I recently visited the Priest River Ward in Priest River, Idaho. Before the sacrament was administered, the bishopric counselor conducting the meeting announced Bishop John E. Marks had something he wanted to share with the members. The fact he didn’t say “conduct some ward business” caught my attention, and I had the distinct impression we were about to be taught.
This good bishop, in the most earnest, loving and compassionate way, told the members: “We have been at the ‘Come, Follow Me’ approach to home-centered gospel study for about six months, and we need to talk.”
Bishop Marks was courageously vulnerable and authentic in sharing what his family struggled with as they began this new course of study, areas where they had improved and what he had personally learned about following the living prophet. There was no judgement and no shaming of anyone for whatever they had or had not done with their personal or family study of the gospel. This was a “we are all on this journey to discipleship, along the covenant path, together,” kind of moment.
Then with all the love of a tender parent, Bishop Marks shared his impressions about why he felt President Russell M. Nelson, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have been inspired to lead the members of the Church on this journey at this particular time in history. He testified of the blessings that can and will come to members and their families through faithful study.
Finally, the bishop invited all the members to put the promises of the Lord’s prophet to the test.
As the bishop extended his invitation to members, the words that my son McKay had shared the night before in our family study came to my mind. He said, “‘Come, Follow Me’ is not a title or a program — it is an invitation from the Savior!”
It hadn’t occurred to me that living and loving prophets, seers and revelators had simply shared the Savior’s invitation with Latter-day disciples.
Throughout His mortal ministry, the Savior extended such invitations to all who would hear and heed His call.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Such invitations, when followed, produce the promised blessings. Many of the lessons in “Come, Follow Me” are focused on the numerous invitations from the Master found in the New Testament.
Latter-day prophets and apostles regularly extend such invitations to members of the Church and individuals around the world.
In his first comments after being introduced as the 17th president of the Church, President Nelson invited members everywhere to walk the covenant path. In his subsequent general conference address, President Nelson instructed members about the process of revelation for the Church and for our everyday lives. He encouraged members by saying, “I urge you to stretch beyond your current spiritual ability to receive personal revelation, for the Lord has promised that ‘if thou shalt (seek), thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things — that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.’”
He then issued the invitation, “My beloved brothers and sisters, I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation.”
President Nelson has also extended powerful invitations for members to minister in a higher, holier way and to come to a Christ-focused, home-centered, Church-supported gospel.
Andrew of old found the promised Lamb of God in Jesus Christ and immediately, urgently raced to invite his brother Peter to “Come and see!”
Likewise, latter-day prophets recognize that, more than a course of study, “Come, Follow Me” is an invitation for members and non-members alike to know the Savior Jesus Christ, understand His atoning sacrifice and feel His redeeming love in their lives.
The invitation from the Savior echoes down through ages and resounds still today, and was heard from a pulpit in a remote ward in Priest River, Idaho: “Come, follow me.”
—Boyd Matheson is the opinion editor and head of strategic reach at the Deseret News.