“Those Wasted Postage Stamps,” Ensign, Aug. 1979, 58–59
Doris was one of the names on our list of inactive members. It had been so long since she’d been to church that no one could remember who she was. As ward Primary president, I’d repeatedly sent invitations to her four children to come to Primary, but it all seemed like just so much wasted postage.
Her location was part of the problem. She lived forty-five miles away from our small ward in upstate New York—the only member of the Church in her community. In fact, she was so isolated geographically that it had been years since she’d had a visit from the home teachers or Relief Society visiting teachers.
But we continued to invite her children to Primary, to send a card on their birthdays, and to carry a prayer in our hearts that they somehow might be reached.
Then Doris was assigned a new visiting teacher. This sister was unable to travel the ninety-mile round trip that was required to visit Doris, but she thought she could at least write Doris a note each month and send her the ward newspaper.
And finally the postage stamps began to work: Doris wrote back to her new visiting teacher! “I’m so grateful to know that you still consider me a member of the Church,” she wrote. “I haven’t been able to attend for over five years, but I’m still very proud to be a Mormon.” Thus the correspondence began. Every month the visiting teacher would send Doris a note and the ward newspaper; nearly every month Doris would respond.
Then, one cold and wintry day, there were two new faces in Relief Society: Doris and her neighbor. Doris couldn’t drive, so she’d talked her nonmember neighbor into taking her to Relief Society, a ninety-mile round trip.
It seemed like we’d always known her. She shared her testimony with us; she expressed great faith in the love of our Savior and in the truthfulness of the Church. After the meeting I made an appointment to finally visit with her in her home. With the permission of the bishop, I hoped to be able to organize a home Primary, with Doris as the teacher.
It was a snowy New England day when my counselor and I climbed into my chilly Volkswagen and headed through unfamiliar countryside. The roads were difficult in spots, and we both inwardly wished we had chosen a nicer day for the trip. But Doris had waited long enough. We were going to keep our appointment.
We were well repaid. As we sat in Doris’s cozy home, she unfolded her story to us. The missionaries had knocked on her door five years before. She had rejoiced in the gospel message from the start, and even though her husband had not been interested, he had allowed her to be baptized.
Then came the hard part: she lived forty-five miles from the church. There were no other members nearby, and she could not drive. Her husband had no desire to take her. She lived too far away for home teachers or visiting teachers to come visit her. She had a testimony of her new church; she felt it was an unmatched blessing in her life. But she felt she had no way to develop that testimony.
It wasn’t long, though, before an understanding bishop recognized her need. Her twins had just turned three—Junior Sunday School age—so the bishop brought her a Course Three Sunday School manual. If circumstances were such that she couldn’t make the long trip to church, she could have church in her own home. She could teach her children the gospel that she herself had learned.
And teach them she did. Every Sunday morning for five years she gathered her four children together and taught them out of that same Course Three manual—five times they went completely through that same course of study.
Imagine how thrilled she was when a visiting teacher showed her that the ward still cared about her! Imagine her joy when she received the new lesson material I had taken with me, along with Targeteer banners and CTR rings!
Doris’s situation has changed now. A branch of the church has been established nearer her home, and other members of the church now live in her village.
Now, when I read through a list of inactive members, I wonder how many Dorises are waiting behind that list. I wonder how many brothers and sisters and children will be touched and moved to action by our efforts. Like Doris, many won’t require much to strengthen them in the fold. After all, how much does a postage stamp cost?