Here’s my first talk as a High Councilman, given August 19 2018 in the Ladera Ward, Los Lunas Stake, New Mexico.
The topic we have been assigned to speak about this month is “ministering to future members”. What comes to your mind when I say that? (ministering to future members).
Why would the stake presidency assign that topic?
First of all, there is no way of knowing who future members are, so the term has to apply to everyone who is not now a member of the church.
The term Ministering has long been used by other churches, but it’s only very recently have we have begun using it in ours.
Since April General Conference, we’ve been talking about ministering quite a bit. At that time Ministering was introduced as a replacement for home and visiting teaching.
But the definition of ministering, which is to show Christ like love caring for others, can obviously apply to people outside the church.
Now, our stake presidency is suggesting just that.
To those of you that are struggling with ministering to the 4 or 5 families that you’ve been assigned to in the ward, ministering to everyone outside of our church is going to seem a bit overwhelming.
Let me assure you that the Lord does not expect us to do more than we are capable of.
Nevertheless, ministering in the broader sense, has always been part of the gospel of Jesus Christ so it’s fitting that we talk about ministering as it relates to nonmembers.
Much has been said and taught to us about Christlike caring. We know that it involves love, kindness, compassion, respect, and forgiveness.
While most of us can readily understand the concept, we have a great deal of difficulty in practicing it.
Pres. Gordon B Hinckley, in a conference address in 2006 lamented “Why do any of us have to be so mean and unkind to others? Why can’t all of us reach out in friendship to everyone about us? Why is there so much bitterness and animosity?”
More recently, Elder Dallin H Oaks asked in one of his conference addresses “Why is it so difficult to have Christlike love for one another?”
To answer these questions, Let us start by examining our behaviors and attitudes.
Here are some hard questions I believe we all need to ask ourselves:
Do I ever criticise people when they aren’t present?
Do I think I’m better than other people?
Am I jealous of other people?
Do I wish harm upon anyone?
Do I withhold kindness and respect from people because they don’t deserve it or because they are different than me?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then i’m sorry to tell you that you’ve failed, but don’t be too hard on yourself. We all fail in this to one degree or another.
If you read or watch the news these days, you see so many examples of this kind of bad behavior, you might be persuaded to believe that it’s okay because everyone is doing it — even our so-called leaders.
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ, however, we have a higher standard. We are taught to overcome our carnal natures and to become Christ-like.
Furthermore, through the plan of salvation we have an understanding of why it’s important to do this.
We know that we were put here on earth so that we can have experiences that will help qualify us for the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Lord told Joseph Smith “all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good” (D&C 122:7)
Those “experiences” include the challenges of getting along with other people and treating them with love, kindness and respect.
While it may not be too difficult to smile at someone on the street, it can becomes a real challenge to show kindness to that same person when he says or does something unkind to you.
I believe that everything that happens to us can be thought of as a test. The Lord is testing us to determine our true characters. These tests include the mean things that people sometimes do to us.
Now we know that we will be judged for our actions, but have you considered the fact that we will also be judged for our reactions.
It’s something to think about.
When someone does something hurtful to us, our first thought is often, what can I do to get back at them, but rather than thinking about the sin committed by your neighbor, we should be thinking about the sin we’ll be committing if we react in a way that does not show Christlike love.
Christlike love is generally easy to show to our friends, but Christ taught us to love our enemies as well “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” (Matthew 5:4)
This teaching of Christ – that of loving our enemies — no doubt seemed outlandish and revolutionary in his day, but even today, 2000 years later, after Christianity has become the largest religion in the world, it’s still a concept that’s mostly ignored.
Why? Because it’s so difficult to do.
However, there is hope. It is indeed possible to love your enemies.
I remember reading a story about soldiers who were fighting each other in Europe in battle near the end of World War 1.
When news that the war had ended, these soldiers suddenly stopped fighting and slowly came out of their trenches, and walked toward each other from opposite sides of the battlefield.
When they met, they embraced each other.
I’d like to read a true story of a woman who was able to prove the principle of “loving your enemies”.
“Love your enemies,” challenged my Sunday School teacher one morning. “Do good to those that hate you. Then just watch what happens.”
At the time I received this challenge, my testimony was not yet firm, and I was skeptical about the practicality of this biblical teaching. It couldn’t possibly apply to my life. But I halfheartedly thought I might try it—that is, if I could think of an enemy.
After some thought, I concluded that I had no real enemies, so that took care of that. Then, suddenly, I remembered an incident. When we had moved into the end apartment of a row of four company-owned apartments, our outdoor water faucet wasn’t working. I asked the woman in the next apartment if I could hook my hose to her faucet to water my lawn. (There was no charge for the water.) She informed me that I certainly could not use her faucet and that, if mine was broken, I had better get it fixed and not bother her again!
Well! I would have no more to do with her! I was relieved some time later when she moved to the far end of our row of apartments. It would be just as well not to be next door to her anymore.
Now here was the challenge to love my enemies. She was the nearest person I could think of who would fit that description. Everyone else I knew was a friend. “I could try!” I thought.
Each day I hung out my laundry on the clotheslines at the end of the building, next to this woman’s apartment. She was always sitting on the porch alone. I had usually ignored her, but now I decided to prove whether or not loving my enemies would indeed work.
The next morning when I went to hang out the laundry, the woman was sitting on her porch as usual, drinking coffee and smoking a cigarette. I gave her a smile and said with a gay lilt, “Hi, there!” She glared at me and deliberately turned her head.
“That couldn’t hurt me,” I thought. “I’m just proving a point.” When I finished hanging out my clothes she had gone inside.
Each day after that, I merrily called out, “Hi!” as I passed her and never once got a smile or an answer. One morning, after about two weeks, much to my surprise, she walked over to where I was hanging wet clothes and exchanged a few remarks about the weather.
After that, each day when I came to hang out clothes, she came over and we said a few words—never anything personal. Sometimes we talked about the company both of our husbands worked for, sometimes the weather or a sale at a local store. I certainly never felt that we were friends in any sense of the word. She always seemed cold and reserved in her attitude.
Then one day my husband and I received word that we were to be transferred to a different locality. When I went out the next morning to hang my washing, the woman came to the clothesline as usual to talk. I told her that we were moving away. We passed a few comments about it, and I went back to my apartment.
About an hour after I had gone home, the woman appeared at my door. I was very surprised to see her. Neither of us had ever been in the other’s apartment. She had an odd, strained expression on her face. I invited her to sit down and we tried to talk a little. But there really seemed to be nothing to talk about.
Then, to my astonishment, she burst into tears, sobbing as if her heart would break. She said she couldn’t stand to have me move away. “You are the only friend I have in the whole world,” she said.
Me! Why, I didn’t even know her first name!
I couldn’t think of anything to say to my friend. I only knew that we weren’t enemies any more.
“Oh, Father,” I thought. “Forgive me for doubting your word. I didn’t really do anything for her. I only said hello and visited with her a little. What a flood of proof you’ve given me!”
I have found for myself—not only then, but many times since—that living the principles of the gospel in even the smallest way always proves them to be true.
Who are our enemies? This is worth pondering. We think of enemies as those who want to harm us, but it’s not that simple, is it?
As we see in these example, and many others, a friend and an enemy can be the same person. A friend can turn into an enemy and an enemy can turn into a friend.
If often has more to do with our perception than with reality and we have the power to change that perception. While we can’t make everyone like us, we can treat everyone with kindness and respect.
Earlier I quoted Dallin H. Oaks who asked the question “Why is it so difficult to have Christlike love for one another?”
He answered the question by saying “It is difficult because we must live among those who do not share our beliefs and values and covenant obligations.”
This is perhaps the greatest challenge we have when it comes to ministering to future members of the church.
Differences between our values and the world’s values seem to be widening. Today, more than ever, we have to deal with values and practices that the Savior and the prophets have told us are sinful. We’ve seen the steady erosion of marriage and the family, including same-sex marriage, cohabitation without marriage, and abortion. Drug use is on the rise. Gambling and pornography are big business. Sabbath Day observance is virtually non-existent.
Beyond moral differences, there are differences in the color of our skin, our language, and our political views. People may dress differently than we do, they may eat and drink things we don’t. They may have habits and lifestyles that we don’t agree with.
I think it’s instructive at this point to ask “Why did Heavenly Father make us all different?” I can think of a couple reasons.
I believe it’s all part of the plan. We know that our experiences are for our good. By putting us all here on the earth, and yet making us so different, Heavenly Father has provided a way for us to have many experiences as we interact with each other..
But I also view our differences as a test to see how we will treat people who are different than us.
Elder Oaks taught that we have been commanded obey two imortant principles that can sometimes conflict with each other, 1) that we are to stand up for what we believe in, and 2) that we avoid contention. This is easier said than done. As the gap widens between our values and world’s values, we increasingly find that standing up for what we believe will cause contention. That’s why we’re sometimes labeled “bigots” or “fanatics” for our stands on important issues.
Elder Oaks counsels us to be examples of civility. “We should love all people, be good listeners, and show concern for their sincere beliefs. Though we may disagree, we should not be disagreeable….All of us should banish hateful communications and practice civility for differences of opinion“
“When our positions do not prevail, we should accept unfavorable results graciously and practice civility with our adversaries. In any event, we should be persons of goodwill toward all, rejecting persecution of any kind, including persecution based on race, ethnicity, religious belief or nonbelief, and differences in sexual orientation.”
He condemned practices such as bullying, insults, exclusion, and anything that deliberately inflicts pain on others. All of these violate the Savior’s command to love one another.
Now let’s talk a little bit about what we can do to minister to those around us.
We can all render service in one way or another. Most of us feel burdened with too many things to do, but A smile, a kind word is not hard, does not take time, but is a simple way to show Christlike love.
But many of us have opportunities to do more.
I have known people that would rather sit at home and feel sorry for themselves rather than do what they can to bless the lives of others, and their own.
When I was in my 20’s, I found myself quite bored at one point and decided to investigate volunteer opportunities. I ended up doing some relatively easy volunteer work at two hospitals in Salt Lake City, and also became a volunteer Big Brother to a young boy who’s father wasn’t around much. We ended developing a close and loving relationship which has lasted to this day.
Now I know that not all of us can get out and do this sort of thing, but there are things that virtually all of us can do. Through the guidance of the Holy Ghost, you will be led to opportunities to show Christlike love.
There are all kinds of ways to celebrate a birthday – but this way is pretty special.
Elizabeth Kikkert is turning 35 next Friday and planning to celebrate by performing 35 random acts of kindness.
She did the same thing privately last year for her 34th birthday – 34 random acts of kindness, from giving her local garbage collector a can of soft drink to offering flowers to a stranger to handing out crayons and colouring-in books to children at the local hospital emergency department.
“It was just so much fun getting out of your comfort zone,” she said.
This time, she is hoping to get suggestions from the community which might have someone in mind who could do with a pick-me-up.
Mrs Kikkert said it was around her 30th birthday that she realised she didn’t want the focus to be on her anymore and turned the tables by giving her family and friends gifts and gestures.
She says the euphoria she feels by making someone else’s day beats a pile of presents every time.
“My husband asked me what I wanted on my birthday this year and I honestly couldn’t think of one thing I wanted – maybe a nice lunch with him.
“I’m actually happier giving people things rather than have people give me presents.”
Mrs Kikkert is the director of public affairs in Canberra for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a mother of five children aged from seven to 14.
She said her birthday plan was all her own doing, but she was guided generally by the teaching of the church.
“When there’s a newborn, we always think it’s a gift to the world and it brings us happiness and joy. And I thought, ‘Why does it have to stop at babies?’. We could always bring happiness and joy to other people as grown-ups. So that’s why I started doing it,” she said.
“And also, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and we are often helping people and serving people. And I know there are so many people out there who need help but don’t have anyone. I just wanted to be an instrument in helping them out in some small way.”
On Thursday, she got the ball rolling by handing out balloons at the Charnwood shops, putting a smile on the face of more than a few people on a day of dazzling winter sunshine.
Mrs Kikkert said she loved Canberra and was happy to do anything that helped make it a “more special place”.
“I just love the people here. And I think the more you serve people, the more you love the place you live, no matter where you’re at.”
Brothers and sisters, my hope and prayer is that each one of us will catch the vision of ministering to those around us. We can show Christlike love, kindness, respect, and tolerance for others. We can lift them and lift ourselves in the process, ultimately achieving our divine potential.
- Pick up trash and throw it away. Don’t forget to throw away your own trash!
- Look for one person sitting alone at work, school, or a church activity. Genuinely ask how they are doing and talk with them.
- Talk to someone you don’t normally talk to, whether in person or on the phone or via social media.
- Give an anonymous, encouraging note to a co-worker or neighbor.
- Focus on serving a roommate or family member this week. Make their bed for them, share the dinner you made, or lend them one of your possessions
- Take some time to serve those on the other side of the veil. Visit the temple, maybe even with family names.
- Find a place in the community to volunteer for a few hours, such as the soup kitchen, or a crossing guard for an elementary school.
- Do something extra for those that you home/visit teach. I.e. drop off a note or a plate of cookies, text them a scripture or a “thinking of you” message.
- Try to hold the door open for someone else at least once a day. If someone holds the door open, make sure you smile at them and thank them.
- Give at least one sincere compliment a day to a different person.
- Send a letter or email to a relative you haven’t talked to in a while. Make sure to ask thoughtful questions and share your love and/or testimony as you feel prompted by the Spirit.
- Volunteer to feed the missionaries, or donate a little extra to Fast Offerings.
- Take time this week to help someone in need. For example you could tutor a student in a subject you know well, cook extra food and bring dinner to someone who needs it, or help with a carpool.
- Make a positive comment on a website or blog.
- Think of something you are good at. Find a way to use it to benefit another person, such as with music, food, or a listening ear.
- Offer your seat to someone wherever you are.
- Do someone else’s household chore for them.
- Take time to talk to a homeless person you see frequently. A few kind words can go a long way.
- Help with kids in sacrament meeting. Sometimes Mom needs a little extra help with the kids.
- Give someone a ride. This could be a friend, an elderly person, or someone with an injury.
- Pay for the person behind you in a fast food line or a restaurant.
- If you live in a neighborhood where trash cans need to be taken to the curb, consider taking down or bringing up your neighbor’s cans for them.
- Give a random stranger a gift from their Amazon wish list.
- Mind your manners. Saying please and thank you, and being polite and respectful show that you are thinking of others and appreciate them.
- Leave quarters in candy machines for the next person.
- Give an unopened bottle of water to a bus driver, crossing guard, or someone else who doesn’t have access to fridge or sink for long periods of time.
- Visit someone that might be lonely. Whether is a single adult, a widow/widower, or someone who is bed-ridden, we all get a little lonely at times and appreciate a cheerful smile and kind word.
- Lend a pencil or give a piece of gum to someone. You might be surprised how often this opportunity arises at church alone!
- Leave sticky notes with uplifting thoughts in random places. A well-placed, brightly-colored sticky note can go a long way towards making someone’s day!
- Comment in classes on Sundays. You are serving the teachers by showing them you appreciate the time and effort they spent on their class.
- Thank veterans when you see them, or you could even write a letter to one. If you don’t know a veteran personally, there are plenty of places online that can help your letter go to a veteran without support from home.
- Let someone go in line in front of you. A few good places to do this might be at the grocery story, at the movie theater, or at a restaurant.
- Appreciate your waiter’s service. Your waiter has served you, why not serve them by thanking them for the meal, looking them in the eye when you talk to them, and leave a generous tip?
- Donate clothing. A service-minded practice to consider might be to donate one shirt for every new shirt you buy.
- Share your umbrella with a stranger who’s walking the same direction as you on a rainy day. Most of the time, newspapers and hoodies just don’t cut it.
- Babysit for free. Kids are a lot of work, and volunteering to watch them for your family members or neighbors is a good, easy way to serve those you love by giving them one night to themselves.
- Put things back on the correct shelf when at the store. Store clerks will appreciate this.
- Let a car in front of you on the freeway during rush hour. This is a great way to practice patience and serve someone, as well as a good way to help prevent an accident.
- Listen sincerely to a friend and only give your opinion if it is asked for. A sincere attempt to listen will let your friend know that you care and are willing to serve and help them.
- Return your shopping cart to the designated areas. This is a great way to serve the store clerks who have to round up the carts, as well as the next person who want to park where you left your cart!
- Leave an item near an area it might be useful in – a book in a reading area, lotion in the bathroom at work, an umbrella near a door.
- Call the hospital and ask them who hasn’t have visitors for a while that you can send flowers to.
- Invite a neighbor who lives alone or the missionaries to come to dinner, especially on a holiday.
- Smile at everyone you talk to today.
- Hold the elevator for someone or offer to push the button for them if you are in front of the panel.
- Donate blood or volunteer to help support those who do with treats, encouragement, etc.
- Don’t pass along gossip. Balance negative comments with positive ones and serve the person who is being talked about.
- Offer to take a photograph for someone or give them directions if they look lost. Sometimes people are hesitant to ask a passing stranger for help, so volunteer!
- Send someone a gift or card or give them a call on their birthday. This is a great way to show someone that you are thinking of them.
- Carry a pass-along card or Book of Mormon with you in your bag to give to someone during your week.
- Volunteer to give a prayer or substitute for someone at church.
- Replace an activity you do for yourself (i.e. social media) with one of these service thoughts.