My friends and associates, it is great to be together. I have been asked to share a few thoughts and examples about reaching more students; effectively counseling with priesthood leaders to increase enrollment, attendance, and completion; and acting on the direction received.
Our hope is that by having more students in our classes, more of our Heavenly Father’s children will come to understand and rely on the teachings and Atonement of Jesus Christ, qualify for the blessings of the temple, and prepare themselves, their families, and others for eternal life with their Father in Heaven.
I ask that each of us will be sensitive to the impressions of the Spirit, that we will feel the truth and importance of what is shared, and that we will all be inspired to reach one more—to reach out more than we already do to include more students.
Last August, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught us plainly regarding our responsibility to reach more students and the prophetic priority to rescue. As we revisit some of what he said, I invite all of us to conduct a private self-assessment as to how well in the last 12 months we have responded to what he taught. Here is what he said:
Elder Russell M. Nelson: “President Thomas S. Monson has taught us repeatedly about the sacred nature of the rescue of less-active and less-converted individuals among us. One of our prophetic priorities, therefore, is ‘the rescue.’ In seminaries and institutes we want to reach out by working closely with priesthood leaders.
“Page 8 of your Gospel Teaching and Learning handbook states: ‘In their efforts to bless the youth and young adults, it is important that seminary and institute leaders and teachers work closely and cooperatively with local priesthood leaders. Under the direction of priesthood leaders, they counsel and work together to ensure that each youth and young adult is invited and encouraged to enroll in, attend, and complete appropriate courses of study. Teachers and administrators should be actively involved with priesthood leaders in seeking to enroll and retain seminary and institute students and should not be content to teach only those students who come to their classes.’
“This becomes an important part of our missionary effort as well. As full-time missionaries work in partnership with the ward council and the ward mission leader—all under the direction of the bishop—doors will be opened to friends and families of these individuals being rescued. Great opportunities will be created for the missionaries to teach new investigators.”1
What have we done in response to this prophetic direction? Do we see the prophetic priority to rescue as an integral part of our assignment? How well do we work personally with priesthood and auxiliary leaders in these efforts, and do we include the full-time missionaries?
Last February, while visiting the Beira Mozambique District in the Africa Southeast Area, a few of our colleagues and I were determined to act on this direction from Elder Nelson. We asked our local institute teacher to arrange a meeting with the branch president to review an institute progress report generated from his branch MLS software. We encouraged him to counsel with the branch president about which unenrolled or non-attending young adults could benefit from a visit and which he thought might be receptive to an invitation to participate in institute. From this meeting we received the names of several young adults living in three separate households, and on a Sunday afternoon we went to see them in their homes.
As we sat together with these families and their friends, we talked about the institute classes available and invited them to attend. Also, feeling a desire to cultivate an environment of love, respect, and purpose, and where the Spirit could be present, we invited one family to sing a hymn with us and the other to share a favorite scripture.
At the end of each visit, the young adults had accepted our invitations, they signed up for the institute class, and they have been attending ever since. It was remarkable to see the blessings of working together with the full-time missionary couple. What Elder Nelson had promised was being unfolded before our eyes.
We observed that our efforts to rescue had become “an important part of [this Church’s] missionary effort” and that “great opportunities [were] created for the missionaries to teach new investigators.”2 In these visits we were joined by youth or young adults who were not baptized members of the Church but who, in that moment, accepted an invitation to read the Book of Mormon, to have the missionaries teach them, or to be baptized.
Our area director, Brother Tasara Makasi, talked with João Maguichire, one of those young adults, who that evening, in addition to enrolling into an institute class, also accepted the invitation to be baptized, and subsequently was, with some others, a few months later.
This account illustrates two very important and related principles: (1) We accomplish our Objective as we act under the direction of general and local priesthood keys, and (2) if we act under the direction of those who hold keys, there is power added to our work.
The next story illustrates the truthfulness of these same principles but also shows that as we faithfully follow the direction of His authorized servants, God will prepare the means for us to accomplish His will. This example comes from a small branch in Bolivia where there were, at the time, about 35 seminary-age youth. Many of the students were enrolled but not attending because getting to and from seminary was so unsafe. The parents and priesthood leaders struggled to find a solution, and word began to spread among the members that the students were missing out on seminary. When Brother Zenteno, a member of the branch, learned of this difficulty, he felt he could help, and he prepared his horse-pulled wagon to personally go and pick up each student and take them to seminary.
Brother Zenteno would wake up every day before 5:00 a.m. and drive his cart to each house, and when he arrived, he would call to them with a bell that hung from the cart. At the end of class, he would pick up the youth and return them home or to school. Brother Zenteno said that when he would see each one of the youth, he would think of the love he had for them and how he wanted for all of them to receive religious education.
Brothers and sisters, as we work with priesthood leaders, Church councils, and local members, we can identify the needed resources and solutions to overcome the barriers that prevent our students from fully participating.
Another way we are more effective as we counsel with priesthood leaders is by providing them with relevant information, identifying needs and possibilities, recommending solutions, and acting on the direction received. How well do we know the information resources provided for religious educators and priesthood leaders regarding enrollment, attendance, and completion? Are we thoroughly capable and conversant in using such programs as WISE, Potential Student Tracker, and Priesthood Attendance Reporting? Are we able to counsel with priesthood leaders about the enrollment, attendance, and completion reports that are available through MLS?
Some of the best examples I have seen of our people using information resources effectively have been when S&I representatives combine with ward and stake council leaders to review lists of youth and young adults that are or could be attending classes and then discuss ways to reach out and encourage those students who are not enrolled or may be struggling.
One example I witnessed recently was of Brother Joselito Neves, our coordinator in the Cape Verde Islands. I observed him meeting with branch presidents in the Mindelo District. Brother Neves reviewed with them the student progress reports, as found in MLS. He helped them prepare for their branch council meetings where, under the direction of the district president, the branch presidents would discuss the enrollment and attendance patterns of the youth and young adults and then, in council, make plans to reach out to individual students. This illustrates how even in a global organization where we use many lists and numbers, we can still be true to the principle that personally contacting and inviting students to enroll, attend, and complete is a manifestation of God’s love for them.
I’d like to share an example here that illustrates these good practices and that shows how, even in a released-time seminary or large campus institute setting, we can still work with priesthood leaders to apply these principles to make meaningful personal contacts and invitations with our students. This example comes from a released-time seminary program in the Utah Weber Area where seminary enrollment, attendance, and completion were really struggling. The principal sought direction from local priesthood leaders, and together they went to work. Here is a summary of what happened:
The first thing the principal did was to meet with the stake presidents in a local Church board of education meeting because he had faith in the power of priesthood keys. They jointly decided on a plan to introduce the seminary faculty to each of the ward leaders in all the stakes. A member of the seminary faculty then met with the bishop of each ward and reviewed, name by name, each potential seminary student. They counseled about the individual, their family, and the best way to make a personal contact and invitation. Each week and in the evenings, a member of the seminary faculty would go out with a member of the bishopric, a Young Men leader, or a ward missionary and visit these individuals and their families one by one. All of their invitations had a standard motto: Come try us out for two weeks, and if it isn’t your favorite class, we’ll transfer you back. Most of these individuals had not had a ward or seminary contact for a very long time.
Over time, these visits made a significant impact on increasing the enrollment, attendance, and completion at the seminary. In September of 2009, the enrollment was 74 students, and attendance was even less than that. Just five years later, in June of 2014, there were 232 that finished with credit!
I cannot help thinking about how many students in this program were brought back onto a path that would lead them, and for sure has led them, to full-time missionary service and the temple because S&I representatives worked cooperatively with priesthood and council leaders to go to the rescue.
I’d like to conclude with a story put to video that can be used to initiate dialogue when meeting with priesthood leaders and when inservicing or orienting teachers.3 This example is a true story, and it illustrates how any one of us can, in the spirit of the rescue, reach out to the unenrolled or non-attending student. It shows how far-reaching the effects of such personal efforts can be. What we will view had its beginning 40 years ago in Stavanger, Norway, when a less-active young man named Stein was invited to enroll in a newly formed seminary class by the newly appointed teacher, an 18-year-old young man named Lasse.
President Andersen: “Stein was not active in the Church, but he came to Church two or three times a year with his parents. Later he recalls that he was so impressed every time he came to Church with the way Lasse met him, how he was welcomed, how Lasse showed interest for him when he was there. Lasse, one night after having been called as the seminary teacher, decided that he would call Stein’s family and visit with them to extend an invitation. It was not an easy task to come and visit with the family because they lived so far away. He had to travel for about an hour and a half, almost two hours, before he came to their house.
“When he arrived that night, he was welcomed into their dining room. In his own words, Stein says, ‘I was feeling a strong spirit. After a while Lasse stopped and looked me in the eyes and said . . .’”
Lasse: “Stein, [speaking Norwegian].”
President Andersen: “Stein explained that he was surprised by his positive reaction because he was so busy in his life at that time, and he later recalls and says, ‘I must have been under heavy influence by the Spirit.’ I particularly like this story because it emphasizes three important principles I think. First of all, the principle of acting under the guidance of priesthood leaders who hold the keys. And Lasse did that when he wanted to reach out for the less active. Second, he went in faith and with courage. It was not easy for him to do what he was doing. And third, he literally went the extra mile; he had to travel for a long time to reach that one. And this story is particularly personal to me because that young 17-year-old boy, Stein—that is me.
“That night by the fireplace literally changed my whole life. I started to study the gospel. I learned and experienced the Spirit. I gained a testimony. I became active in the Church. I decided that I wanted to go on a mission. I met my future wife and sweetheart. We later married in the temple and have four wonderful children. My two brothers became active, and they also married in the temple. How grateful am I for what Lasse did? Words cannot express. I will be eternally grateful for what he did. We, as a family and individuals, have had the joy and the privilege of serving in the Church all our lives throughout these 40 years and have been blessed by that service. I don’t think Lasse even imagined, could have had an idea of the impact that he would have when he walked up to our house that night. Because of what one person did, many people’s lives have been changed and richly blessed.”
Brothers and sisters, I would hope, I would pray, that each of us would resolve to make this important prophetic priority, to rescue, an integral and regular part of our assignments and know that there is great happiness in following the Savior’s example “to seek and to save that which was lost,”4 in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
© 2014 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. English approval: 1/14. “Reach One More.” English. PD10051052 000
1. Russell M. Nelson, “Teaching Youth in the Day of the Wave” (Seminaries and Institutes of Religion satellite broadcast, Aug. 6, 2013); lds.org/broadcasts.
2. Russell M. Nelson, “Teaching Youth in the Day of the Wave.”
3. See Paul VanDenBerghe, “Walking the Extra Mile,” New Era, Apr. 2009, 32–34.
4. Luke 19:10.