Church News and Events

Viewpoint: Rescue Those in Need

Contributed By From the Church News

  • 4 May 2014

The Holy Spirit can help us be alert to the plight of those needing rescue.

As this month begins, we are reminded of May Day, a custom or holiday observed in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere.

The observance of May 1 with festivities in villages and towns has origins going back many centuries. Today, the occasion has various associations and customs, depending upon locale and culture.

But it is the similar term, Mayday, that is a focus of this commentary, more particularly its identity as an international call of distress via radio for aircraft and vessels at sea. A look at the origin of the term reveals that it has to do with its phonic similarity to a French expression rather than to the centuries-old holiday.

According to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, the Mayday call originated in 1923, when Frederick Stanley Mockford, a senior radio officer at Croydon Airport in London, England, was asked to think of a single, readily understood word that would communicate distress.

Mockford came up with “Mayday” because of its similarity to part of the French venez m’aider, which means “Come help me.” At that time, there was considerable traffic between Croydon Airport and Le Bourget Airport in Paris, France.

Within four years, Mayday would replace the Morse Code transmission SOS as the preferred signal of a life-threatening emergency.

Rules and procedural conventions have emerged with respect to the Mayday call. For example, it is expected to be given three times in succession (“Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!”) to help ensure it is not lost in noise or garbled transmission.

A “Mayday relay” can be sent by one craft or vessel in behalf of another that might be out of radio range of emergency service providers.

Mayday reminds us of the frequent admonition by President Thomas S. Monson to rush to the rescue of those who are in spiritual distress.

“For Latter-day Saints, the need to rescue our brothers and sisters who have, for one reason or another, strayed from the path of Church activity is of eternal significance,” he said in a First Presidency message. “Do we know of such people who once embraced the gospel? If so, what is our responsibility to rescue them?

“Consider the lost among the aged, the widowed, and the sick. All too often they are found in the parched and desolate wilderness of isolation called loneliness. When youth departs, when health declines, when vigor wanes, when the light of hope flickers ever so dimly, they can be succored and sustained by the hand that helps and the heart that knows compassion.

“There are, of course, others who need rescue. Some struggle with sin while others wander in fear or apathy or ignorance. For whatever reason, they have isolated themselves from activity in the Church. And they will almost certainly remain lost unless there awakens in us—the active members of the Church—a desire to rescue and to save” (“Our Responsibility to Rescue,” Liahona, Oct. 2013)

As much in need of rescue are those who, for whatever reason, have never embraced the saving gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Often, those in greatest need of rescue are not even aware of their own distress, or perhaps their calls for help are so faint they can be easily missed.

In such instances the Holy Spirit can help us be alert to the plight of those needing rescue. A veritable Mayday relay can be launched in their behalf by diligent home or visiting teachers, earnest friends, and caring family members.

Proactive efforts are often called for to rescue those whose fear, reluctance, or diffidence might preclude their making a prominent appeal for their own welfare. Such efforts can take a variety of forms, some of them low-key.

A young prospective missionary had such an occasion to help a friend. The friend, a recent convert, confided that he had fallen into inactivity in the Church.

As the conversation developed, it became clear that the friend was downcast due to personal and family problems. At this point, the would-be rescuer felt a prompting to share a truism he had heard.

“Keeping the commandments,” he said to his friend, “is not always easy, but it does make life easier.”

The friend brightened immediately. Those words, he said, were just what he needed to hear at this time. He could now face his challenges with renewed optimism, courage, and resolve.

After a scripture-reading session with his father on one recent occasion, an 11-year-old shared concerns he has for friends at school who have no religious faith. He wondered, he said, how he might be a good influence on them, knowing that with the coming of middle school and high school years he would likely lose contact with many of them.

One friend he was particularly worried about. The friend, he said, knew he was “a Mormon.”

As the son and father discussed the matter, the father suggested that the most important thing his son could do was to set a good example by living a clean and pure life, being positive and cheerful, and trying always to serve others.

The father also suggested that his son learn all he could about the teachings of Christ and the restored gospel so he would be prepared to intelligently answer questions that might come up.

Knowing of the existence of the Church website, the boy wondered if he should suggest that his friend access it. The father agreed that would be a good idea and suggested another Church website called, which is directed especially to people becoming newly acquainted with the Church.

The mother entered the conversation at this point and suggested their son’s associate might like to receive a copy or two of the Friend magazine.

The May Day holiday and the Mayday distress signal have little or no relation to each other. But both can be a reminder to us of our duty and privilege, in whatever way we can and aided by the Spirit, to rescue those in need.