Addressing the Regional Representatives seminar last October, President Kimball stirred our souls with an enlarged perspective of our responsibility as priesthood leaders. He said, “We must do things differently and better!” Several times he issued the challenge, “Why can’t we?” (“Lengthening Our Stride,” unpublished Regional Representative Seminar Address, Oct. 3, 1974, p. 4.) Our visits to stakes indicate this message is getting through.
Recently I heard of a far-sighted home teacher in an elders quorum who was given the name of an inactive member. On his way to priesthood meeting early one Sunday morning, he called at the home of this member.
“I’m on my way to priesthood meeting and thought you might like a ride.”
This man, startled and somewhat angry at this early Sunday morning disruption of his sleep, said, “No. I’m not interested,” and slammed the door. He wondered how the Church got his name.
The following Sunday morning again the doorbell rang. The member opened the door and saw this same individual, bright and smiling, on his way to priesthood.
“Just dropped by in case you had changed your mind. We would like you to join us.”
He got an unfriendly reply of, “Go away! Leave me alone!” and slammed the door shut.
A week later the events were repeated. The home teacher added, “We have a great group of men. We need you. You’re a member of our quorum. Would you mind if I stop by next Sunday?” This man, who wanted to get lost from activity, decided the only way to stop his early-morning caller was to go to the meeting and prove he was not interested.
The next Sunday when the home teacher rang the doorbell, he was not greeted with a “Go away! Leave me alone!” but with a man dressed and ready to prove his disinterest. But the spirit of the priesthood meeting, the friendly handclasps, the sincere interest changed his attitude and awakened the conscience of a man who needed a gentle push.
Priesthood quorum leaders are responding to the charge by President Kimball to “reach out to the prospective elders who are, in … many cases, the fathers of so many of our boys and girls.” (“Lengthening Our Stride,” p. 2.) This challenge should stimulate our best efforts, cause us to ponder, to study better ways. He does not have a magic button to push, only you, the priesthood leaders. He is saying to you, “Why can’t we do better, be better?” He highlights the urgency today—not tomorrow—today.
The Church could not function effectively in helping the Lord accomplish his divine purpose unless sufficient power and authority were delegated. This is the principal reason for the Lord bestowing on men the holy priesthood to act in his name, to have the power and right to assist him in his divine purpose. The Savior said, “[teach] them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:20.) Inactive fathers and husbands must first be found and then taught how to live the gospel.
Six months ago Raymond Gerloch was called as elders quorum president in the Durango Colorado Stake. He reports wonderful success in reactivating members. Home teaching is their success tool. They use filmstrips to help teach and motivate the inactive. Seven quorum members have each purchased a film projector which home teachers use in the homes of the inactive.
One prospective elder had remarked, “Don’t send the home teachers to my home anymore.” This man and his wife were visiting at the home of another inactive member when the home teachers arrived with their film projector. He saw the filmstrip, his heart was touched, and the home teachers were invited to again visit his home. These understanding home teachers helped bring him back.
The leaders of this quorum selected the best qualified to teach a gospel study seminar, inviting four couples at a time to this discussion group where they learn gospel truths. All ninety-three members of this quorum have been identified and are being contacted. The elders president said, “We don’t have any failures, only minor setbacks.” All but four members are now receiving the home teachers, and, he says, “And we’ll get those four.”
They are forming more committees, athletic as well as social, proving to the inactive members that there is fun and joy in the Church. After appointing a husband as chairman of a committee, his wife is called to assist him and becomes involved. The men of this quorum camped overnight in the mountains and for six hours they reported they sat around a campfire discussing the Church. The elders president reported, “We had a real spiritual feast.”
As soon as a man is ready for a calling, the quorum president assists the bishop in developing an appropriate position for him. When the leaders began having proper priesthood interviews, home teaching increased from 30 to almost 100 percent. This quorum has been resourceful in developing new ideas, but they attribute their success to the dedication of home teachers plus the blessings of the Lord.
“We have a humble prayer before we call a man to a position, and we have never had one turn us down.”
Men who had been away from the Church a long time have said, “I thought no one really cared.” This quorum has caught the spirit exemplified by the Lord: “And as all have not faith, search ye diligently and teach one another.” (D&C 88:118.) President Gerloch has caught the vision of how to recover the lost.
Today stake presidents are calling Melchizedek quorum leaders who are being taught and trained in effective principles of priesthood organization and reactivation. These new leaders are alert and not like the farmer Elder Sterling Sill referred to who was hauling produce to market in his wagon drawn by two horses. The horses were having a difficult time and the grade seemed very steep. Finally the farmer asked a stranger, “How far is it to the top of this hill?” The stranger said, “You’re not on a hill. Your rear wheels are off.”
Recently a man told how he became lost in the middle of a ward with 500 members: “My wife and I had our first contact with the Church when two sweet, spiritual missionaries called. They came, they taught, they converted. We literally lived off their spirit. Like many converts know, the first thing after you are baptized, those two wonderful elders are transferred.
“It was extremely difficult for us to keep that same spirit. We felt we could not go it alone. We withdrew from Church activity. My wife told the visiting teachers not to come back, and the home teachers were asked to leave us alone.
“I suppose in the elders quorum one morning they discussed some ‘lost’ brethren who needed to be ‘found.’ Yes, I was lost. One day there came a knock at our front door. As I opened it, I saw a young, smiling, freckled-faced man who said he was the elders quorum president and asked if he could talk to me for a few minutes.
“In the coming weeks he came many times to bring us vegetables from his garden, eggs from his chickens, a birthday card for our daughter. Sometimes he came just to talk. He got me involved in the sports program. He even apologized for anyone who may have hurt our feelings. What did he do that got us back? He loved us. He was sincere. He cared. He gave me his personal testimony. He helped me to search my soul. He helped me to pray to my Father in heaven.
“For the love this man gave my family, we will be eternally grateful. The Lord has poured out his blessings on us. We have been to the temple of the Lord and sealed for eternity. We have returned to the temple many times and gained further light and knowledge promised to us.
“I am now working with this elders quorum president as his counselor. My wife is teaching Primary and is a visiting teacher. I was lost, but because someone cared, someone took time, someone took the risk of showing his love and concern, I was found and was able to lead my family back to the Lord.” He went on to say, “I plead with all members of the Church to look around and help guide lost children back to their Heavenly Father.”
Our prophet has spoken. Quorums are accepting this challenge, “Why can’t we?” The quorums know that we can. They all realize that there are thousands of men who are waiting only for the friendly extending of the hand. Quorum presidents realize, “The night is far spent, the day is at hand.” (Rom. 13:12.)
I testify that Jesus the Christ is the source of priesthood power. No power can stay the progress of his church. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.