Bishop Richard C. Edgley noted a recent emphasis in the Church on establishing "real growth," which, he explained, is "bringing all who will to the receiving and keeping of saving ordinances and covenants."
"One of the most meaningful and important ways to establish real growth is to reach out and rescue those who have been baptized yet are wandering in a less-active state, void of the blessings and saving ordinances," said Bishop Edgley, released earlier in the day as first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, in his priesthood session address Saturday evening.
Regardless of one's individual calling, all can engage meaningfully in this rescuing effort, he said. "After all, bringing all — our family, non-members, less active, sinners — to Christ to receive the saving ordinances is the divine calling that we all share."
Bishop Edgley recounted an experience in which he, as a stake president, visited a university student to call her to be a stake missionary. Pausing for a few moments, she asked if he did not know she was not active in the Church. He did not. After further discussion, both tearfully realized the call was an answer to her and her parents' prayers that she would find a way back into activity.
"She not only accepted the call, she became a fine missionary," he said. "And I'm certain she brought much joy, not only to herself but to her parents and probably other family members."
Bishop Edgley said he learned several things from this and similar interviews:
Many less-active members have loved ones praying to the Lord for help in rescuing them.
It is not all that easy or comfortable for less-active members to just walk back into the Church; they need help, support and fellowship.
There are less-active members willing and trying to find the path back to activity.
Many less-active members will hold callings if asked.
A less-active member deserves to be treated as an equal and be viewed as a son or daughter of a loving God.
"Over the years I have wondered how this interview might have gone had if approached her as a less-active Church member," Bishop Edgley said. "I leave you to be the judge."
He reflected that the loss of one active Church member could impact tens of thousands of descendants over a few generations. "The charge to rescue is based on one of the most fundamental doctrines of the Church," he said, citing Doctrine and Covenants 18:10-11, 15, which states that the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.