It happens to my lawn every summer, yet every time I doubt my intuition as to why it’s happening.
You might relate to looking at your lawn and realizing that, all of the sudden, there are grey spots that have developed.
What I tend to do is forget about them until a week later when the grass appears to be all but dead.
Then I check the sprinklers, and realize, for whatever reason, they had been turned off and need to be turned on again.
Bottom line is this – green grass needs to be watered or pretty soon it won’t be green anymore.
Recently, a friend Becca posed the question to some people online asking for their comments on ministering, and whether she though that we have taken the charge to care for others in a higher and holier way seriously.
One of Becca’s friends responded with the following comment:
It was hard for me to figure out exactly what to do. Before, I knew exactly what to do – go to their homes and teach a lesson once a month, etc. I do like this way better- that we are supposed to tailor it to their needs. That makes more sense. Some people don’t need a visit.
I appreciate these comments and for the most part, I agree with it. We definitely need to tailor the experience to meet their needs, but I do want to challenge one thing that was said and offer my own thoughts. The statement that “Some people don’t need a visit” is one of the biggest lies we tell ourselves, and the truth is that everyone needs a visit, but perhaps every month isn’t realistic or necessary.
I keep coming back to my green grass that suddenly isn’t so green.
There are families in our wards and stakes that are just like that green grass. They need to be nourished with living water in their homes but they are not getting it. While we may claim they don’t need a visit in their homes, which causes us to stop trying to get in their homes, do you know what is getting into their homes? I’ll give you three things:
- Social Media Influencers
- Philosophies of Men Mingled with Scriptures
A dear family recently let a friend know that they aren’t sure where they stand with their faith and have stepped back from attending church and wanted to be released from their callings. You know what had never happened in their home in the 3 years they’d been in that ward? Never once did someone come into their home to check on them spiritually and teach them about Jesus Christ.
In the Gospel Library under the topic of ministering it teaches:
Ministering is Christlike caring for others. It is motivated by our desire to follow the commandment to love our neighbor and includes serving people out of concern for their spiritual and temporal well-being.
The Savior set an example of ministering during His life. He “smiled at, talked with, walked with, listened to, made time for, encouraged, taught, fed, and forgave” (Jean B. Bingham, “Ministering as the Savior Does,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2018, 104). The Savior asks us to follow His example to “love one another; as I have loved you” (John 13:34).
I think as a church we have upped our game in ministering when it comes to loving more as the Savior did, but I feel that some have taken a step back when it comes to teaching and feeding the sheep as the Savior did.
Consider these four questions:
- When is the last time you shared a message from the scriptures or the living prophets in the home of someone you minister to?
- When is the last time ministers came into your home to share a message from the scriptures or the living prophets?
- When is the last time you asked someone you minister to how they are doing spiritually?
- When is the last time a minister asked you how you are doing spiritually?
In a recent training in the Utah area, a member of the Area Presidency mentioned that one of the unintended consequences in the shift from home teaching to ministering was the people, especially in Utah, have stopped making visits in the home altogether.
In a November 15, 2023 broadcast, the Utah Area Presidency specifically invited each ministering companionship to “regularly visit your assigned members in their homes. Pray with them. Teach them. ‘Lift up the hands which hang down.'”
Another recent focus in the Utah area has been to emphasize that, for young men, the next step on the covenant path after baptism is to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, not go on a mission.
Now, obviously, this was not done to deemphasize the importance of serving a mission, but was done to emphasize the importance of the priesthood covenant, which if accepted, is a promise of a lifetime of magnifying whatever calling you have been given.
As we have worked with the youth in our ward who are preparing for missions – we’ve tried to shift the focus to preparing to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. We spend time with these youth visiting others in their homes and teaching them that if they are to truly magnify their Melchizedek Priesthood, they will spend much time in the homes of others for the rest of their life. As Elder Holland was once heard saying, “Jesus didn’t have an office.” He spent his time ministering to them in the streets, in their places of employment and worship, and most importantly, in their homes.
The Doctrine and Covenants teaches in Section 20:
46 The priest’s duty is to preach, teach, expound, exhort, and baptize, and administer the sacrament,
47 And visit the house of each member, and exhort them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties
Visiting the home of each member and exhorting them to pray is a priesthood duty, exemplified even in the earliest days of the restored Church.
Below is a journal entry of William Cahoon, who was assigned to visit the Prophet Joseph Smith and Emma Smith. Here is an except of William’s journal:
Being young, only about seventeen years [eighteen] of age, I felt my weakness in visiting the Prophet and his family in the capacity of teacher. I almost felt like shrinking from duty. Finally I went to his door and knocked, and in a minute the Prophet came to the door. I stood there trembling, and said to him, “Brother Joseph, I have come to visit you in the capacity of a teacher, if it is convenient for you.”
He said, “Brother William, come right in, I am glad to see you; sit down in that chair there and I will go and call my family in.” They soon came in and took seats. He then said, “Brother William, I submit myself and family into your hand,” and then took his seat.
“Now Brother William,” said he, “ask all the questions you feel like.”
By this time all my fears and trembling had ceased, and I said, “Brother Joseph, are you trying to live your religion?”
He answered, “Yes.”
“I then said, “Do you pray in your family?”
He said, “Yes.”
“Do you teach your family the principles of the gospel?”
He replied, “Yes, I am trying to do it.”
“Do you ask a blessing on your food?”
He answered, “Yes.”
“Are you trying to live in peace and harmony with all your family?”
He said that he was.
I then turned to Sister Emma, his wife, and said, “Sister Emma, are you trying to live your religion? Do you teach your children to obey their parents? Do you try to teach them to pray?” To all these questions, she answered, “Yes, I am trying to do so.”
I then turned to Joseph and said, “I am now through with my questions as a teacher; and now if you have any instructions to give, I shall be happy to receive them.”
He said, “God bless you, Brother William; and if you are humble and faithful, you shall have power to settle all difficulties that may come before you in the capacity of a teacher.”
I then left my parting blessing upon him and his family, as a teacher, and took my departure.
(From “Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith: Elder William Farrington Cahoon,” Juvenile Instructor 27 (August 15, 1892):
Is this not a beautiful example of ministering? It’s obviously not a perfect one, but it does show that William did “visit the house of each member, and exhort them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties.”
Can we do the same? If I may, can I leave you with two small invitations? Make an effort to be in the homes of those you minister to. See how they are doing spiritually. Love them, and TEACH them from the scriptures and words of living prophets. There is a famine in the land, and our people need the word of God more than ever. Secondly, can you invite your ministers to your home? Let them know you would like them to share a message with your family. Give them a specific topic that you feel would bless your family.
I leave you with the words of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland who spoke when the adjustment to home teaching was made. In his talk, Be With and Strengthen Them, he said:
We will continue to visit homes as possible, but local circumstances such as large numbers, long distances, personal safety, and other challenging conditions may preclude a visit to every home every month. As the First Presidency counseled years ago, do the best you can. In addition to whatever schedule you establish for actual visits, that calendar can be supplemented with telephone calls, written notes, texts, emails, video chats, conversations at Church meetings, shared service projects, social activities, and a host of possibilities in the world of social media. However, I should stress that this expansive new view does not include the sorry statement I recently saw on an automobile bumper sticker. It read, “If I honk, you’ve been home taught.” Please, please, brethren (the sisters would never be guilty of that—I speak to the brethren of the Church), with these adjustments we want more care and concern, not less.
May we raise our efforts to minister like the Savior did, starting in homes.