What is a person worth?
Whether it’s one or two persons missing, perhaps while hiking or camping, or many persons missing during a natural disaster or transportation accident, various agencies and even governments respond, spending many hours and often at great expense. The goal is to find and save each missing person.
In many areas of the world, volunteers comprise the primary search and rescue effort when someone is lost or missing in a disaster. These volunteers, often over many years, spend hundreds of hours training to respond and even purchase their own equipment to be of service to others in time of need.
Volunteer groups often adopt the motto believed first used by the United States Air Force pararescue team as their creed: These things I do, that others may live.
Responding when someone is missing is seldom convenient. Whether in challenging weather or in unforgiving terrain, conditions are often perilous and require caution and expertise. The call to respond may come in the dark hours of the night or on weekends when a rescuer could be with family or friends. Yet these volunteer professionals quickly respond to the call, eager to serve others, spending hours, days or even weeks on scene, taking vacation time or unpaid time away from their employment.
To a search and rescue volunteer, being part of a “find” (locating a missing person) or being credited with a “save” (saving a life), is payment enough. An emotional thanks from an impacted and grateful family or an embrace from a rescued pilot more than compensates for the hours spent both training and responding.
On some events, the search and rescue teams on the ground are in need of technical specialists, for example, to operate aircraft or helicopters, provide weather forecasts, assess avalanche danger or establish field medical and communications facilities.
The goal? To save a life.
We are reminded that “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 18:10). “And if it so be that you ... bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!” (Doctrine and Covenants 18:16).
What is our value to our Heavenly Father? Perhaps beyond our mortal understanding, as we are promised everything He has (see Doctrine and Covenants, 76:59; and 132:19-20). To our Heavenly Father, each of us is of eternal value and worth saving: “For behold, this is my work and my glory — to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).
President Ezra Taft Benson spoke of the value of reaching out and teaching others: “There isn’t anything so important, so precious, so enjoyable, so soul-satisfying” (“Of the Most Worth,” New Era, June 1989).
To draw a parallel, the bishop has his own volunteer search and rescue team — the ward council. It is within the focus of this group to prayerfully consider those within the ward’s boundary, to “find” and to “save” those as directed by the bishop.
The ward rescue team is made up of dedicated priesthood leaders and auxiliary presidents. Church Handbook 2 states that “under the keys of priesthood leadership ... leaders counsel together for the benefit of individuals and families. ... Effective councils invite full expression from council members and unify their efforts in responding to individual, family and organizational needs.”
Often, the council requires specialists such as home and visiting teachers, class and quorum members, social service agencies and perhaps a good neighbor. These specialists work in concert with the ward council and focus their love and prayers to work with a particular member or family.
As with many rescue efforts, the call to serve another may be inconvenient or require a significant investment of time. In the 1997 October general conference, President Thomas S. Monson related an experience of a home teacher that reported, “Brother Monson, Dick Hammer is converted and is going to be baptized. He is in his 90th year, and we have been friends all our adult lives. His decision warms my heart. I’ve been his home teacher for many years — perhaps 15 years.”
The goal is the “save ” — faith, repentance, baptism and the crowning temple ordinance of sealing families for time and eternity and opening the door that enables each of us, through our own actions of faith, to inherit everything our Heavenly Father has.
President Monson continued the story of the faithful home teacher by saying that “Brother Hammer was indeed baptized and a year later entered that beautiful St. George Temple and there received his endowment and sealing blessings.”
As we work to reach out to those in our neighborhoods, President Monson said, “We will be honoring a loving Father’s direction and following an obedient Son’s example (see John 12:26; D&C 59:5). And our names will forever be honored by those whom we reach” (“Sugar Beets and the Worth of a Soul,” Ensign, July 2009.)
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, taught that “the most powerful Being in the universe is the Father of your spirit. He knows you. He loves you with a perfect love.
“God sees you not only as a mortal being on a small planet who lives for a brief season — He sees you as His child. He sees you as the being you are capable and designed to become. He wants you to know that you matter to Him” (“You matter to Him,” Ensign, October 2011).
What greater reward for the bishop’s “search and rescue team” than to share in the joy felt as a “lost” family member or friend is “found,” becoming worthy and desirous to attend the temple. And then to share and record a “save” as that member attends the temple for his or her own ordinances.