What is ministering? I have long heard about it from other Christian faiths, but I never had managed to associate it with our religion. Oh, we had what we had: our visiting and home teaching, our efforts for building strong faith communities. At the end of the day, what was different between the two? I certainly appreciated what we did, what these other faiths did. It all seemed to amount to about the same thing, of reaching out to each other and building up our individual faiths.
What are some experiences and thoughts you had from our legacy of Visiting Teaching?
What does ministering mean to you?
When I thought about what ministering means, what kept floating up to the top was the idea of community, the community of our religion and faith. We Mormons are practically famous for our close-knit communities and our efforts to help one another.
Elder Robert D. Hales said “The gospel plan requires giving and receiving… Individuals in difficulty often say “I’ll do it alone… I can take care of myself.” It has been said that no one is so rich he does not need another’s help, no one so poor as to not be useful in some way to his fellow man”.
What does this statement mean to you? Why do you think Elder Hales felt inspired to mention this?
Of course we are all individuals. Of course we all have a personal journey as we work our ways back to Heavenly Father and the Savior. Of course we cannot ultimately save others. Yet our Heavenly Father never intended for us to do this alone. The Church was not set up as individualized learning programs where we are kept separate from everyone else. The Church was set up of people. It is organized as people. It is an extremely social entity and it should be this way. Even if we can’t ultimately save each other, we are most certainly meant to support one another.
There’s this old Chinese folktale that has been on my mind, and it popped back up when I was preparing this lesson. To me, it’s about serving one another and building that community. There was this lord who became aware of a man in poverty. The man didn’t have any particular skills obvious at the same and was in many ways pretty much just a charity case. Even so, the lord decided to bring this man into his household and care for him arguably far more than the man earned. Eventually, the lord needed to send someone to collect debts from this village he was over. The poor man at this time revealed he had some financial experience and could go collect the money. The lord then said to look for whatever was lacking in the household and buy it up with the collected money. So the poor man heads out to this village, figures out what everyone owes… and then proceeds to forgive all the debts in the lord’s names. He returns to the lord, explains what he did. The lord seemed to be a pretty good sort, even though he was very disappointed, and just shrugged off the situation as one of those losses. Sometime later, a new ruler came to power and decided to do some housecleaning. One of the people who was at risk of losing his title was this lord. However, the people of the village whose debts had been forgiven refused to listen to anyone else but this lord.
I bring up this story because it made me think of how our fortunes and needs can change. In this story, we had people who at different times were in need of help. This great lord who was able to give all sorts of assistance to another with scarcely even thinking about it later found himself in need and the person he had served had been able to help him. We had an entire village who rose up in support of the person who had served them.
Now this story could have easily ended with this nice wealthy and powerful lord helping this poor man. In many ways, ministering to others, helping others, is so easy. Oh, we might have to make a sacrifice here and there, but how many of us often think that is easier than being on the receiving end of ministering? I don’t want to suggest pride where it might not exist, but there’s something empowering about going out of our ways for others, in giving up something for another. I truly believe these are godly feelings and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
But again, that quote, “there is no one so rich he does not need another’s help.” We need to be able to accept help from others.
Why do you think this is so important?
To me, it goes back to this idea of this church community that exists to help us all. For every time we go out of our way to help, serve, and support another person, there has to be another person receiving that support. It’s physically impossible for it to be any other way. The story I told speaks of the way people are interconnected and the same goes for the Church.
We are meant to serve each other. It is an essential part of our religion here on this earth and in building up our Heavenly Father’s kingdom. We must serve each other and be willing to be served. If we refused that help, that ministery, we are not unified in the intent of serving others.
What blessings can we receive from letting others minister to us?
We can receive the obvious immediate blessings. What can be better than receiving what we need shortly after we realize we need it? There’s that relief, that joy, all that comes with knowing that we have the means of getting done what we need to get done. It’s probably a simple blessing in the grand scheme of things, yet so many of these simple needs are essential to our mortal life. Sometimes I think in our desire to grow spiritually, we forget or at least underappreciate all the little day-to-day needs of life. So often we speak of letting going of the little things that we forget the still happen and still need to happen. I think that feeling may be in fact one of the things that may keep us from accepting help and ministering: these are minor, mortal things in the grand scheme of things and surely I don’t need to bother others. But again, think of how great it is to get that comparably small thing when we need it.
This also leads to the situation of the not-so-little things. Sometimes, big and bad things happen to us. These might be the times we are far more inclined to ask for help and that’s great, I’m sure so many are willing to help at these times. But I also love the idea of a community that doesn’t necessarily rank or categorize other’s problems. It seems to me that if we are comfortable accepting help for small things, how much more likely are we to be comfortable accepting help in big things! If we are truly unified in helping and serving each other, I think the discomfort we might feel in asking or even just accepting help, no matter the problem, will diminish.
We are also humbled when we allow others to minister to us. This is something else we tend to admire in those we serve. We appreciate the gratitude and humility we see in others, yet sometimes we are scared to let that show in ourselves. Yet so many blessings and growth opportunities come when we are humbled. We are able to appreciate the service given to us. We are able to look at where we can grow and where we are strong. We may even get a nice practical shake-up in our pride.
We get to see the insight and experience to others. Like sharing a testimony, we have the opportunity learn from those who serve us. What have they been through? What have they learned?
We can also help build our community. I think women in general tend to be quite social and this is good. I also have this personal belief of mine that Satan is not only trying to break up the family but communities in general. So often, in so many ways, it seems we are supposed to distrust each other, compare ourselves to each other.
Bonnie L. Oscarson said “We… acknowledge that we are all daughters of the same Heavenly Father, which makes us sisters. We are unified in building the kingdom of God and in the covenants which we have made, no matter what our circumstances. To be sisters implies that there is an unbreakable bond between us. Sisters take care of each other, watch out for each other, comfort each other, and are there for each other through thick and thin. The Lord has said, “I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.”2
Serving each other gives the opportunity to see each other in a different, more Christ-like light, and puts us to work for each other. We see each other through the eyes of service and charity, whether we are receiving or giving it. When we accept ministering, we are part of a sisterhood of taking care of each other and comforting each other.
I feel that we can serve and accept service from others, we break down barriers between one another. We allow others into our lives. We open up our hearts to each other. We become less afraid of others seeing our imperfections and our trials. So much pride goes away, and we really do begin to see each other as Christ might. We may become less defensive, more open to growth and change. We might see that we are not alone but rather far from it in our trials. I’m not saying we need to become busybodies or oversharers, but we can let down walls and reach other to each other. We are allowing others to see what we need and by doing so receive the help we need. We put ourselves and our community of faith in the position to help each other so much further. This builds us up, strengthens us, and further puts us in the position to grow together.
- What things us might prevent us for asking for help?
- What can we do to encourage ourselves and each other to ask for help?
- What’s the difference between asking for help and taking advantage?
- How does receiving help improve our ability to help others?
- How does serving and being served bring us closer to Christ?
- Why might you be hesitant in letting others into your life?