President Thomas S. Monson reminded priesthood holders of their responsibility given by the Lord "to reach out and rescue" individuals "who, for whatever reason, have drifted from their duties and have chosen to pursue other pathways."
Speaking at the priesthood session, President Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, said, "I have observed in studying the life of the Master that His lasting lessons and His marvelous miracles usually occurred when He was doing His Father's work. On the way to Emmaus He appeared with a body of flesh and bones. He partook of food and testified of His divinity. All of this took place after He had exited the tomb.
"At an earlier time, it was while He was on the road to Jericho that He restored sight to one who was blind.
"The Savior was ever up and about — teaching, testifying and saving others. Such is our individual duty as members of priesthood quorums today."
President Monson shared two experiences from his life.
The first occurred when he was president of a teachers quorum. The adviser of the quorum, knowing of young Tom's interest in raising pigeons, gave him a pair of purebred pigeons, the female of which had only one uninjured eye. The adviser instructed him to take them home and leave them penned up for about 10 days, then turn them out to see if they would remain.
Each time it was turned out, the female pigeon returned to the adviser's pigeon loft, obliging young Tom to go over several times and retrieve it. On each occasion, the adviser reminded him of his duty as president of the quorum to activate other quorum members.
"I was a grown man before I fully realized that Harold, my adviser, had given me a special pigeon, the only pigeon in his loft he knew would return every time she was released," President Monson commented. "It was his inspired way of having an ideal personal priesthood interview with the teachers quorum president every two weeks. I owe a lot to that one-eyed pigeon. I owe more to that quorum adviser. He had the patience and skill to help me prepare for responsibilities which lay ahead."
President Monson spoke of "men whose habits and lives include but little Church attendance or Church activity of any kind. The ranks of these prospective elders have grown larger. This is because of those younger boys of the Aaronic Priesthood quorums who are lost along the Aaronic Priesthood pathway and also those grown men who are baptized but do not persevere in activity and faith so that they might be ordained elders."
One such man, President Monson said, was Shelley, whose wife and children had tried but failed to motivate him toward baptism and priesthood blessings. Then Shelly's mother died. "At the funeral I comforted him before going to the pulpit." said President Monson, who at the time was his bishop, "and I knew a tender chord had been touched." Shelly and his family subsequently moved from the area.
Later, after President Monson had been a mission president in Canada and then was called to the Twelve, Shelley telephoned him asking him to seal his wife and family to him in the Salt Lake Temple.
"I answered hesitantly, 'But Shelley, you first must be a baptized member of the Church.'
"He laughed and responded, 'Oh, I took care of that while you were in Canada. I sort of snuck up on you. There was this home teacher who called on us regularly and taught me the truths of the Church. He was a school crossing guard and helped the small children across the street each morning when they went to school and each afternoon when they went home. He asked me to help him. During the intervals when there was no child crossing, he gave me additional instruction pertaining to the Church.' "
The sealing was performed, and Shelley died not long afterward.
"Those who have felt the touch of the Master's hand somehow cannot explain the change which comes into their lives," President Monson said. "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.' "
President Monson said two fundamental reasons account for such changes in attitude: habits and 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."