Section 18 of the Doctrine and Covenants teaches us that the Lord loves His children and desires that we work on behalf of their salvation. Each time I read this section, many experiences about the activation and retention of Church members come to my mind—experiences that remind me that the Lord will lead the work if we have faith in Him and put forth the required effort.
One of these experiences began a few years ago when I was assigned as a home teacher to a young man who had been raised in a faithful Latter-day Saint family. After he left home to attend school, he chose other paths. Month after month my home teaching companion and I visited him without success; it seemed he didn’t even hear what we said to him. But when the tempests came and he was confused, not knowing what to do to resolve his problems, it was his home teachers he sought out.
At the time I was his stake president. He told me he remembered something his mother had taught him: “The Lord hears the prayers of those who sincerely seek Him.” As he confided that he had returned to praying and reading the scriptures, I saw with joy that the Lord had touched him.
I decided to follow up with him more closely, so I asked that he be assigned as my home teaching companion. Each month he and I visited four homes, and each month I prepared four different messages in an effort to strengthen my friend and help him in his return to gospel activity. Eventually he made the decision to repent, to faithfully attend his meetings, and to sincerely partake of the sacrament. The Lord’s sacrifice was having an effect on his life.
For six months we visited a father who was the only member of the Church in his family. Despite our efforts and although we were always well received, we didn’t have success in activating him or baptizing his wife and three children. We were then inspired to involve the children by picking them up on Sundays to take them to church. This became my companion’s special responsibility.
Our efforts began to have an effect. The children loved being at church and were soon baptized. The whole ward worked to involve the parents, but it was still necessary for the Spirit of the Lord to touch their lives.
One time my companion, who had scarcely said a word during our monthly visits, spoke up and bore his testimony in a very emotional way. He had experienced great difficulty in his life, and now he shared how marvelous it was to be in the arms of the Lord. His testimony was so sincere and powerful and the Spirit was so strong that all of us were touched. That same week the wife decided to hear the missionary discussions and was finally baptized. The husband became active again.
Today the family remains active and totally integrated in the ward, and they have been sealed in the Lord’s temple. My companion continues to progress rapidly in the gospel. He married a wonderful young woman in the temple, and they now have two children. They are happy and contribute valuable service to our ward and to the Church.
Six people were converted to the gospel as a result of that experience. A collective miracle! I felt the joy described in the scriptures:
“And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!
“Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people.
“And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
“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 18:13–16).
This experience taught me three essential principles:
The Lord is at the head of this work. He prepared the way. He is interested and directly involved in our missionary efforts.
The visits of home teachers and visiting teachers need to be consistent and well prepared. We need to take the Spirit of the Lord to the homes we visit. We need to gain the confidence of those we visit as well.
It is essential that we involve other people in the activation and conversion process. Ward or branch leaders can coordinate efforts with the ward or branch council and priesthood executive committee to help us accomplish our missionary objectives.
I testify that God is our Father. He loves us and wants us to do missionary and activation work in His way. We can then become powerful instruments in His hands for the salvation of His beloved children.