Seeking that which is lost

I love this story of courage related to the activation of a young Aaronic Priesthood holder.

Brother José de Souza Marques was the type of leader who truly understood the principle taught by the Savior: “And if any man among you be strong in the Spirit, let him take with him him that is weak, that he may be edified in all meekness, that he may become strong also” (D&C 84:106).

As a member of the branch presidency in Fortaleza, Brazil, Brother Marques with the other priesthood leaders developed a plan to reactivate those who were less active in his branch. One of those who was less active was a young man by the name of Fernando Araujo. Recently I spoke to Fernando, and he told me of his experience:

“I became involved in surfing competitions on Sunday mornings and stopped going to my Church meetings. One Sunday morning Brother Marques knocked on my door and asked my nonmember mother if he could talk to me. When she told him I was sleeping, he asked permission to wake me. He said to me, ‘Fernando, you are late for church!’ Not listening to my excuses, he took me to church.

“The next Sunday the same thing happened, so on the third Sunday I decided to leave early to avoid him. As I opened the gate I found him sitting on his car, reading the scriptures. When he saw me he said, ‘Good! You are up early. Today we will go and find another young man!’ I appealed to my agency, but he said, ‘We can talk about that later.’

“After eight Sundays I could not get rid of him, so I decided to sleep at a friend’s house. I was at the beach the next morning when I saw a man dressed in a suit and tie walking towards me. When I saw that it was Brother Marques, I ran into the water. All of a sudden, I felt someone’s hand on my shoulder. It was Brother Marques, in water up to his chest! He took me by the hand and said, ‘You are late! Let’s go.’ When I argued that I didn’t have any clothes to wear, he replied, ‘They are in the car.’

“That day as we walked out of the ocean, I was touched by Brother Marques’s sincere love and worry for me. He truly understood the Savior’s words: ‘I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick’ (Ezek. 34:16). Brother Marques didn’t just give me a ride to church—the quorum made sure I remained active. They planned activities that made me feel needed and wanted, I received a calling, and the quorum members became my friends.”

Following his reactivation, Brother Araujo went on a full-time mission and has served as bishop, stake president, mission president, and regional representative. His widowed mother, three sisters, and several cousins have also entered the waters of baptism.

When speaking about the work of the Aaronic Priesthood quorums in his ward, Brother Araujo, who is once again serving as a bishop, stated:

“Our rescue work is the focus in all three quorums of the Aaronic Priesthood. We have a list of each one of our lost sheep. The quorum presidencies, advisers, and bishopric divide up and go visit them on a regular basis. We visit not only the less-active members, but we also visit the nonmembers in less-active or part-member families.

“Activities are organized to reach each young man. We discuss each young man in our quorum presidency meetings and in our monthly bishopric youth committee meetings. In 2003 we managed to rescue five priests, one teacher, and two deacons, who are now active in their quorums. We have also reactivated some families and have enjoyed the blessing of seeing some nonmembers enter the waters of baptism.”

Elder Mervyn B. Arnold, “Strengthen Thy Brethren,” Ensign, May 2004, 46

Awakening men to God

A great quote from President Thomas S. Monson, then First Counselor in the First Presidency, given at October conference, 2004 (italics added):

Those who have felt the touch of the Master’s hand somehow cannot explain the change which comes into their lives. There is a desire to live better, to serve faithfully, to walk humbly, and to be more like the Savior. Having received their spiritual eyesight and glimpsed the promises of eternity, they echo the words of the blind man to whom Jesus restored sight: “One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.”

How can we account for these miracles? Why the upsurge of activity in men long dormant? The poet, speaking of death, wrote, “God . . . touch’d him, and he slept.” I say, speaking of this new birth, “God touched them, and they awakened.”

Two fundamental reasons largely account for these changes of attitudes, of habits, of actions.

First, men have been shown their eternal possibilities and have made the decision to achieve them. They cannot really long rest content with mediocrity once excellence is within their reach.

Second, other men and women and, yes, young people have followed the admonition of the Savior and have loved their neighbors as themselves and helped to bring their neighbors’ dreams to fulfillment and their ambitions to realization.

The catalyst in this process has been the principle of love.

The passage of time has not altered the capacity of the Redeemer to change men’s lives. As He said to the dead Lazarus, so He says to you and to me, “Come forth.” I add: Come forth from the despair of doubt. Come forth from the sorrow of sin. Come forth from the death of disbelief. Come forth to a newness of life.