After President Russell M. Nelson announced at General Conference that the Church was going “to retire home teaching and visiting teaching as we have known them,” I initially felt lost. Since my home teaching companion had moved out of our ward, my wife had been assigned to go with me when making home teaching visits. As I also watched my wife frequently reach out to her visiting teaching sisters, I was impressed with her innate ministering gifts. Nevertheless, I felt unsure of how to move forward with the new approach: ministering.
I prayed. I read the General Conference talks. I reviewed the resources posted on ChurchofJesusChrist.org: Ministering. During one of the instructional sessions, President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said: “I invite you to study Third Nephi by identifying every reference to the word minister in any of its forms and every reference to the phrase one by one. Once you have thoroughly identified these words and phrases, please consider what the Book of Mormon teaches about ministering.”
Guidance from the Book of Mormon
As I studied the 34 times a form of the word minister and the four instances of the phrase one by one were cited, I learned that Nephi had “power given to him that he might know concerning the ministry of Christ” (3 Nephi 7:15). Like Jesus, Nephi taught with power and authority and performed many miracles, even raising his brother from the dead (3 Nephi 7:19). These first five references reminded me that effective ministering is enabled by the incomparable power of the priesthood.
The next 28 references focus on Christ showing his body to a multitude of 2500 men, women, and children (3 Nephi 17:25). He invited them to come “one by one” and “thrust their hands into his side” and “feel the prints of the nails in his hands and feet” (3 Nephi 11:15). If each person only took five seconds in touching Jesus, these exchanges would have taken at least two and a half hours. Yet, Jesus took whatever time was needed. Jesus exemplified that one by one ministering should not be a rushed activity but be patiently personal.
Then, Jesus taught gospel doctrines. Jesus noticed that the multitude was too weak to understand all that the Father had “commanded [Him] to speak” (3 Nephi 17:2). As He prepared to depart, He “beheld they were in tears” (3 Nephi 17:5). Jesus perceived what the people needed: He healed their sick and afflicted (3 Nephi 17:9); “took their little children, one by one, and blessed them” (3 Nephi 17:21); the heavens were opened and “angels did minister unto them” (3 Nephi 17:24). Ministering is more than teaching a lesson but caring for people’s temporal and spiritual needs.
Jesus next arranged for everyone to be filled with the bread and wine of the sacrament. He counselled “ye shall not forbid any man from coming unto you when ye shall meet together” (3 Nephi 18:22). Even if an individual was unworthy to partake of the sacrament, Jesus directed, “unto such shall ye continue to minister; for ye know not but what they will return and repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal them; and ye shall be the means of bringing salvation unto them” (3 Nephi 18:32). Christ-like ministering does not cast out or shun. Instead, we continually invite “all to come unto Christ” (D&C 20:59) and to be or become worthy to partake the emblems of the sacrament.
Before leaving, Jesus “touched with his hand the disciples whom he had chosen, one by one” (3 Nephi 18:36) and “gave them power to give the Holy Ghost” (3 Nephi 18:37). The next day, these disciples taught the enlarging multitudes, baptized them, and “they were filled with the Holy Ghost and with fire” (3 Nephi 19:13). These actions of the disciples show that it is important to delegate the work of the Lord. When Jesus appeared, He again administered the sacrament. Then, He quoted prophets, supplementing and correcting their scriptural records. This suggests that we should likewise study and refer to the scriptures when ministering to others.
Jesus concluded His ministry visitations with “one by one” (3 Nephi 28:1) interviews with the disciples. Nine wanted to “speedily come unto thee in thy kingdom” (3 Nephi 28:2) when their ministry ended. The other three disciples dared not even say what they desired, but Jesus read their hearts: “live to behold… when I shall come in my glory with the powers of heaven” (3 Nephi 28:6-7). He granted each disciple the desires of their hearts. These interviews show how Jesus blessed the disciples individually.
My review of Third Nephi increased my knowledge, but I still lacked confidence to act. Both my wife and I felt prompted to go to the temple. While there, we received some answers. One was to place names on the prayer roll at the temple. I also designed ministering cards that listed our contact information and explained our purpose—“love our neighbors” (Matthew 22:39). Our last prompting was to wait for further instruction from our local priesthood and Relief Society leaders.
Ministering Interviews Are Critical
The next Sunday our first ministering interview provided more answers. A counselor of the elders quorum presidency, in a prayerful and private setting, listened to the history of our previous assignments, our new concerns, and was open to suggestions. Soon after that interview, the Relief Society president called and talked with us. She later met with the bishop who approved some changes. We had discovered that ministering interviews were an integral part of being able to watch over our families effectively.
We look forward to the daily opportunities we now face in watching over people one by one. As President Russell M. Nelson taught: “This general conference marks the beginning of a new era of ministering. The Lord has made important adjustments in the way we care for each other. Sisters and brothers—old and young—will serve one another in a new, holier way.” (“Let Us All Press On” Ensign, May 2018)