Many years ago, Walton, my teenage son, and I were assigned as home teachers to the Brown* family. Brother Brown had become disaffected with the Church and turned his back on the gospel. His wife, two teenage daughters, and a young son remained active. We prayed deeply to seek inspiration on how we could help this family. Prior to losing his way, Brother Brown was a very faithful brother who held prominent Church callings. When I served in the Bishopric, he was the Executive Secretary – and he always performed his duties with diligence.
The first few visits were a bit awkward as he would ask us “strange gospel questions.” The good thing is he allowed us in his home. We did not pressure him to return, we just persevered as we ministered with love. He knew we were genuine and deeply interested in him and his family. We eventually became good friends and he would look forward to our visits. His wife and children did not hesitate to call us when they needed any help – be it transportation or to give priesthood blessings. We promptly availed ourselves all the time. We became like family and we were happy to serve. Brother Brown did not respond immediately, but we continued to minister – trusting in the Lord’s timing. We prayed and fasted often, pleading with the Lord to soften his heart and seeking for guidance on how we could bless, strengthen, encourage, and inspire the family.
After a number of years, the miracles unraveled as he started taking his son to Church activities. It was great to see how close he became to his son in the process. Then slowly, but assuredly, he started attending Church again. It was sweet to witness since many had given up on him. The family was thrilled. We as home teachers quietly felt that our visits had eventually opened the door for his return. Today he is an active participant again. Perhaps more importantly, he worships in the temple every Friday for five hours. He, without fail, attends two endowment sessions and then serves as a veil worker.
A few years ago, I accompanied Elder Carl B. Cook to split the Pretoria Stake. After the conference, Brother Brown beckoned me to come over to him; we embraced for what felt like an eternity, then in between sobs, he uttered the words; “It’s because of you that I am here today to witness this and partake of the fruits of the gospel. It’s because of you; thank you, thank you.” I sobbed with him and meekly responded, “It’s not because of me. My son and I were only instruments in Heavenly Father’s hands.” It was an unforgettable moment where we both strongly felt of His Spirit.
Walton and I were genuine friends to him and his family. We were anxiously engaged – ours was not to fulfill an assignment. It was a sacred calling where we visited at the very least once a month, meeting the needs of the family. President Ezra Taft Benson said, “A friend cares. A friend loves. A friend listens, and a friend reaches out.”We tried to be all of the above and as a result the family members called us ‘home teachers’ instead of our actual names. Up to this day, whenever we meet anyone of them, the greeting is always, “Hello, my home teacher!”
When the Pharisee lawyer asked, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” The Savior answered: “Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
He also made the profound pronouncement in John 13: 34-35, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
Elder James M. Paramore (Ensign, May 1981) said, “When God’s love is known and felt and His commandments followed, the results are always the same. There is a newness of life – a spiritual awakening – that comes to man.” I strongly feel that this was the case with Brother Brown.
There are many Browns out there – many feet to steady, hands to grasp, minds to encourage, hearts to inspire and souls to save – as reminded by President Thomas S. Monson. The Savior has appointed us as the ambassadors to save His children. He is not here to do it, and hence the mandate to rescue falls upon us. We should reach out mainly to the new members, the less-actives, the lonely and those in need of comfort. We should watch over them and strengthen their faith “one by one” as the Savior did, being acquainted with them and loving them without judgement.
The worth of souls is great in the sight of God. The Savior taught powerfully on caring for the one. The parables in Luke 15 allude to this: The Lost Sheep, The Lost Piece of Silver and The Prodigal Son. We can emulate the Savior as His followers; going about doing good, watching over His sheep. We can express our faith in practical ways as we touch hearts, change lives and save souls – this is one of the tests of true discipleship.
“And if it be so 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! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!”
I feel this great joy every time I see Brother Brown. I can attest as President Monson promised that the blessings of eternity await us as we actively participate on the stage of service. And that as we love our God, as we love our neighbor, we can be the recipients of our Heavenly Father’s love.
*Actual name changed
General Conference, April 1987
Matthew 22:36 – 39
Doctrine and Covenants 18:15-16