This is from a talk I gave today in Sacrament Meeting. I did not say all of this word for word when I gave the actual talk but this gives you a general idea of what was said. Enjoy!
A man with Alzheimer's wanders away from home, a hunter or hiker is missing, a group of school children is stranded in a flood... Search and rescue is a life-saving vocation. And the ability to save a life is often dependent upon how quickly the person can be found and accessed. If the missing person is one of your loved ones, you will expect well-equipped, well-trained search and rescue professionals to bring your loved one home safely to you. The National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR) has dedicated itself to preparing those involved in search and rescue to meet your expectations.
This is what it says on the National Association for Search and Rescue’s website. It is true that if the missing person is someone you love you will want the best and most qualified people searching for them.
When I was younger my Dad was on a Search and Rescue team in the Uintah Basin in Utah. I remember hearing stories of when he would go in search for lost scouts in the mountains or an injured hiker who could not get down from where they had been. I also remember doing mock accidents. To me it was like Halloween, and I loved it, because I got to dress up like a severely injured person, complete with peanut butter for the gore, some PVC pipe to look like bones, and some red goo made to look like blood.
In search and rescue missions the objective is clear. Search for the missing person and get them out of danger
The Savior taught that “the Son of Man is come to save that which was lost…if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:11-14).
As we strive to be like Christ, we should also follow in His example of his love for the lost sheep. To illustrate how we can emulate Christ in this I have a couple stories for you.
The first story is about a missionary. He was at the beginning of his mission and was still learning the ropes of being a full-time missionary. His trainer was pretty young in the mission and had only been out for six months. They were white-washing an area where the trainer had been trained only months previous to this time.
They worked hard. They followed up with old investigators from when the trainer missionary was there the first time. Their efforts seemed fruitless. Once they would get someone to listen they found that, on the next visit, the people were mysteriously disappeared or had come down with a serious illness or their cat died so they did not have time to listen.
Three months went by and the companionship was getting tired. They prayed and prayed for guidance and for someone to be put in their path.
It was a Sunday like every other Sunday. The missionaries were at church, talking with the members, getting ready for Sacrament Meeting.
Then a whole family walked in that they had never seen before. Naturally, missionaries being missionaries, the companionship greeted them.
There was a single mom and three of her five kids. She had moved into the area to get a fresh start. They were members but they had been less active for years. With her, she had her sister and her husband who had escorted them to church that day to make sure that they found it all right and everything was squared away before the two of them headed back up north.
And then there was one odd man out. He was not related to the single mom at all. He was younger, closer to the missionaries’ ages. He introduced himself and said “Any church that my friends here belong to is something I have got to know more about.”
He was not a member, and he was interested in learning. Finally! The missionaries, needless to say, were ecstatic.
Turned out that he was golden. When the missionaries taught him he listened intently. He made the necessary changes in his life and was soon baptized and confirmed a member of the church.
That young missionary saw a miracle. Heavenly Father had listened to their prayers and had sent that young man into their path. Later, the young man would recall that there were no other missionaries that could have taught him the gospel. Truly both missionary and convert were prepared well beforehand.
The story does not end there.
The younger missionary left the area. He went on to serve diligently but he never saw another baptism that he had had any part in teaching. Not a single one. Frustrated and tired, he would get on his knees praying for understanding.
When he got home he got a call from an old friend. It was the young man he had taught and baptized at the beginning of his mission. His only convert baptism during his whole two years as a missionary.
The young man was stalwart. He had received a mission call. Later he would go on to teach and baptize several people who would not have converted to the gospel had he not gone. In turn, if the young missionary had not been there to teach this young man, he wouldn’t have been converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ at that time.
A couple more quick stories.
There was a girl who we will call Jane. She was born and raised in the gospel to a good, strong family. As she got older she questioned things. These questions were not bad in and of themselves, but as they went unanswered they led to doubt. So when she became friends with people who questioned her beliefs, she did not know how to answer them.
Her doubts became stronger. So strong that she became defiant and soon became inactive in the church and even began going to a different denomination.
Jane went a little wild. She would go partying and drinking with friends on the weekends.
After awhile she hit rock bottom. Depression would hit her pretty hard and she never understood why. Then she found out she was pregnant.
It was time for Jane to start over.
She moved back in with her parents. Her heart slowly softened and she had a desire to be a better example to her baby. As the sweet Spirit of the Atonement worked in her she became a brand new person who no longer had those doubts. Along the way, members of her ward helped her come back into the fold. Her family supported her. Those friends that she had made were no longer friends of hers. They had shown their true colors once they realized they no longer had a use for her. But it did not matter to Jane. She had finally found inner peace and had made a friend of our Savior Jesus Christ.
My final story is about another young man who, like Jane, lost his way. He was never fully inactive though. In his heart he knew he needed to straighten up but he just did not have the desire. He hated going to church. He did not feel like he belonged or that the bishopric knew who he was. Let alone if any of the ward members knew him. It was a singles ward which is painful enough. But to feel like you’re alone in a singles ward is worse.
He also went a little wild and began to follow a much different and darker path.
Then someone reached out to him. It was a girl who always seemed happy at work. He knew why she was happy. She was a church-going Mormon and she was always talking about these great activities her singles branch was putting on.
So he finally relented and went to an activity. Things had been changing for him even before this. He could tell he was being guided by an unseen hand, but it took someone who was willing to reach out to him to finally make him act upon his desire to change.
Whether you are a full-time missionary, a mother who tirelessly prays for her family to come to the gospel, or someone who needs someone to reach out to you, never underestimate how God is in the details of our lives. We can be tools in His hands to bring people to Him.