Friday, July 27, 2012

The Rescue for Real Growth

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

The Rescue for Real Growth, by Richard C. Edgley
Recently Released First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric

I had a few home teaching companions as a teenager. I recall visiting Church members with my father for about two years before I was replaced by my younger brother. At that time, I became the companion to Kimball Boone, a recently-returned missionary who happened to be the son of a family I greatly respected. I know we were assigned to visit a few families, but I mostly remember one.

She was a single mother with one son who lived in Gretna, NE, about seven miles from my home (but it seemed much farther back then). My companion dutifully scheduled appointments, picked me up, drove to her home, and climbed the stairs to her second-floor apartment with me each month. However, besides visiting her in her home once and meeting her near a soccer field behind the apartment building, I don't think we saw her any more times. But we kept coming.

On one of our visits, I probably questioned why we should keep coming if we were never received (I may or may not have had the teenager whine when I asked). I remember my companion getting a far-off look as if he were silently pondering what to say. He unzipped and opened a pocket on his scripture bag, and took out an oversized index card with a hand-written note on it. He asked me to read it. Here's what I remember it saying:

Truly the worth of souls is great. To save the souls of those who have strayed from the fold is just as worthy and commendable, and causes just as much rejoicing in heaven as to save souls in far-off parts of the world. -Joseph F. Smith

After I read it aloud, he told me that he thought of this quote often on his full-time mission and testified that he knew it was true. He then invited me to keep the card—I'm sure he didn't need it because he had not only committed it to memory, but had internalized its message, too.

I kept that card in my scripture bag pocket as I prepared for my mission, served my mission, and returned home from my mission. It helped prepare me for meaningful missionary experiences in Idaho among those new to the gospel as well as those returning to church.

I'm sad to report that I recently searched for the card so I could finally try to verify the source—I only remember it as quoted above—and couldn't find it. I did search for the quote, but could only find this:

As it has been expressed here time and again, it is better for us to save our own boys who are being misled at home, than it is for us to go out into the world . . . Yet a soul saved out in the world Is as precious in the sight of God as a soul saved at home. But we have work to do right at home, at our own doors; and it will not do for us to neglect the work necessary to be done at our own thresholds, and then go out, into the world to do work that is no more necessary. Let us do our duty everywhere. (Joseph F. Smith, Conference Report, October 1902, p.87)

It may be nostalgic, but I prefer the quote as I remember it.

I was reminded of this experience as I reviewed Bishop Edgley's words. He taught that "reactivation has always been an important part of the work of the Lord." He shared an encounter he had with a reactivated older man who related that while he was back now and working in the temple with his wife, much was missing. This man said:

All is not well. I am back in the Church, but I have lost all of my children and my grandchildren. And I am now witnessing the loss of my great-grandchildren—all out of the Church. All is not well.

I've heard of the generational effect of activity (or inactivity), but hadn't connected it to the "worth of souls" before. Let me clarify, of course I thought of the "worth of souls" in missionary efforts, but I mostly was thinking of the worth of the individual, not their posterity. Bishop Edgley seems to have been changed by his interaction with this man (as I hope I am, too):

I have had the privilege of rescuing a few less-active members over my lifetime. Now when I help bring one back to Church activity, I don’t visualize a single soul; I see six, seven, or more generations—thousands of souls. And then I think of the scripture: “Bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy” (D&C 18:15).

My erstwhile home teaching companion was right: the worth of souls is great! While making efforts to lovingly help others return to the fold, we may not only be helping "the one," but thousands more besides!

Suddenly I want to hug my children and help my family stay on the path!

After all, they're worth quite a lot!

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