Paula and Glenda had somehow figured out a way to be on the picnic bus carrying servicemen from Hill Air Force Base. But they were not going just for the picnic—not Paula and Glenda. They had accepted their bishop’s challenge and were well on their way to the promise he had given them at the same time.
In their interview with their Ogden, Utah, bishop of the student ward, they were challenged to fast, praying that the Lord make known the individuals they were to bring into the Church. They were promised that if they would place themselves in tune with the Spirit, the Lord would indeed “point his finger” in the direction they were to go.
To Paula and Glenda, the answer to their prayers was clear: those they should seek to influence were the young servicemen at Hill Air Force Base. As they searched for a way to meet them, the picnic came along, and so did Paula and Glenda. By the end of the picnic, Paula and Glenda had arranged for several of the young men on the bus to meet with the missionaries.
This was to be the beginning of a seemingly never-ending chain of conversions as many young men from the base came into the Church that summer.
Lynne’s problem was slightly different. “But I don’t know anyone I could bring into the Church,” she said.
“Now think carefully,” the bishop said. “Are you certain there are no nonmembers among all of your friends?”
“Well, yes; there is one,” Lynne hesitated. “But I don’t think he would ever become a member of our Church.”
“You fast and pray about it,” the bishop challenged. “If the Spirit moves you, bring him to the fireside this next Sunday.”
Bill showed up with Lynne the following Sunday, and after a very spiritual discussion, a ward member approached him: “Bill, have you ever really had the opportunity to hear the story of the Mormons?”
“I’ve heard a little about them,” Bill answered.
“How would you like to spend the most interesting evening you’ve ever had and hear the most exciting story you’ve ever heard?” asked one of the members. Bill not only listened to this exciting story, but joined the Church and recently returned from a very successful mission.
Jan was teaching school while attending the student ward. “Bishop,” she said, “I want to do missionary work, too, but I have no contacts outside of my students.”
“The challenge and the promise apply to everyone,” the bishop replied. “The president of the Church has given everyone the charge to be a missionary. Give the Lord the opportunity to bless you and see if he won’t point his finger to that ‘one’ with whom you should share the message.”
The challenge came within a few days in the form of one of her students who needed counsel. Jan’s counseling subsequently was extended to the girl’s mother and resulted in the mother and her two daughters joining the Church.
“I took the challenge, Bishop, and I know who the person is. But now what do I say to him?” asked Bert.
“You might ask the Lord to tell you what to say. And you can always ask if he has heard the real story of the Mormons. You know, many people have lived among us for years and have never really heard our story. And yet our message is the most exciting news on earth—that the Lord has spoken again!”
But Bert’s contact turned him down. Completely disheartened, he returned to see the bishop, his confidence badly shaken.
“Tell me one thing,” the bishop asked, “did you really love that person, or was he just a statistic? It’s impossible to carry the message of the restored gospel successfully unless your heart is filled with love. Go back, and fast and pray until you feel completely in tune with the Spirit and until your heart is filled with love for that person. Then approach him again.”
This time the young man accepted the invitation to meet with the missionaries. Not only was he baptized, but his wife also became active in the Church again, and their two children will now be reared in a gospel home.
Mike, a young returned missionary, had had few baptisms in Norway, but he was now in charge of the gymnasium at Hill Air Force Base and the bishop felt impressed that Mike might have a special mission in the ward. After fasting and praying, Mike received the same feeling. Each week he brought one or two young men he had met at the gymnasium to ward activities or to sacrament meeting. They were quickly fellowshipped into the ward and many met with the missionaries. A continuing stream of conversions has followed.
After Mike left the service to attend Utah State University, he met Monte, a graduate student who had never been approached by anyone from the Church during all his years at the university. He was almost waiting for an invitation to hear about the Church. He was baptized a month after he met Mike. As far as finding “golden contacts” was concerned, Mike’s mission had just begun.
Jerry had also met Mike at the gymnasium. Along with a buddy, George, he came to a ward activity and, at his baptism, lamented only that eight full months had been spent in the service before he heard of the gospel. “Why couldn’t I have heard about it sooner?” he asked.
Jerry went to Vietnam and during his tour of duty was inexplicably transferred for one month to Korea. While he was gone, his section of the barracks was blown up; he would have been killed had he still been in Vietnam. Discharged early because of his father’s death, Jerry was called by his home branch to serve a mission to the Philippines. He has since returned, baptized his mother, and is now serving as branch president in Statesville, North Carolina.
Meanwhile, George was also baptized and later married in the temple.
The ward averaged about a baptism a week, with the new converts constantly infusing their newfound faith and zeal into the other members of the ward. This same priceless spirituality is found wherever people actively share the gospel.
Several things are necessary, however, to make such a program successful. First of all, there must be capable, dedicated, spiritual missionaries. Our ward was blessed with them.
Second, a bishop has the privilege of issuing both a challenge to share the gospel and the promise that the Lord will answer prayers and direct missionaries to those who will hear. Every time a bishop interviews a ward member for an award, for an advancement, for a position, for a temple recommend, or for tithing settlement, the privilege is always there—to end that interview on a high spiritual note with a challenge and a promise.
Lastly, the members must make the challenge a matter of fasting and prayer. In tune with the Spirit of the Lord, they can be prompted where to look, what to say. And if they truly love their fellowmen, it will show in their countenance, and those approached will recognize this and respond.
Here’s the challenge:
Have you ever really heard the story of the Mormons? If you would like to spend the greatest evening of your life, I have two friends who would love to tell it to you.
The Lord himself makes the promise:
“And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!” (D&C 18:16.)