Visiting Teaching is not something that I’ve ever thought I was excellent at but I have had a strong testimony of the principle of caring for each other and I thought the Home and Visiting Teaching system that we had in place was wonderful and I always knew that there could be so much good done if we could all catch the vision of looking after each other with Christ-like love.
Last month in General Conference our newly sustained prophet, President Russell M. Nelson introduced something that to me feels like a higher law. He said:
“We have made the decision to retire home teaching and visiting teaching as we have known them. Instead, we will implement a newer, holier approach to caring for and ministering to others. We will refer to these efforts simply as “ministering”.”
As soon as he said those words I knew this was revelation. My whole body felt energized.
In Matthew 20 verses 26 through 28 Jesus said,
… but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
Also in this last General Conference Jean B. Bingham, the Relief Society General President said, “What does ministering look like? … It looks like becoming part of someone’s life and caring about him or her.
Jesus smiled at, talked with, walked with, listened to, made time for, encouraged, taught, fed, and forgave. He served family and friends, neighbors and strangers alike, and He invited acquaintances and loved ones to enjoy the rich blessings of His gospel. Those “simple” acts of service and love provide a template for our ministering today.”
So, How Do We Get There?
Two years ago on Facebook President Nelson posted
“Prayer is a key. Pray to know what to stop doing and what to start doing. Pray to know what to add to your environment and what to remove so the Spirit can be with you in abundance.
Plead with the Lord for the gift of discernment. Then live and work to be worthy to receive that gift so that when confusing events arise in the world, you will know exactly what is true and what is not.
Serve with love. Loving service to those who have lost their way or who are wounded in spirit opens your heart to personal revelation.
Spend more time—much more time—in places where the Spirit is present. That means more time with friends who are seeking to have the Spirit with them. Spend more time on your knees in prayer, more time in the scriptures, more time in family history work, more time in the temple. I promise you that as you consistently give the Lord a generous portion of your time, He will multiply the remainder.”
Those are the starting points for getting to a place where we are ministering in the way that Christ did. Even Jesus took time apart to commune with his Father in Heaven. He took himself away from the crowds to fast and to pray.
We need to find those quiet times for ourselves regardless of how busy things feel or how noisy it seems that our house is. We need to turn off the notifications on our phone, ask our spouse to manage the kids for 30 minutes, stop for a minute and ask God what he would have us do that day and then actually do it.
Through doing the simple things like prayer and scripture study and taking our covenants seriously, great and marvelous and miraculous things can happen.
I’m going to get a little personal for a second. I am a person who can empathize with others easily. I can see their point of view and I feel for them. That’s a lovely way to be because it means that I am a good listener and a good friend I think. But, I’m awful at figuring out how to help. Let me give an example of something I thought about recently. If I would see you on Sunday at church sitting alone in the pew with your kids who are being kid-like, I would think back to when my kids were small and I would try to keep them somewhat settled for that hour and I feel for you because it truly is a miracle that you are at church and I think you are a hero for doing it…but I would stop there. I was never the person to go and sit with you and help. Not because I didn’t want to. It just wouldn’t dawn on me.
But now, as I am regularly reading my scriptures and praying to know who needs help, I get a little inspiration. When that inspiration comes and I recognize it, I try to follow through in a timely manner. And it has been happening more and more frequently as the Lord knows He can trust me.
Here’s the other thing. I am self employed – even though my job doesn’t bring in that much money I always have a lot to do. I don’t feel like I have time to do anything other than work. My house is always slightly messy and if my darling didn’t do the laundry…well, anyway, the funny thing is that now when I know I need to help somebody in some way, I seem to be able to get my work done too and even get the dishes done! Blessings for obedience are real.
Let’s Talk About This New Approach
I’m excited about this new way of thinking. It changes our focus from looking inward, and checking something off a list to looking outward to those we have been asked to look after. There are no time limits so that we feel rushed when the last week of the month sneaks up. We are to make these sisters and brothers we are assigned into our friends. We are to treat them the way we would a close friend.
In Sunday School this year two things that I have heard a million times before and I should have understood have finally struck me.
First, I’ve known the ten commandments all my life and I also have known about the scripture in Matthew 22 with Christ saying there are two commandments
Love God with all that you have and all that you are
Love thy neighbor as thyself
In another Sunday School lesson, Terri Moore pointed out that if you look at the ten commandments the first ones are about loving God and the Second ones are about treating others the same way you would want to be treated. I can’t believe I never put that together before.
But the way Christ framed it, it puts a lot more responsibility on us because it is way less specific just like this new holier way of taking care of each other. Gone are the written out monthly lessons and replaced with that is a responsibility to really love those who we are asked to watch over and often this will require prayer and and a heart open to the Spirit speaking to us.
The second thing is about Christ speaking to Peter. He asks him three times “Do you love me?” When Peter answer yes each time Christ responds Feed my sheep. Three times. I knew what it meant before, believe me. But it finally sank in deep down.
Love God with all that you have and then, because of that love, take care of His children. It’s the same lesson over and over all throughout the scriptures.
We grow our love for them by learning about them the same way we grow our love for anyone through conversation and asking questions. The great thing is that we have books and books written about them which helps us so it could be a bit more straightforward than getting to know a new person.
We then show our love for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ by obedience to the commandments and keeping our covenants.
\When we were baptised we made covenants. Mosiah 18 tells us what the covenants are :
come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; willing to mourn with those that mourn; comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?
That’s all of us here who are baptised.
When you men were ordained to the priesthood you took on responsibilities which are laid out in D&C 20. They include preach, teach, expound, exhort, and baptize,
and verse 51 says: And visit the house of each member, exhorting them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties.
That is ministering.
And for us Sisters The purpose of Relief Society
- Increase faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and His Atonement;
- Strengthen individuals, families, and homes through ordinances and covenants; and
- Work in unity to help those in need.
One More Thing
One of the things that was changed was the way of reporting. We need to meet with each companionship at least quarterly to check in, to see how things are going with you and those you are responsible for. We will need your help with this. Please make time for us to talk to you. Please say yes when you get that call to set an appointment. These meetings will be painless for you and are an opportunity for each one of us to grow. Return and report is a principle that is taught in the temple and is an important part of every calling in the church.
Seriously, you didn’t think I would give an entire talk without quoting my friend Sheri Dew did you?
“With the Lord’s help and our best effort, we will prevail. And although we’ll
make mistakes and get tired and sometimes fall short, our Father sent us now precisely
because He knew we would not stop until we got the job done.
We are followers of Jesus Christ. And we have been His followers and have loved Him
for a long, long time. Nothing is more important than working and sacrificing and
enduring for Him. If we will Awake to who we are, Arise by making of our lives ministries, and come unto Christ by steadily becoming more holy, we will have a degree of influence the world and the kingdom of God have never felt before.”
I have a testimony already that this new approach to caring for each other is inspired by God and He needs each one of us to do our part. To help our sisters and brothers feel the love that he has for each one of us, To help each other understand that we each have a role to play, a purpose for being her and a reason to continue to strengthen our testimonies.
I know that as we care for each other and pray for each other we will be inspired and blessed in ways we never imagined.