Recently, an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints received a visit from an old friend. They had not seen each other for more than fifty years. As a young man, the friend had turned away from the Church and followed the ways of the world, learning through hard experience that “wickedness never was happiness.” (Alma 41:10) He had not received the Melchizedek Priesthood, rejected the invitation to serve a mission, and married outside the Church. He had later divorced, become separated from his children, and lived most of his life without the blessings of the restored gospel.
But late in his life, he who had been lost was found. Through the efforts of friends and priesthood leaders, the man was reminded that he was the son of a loving Heavenly Father. He repented and returned to the Church. He regained his testimony, become worthy to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, and received the ordinances of the temple.
But then, with tears, he told of his sorrow that he had lived so many years without the blessings of the restored gospel. He sought counsel and comfort from his friend: “How can I bring my children to the light of the gospel? How can I help them receive the temple ordinances when they are so far from the Church? How can I make up for lost time? Why couldn’t I have been found earlier in my life?”
It is never too late to return and receive the blessings of the restored gospel. Through the atoning power of Jesus Christ, all wounds can be healed. However, it is of great importance that we hasten the work of the rescue. There is a large number of prospective elders in the Philippines, men over the age of 19 who have been baptized but who have not yet received the Melchizedek Priesthood. The thing that most commonly keeps prospective elders from receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood is a lack of understanding of the restored gospel.
It is a central truth of the restored gospel that “[s]acred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.” (The Family, A Proclamation to the World) As indicated in the goals of the Philippines Area Plan, it is essential to the divine plan of happiness that we make, honor and renew sacred covenants. To accomplish this goal, we must increase in our efforts to advance prospective elders to the Melchizedek Priesthood, and bring them to the temple with their families.
So what can we do to help the Lord bring about miracles in the lives of the brethren we love? What can we do for a father or a husband, a brother, a son or a friend who is not yet appreciating or enjoying the Melchizedek Priesthood and the ordinances of the temple?
First, we must increase our faith in Jesus Christ and the revealed doctrine of the priesthood and the family, and increase in our desire to assist prospective elders receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and become sealed together in eternal families.
Second, priesthood leaders and ward or branch councils should prayerfully identify specific prospective elders, learning their names and their circumstances, and begin to pray for their hearts to be softened and turned to their families and plan how to assist them. When we pray for someone, our hearts are filled with love for them.
Third, we must exercise faith to see the potential of each such prospective elder, “looking forward with an eye of faith” (Alma 32:40) to see him in the temple, dressed in white, with his family gathered round about him. As we look forward with faith, the picture in our mind will focus and sharpen and become real.
Fourth, we must begin to take action. The ways we can reach out and make a difference cannot be numbered. But with the assistance and guidance of the Spirit, we will find a way. Don’t give up. Remember that the Savior taught us to leave the ninety and nine and go into the wilderness seeking the one who is lost, until he is found. (Luke 15:4) Where re-teaching the doctrine of the restored gospel is needed, invite the missionaries to assist.
Remember that your father, brother, son or friend is a spirit son of God. He has been baptized and has the right to the companionship of the Holy Ghost. As soon as he begins to repent and move toward the Savior, he will feel the Spirit. He may be lost, but if he could speak by the spirit, unclouded by the mists of darkness and confusion, he would be pleading with us saying: “Believe in me, and help me find my potential. Be my friend. Teach me again who I am, and my purpose in life and in eternity. Teach me how to find happiness. Give me a vision of the temple and the ordinances of eternal life.”
As we move forward on the path that leads to the tree of life, we must look for prospective elders who need our assistance, and do all we can to help them find their way back. There is no time to delay. Their families are waiting.