Invitations ranging from the trivial to the most influential have played a vital role in my life. I have accepted invitations that nearly cost me my life such as climbing a mountain with an extension cord to rescue a lost flip flop (don’t ask…) and other invitations have renewed life such as the invitation to serve. Additionally, I have extended invitations from day-to-day tasks such as "Will you set the table?" to the greatest and most enduring invitation of "Will you marry me?" This brings me to today. What invitations am I receiving and accepting that are of most value? Also, what invitations do I extend truly impact others for good? I would like to look at the life of Christ as an example for us to follow.
Accepting Christ’s Invitations
Shortly after the death of Christ in Jerusalem, vast destruction and darkness occurred in the Americas as recorded in the Book of Mormon. However when we think of the events that immediately transpired after this, some of us think of the voice from heaven that the people didn’t recognize until the third time. Others of us think of Christ coming down from heaven in majesty and glory. However, immediately after declaring the destruction that occurred among the Nephites, the first thing Christ did was invite (3 Nephi 9:13-14):
13 O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?
14 Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me.
In this case, Christ’s invitation was to repent, be converted, and come unto him. The blessing of doing so would lead to eternal life. He issued the called immediately after describing the destruction everywhere around them. I invite all of us to come unto Christ and line our will with God’s will.
In another occasion as recorded in Luke 5:3-7, 10 of the Bible, Christ befriended people such as Peter, James, and John before inviting them to become fishers of men:
3 And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.
4 Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught (note: or a sweeping, or a mouthful).
5 And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.
6 And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.
7 And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.
10 And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.
And in the account of Mark (Mark 1:16-17) we learn that the invitation was extended to Peter and his brother Andrew as well saying "Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men." I wonder if Peter, James, John, and Andrew would have readily left their nets to help in catching men had Jesus issued the call without befriending them.
Like the apostles in this account, I invite us to follow Christ’s example and befriend those around us so they can see the light of Christ in us and may be more willing to accept invitations from us to come unto him.
Frequently, we have received the call to invite others to come to Christ whether from scriptures, modern-day prophets, or the Holy Ghost. Additionally, the ward mission plan has been developed to help us respond to this call. Our ward’s focus this year is to invite one person to anything at least once per month. The blessing of the plan is that as we prayerfully and faithfully extend invitations, we promise that the ward will experience growth, member testimonies will be strengthened, and unity will increase.
Since the beginning of this plan, I have heard many wonderful experiences from members who have heeded this call. One member in this ward was discussing their new baby with a friend and rather than ending the conversation there, this member invited their friend to have dinner and come meet the baby.
Another member talked about the church and the discussion came up about the layout of our church. Rather than proceed to draw the layout only, this member invited these individuals to visit and tour our church.
In another experience, a friend of a third member grew up with several members of our church but never once did this friend receive an invite to anything. So this member invited his friend to go to the Mormon Trail Center and his friend accepted.
Despite whether the response to these invitations have come to fruition, the joy and excitement that I saw in these members eyes as they shared these stories was overpowering. Just like the fishes filling the boats to the brim, those we invite may also experience joy to the point that it overflows. I can promise that, as we invite, we too will experience an abundance of joy in the friendships we develop and bring others to come to Christ.
When inviting others to come unto Christ, we need not fear rejection. Often, this is a natural outcome of inviting others. Jesus who was the greatest of all was rejected too. We read of the account of a certain ruler in Luke 18:18-23 who explained to Jesus that he had kept the commandments since his youth. Upon hearing this, the Savior extended the following invitation:
22 …Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.
23 And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.
Ultimately, Christ’s invitations were met with rejection to the point that the people eventually crucified him. Despite being rejected time after time, Christ never shied from continually inviting others to come unto him. I invite all of us to overcome our fears and act on the promptings of the Spirit to invite others to come to Christ.
How many times are we like Peter in John 21:15-17 where we hear an invitation such as to feed his sheep but we need to be told more than once? Let us act on the promptings and invitations we feel right now.
My personal testimony is the result of an invitation. When I was 14 years old, I was invited to read, ponder, and pray to know these things are true. At one occasion I was seeking help in my youthful and boisterous life. I felt that I should just drop the scriptures open and read the verses there. The scriptures actually opened to Proverbs 3:5-6 which states "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. Acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths." This personal experience and invitation from God was a pivotal and foundational moment in my life and testimony. As I feel the spirit, I know that I am prompted to act on certain things such as inviting others to come and learn of our Savior. Regardless of the invitation we extend, we need to have the spirit in our lives. Let us seek the spirit so that we can feel the promptings our Heavenly Father would give us.
I close with this reminder from D&C 18:10-16 as a promise.
10 Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;
11 For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.
12 And he hath risen again from the dead, that he might bring all men unto him, on conditions of repentance.
13 And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!
14 Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people.
15 And if it so be 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!
16 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 bear my testimony…