Taking Time to Care

“Taking Time to Care,” New Era, Oct. 1986, 4

The Message:

Taking Time to Care

Sometimes lost sheep need a little help coming home.

“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).

The principle of caring for one’s fellow human beings finds expression in this parable as it does in most of the parables that the Savior shared with the people in the meridian of time. Although the majority of the members of the Church in our time are not shepherds in a literal sense, the words apply to us as caretakers of each other. The Savior understood the principle of caring better than any earthly shepherd watching over his flock. Almost everything we read about him or study about his life and ministry seems to reflect a great sensitivity to the needs of the individual. He never appeared to be too busy to show that he cared. I’m not sure that the Savior spent nearly as much time in meetings as we do, yet he accomplished a great deal more and, most importantly, he touched the lives of others.

As we read about the life of Jesus Christ, we find that in his travels he often took time to cast out devils, heal the sick, and to lift the downtrodden. His disciples, aware of his busy schedule, many times tried to hurry him along; the Savior, however, knew what was important and took the time. He took the time to care. In section 18 of the Doctrine and Covenants is a great message about taking the time to care. He revealed the following to Joseph Smith:

“Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God; For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him. And he hath risen again from the dead, that he might bring all men unto him, on conditions of repentance. 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!” (D&C 18:10–15).

Those are beautiful words. I think what the Savior had in mind is that every soul is precious in the sight of our Heavenly Father. Have you noticed in your ward, neighborhood, school, or possibly even in your own family that there might be one who needs to be lifted, to be touched; whose life is perhaps drifting off in a direction that we know will not bring about happiness, peace, and contentment but will ultimately end in frustration and perhaps destruction? Have you noticed any of those people about you? What can you do about it? What should you do about it?

I remember a time when I had been called to be the priests quorum adviser. At that time we had over 30 priests in the ward, and the bishop said to me, “Brother Ballard, we want every priest in this ward to be active. I’ll do all I can to help you, but it is your duty to get every one of them.” There were several of those priests who were not active in the Church.

The story of one of those boys whom I shall call David is special to me. His father was not a member of the Church, and his mother was not completely active. This boy had not been to church for about six or seven years.

I went to his home to visit him and he tolerated me, but I didn’t get very far. I pondered what to do to help this boy and went to the Lord in prayer. I got the impression that the way I could get a little closer to him was to go for a ride with him in his jeep.

David’s eyes lit up when I said to him, “David, why don’t you take me for a ride in your jeep?”

He said, “Really, Brother Ballard?”

I replied, “Yes.”

“Where do you want to go?”

Here’s where I made my mistake. I said, “I don’t care, just anywhere you want to take me.” What I should have said is, “Around the block five times.”

We got into the jeep and I strapped myself in with everything I could find. He headed right for the hills, and I think that is the only time I have ever been airborne in a four-wheel vehicle. I had eaten enough dust by the time I got out of that jeep that I made up my mind that the Lord and I were going to activate David. I said to him, “I’ll pick you up in the morning at 7:45 for priesthood meeting. You be ready.” Then I left.

At quarter to eight the next morning I was at David’s front door talking to his nonmember father. I said, “Would you please tell David I am here to take him to priesthood meeting.”

He said, “He is still in bed.”

I said, “Well, would you get him up and tell him I am out here waiting?”

Then his mother came to the door. I asked, “Would you please wake David up? If you don’t want to, just show me where his bedroom is and I will.” Isn’t that terrible? What right did I have to talk that way? I believe, however, that I was being moved by the Spirit. Finally, about 8:20, out came David.

The bishop, in the meantime, was with the priests quorum wondering what had become of his adviser who was supposed to be teaching the lesson. When David and I walked in the door together, he knew what had happened.

That was the beginning of a great relationship between a boy and a priests quorum adviser. This boy was quite a loner without many friends. We did some things together, and just before I was released as priests quorum adviser, I took all the priests on an outing for a weekend, going on a Thursday and back on a Saturday. I let David drive my car, and we stayed in the same room together. He was my companion.

Soon afterward, I left to take up my position as president of the Canada Toronto Mission. Six months later, I received a letter from David. Allow me to share some excerpts from that letter:

“I wish you and your family the best of happiness and sincere guidance from God. Your wife and family are ever so much missed. We all love you and pray for you. Brother Ballard, you have taught me well, for I am leaving in March for the mission field.”

There I was in Canada, buried in missionary affairs, reading a letter from a young man who had come to mean a lot to me because of the relationship that we shared. I had watched him begin to attend church and develop a testimony; he had grown close to his Father in Heaven. As I read that letter telling me that he was going to serve a mission, I went into the kitchen to tell Sister Ballard and she wept with me.

His letter continued, “I can hardly wait. I pray that Heavenly Father will bless me. Tomorrow night the bishop will ordain me an elder. Saturday he is taking me to the temple. I will pray for you and think of you. May the Lord bless you in your missionary labors, Brother Ballard. David.”

I thank the Lord that David took the time to write that letter to me. It showed me that he cared. That letter made an impression on my life that was far greater than I ever made on him. That letter was a greater reward for my small efforts in this young man’s behalf than any amount of money or earthly wealth could have ever been. I felt as the shepherd must have felt when he called together his friends and neighbors and asked them to rejoice with him, for he had found his sheep which was lost.

There are many of our friends and neighbors who are searching for the truth. Are we searching for them? Are we doing what we can to make the truth easy for them to find?

As members of the Church we are sometimes inclined to place labels on others. The world needs to be a place of order, and I guess things seem more orderly when people are placed in categories and stamped with labels. Some of these labels might be “inactive,” “nonmember,” “active,” “single,” “divorced,” “uninterested,” “smoker,” “drinker,” and so on. May I suggest that there is a very real danger in applying these labels to people? It is altogether too easy to forget that each man, woman, boy, and girl on the face of the earth is a child of our Father in Heaven and entitled to the same blessings as we are. If we study the life of the Savior, we find that he was very hesitant to label his brothers and sisters as publicans, sinners, or adulterers. There can be no doubt that, as a perfect man, he was all too well aware of the sin in this world. Yet he was able to condemn the sin while at the same time loving and caring for the sinner. It is interesting to me to note that the one label that he did apply was that of “hypocrite.” Are there any of us who are so free from sin that we can afford to categorize others? Let us be careful to view our brothers and sisters as sons and daughters of God with great potential and to care for them accordingly.

Love is infectious. We cannot truly care for one person and expect our influence to end with that soul. He or she will, in turn, have an effect on others.

I am reminded of a priest in my ward when I was bishop for the second time. This young man, I shall call him Bill, had not been to church for many years; yet, when he did gain a testimony he bore it so powerfully that he had a great influence on at least two other priests in the ward who were not terribly active. One of those priests was Bill’s younger brother and the other his brother’s friend.

Bill served a mission, and partly as a result of his influence his brother left to serve a mission before he returned home. Before Bill’s brother had finished his mission, his friend had prepared himself and left on a mission as well.

All three of these young men might have served honorable missions independent of each other’s influence, but it is impossible to measure the impact that they had on each other’s lives as they bore testimony and cared. It might be added that the influence didn’t stop there. Many of the friends of these young men were influenced by their decisions to serve missions and some perhaps served missions themselves because of the process started by that example.

One important purpose of our lives is to search out and find those who are lost. I’m afraid that I have presented no magic formulas as to how to find the right people to work with. What I hope I have done is to impress upon you the importance of caring for all those that you have dealings with. I would like to share one more story showing just how far fellowshipping a less active member can go towards building up the kingdom.

This true story is related by a young man from California and is his own conversion story:

“There I was, just starting on my agricultural research project at the local college, when in walked a good-looking, all-American guy with a baseball cap on his head. After talking with the professor, we were soon working together on the same project. He said his name was Jim and talked about the things any college kid would talk about; yet there was a difference, and after three days of working together I decided that the difference was that he never swore or used rude language. When I asked about his language, he said he was a Mormon. He also said that he had been visiting various churches in the area and invited me to a local Protestant meeting that Sunday.

“We soon became great friends and found ourselves talking like brothers about anything and everything, including religion.

“Jim told me that he grew up in the home of semi-active LDS parents. In his early years, he attended church meetings with varying frequency. He remembered priesthood quorums holding Sunday meetings in his home in an effort to help him stay active. As a teenager with little support from home and much excitement to be found in the world, Jim chose to associate with his nonmember friends. For the next several years, he cast his lot with them, played the games they played, and suffered the things they suffered.

“However, the seeds of truth had been planted. Jim knew the truth, and that left him less than comfortable with the path he had chosen. Sometime in his 21st year, a Young Adult group held a surprise breakfast with Jim as one of the “victims.” There he felt strength, warmth, and love from others of his age. Jim continued with the Young Adult program. He also received the missionaries into his home to teach him and his nonmember roommates.

“It was at this time that we met. He was still testing his newfound faith, visiting other churches to compare ideas, wanting to commit himself to the Lord, and still needing strength from others. I mentioned earlier that Jim had invited me to various churches and I turned him down, feeling secure in my faith, though not without question.

“Jim told me that he was attending classes at the LDS Institute of Religion. These classes, as well as the missionary lessons, were very important to Jim and helped him to return to prayer and scripture study. He began to feel the influence of the Lord; the Holy Ghost whispered that the gospel was true.

“In time, Jim took me to a Young Adult dinner party. He introduced me to many friendly people and helped me to feel comfortable. He also offered the missionaries and me a ride home, which gave him the opportunity to introduce me to the missionaries. Before long, he had set up an appointment for me to be taught by the missionaries.

“As I learned the gospel, Jim and I talked about the concepts, pondered, and prayed. We fellowshipped each other and other members of the Church. Jim was a teacher in the Aaronic Priesthood and, with the idea of wanting to baptize me, he organized his life, worked with his bishop, and was ordained to the office of a priest. Jim did baptize me. A year later, he left on a mission, and upon his return took a choice sister to the temple to begin an eternal marriage.”

The Savior spoke of coins in his parable:

“Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?

“And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.

“Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth” (Luke 15:8–10).

It is possible that, while looking for the one piece of silver we might find many pieces of silver. Is the search for just the one piece of silver worth the effort? I testify to you that it is! There is no joy quite like that of finding something that has been lost. How much greater and infinitely more gratifying it is to help a lost soul, a dear brother or sister, find himself or herself and reap the great blessings of the gospel. May the Lord bless every one of us with the desire to care enough about our friends to share the gospel with them.