One of the questions asked of Elder Bednar was, “What does it mean to minister”?  Elder Bednar asked Elder Nielsen (I believe our area authority Seventy) to answer first, then he would continue.  However, for the purpose of this discussion, I will not distinguish much between the two.  Rather, the answers intertwine and work well together.

We were referred to the chapters in the Book of Mormon from Mosiah 23 to Alma 15 as an example of what describes the word “minister”.  These are the chapter that talks about Alma’s ministry, rich with examples of what Alma did and said while teaching the people.  Note the word “did” in that previous sentence.  It is important.

We read from Doctrine and Covenants 43:8:

“And now, behold, I give unto you a commandment, that when ye are assembled together ye shall instruct and edify each other, that ye may know how to act and direct my church, how to act upon the points of my law and commandments which I have given.”

Here is a reason for meeting together in conference, that me may instruct and edify each other.  The entire six hours of conference this weekend was incredibly instructive.  The Lord gives the reason for this when he says “that ye may know…how to act upon the points of my law and commandments which I have given”. 

There is an action word here.  Act sounds a lot like Did, except it is the present tense, not past.  Alma, having learned the world of God, preached that word (acted) and established congregations, instructing and edifying the people (acting some more).  Those people followed the instruction (acting themselves) and in many cases, were a happy and delightsome people for a period of time.

I submit that acting upon the word of God, instructing, edifying, home teaching, filling callings, paying tithing, etc. are what it means to “minister”.  We devote our lives to helping and uplifting those around us.  It also means that when we have positions of responsibility, we fulfill those jobs as seriously and completely as we can.

Going to Doctrine and Covenants 61:3, we learn an important principle that will help us minister:

“But verily I say unto you, that it is not needful for this whole company of mine elders to be moving swiftly upon the waters, whilst the inhabitants on either side are perishing in unbelief.”

Joseph Smith and others were travelling down the Missouri river.  The Lord foresaw danger and warned them.  In this passage, special attention was paid to the words “moving swiftly” and “inhabitants on either side are perishing in unbelief”.  In other words, slow down.  We should not be in a rush while ministering.  While it is true that many things have a schedule and deadlines, I don’t think that people and souls do.  Progress is very often measured against time.  If we move along too fast, we may miss something important that can make a difference for good in someone’s life.

Now, to get back to the original question of “What does it mean to minister”, we can answer it with some better detail.

To minister means to serve.  Service can be anything that someone needs in their life, from weeding a flowerbed to changing a flat tire, to giving a Priesthood blessing.  It includes teaching the gospel, baptizing, and giving testimony; taking a dinner to an afflicted family or driving an elderly person to church qualify as ministering. 

In order to serve or minister, one must know how to do it, whatever form it may be.  For example, it is difficult for one who does not know plumbing to do a proper pipe repair job.  The same principle applies to those who would teach the gospel.  One must first learn the gospel and be practiced in it to be able to preach it.  For many professions, before one can practice their learning, they must pass a series of tests to prove their competency.  Is the gospel any different?  Yes and no.  The Bishop is not going to issue a test to prove ability to preach, but in order to be effective, one must have testimony given by the Holy Ghost, and that is only given after one studies, learns, and prays diligently.  In the example of the sons of Mosiah, we have already shown that they first searched the scriptures, learned the word of God, and prayed and fasted.  They passed the test, that of receiving testimony from God, and they were thus able to minister with the power and authority of God.  In similar fashion, if a young person joins the church and wishes to serve a mission, they must be a member for a year prior to going, giving them time to study and learn.

Now, do you have to have the full testimony before you serve?  Part of that testimony is gained by serving.  Like every other occupation, hobby or endeavor, practice makes perfect.  Those who learn medicine practice medicine in increasing levels of responsibility and difficulty while they are learning.  The gospel is no different.  As one learns principles of the gospel, one puts them into practice and perfects them while learning new principles, and the cycle continues.  In order to minister, one learns while they minister, but you always have to start somewhere and spend some time gaining your knowledge and testimony before you start.  As you begin to minister and continue learning, your testimony grows and you draw close to your Father in Heaven.

Ministering means acting on your knowledge.  If you don’t act, your knowledge does you no good.  In the account in Alma 17, the sons of Mosiah had been laboring for 14 years among the Lamanites, and were returning to Zarahemla, where they would serve some more.  That is action.  The results of those actions, as already mentioned, are the spirits of revelation and prophecy, the result of hard spiritual work and ministering.

In the scriptures, it becomes obvious that serving is one of many ways that we earn forgiveness from the Savior.  As we minister to those whom we have responsibility for, and even those whom we don’t, our faith and testimony increase.  The more this occurs, the closer we get to being converted, a subject that was also talked about and will be discussed in another article.

To summarize, to minister is to act and serve.  As Elder Bednar pointed out, talking about action in a meeting does not constitute ministering.  Meetings are necessary and sometimes required for organization, preparation, instruction and training, but the real ministering takes place outside of meetings.

This entry was posted on Monday, May 5th, 2008 at 6:37 pm and is filed under Church Meetings, Elder Bednar, Older Posts, Scriptures. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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