I’m so grateful for Jen, who, without exception, lives what she teaches. She knows who she is and rejoices in knowing who she is. She’s bold in sharing that with others wherever she is. I’m so grateful we met two years after I joined the Church. She’s been a blessed example to me and for me since then and continues to be.
It’s wonderful to think of you gathering around the world. I pray, in the spirit of Landon’s beautiful opening prayer, that you will be given what you need, that if you need inspiration, that you’ll receive it. If you need something exceptional, that it will come. There’s such power when we gather like this, when we prepare for moments like this. There is power in gathering. If you need healing, may you have healing. If you need comfort, may you receive comfort. If you need peace, may you have peace. If you need help with exams—I suppose it’s a little early for that in most of your semesters, but when that time comes, may you have that too.
I pray that as you’re prompted, as you receive a message for you, that you will then have the strength and the conviction to act on it, and not just drift back to whatever your current habits may be. If you need a moment of change, if you need a moment of renewed strength and faith, that may be your gift.
When I was 15 or 16, I was deeply self-absorbed and going through many of those unsettled and uncertain and vulnerable feelings which can come as being part of an adolescent. Some of those feelings lingered on, but they were most acute in those teenage years. I felt lost and self-conscious and awkward. It didn’t help that I was at boarding school on a desolate bit of coast in England. My parents lived far away in Saudi Arabia. In terms of the school, Hogwarts with Snape would have been more welcoming.
Bad weather was common along that coast, but one winter a particularly formidable storm blew in across the Irish Sea with winds gusting to a Force 12 gale. The sea crashed over the defenses and in some cases breached them. And then around 5,000 homes were flooded in the surrounding area, and people were left cut off, without electricity or any means of heating and lighting their homes, and they were running out of food.
As the flood started to subside, we were dispatched by the school. I had not seen a natural disaster on that scale before, and I was astonished to experience it close up. Water and mud were everywhere. The faces of those who had been flooded were ashen and gaunt. They had been deprived of sleep for days. My fellow schoolboys and I went to work, moving waterlogged belongings to upper floors where they could be dried and pulling up carpet which had been ruined by the flood. I remember the sodden carpet was impossibly heavy, and the stench in the homes was dreadful.
What struck me next was the camaraderie that developed between those of us helping and those receiving help. There was just a wonderful, good-natured feeling between people united in a worthy cause under challenging circumstances. I later reflected that all those insecure feelings which consumed so much of my regular teenage thought left while I was involved in this great effort to assist our neighbors.
I wish that realization had lasted, but it didn’t. The discovery that helping others was the antidote to my gloomy, self-obsessed state should have been transforming. But it wasn’t, because the discovery didn’t sink deep enough, and I failed to reflect more thoughtfully on what had taken place. That understanding came later. You have probably discovered this truth in your own life. It might be helpful for you to think about when this happened for you, and how.
The Invitation at General Conference to Minister
I was considering this myself during general conference. I do feel so fortunate to have this opportunity to speak to you so soon after that landmark conference just a few weeks ago. The impressions, peace, and infusion of energy received are still with me.
At the heart of the conference messages was the repeated call to minister as the Savior ministers—and to do so out of love, in recognition that we and all those around us are children of our Heavenly Father. We will serve not because our service is being counted and measured, but because we love our Father in Heaven and are motivated by a higher and nobler pursuit, helping our friends find and stay on the path home to Him. We are loving and serving our neighbors as Jesus would if He were in our place, truly trying to improve people’s lives and lighten their burdens. This is where joy and lasting fulfillment come from, for both the giver and the receiver, as we share the fruits of knowing and feeling our infinite worth and God’s eternal love for each of us.
This message was summarized by President Nelson in this way: “A hallmark of the Lord’s true and living Church will always be an organized, directed effort to minister to individual children of God and their families. Because it is His Church, we as His servants will minister to the one, just as He did. We will minister in His name, with His power and authority, and with His loving-kindness.”1
As I have reflected on what we were taught, I know that if we heed this call to minister, we have the opportunity to rise out of ourselves; grow in faith, confidence, and happiness; and overcome our self-focus and the sense of emptiness and gloom which comes with it. I wish I had come to this realization much earlier in my life. But I am so grateful that I have learned it by increasing degrees over the years, and that we are given constant reminders of this great truth.
The Benefits and Blessings of This Kind of Ministering
The beauty of this kind of service, ministry, or discipleship is that it helps others in ways too numerous to list, but it also transforms us by taking us away from our worries, fears, anxieties, and doubts. At first the service simply distracts us from our own problems, but that swiftly converts into something much higher and more beautiful. We begin to experience light and peace, almost without realizing it. We are calmed, warmed, and comforted. And we recognize a joy that comes in no other way. These gifts settle upon us out of all proportion to what we have actually done, in terms of helping another.
President Spencer W. Kimball explained it, in part, as follows: “The abundant life noted in the scriptures is the spiritual sum that is arrived at by the multiplying of our service to others and by investing our talents in service to God and to man.”2 “We become more substantive as we serve others—indeed, it is easier to ‘find’ ourselves because there is so much more of us to find!”3
Examples of the Transformation We Experience When We Minister and the Contrast to That When We Don’t
This transformation is what new missionaries discover when they stop worrying about themselves and ask instead, “Who can I help, and how?” What happens is they stop thinking of themselves and turn to their purpose of bringing souls to Christ. This discovery is often hard-won for missionaries. They can be so consumed with being in a new place with different people, food, customs, and often a challenging language that it is very hard for them to turn outward and serve. But when they do, everything changes for them. They stop worrying, get to work, and get on with the selfless task before them, and they discover a whole new dimension to their missions and to their lives, with peace and a sense of purpose.
Sadly, the reverse of this discovery too often plays out for missionaries when they return home and begin to address the needs of their next phase of life, be it education, employment, or personal and family concerns. They have spent 18 months to 2 years learning that we are at our happiest when we are not concerned with ourselves, or, as President Hinckley put it, when we forget ourselves and go to work. Often, when they return from their missions to the life they left behind, they also return to many of the more self-focused habits which were a part of that life. In particular, they return to being consumed with themselves, how they are doing, how they are looking or sounding, and what others are thinking of them.
As surely as looking outward and helping others brings light, peace, and joy, so turning inward brings doubt, anxiety, and gloom.
I had an experience a couple of months ago where I had been lying awake for many hours, trying to sleep but unable to do so. Finally I got up and walked around the house a little, then returned to bed to try and sleep again. As sleep continued to elude me, a transformative thought suddenly dawned on me: “Stop thinking about yourself.” And then came the question, “Who can I help?” I lay there praying, mightily, “Who can I help now, and how?” An impression came to contact and encourage a friend. It wasn’t a big thing, but the next morning I responded to it and hopefully did some good. What I do know is that once I prayed that way, asking to know who I could help, I found the peace which had been evading me, and I was finally able to sleep.
Examples of the Savior’s Ministering
The Savior “went about doing good,”4 always looking for someone to help, and “healing all that were oppressed.”5 He constantly blessed, taught, and guided others to change their point of view and therefore their lives. It is instructive that when he called Peter, Andrew, James, and John to follow him, their change of direction and focus was instant: “They straightway left their nets, and followed him.”6
Later, after the Crucifixion, when the Savior had been taken from them in the cruelest way, they returned to their fishing, to what they felt they knew. On one occasion, the resurrected Savior came to them as they fished in vain. “And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.”7 This was a demonstration that He had lost none of His power, but also a very bold picture that they were looking in the wrong place and focusing on the wrong thing. As they ate fish together on the shore, the Savior asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Each time, and with a growing sense of anxiety, Peter answered that he did. Following each of Peter’s answers, Jesus asked Peter to feed His sheep.
Why did the Savior ask him three times if he loved Him? Well, Peter had been called to follow Jesus before, and he had responded instantly, leaving his fishing behind. But when Jesus was taken from them, Peter grieved; he was lost. He went back to the only thing he felt he knew—fishing. Now Jesus wanted Peter to really hear Him and to comprehend the gravity of the invitation this time; He needed Peter to understand what it meant to be a disciple and follower of the resurrected Christ, now that He would no longer be physically by their side. What did the Lord want from Peter? He wanted Peter to feed His sheep, His lambs. This was the job that needed doing. Peter recognized this gentle, direct call from his Master, and the chief Apostle responded, valiantly and fearlessly giving the remainder of his life to the ministry he had been called to.
How This Applies to You
Through the Restoration, we now have another chief Apostle on earth today. President Nelson is extending the invitation to you and me to feed Jesus’ sheep. We heard it at general conference in the clearest and most loving terms possible. We were moved and inspired, but were we changed? With all the distractions around us and so many lesser things demanding our attention, the challenge is to respond to this invitation and act—actually do something, really make a change, and live differently.
Your question might be, in response to the call to minister, “Where do I start?” Begin with prayer. President Nelson challenged us to “stretch beyond [our] current spiritual ability to receive personal revelation, for the Lord has promised that ‘if thou shalt [seek], thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal’ [D&C 42:61].”8
Ask your Father in Heaven what you might do, and for whom. Any small act of kindness causes us to look outward and brings its own blessings. Respond to any impression you receive, however insignificant it might seem. Act on it. It could be a kind text to someone who won’t expect it. Maybe it is a message of some kind. Perhaps it’s a flower, some cookies, or a kind word. Maybe it is more, like clearing a garden or yard, doing some laundry for someone who isn’t as mobile as he or she once was, washing a car, cutting grass, clearing snow, or just listening as a friend talks about the challenges he or she is facing.
As Sister Jean B. Bingham put it, “Sometimes we think we have to do something grand and heroic to ‘count’ as serving our neighbors. Yet simple acts of service can have profound effects on others—as well as on ourselves.”9
You might be reluctant to take the first step, convinced you don’t have time or you can’t really make a difference, but you will be amazed at what even some little thing can do.
If you find yourself worried about a friend who is drifting from the Church and losing his or her once-bright faith and hope, invite him or her to join you in some act of service or ministering. There is no better way to soften hearts to the things of God and rediscover His love in our lives than engaging in meaningful service to someone in need.
The Why of Service and Ministering for Us
We must constantly remind ourselves why we serve and minister. We are children of our Heavenly Father, on earth to learn and to grow through myriad experiences, so that we will be more complete when we return to Him. Learning to look outward, not inward, and serve one another is so much a part of our purpose here. In fact, it is at the heart of it. The miracle of looking outward and ministering to another person in need is that in the process, we learn that we can forget ourselves and our own problems.
President Nelson is laying out a higher and holier pattern of service for you and me. When we respond, we will discover how fulfilling, liberating, and calming it is for us, and how we can be an agent for change and comfort in the lives of others.
When you have been endowed in the temple and served a mission, there is a temptation to say, “Well, I’m done now. I’ve been a full-time service machine for 18 months or 2 years. It’s someone else’s turn now.” The same can be said after we get married. We might think, “Well, I did it. Now it’s time for a break.” But this kind of ministry doesn’t pause. It’s a way of life. We might take breaks from our regular activities and holidays to rest and rejuvenate, to “unstring the bow” as Joseph Smith put it.10 But our covenant responsibility to love one another as He has loved us and to feed His sheep doesn’t take a break.
I have been both the beneficiary of this kind of ministry, and I have also discovered the peace and joy which comes from being an instrument in God’s hands on behalf of another.
Jen referred to the fight we had for the life of our infant son. After his loss, we wondered if we would ever recover. Through that time we received an extraordinary outpouring of love, kindness, and help from family and friends, as well as people we hardly knew. A beloved couple who were already dear friends were constant ministers through the whole period. They remained by our side, praying with us and for us, and providing blessings, meals, comforting words as well as silence. Somehow they always appeared when some critical piece of information had been delivered or when we were sinking with exhaustion and then with grief. They have demonstrated over the years that this is their way of life. They quietly and consistently minister.
The Ministry of the Worldwide Church
While serving in the Europe area of the Church over the last few years, we were living in Germany, and I witnessed this principle being applied to astonishing effect as members of the Church and our friends of other faiths mobilized to help countless thousands of refugees who had lost everything as they fled the fighting and devastation of a war that still rages in the Middle East. They came, sometimes walking thousands of miles carrying only small bags of belongings. Seeing a need, seeing brothers and sisters, seeing His lambs, our people stepped in to help, clothe, feed, shelter, and comfort these refugees who had lost everything. In doing so, those who helped were transformed. They were blessed with light, energy, and joy that they had either never experienced before, or that had faded as they focused on self and life’s mundane routines. Our people continue this wonderful relief effort all across the world.
Refugees have immediate and highly apparent needs, but there are others all around us, whose challenges might not be so apparent who need our help, and we likewise have a need to help them. Our ministry and service doesn’t have to be on the other side of the world. In many senses it is better if it is close to home.
I am so proud to belong to a church which puts this into practice. Last year alone, over 7 million voluntary hours were donated to growing, harvesting, and distributing food for the poor and the needy. Again last year, the Church provided clean water for half a million people who wouldn’t have it otherwise. Forty-nine thousand people were provided with wheelchairs in 41 countries. Volunteers restored sight and trained 97,000 caregivers for those with sight challenges in 40 countries. Thirty-three thousand caregivers were trained in maternal and newborn care in 38 countries. Not to mention Helping Hands where, in recent years, hundreds of thousands of our people have donated millions of hours. They jump to help those affected by disasters big and small, as well as improve their neighborhoods and communities.
The Church’s budding JustServe initiative, which is a great place to look for service opportunities if you have it nearby, already has over 350,000 registered volunteers, who have contributed millions of hours helping in their local communities.
This is the church of action. This is what we do. This is what you do. Let this be a defining characteristic of who you are. This is the way we find joy and peace, because this is one of the highest, best, and most tangible ways to follow the example of the Savior.
President M. Russell Ballard has said, “Great things are wrought through simple and small things. Like the small flecks of gold that accumulate over time into a large treasure, our small and simple acts of kindness and service will accumulate into a life filled with love for Heavenly Father, devotion to the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and a sense of peace and joy each time we reach out to one another.”11
Three Kinds of Service
I would like to highlight three broad kinds of service we each have the opportunity to engage in.
The first is the kind of service that we are assigned or invited to perform as a responsibility at church. This was so beautifully and inspiringly addressed at general conference. We will strive for the kind of ministry that is treasured, not measured, where we think about, pray for, and help those we have been given the responsibility to care for.
The second is the kind of service we choose to do of our own volition. This is an expansion of the first, which will flow into all our daily actions and interactions as we more consciously seek to forget ourselves and turn outward toward others. There is no formal assignment, but we are motivated by a desire to follow Christ, starting by being more kind and considerate to those around us. Acts of kindness and quiet generosity change hearts and lead to warmer, more meaningful relationships.
Third is public service. Even at your age, you can serve on school boards, charities, and in local, regional, and national governments. I would encourage men and women alike to engage this way. Where appropriate, involve yourself in politics with an eye on service and building individuals and communities. Avoid the political tribalism which has become so polarized, strident, and destructive across communities, countries, and continents. Join other politicians who are finding common cause to bring healing to troubled lives in their own jurisdiction and beyond. You can be a voice of balance and reason, advocating fairness in all corners of society. There is a growing need for you to contribute your energy to this kind of worthy civic engagement.
When we read the news, we might feel the world is sliding away. If each of us acts in ways big and small each day, we can change our own world and that of those around us. As you serve your neighbor and serve with your neighbor in your community, you will make friends who share your desire to help. These will become strong friendships, building bridges across cultures and belief.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, “Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction. There is no comradeship except through union in the same high effort. Even in our age of material well-being this must be so, else how should we explain the happiness we feel in sharing our last crust with others in the desert?”12
If each of you will respond to the invitation to minister as Jesus does, you will be transformed, becoming ever more selfless rather than selfish. You will discover the joy that comes from ministering in the Savior’s way, leaving behind your anxieties and uncertainties and the gloom that comes from your perceived inadequacies.
Perhaps, as you have been listening, a name or a cause has come to mind. This is likely an invitation from the Spirit, and perhaps you have received it before. Reach out, look out, and lift up. Choose to respond to this invitation and pray today to know what you can do. When you see and feel the blessings this brings to you and those you minister to, you will want to make this a daily pattern.
Our highest and best endeavor is to share the light, hope, joy, and purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ with all of God’s children and help them find the path home. Helping, serving, and ministering to them are manifestations of the gospel in action. As we make this a way of life, we will discover that it is uniquely fulfilling, and it is how we can find the peace and joy which may have eluded us.
Let me repeat President Nelson’s charge to each of us: “A hallmark of the Lord’s true and living Church will always be an organized, directed effort to minister to individual children of God and their families. Because it is His Church, we as His servants will minister to the one, just as He did. We will minister in His name, with His power and authority, and with His loving-kindness.”13
This is how the Savior lived, and this is why He lived—to provide the perfect balm and the ultimate healing through His great, infinite, atoning gift for you and for me. May we follow the living Christ ever more willingly, ever more effectively, as we strive to become His true disciples through ministering as He would.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
© 2018 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. English approval: 2/18. Translation approval: 2/18. Translation of “A Hallmark of the Lord’s True and Living Church.” Language. PD60005945 xxx
1. Russell M. Nelson, “Ministering with the Power and Authority of God,” Ensign and Liahona, May 2018, 69.
2. Spencer W. Kimball, “The Abundant Life,” Ensign, July 1978, 4.
3. Spencer W. Kimball, “The Abundant Life,” Ensign, July 1978, 3.
4. Acts 10:38.
5. Acts 10:38.
6. Matthew 4:20, emphasis added.
7. John 21:6.
8. Russell M. Nelson, “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” Ensign and Liahona, May 2018, 95.
9. Jean B. Bingham, “Ministering as the Savior Does,” Ensign and Liahona, May 2018, 104.
10. See William M. Allred, in “Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” Juvenile Instructor, Aug. 1, 1892, 472.
11. M. Russell Ballard, “Finding Joy through Loving Service,” Ensign and Liahona, May 2011, 49.
12. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Airman’s Odyssey (1939), 195.
13. Russell M. Nelson, “Ministering with the Power and Authority of God,” Ensign and Liahona, May 2018, 69.