Gospel and attending Church.
2. The promptings of the Spirit. If we truly desire to help and rescue the Lord’s lost sheep the Spirit will tell us where to look and who to look for.
I remember when I was about 10 years old, living in Joinville, Brazil, my good friend Edson (11) and I felt a strong desire to visit the house of two of our primary friends, Marcos and Sandro Santos, who had not come to church for quite a while. We missed them and wanted to invite them and their whole family to come back to church.
On the date set, we put on our father’s ties, went to their home and knocked at their door. One family member came to the door half smiling to see two children with ties and invited us to come in. When we requested to talk to Brother and Sister Santos and all their children in their living room, their curiosity became even greater, so they all came. It was a numerous family. We looked at Brother and Sister Santos and sincerely asked: “Is there anything we could do for you so that you to will come back to church and be there on Sundays? We miss you all, specially our friends Marcos and Sandro!! Could you consider coming back next Sunday?”. The Spirit was strong and there was a moment of solemn silence. Brother Santos then said with determination: “We’ll be there!”.
The next Sunday morning, my friend Edson and I were at the front gate waiting for them. When we saw, from a distance, that precious family walking together towards the Church Meetinghouse we greatly rejoiced!! With continued help from the ward members and leaders, the Santos family was fully reactivated and sealed in the Temple. Four of their sons served missions and years later Sandro, the youngest son, became Bishop of the ward.
As I ponder about what caused us, as children, to have the capacity to help the Lord rescue that family - it wasn’t special knowledge of the doctrine or ability to persuade, but the most important ingredient that never fails: Love. They felt our sincere love that day and most importantly, the Lord’s love for them.
There’s an old African proverb that says: “The cabin of a loved one is never too far away~
I testify that when we love those we must rescue, we’ll never find excuses to leave them out in the dark. Instead, we’ll feel extreme joy and pleasure as we do so. Perhaps the words of Moroni will help us ignite that needed love inside our hearts: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love…” (Mor 7:48)
May we all be full of love, obey the Savior’s command to go after the lost sheep and follow the plan - rescuing one by one. As we do so we’ll experience supernal happiness.