Each of us may know these sisters. One may not attend church because her nonmember husband wants her to spend Sundays with him. Another’s feelings may have been hurt by a thoughtless or unkind comment. Another may be struggling with illness or depression, or may feel out of place because she is single or childless. Another may have doubts about the Church or have a Word of Wisdom problem, or she may simply feel uncomfortable because she hasn’t attended church for so long.
One such sister was inactive for several years. She didn’t remember why she had stopped going to church. Her only contact with the Church came from the visits of her home and visiting teachers. Whenever they encouraged her to come back to church, she insisted that it was “too hard” and “too late.”
Then, one day, she shared with her visiting teachers a poem she had written. They asked her permission to use it in the ward newsletter, and she said yes.
When the poem was printed, another sister was reminded of their earlier friendship, and she visited the woman. They talked about poetry, and the warmth of their former closeness was renewed. At the end of the visit, the visitor said, “I would give anything if you would come back. The ward is not the same without you.” The less-active sister’s reply surprised them both: “I think I will.”
She didn’t come that week or the next, but phone calls and visits to her home continued, and finally she came. The affection and excitement that greeted her gave her hope and courage, and she came again—and again. Gradually, her habit of inactivity was broken, and a new habit of involvement took its place.
Love and appreciation from others was the spark that ignited this sister’s desire to come back. Like her, many less-active members feel lonely and isolated. President Ezra Taft Benson has given us the charge of helping bring them back to the fold?: “We, as members of the Church and followers of the Lord, must extend and renew our love and heartfelt invitation to come back,” he said. (Ensign, September 1987, page 3.) How can we do so? By following four steps:
Think. Which less-active members could you or your family approach your priesthood leader about helping to fellowship?
Pray. Seek inspiration to fellowship the person(s) you select. The Lord will prepare the way. Ask for the ability to love those who especially need it.
Persist. Don’t assume that any situation is hopeless—even if someone is bitter or angry at first. Don’t anticipate rejection. Never give up!
Be aware. Even those who attend church may be struggling with challenges. Greet others warmly. Seek out and include those who stand or sit alone. Your sensitivity can help fortify many against inactivity.
We can bring less-active members back to the fold if we do as President Benson suggests: “We must manifest the same love to others that the Good Shepherd has for all of us. … The sheep—some distracted, some indifferent, some preoccupied—must be found and loved back into activity.” (Ibid., page 4.)
Suggestions for Visiting Teachers:
You or the sister you visit may wish to share an experience about how you or someone you know returned to Church activity or had his or her faith strengthened as a result of the love of others.
Discuss ways you or the sister you visit can be sensitive to others’ concerns; also discuss how you might fellowship others.
(See Family Home Evening Resource Book, pages 109–15, for related materials.)