Ministering is Love
(Talk given 5/27/18 18th Ward Salt Lake Ensign Stake)
It is a privilege to be with you on this sabbath day as we have renewed our baptismal covenants. My name is Stephan Adelson and m home Ward is the Canyon Road Ward, I am currently serving an Inner-City Mission in the 13th Ward here in the Ensign stake.
I am relatively new to both the area and the church. In just over a month I will have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day saints for four years. I came to Salt Lake City in October of 2016. Leaving Boston and moving here was never part of my life plan, but as God wills and we listen, mighty and often surprising miracles can be brought into our lives.
It was actually in this Ward, two years ago, almost to the day, that I learned from the Spirit that Salt Lake City was to be my new home. As irrational and unsettling as a move west sounded and felt, within 24 hours of being here I received dramatic confirmation and I knew, without doubt that I was to come to Zion. The spirit does not lie.
And so today, I feel it a great privilege to speak here in the 18th Ward, where in a very real way my new life in service to Christ began. I pray that the words of my mouth, and these meditations of my heart will be acceptable in the sight of the Lord and will have some practical meaning for you.
Since being called to the High Council as I have meet with Missionaries and Ward Mission Leaders in the stake one message has been made perfectly clear, it is that to move missionary work forward in the Ensign stake, we, as representatives of Jesus Christ must be more loving neighbors and be so through simple acts of kindness.
As I watched the last General Conference and heard the inspired emphasis and messages on ministry, I felt a great confirmation of what the spirit has been saying to us in these missionary meetings. I was and remain encouraged and humbled to know that when the Spirit speaks and moves, it can do so across the Lord’s entire Church with the same message. This message is clear, as President Nelson has said we must “serve one another in a new, holier way”.
We have been reminded – powerfully - who – and what - we are to be and do. We are to be ministers to the world, one person at a time. We are to be examples of love, service and self-sacrifice. We are to grow hearts that are intended to become lighter than feathers, not weighed down to become heavy as stone.
The verb to Minister means, “to attend the needs of someone”. Its Latin origin is servant. Therefore we are being sent forth, as servants, to make efforts to attend to the needs of others. Can you humble yourself enough to be the best servant you can be by consistently considering the needs of others?
Please, take a moment and think about how much time you spend each day, each hour, seeking to meet your own needs. From the moment we wake, to the moment we sleep we are keenly aware of our needs and striding to fulfill them. Shower, brush our teeth, dress for the day, have breakfast, drive to work, turn left, get gas, park, get lunch, get on the elevator – from dawn to dusk almost every action we make is, in one form or another, an attempt to meet some need we have.
What would our life – what would we - be like if we shifted just 10 percent of this time we spend on thinking and meeting our own needs to thinking about and seeking to meet the needs of another?
As the demographics in the Avenues change, the spirit in our neighborhood is changing too, and not for the better. The fact that we have participated in and continue to facilitate the growing feelings of discomfort between us and our neighbors is only a testimony to our own shortcomings and serves to demonstrate - most poignantly - our individual opportunities for growth. What is happening to our love? When did we decide to give back to others what we have been given? Are we not called to love and pray for those that persecute us? How can we ever lead others to Christ, without become more Christ like ourselves? All of us are here to prepare the earth for the Lord’s return - if we are not showing others who Christ is through our own loving actions, we are failing in our mission.
The missionaries in Boston often referred to me as an eterna-gator, I investigated the church for over 12 years. The first time I attended sacrament meeting I recall looking around the chapel and thinking I am not good enough to be part of this group. Everyone seemed so righteous, wholesome, healthy and happy and I felt so unworthy. The more I was made to feel welcome the more comfortable and special I felt. Each person who shook my hand or took the time to say hello was, in a simple but tangible way ministering to me. My need at the time was to feel welcomed and each person that welcomed me was in their own small way attending to my need. Over time this ministering grew and eventually, through the authenticity and loving care of the saints in Boston, I came to understand just how well I fit in, not because I was suddenly righteous or was immediately made holy but because I was being taught of the atonement, ministered to and loved through the small and simple individual efforts of these dedicated saints. Their ministry to me was a true tipping point that helped, in powerful ways, to prepare me for baptism.
We have been reminded to seek out and attend to the needs of others. To do so, we must ask; What do others need that we can provide. In regards to ministry, this question has an easy answer. Love, others desperately need our love. How do we know this? Just look around.
Open your eyes with love and you can see the derelict that, long before she lost her agency to alcohol, had her first drink because she wanted to be loved by her best friend who dared her to take it. We can see our grumpy neighbor as one who feels judged and defensively, angerly, rebuffs attention or affection to avoid being hurt - again. Though the eyes of love we can see that person that always says too much and talks too often is in reality desperately lonely and simply needs affirmation that they matter and are they are noticed.
As you practice seeing the world through the eyes of love, as the greatest minister does, you will not only begin to change the hearts and lives of others, but love will begin to change your own heart and life.
Our Father in Heaven is a giver. He has given us everything, everything we have -and everything we are - is in all ways a gift.
We on the other hand, in this - our second estate, and by our very nature, are takers. We take from the earth, from each other, always seeking to meet our needs and very often through taking. BUT we cannot stay this way and return to His presence. We are here to learn to be givers, just as our Father in Heaven is. We are to learn how to think of others first, and thus lead them to Christ through the brightness of our lamps of love.
As President Nelson has said, “Our message to the world is simple and sincere: we invite all of God’s children on both sides of the veil to come unto their Savior, receive the blessings of the holy temple, have enduring joy, and qualify for eternal life.”
And how do we follow this mandate? We minister.
So what, now, after all these talks on ministering, what can ministering really look like in our every day lives? Ministering is having a box of Laura bars next to us as we drive so we can help feed the poor on our path. It’s canceling that business trip that you really do not need to attend and asking your daughter out on a date instead. It’s inviting the class bully to your son’s baptism. It’s calling your mother. It is being the first to raise your hand to volunteer for the welfare assignment in Elder’s Quorum. It is answering your phone when you feel that you just can’t listen to her ramble on - again. It’s baking cookies. Its making dinner for the family so your wife can take a bath. Its asking the cashier how her day is and then listening to her answer because you really do want to know. It is going to your disabled neighbor’s house and lifting her into bed, for decades. Its knocking on the door of your elderly neighbor just to say hi. Its following the prompting that is telling you to do something for another that sounded just too hard. Its making eye contact and smiling at everyone you pass in the street, regardless of how they respond. Its handing the homeless woman some change and then sitting down and asking her name. It is reaching out to your estranged family member with a sincere desire to heal the relationship, again. Its allowing the car next you to merge in front of you. It is apologizing for the sake of love, even when you were not wrong. It is forgiving yourself and moving on. Ministering is love, even in the simplest acts.
Our Father, through our prophet, has removed the training wheels from the duty once called Home Teaching and He has called us to live according to a higher standard, a standard that is Christ like and to do so in our daily lives and not just with a few assigned brothers and sisters on a list, but to all.
One of my favorite scenes of all those portrayed in ancient hieroglyphic texts, is one that is found in the Egyptian funerary text titled the ‘Book of Emerging Forth into the Light’. In the section describing Judgement there is a scene which shows a dead man being taken to the scales of justice. The dead man’s heart (representative of intelligence and memory) is then weighted against the goddess Maat (representative of truth and justice), portrayed as a feather. Should the man’s heart be at least equal to the weight of the feather, he can then pass on to immortality.
In this 3300-year-old text there is a great gospel truth. We are here to have a mighty change of heart. When King Benjamin finished his speech in the land of Zarahemia the people all knew that the promises of redemption were true as ‘they all cried with one voice saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.’
This my brothers and sisters is true conversion, to have that might change of heart that leads us to the desire to do good continually. Each of us in this room is demonstrating at least some of the foundation of this change, which is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, if this were not true, you most likely would not be here. It is from this foundation of faith that we must, of our own efforts guided by the Holy Spirit, shape our mighty change of heart. It is through loving ministry - performed in every moment possible - that our hearts will move into a disposition to do good continually. Our wills and desires will be caught up into heaven and become one with Our Father as we love.
I hope and pray that we choose to follow the prophet. That we all pray for frequent opportunities to minister in love and that we receive and respond to the guidance of the spirit as we do so.
And I pray thus, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen