Elder Larry Y. Wilson of the Seventy
Second Counselor in the Asia Area Presidency
Some people join the Church and participate for a period of time but reach a point where they do not continue down the gospel path. There are a variety of reasons why this happens. Sometimes they are offended by something someone says or does. In other cases, old habits return and they are embarrassed about not living by gospel standards. In some situations, they encounter conflicts with work and fall out of the habit of attending Church. There are many other reasons why people become less active.
Most of us know someone who has travelled this road. The Lord had these people in mind when he told his parable of the lost sheep. In this parable, the Lord made it clear that He left the ninety and nine in order to rescue the one sheep that was lost. 1 He has asked us to do the same.
We have heard this theme from President Monson throughout his ministry. Not long ago, he said: 'Throughout my years as a General Authority I have emphasized a need for the “rescue” of our brothers and sisters from many different situations which may be depriving them of all the blessings the gospel can provide. Since becoming President of the Church I have felt an increased urgency for us to be engaged in this rescue effort. As faithful members of the Church have reached out with love and understanding, many have returned to full activity and are enjoying added blessings in their lives. There is yet much to do in this regard, and I encourage all to continue to reach out to rescue. Said the Lord, “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren”' (Luke 22:32).2
This process of rescuing occurred with my own parents. It was through the efforts of a good home teacher and other loving members that my parents were brought back into full activity in the Church. As I talk to members of the Church in various parts of the world, I invariably discover many who have been 'rescued' in the same way that my parents were. Someone had the courage and made the effort to reach out to them.
As a teenage boy, I had the opportunity to observe how to rescue someone as I served as my father's home teaching companion. We were assigned to a less active family in our ward. It had been many years since they had come to church. I remember how cold the reception was when we first visited them. At some point during the visit, my father saw the vegetable garden they had in their back yard and asked what they were growing in it. They offered to take us outside and walk us through the garden.
As they showed us what they were growing, I could sense that a relationship was beginning to develop between this couple and my father. In subsequent visits, I noticed that a feeling of warmth began to develop with them that soon blossomed into a relationship of trust and love. It enabled my father to invite them back into activity in the Church. They responded to his invitation and became wonderful friends of his. Having been rescued themselves, my parents knew how to help others in similar circumstances.
Recently, I had a conversation with one of our bishops in Bangkok about the efforts he and others in his ward are making to rescue others. He emphasized to me that our efforts will be most effective when we visit others out of love and find ways to show our love to them. That's what occurred as my father showed his interest in this family by asking about something they cared about, namely, their garden.
Another bishop in Bangkok shared a valuable perspective with me about how to go about rescuing others. He commented that we not only need to invite people to come back to Church but we also need to help them understand why they should do so. We need to bring the Savior's message of eternal hope and joy to them. This bishop emphasized the importance of teaching them about the good that comes into our lives through the power of renewing our covenant with God as well as the strength that comes from our association with people who are striving to live according to the Savior's teachings. When we explain the blessings that come from Church participation, we are more likely to see those who are less active responding to our invitation.
As we go about the work of rescuing others, we should keep in mind some of the key principles that President Monson has stressed about how to do so. When he has spoken in the meetings of the General Authorities of the Church, he almost always talks about the importance of seeking the Lord's lost sheep. He has likewise shared certain keys that he thinks we need to include in our approach to the rescue. I have often heard him say that, in addition to inviting people back, we also need to give them something meaningful to do. It should be something that is meaningful without causing them to feel overwhelmed.
Additionally, he has stressed that we need to help them to be successful with the responsibility or assignment we have given them. 3 There is great wisdom in following this counsel of President Monson. Someone who is coming back to Church can be called to assist with an activity, to teach a small part of a lesson or to serve as the assistant to a teacher or leader where they can gain experience and learn by observing the way a more experienced member carries out his or her calling.
Finally, members of the Church who are coming back into activity should know that we need them. Their participation will add strength to the community of Saints in any ward or branch. Their faith and service can make a positive difference in the lives of others. All will be enriched and blessed as we grow together into a people who are worthy to receive the Savior at His Second Coming.
The Lord tells us in the Doctrine and Covenants that 'And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me in the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!' (D&C 18:15-16)
It may seem like a daunting challenge to bring back those who are less active. However, as with everything in life, The Lord opens the way for those who approach Him in faith. They find Him giving them the words to say, the right timing for sharing gospel messages, the courage to extend direct invitations and the vision to see what can happen as they follow His example to rescue the lost sheep. I pray that we may heed the counsel of our living prophet and be among those that 'go to the rescue.' ■
Caption: Elder Larry Y. Wilson
 See Luke 15:4-5.
3 See Thomas S. Monson, “See Others as They May Become,” Ensign, Nov. 2012, 68-69.Ensign