One of the most dramatic and tender stories of the Book of Mormon is the Savior’s appearance to the Nephite faithful after His Crucifixion and Resurrection. The Nephites witnessed massive destruction and loss of life at the death of our Lord. It seemed as if the entire earth was in commotion, almost as if the universe grieved the loss of the Only Begotten Son of God.
When the destruction finally stopped, “there was thick darkness upon all the face of the land . . .
“And it came to pass that it did last for the space of three days that there was no light seen; and there was great mourning . . . among all the people continually” (3 Nephi 8:20, 23).
The Nephites were left in the darkness to fear and mourn their losses and to wonder what would happen next. But eventually, the darkness dispersed and the people “gathered together . . . round about the temple which was in the land Bountiful; and they were marveling and wondering one with another, . . . and they were . . . conversing about this Jesus Christ, of whom the sign had been given concerning his death” (3 Nephi 11:1–2).
“And it came to pass that while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven; and . . . it did pierce them to the very soul” (3 Nephi 11:3).
They did not understand the voice the first time they heard it, nor the second time, but “the third time they did understand the voice which they heard; and it said unto them:
“Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him.
“And it came to pass, . . . [that] they cast their eyes . . . towards heaven; and behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them. . . .
“And it came to pass that he stretched forth his hand and spake unto the people, saying:
“Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world. . . .
“And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words the whole multitude fell to the earth; for they remembered that it had been prophesied among them that Christ should show himself unto them after his ascension into heaven” (3 Nephi 11:6–10, 12).
Imagine the astonishment of the people as they looked upon the risen Lord. Here was Jesus Christ, the Great Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Messiah of the New Testament. There must have been a mixture of fear and excitement as they contemplated what would happen next. Then, in a loving and kind way, “the Lord spake unto them saying: Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth” (3 Nephi 11:13–14).
With this simple invitation, “the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come” (3 Nephi 11:15; emphasis added).
This powerful “one by one” experience deeply touched the hearts and lives of those who were present. So much so that for the next four generations—over 200 years—they lived as a Zion people in perfect love and peace. The personal ministry of the Savior, reaching out to one person at a time, was a powerful influence as He blessed the lives of these people, bringing them into full activity in the Church and in the gospel.
As an Area Presidency, we have felt impressed to encourage our members to “reach out, one by one, rescuing those that are less active.” This worthy goal means that we have a responsibility to seek out, reach out, and continue to try to rescue our brothers and sisters that are struggling in their faith or need our support. This rescue effort will always be done just one person at a time. It will require that we seek out and minister to our brothers and sisters one by one by one. One heart, one soul, one child of God at a time.
The Savior taught this important truth by teaching a parable about shepherds and sheep:
“What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
“And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
“And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
“I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance” (Luke 15:4–7; emphasis added).
The teachings of the parable are clear: we must seek out the one. As undershepherds working for the Good Shepherd, we devote our time and talents to reaching out and rescuing those that are less active or struggling or are in need.
We never know when those to whom we minister will come back. Each person has agency and has his or her own timeline. Our duty is simply to minister as taught by the Savior to the Nephites:
“Nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out of your synagogues, or your places of worship, for unto such shall ye continue to minister; for ye know not but what they will return and repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal them; and ye shall be the means of bringing salvation unto them” (3 Nephi 18:32).
We “know not” what will happen, we simply “continue to minister.”
In the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England, there is a beautiful masterpiece painted in 1831 by Joseph Mallord William Turner. Beloved by President Thomas S. Monson (1927–2018), he described it in his April 2001 general conference address:
“The painting features heavy-laden black clouds and the fury of a turbulent sea portending danger and death. A light from a stranded vessel gleams far off. In the foreground, tossed high by incoming waves of foaming water, is a large lifeboat. The men pull mightily on the oars as the lifeboat plunges into the tempest. On the shore there stand a wife and two children, wet with rain and whipped by wind. They gaze anxiously seaward.”
As President Monson gazed upon the painting, he said, “In my mind I abbreviated the name of the painting. To me, it became To the Rescue.
“Amidst the storms of life, danger lurks; and men, like boats, find themselves stranded and facing destruction. Who will man the lifeboats, leaving behind the comforts of home and family, and go to the rescue?” (“To the Rescue,” Liahona, July 2001, 57; see also “Our Responsibility to Rescue,” Liahona, Oct. 2013, 4).
Dear brothers and sisters of the Africa Southeast Area, we have much to do. There are many in need of our rescue efforts. As President Monson has said, “The world is in need of your help. There are feet to steady, hands to grasp, minds to encourage, hearts to inspire, and souls to save. The blessings of eternity await you” (“To the Rescue,” 57). We invite you to look outward and see clearly those who need to be rescued.
The restored gospel of Jesus Christ is the answer to every question, the solution to every problem. We must find ways to “reach out, one by one, to rescue those that are less active” in the gospel of Jesus Christ. May God grant us the faith to do so is our prayer.