Original Talk Given July 28th, 2013
At the beginning of the year our State Presidency introduced the Stake Priorities, known as the Divinely Appointed Responsibilities. An outline of these can also be found in Handbook 2: Administering in the Church, Section 2.2
When I heard this originally, I thought, great idea. “It’s good that the Stake has some goals. I hope they do really well at that.” I didn’t really recognize they were asking US as a stake to help them achieve these goals. As high council, we have been asked to reintroduce the priorities, and encourage each member of the stake to set some goals for the remainder of the year in relation to each of these priorities.
Let me review with you what those are again:
Live the Gospel of Jesus Christ by loving, serving, and ministering to others in their personal lives.
Gather Israel Through Missionary Work by prayerful personal preparation and “seeking after the one.”
Care For the Poor and Needy through faithful payment of tithes, and other offerings of time, talents, and temporal means.
Enable Salvation of the Dead by qualifying myself and my family for the blessings of the temple and seeking out ancestors who are awaiting my assistance in this great work.
Today we’re going to focus on: Live the Gospel of Jesus Christ (by loving, serving, and ministering to others in their personal lives).
I shared with my daughter my topic for this week and she told me she knew what two of those words were, loving and serving, but wasn’t sure about Ministering. So I thought I would focus specifically on Ministering.
This topic is much more simple that the word makes it sound. The
Dictionary.com definition reads: to give service, care, or aid; attend, as to wants or necessities.
In the Doctrine and Covenants section 18:5 it reads: “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.”
At baptism, we covenanted with the Lord that we would perform this work for others: This is Alma speaking:
8 And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to 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;
9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and 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, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—
10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?
At first glance, ministering feels or sounds like it’s to be done, aligned with a particular calling, or only certain individuals are supposed to perform such work. But in reality it’s a calling we all share. The ways we minister vary, but all of us have the ability to perform the work.
As I prepared four areas of focus stood out to me:
Build Relationships/Gain Trust
*** Warning, each of these will help us to be a better ‘Minister’, but only Acting is truly necessary. Each focus just allows us to be more effective and possibly efficient in our service.
1. Be Prepared
How do you feel about your neighbor? Do you love your neighbor, as we are commanded to. I think most of us have a positive feeling about the people we’re surrounded by but I wonder if we have that love for others that keeps our minds and hearts open to their needs. I like to think I have love in my heart for others, but often times my pride gets in the way, and it blinds me from doing or feeling the way I should towards another. Yes, the spirit will direct our efforts, but doesn’t it help the Lord if we know someone well enough to see the need and not have to wait for an impression to do something.
Listen and be in tune with the Spirit
Ministering is doing what the Savior would do if he were here upon the earth. How could we hope to do His will if we don’t know what that will is? The only way we can know is to stay in tune with the spirit. This requires the typical “primary answers.” Go to church, read your scriptures, pray regularly, fast, be obedient to commandments, pay your tithes and offerings, and attend the temple regularly.
I think there is a tougher challenge to being in tune with the Spirit. Listening. This is one of those areas where Satan has the ability to stop our efforts. He does this through all the interruptions we face daily. Movies, Music, Facebook, Pinterest, hobbies, sports, our jobs or other worldly pursuits are the things that can keep us “out-of-touch”. These distractions keep us from knowing who really needs our help, or from what we could do to assist them.
For me, work can definitely be a challenge that interrupts:
A few years ago, I was preparing for a special training with my agents and I kept feeling like what I did for a living was a complete waste of time. I felt good about what I did, I knew I was helping people, but I felt as though I was wasting my time and not doing the Lord’s work. The training I was preparing at this time was about Associate Engagement. It was to help others to be more comfortable in how they felt with the company, what they did, and how they did it. By increasing Associate Engagement, productivity and consumer engagement would then increase. For some reason I was feeling hypocritical because “I” was lacking that engagement. YES, I know that what I did helped people, but that was in a worldly sense. I wanted to feel like I was doing more.
I felt inspired as it came to my mind that in most everything we do, we have the ability to touch lives. In most work places, we interact with people. Every interaction is an opportunity to lift someone else’s burden, to offer assistance, or to influence someone in a positive way. This way of thinking has changed the way I look at a meeting with an associate or an appointment in a perspective client’s home. I can be a disciple, look for ways to minister, and still perform my mundane worldly duties of the job.
Can you think of instances where you normally wouldn’t consider it a good time to “minister”?
We have the chance to make a difference in every area of our lives. Have you ever thought how you could minister in the most of annoying situations? At the DMV? When a telemarketer calls you at dinner-time? or even when you have a difference of opinion with a coworker?
How in tune we are with the spirit could determine how well we act in those situations.
Let’s turn to the scriputures and follow an example of the Savior:
In Luke 8:43-48 the Savior has been alerted by a father Jairus that his daughter is close to death if not already passed away so Jesus was on his way to see her:
43 ¶And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any,
44 Came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched.
45 And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?
46 And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.
47 And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.
48 And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.
Could Jesus have just kept going at this moment when he had an important task he was asked to do? Yea, maybe, but instead even after the woman has been healed, HE gives her a statement of confidence and love to reassure her she was right, and good, and it was ok what she did. In a brief 30 second passing, could we say or do something that might help someone to feel the love of the Savior, or our Heavenly Father?
I have conversations everyday with many different people. Some of those conversation, discussing the delicate things of life; sickness, death, family changes, financial duress, and unemployment. I get the opportunity EVERYDAY to minister to others, but only if I’m in tune and choose to Minister instead of just do WORK. This is definitely an area of my life where I know I can do better. I’m far from where I need to be.
2. Recognize needs
I remember a lesson a while ago where the teacher lead a discussion about what attributes you and I possess as Sons and Daughters of Heavenly Parents. Our earthly parents passed down things like eye color, hair color, attached ear lobes/unattached ear lobes, etc. Sympathy, compassion, and empathy are a few of the characteristics I believe were passed down to each of us as traits from Divine Parents. The light of Christ in all of us may be another way to say it. It’s evident when we hear about a family with a sick child, a father who loses his job unexpectedly, or when a close friend loses a loved one. I think each of us feel something. Some of us are moved emotionally, others are driven to their knees in prayer, still others go into to-do-list mode, considering all the things that need to be done to help that individual. Regardless of our reaction, we all recognize when there is any degree of human suffering or need.
These characteristics are meant to cause us to feel uncomfortable, or to feel sadness for the individual in need. It’s these feelings that are meant to drive us to action. When someone stands in need, our divine make-up has us wired to move our bodies into action!
During the April 2011 General Conference President Erying spoke about this. “When the Lord hears the cries of those who suffer or stand in need, and He hears the prayers and pleading of those who want to help, He sends his guidance through the power of the Holy Ghost to those who can lift in the way necessary.”
Don’t discount the feelings you have when you hear of someone in need. Learn to understand, open your mind and your heart, and turn to the Lord when you feel one of those heavenly emotions: sympathy, compassion, and empathy.
3. Build Relationships/Gain Trust (this doesn’t have to be there in some situation, but if you are striving for it, it means much more when the message comes out of love rather than duty)
This is something I spend a ton of time talking about at work. I’m in sales. I train other agents regularly about the sales process. There are many important parts of a sales presentation but to me the most important is to build the relationship. To build common ground, to have perspective clients recognize you as “human” a real person with similar challenges and issues, and have them trust you is so important. I teach my folks to ask questions and then sit and listen.
I think it’s best to be involved in building relationships all the time. Then when someone needs help, it’s easier to draw from what you know about them to better fill the need.
It’s understandable that in many situations you don’t know the individual at all before the Spirit called you to their assistance. That’s ok too, but it’s crucial that when you have the chance, even if it’s a brief period, that we do our best to understand them, listen to the things they have to say, and listen to how they say things.
I like this advice from Elder Holland found in Preach My Gospel. In this case he is speaking of someone investigating the LDS Church, but I believe it applies:
“More important than speaking is listening. These people are not lifeless objects disguised as a baptismal statistic. They are children of God, our brothers and sisters, and they need what we have. Be genuine. Reach out sincerely. Ask these friends what matters most to them. What do they cherish, and what do they hold dear? And then listen. If the setting is right, you might ask what their fears are, what they yearn for, or what they feel is missing in their lives. I promise you that something in what they say will always highlight a truth of the gospel about which you can bear testimony and about which you can then offer more. If we listen with love, we won’t need to wonder what to say. It will be given to us—by the Spirit and by our friends.”
I remember when I was very new to sales, sitting in a home with a lady that was very negative towards us being there. I couldn’t tell if she just wanted to yell at somebody, or was in a foul mood. Either way, I was getting it “both barrels.” I was training a new agent and he was making faces like we needed to get out of there.
At one point the lady had to go get something down the hall while we sat in the front room. I remembered we had not taken the time to get to know her (because we were getting chewed out from the moment we walked in the door). I quickly scanned her living room for anything that might bring us some common ground. Two things caught my eye and I was impressed that there was something special about them. She had a coffee table book about Dance, and then a beautiful glass figurine of a ballerina. My four-year-old daughter had just begun dance classes.
When the lady returned I asked her about the figurine. It was incredible, she melted with emotion on the spot. She told us how she had been a professionally trained dancer, then taught dance to hundreds of girls over the course of 20 plus years. Upon retiring, her students had a special event to honor her contributions and gave her the figurine as a token of appreciation. I shared my daughter’s recent dancing attempts, and the walls fell! Needless to say, the rest of our visit together (even the business part) was pleasant and enjoyable. By showing genuine interest I was able to change the climate of the situation and offer sincere help, and it was then well received.
Here is a little reminder I use to help me get to know someone better. I remember the acronym:
H E L P
H ome – how long they have lived there, where they are from, who lives there with them, notice and comment on beautiful/unique things in their home.
E mployment – what they do for a living ? How long they have worked there? Where did they prepare for work? College, Tech School, etc.
L oved Ones – Children, grandchildren, spouse, brothers and sisters
P urpose – What’s important to them? What they like to do? Where do they spend down time? What brings them joy?
This is the only required step of ministering and does not require the other three to be completed first. When you are prompted, Go and do. Don’t prepare, don’t wait for the right time. Step outside your comfort zone, and just DO.
Christ was a perfect example of ministering Christ knows how to minister perfectly… if we are his hands, should we not be able to do the same? The blessing of discernment will be yours. You WILL be guided in what to say and do.
There are so many different ways to minister. Home Teaching, Visiting Teaching, Quorum and Group Leader visits to name a few. It’s the meals to the sick, it’s the phone call to say hi. It could be a text message or an email. It could even be an invitation to do something, a commitment, a request of change in someone’s life. It could be an invitation to share Family Home Evening with you, or to come over and visit with the missionaries.
There was a comment I heard from the CEO of our company Mike McAllister. He made a comment that when we act this way to serve others, “We move into peoples’ lives.” I love that phrase for some reason… We Move Into People’s Lives. Doesn’t that feel like something our Father-in-Heaven wants of us. For his son’s and daughters to be actively involved in each other’s lives?
I think it’s difficult to explain exactly what ministering looks like, but I think these are some of the intentions: support, comfort, kindness, attention, encouragement, inclusion, acceptance, and a chance to feel the love from others and of our Heavenly Father. I pray that each of us will prayerfully consider what kind of ministers we are, and what we need to change in order to be the ministers our Heavenly Father needs us to be. I promise, that as we do so, we will have the ability to bless the lives of the people around us and help them to recognize the source of all goodness, even Jesus Christ, and want to come unto him. I leave this message with you in his name, even Jesus Christ, Amen.