I will admit it. I’ve always loved Visiting Teaching and when it became known as Ministering, I simply continued what I was already doing. I know this isn’t everyone’s experience, but it’s been a priority in my life. I’ve always thought it’s one more evidence of Christ’s true, restored gospel, that He would have us watch over one another like real family members. If done right, ministering can prevent hunger, poverty, homelessness, and the possibility of members “falling through the cracks.” Brilliant!
Non-Mormons are often surprised that we’re assigned three, four, or more people to look after personally. Monthly visits are just the beginning—we get to know these people and try to do much more than just pop in every four weeks. We establish a caring relationship, hopefully close enough that we might be the first person they’d call in an emergency.
Sometimes you’ll hear someone say that we are the Lord’s hands and feet, doing what He cannot. BUT… let’s clarify. Heavenly Father and Jesus are Gods. They can do anything they wish. The reason they assign us to watch over each other and minister during times of grief and loss isn’t because they’re too busy, or unable. It’s to teach us.
This whole experience of mortality is a learning lab. We are being trained for heaven, and we’re given the opportunity to develop the traits and attitudes that will make us comfortable there. By serving others we learn more than we could ever learn without this task in our schedule. It refines us.
Ask any parent if they’ve learned more patience and selflessness by having children. Without exception, parents will answer yes. And, in a way, we’re the mom or pop of another member—or members—when we accept a ministering assignment.
We need to mull this over. We need to find a caring heartbeat in our own chest, that truly wants the best for those people we’re assigned. If you’ve never truly loved them before, you will find a way now. And that love will guide your words and actions as you try to bless these other people.
As we extend ourselves in their behalf, a remarkable thing happens. We think we’re helping them, but in fact we’re helping ourselves. This is the first surprise consequence many overlook. As we serve, we become happier. We feel light on our feet. We have the energy to do even more. We enjoy it. We feel closer to our Father in Heaven. Our homes seem happier and more peaceful. Without even trying to work on ourselves, change happens. And we become more fit for Heaven. This is exactly what Heavenly Father had in mind.
President Thomas S. Monson said, “Unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives.” Think about that next time you dash off to something on your calendar. Have you given service the spot it deserves?
Let’s look at our assigned people the way God does, as children He wants back. What can you do that will aid in this goal? Make a list. It could include bringing them a spiritual message, praying with them, going to their kids’ ballgames, taking them a treat they love, sharing laughs, sharing a meal, or telling them jokes. It could be helping them with household chores, mowing their lawn, taking them to the airport, or crying with them when something devastating happens. Basically, we treat these people as if they were our actual siblings, or best friends. We love them and lift their burdens.
The second element of Ministering that many don’t notice, is that when we’re serving others, we open the conduit to revelation. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “Often, the answer to our prayer does not come while we’re on our knees, but while we’re on our feet, serving the Lord and serving those around us.”
When we’re behaving as the disciples of Christ we claim to be, we tighten the distance between us and the Savior. He’s closer. He’s helping us. He’s guiding us with answers and inspiration. I’ve received many answers to prayers while serving others.
Years ago, I wrote a Meridian Magazine article about when my Relief Society Counselors and I arrived just in time to prevent a sister from committing suicide. I know it wasn’t a mere coincidence. Would the prompting to go by at exactly that moment have happened if we weren’t doing our best to minister? We all know the answer.
Lastly, Ministering has created something we couldn’t have done if we tried. It has linked every single one of us to all the other members around the world. Wherever we travel, we immediately feel at home among other Latter-day Saints. It’s more than just “Oh, we believe the same things.” It’s a kinship, a sense of being welcome and loved. We know we could be their Ministers, or they could be ours, if we lived there. And instantly there’s a trust and an intimacy that makes us smile and feel connected. We could sit right down and pray for one another’s children. We could go to the temple together. We could ask a question about a scripture, and work together to find the answer. We’re friends. Except that we’re even more than friends, aren’t we?
So yes, Ministering is a fabulous caretaking program that ensures love and safety for every single Latter-day Saint, if done properly. I know it can be hard and take real sacrifice. But let’s remember the three things we gain as well: Preparation for Heaven, Personal Revelation, and Kinship. Wow. Now that’s a silver lining.
Joni Hilton is a Latter-day Saint author, Seminary teacher, and shares life hacks at http://bit.ly/YourYouTubeMom.