Ministering Is about Covenants and Loving Like Jesus, Say Elder and Sister Gong

Contributed By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writer

  • 4 May 2018

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Susan Gong, speak at the BYU Women’s Conference at the Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, May 4, 2018.  Photo by Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.

“Each day, in myriad ways, we each need and can offer ministering love and support in small, simple, powerful, life-changing ways.” —Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

PROVO, UTAH

Just a month after his call to be an Apostle, Elder Gerrit W. Gong told thousands of women during BYU Women’s Conference that even small and simple ways of ministering can be powerful and life-changing.

“Each day, in myriad ways, we each need and can offer ministering love and support in small, simple, powerful, life-changing ways,” he said.

Speaking in the Marriott Center on the Brigham Young University campus with his wife, Sister Susan Gong, the couple spoke on the conference theme, “Strengthen One Another in the Lord.”

Watch the video or read the full addresses.

Covenant belonging

Speaking about the relationship between covenants and ministering, Elder Gong introduced the phrase “covenant belonging,” which means helping others and “strengthening one another in [God’s] love,” Elder Gong said. “Covenant belonging” creates a connection to others and to God and Jesus Christ, he said. “In the revelation of our true, divine selves through our covenants with God, we learn to recognize and love our brothers and sisters as He does,” he said. “This deepening love and knowledge invites, empowers, and sanctifies us to know and, in our own way, to become more like Him.”

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks at the BYU Women’s Conference at the Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, May 4, 2018. Photo by Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.

It is through the Atonement of Jesus Christ that a person finds faith, strength, and trust to come unto Christ, understanding that perfection is in Him.

“Such offers an escape from the otherwise always-anxious treadmill of perfectionism,” he said. “There may be some truth in the children’s song ‘Let It Go’—if ‘let it go’ means ‘let go’ of self-imposed worldly expectations that can never satisfy, and if it also means ‘hold on’ to the God-given heavenly hopes and promises the Lord offers.”

In covenant belonging, “we strengthen each other in His love, thereby coming more to love God and each other,” he said.

“Covenant belonging is to keep the faith,” he said. “It is not to give up on ourselves, on each other, or on God.”

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks at the BYU Women’s Conference at the Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, May 4, 2018. Photo by Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.

Sister Susan Gong, wife of Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, speaks at the BYU Women’s Conference at the Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, May 4, 2018. Photo by Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks at the BYU Women’s Conference at the Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, May 4, 2018. Photo by Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles greets Peggy Hodson of Santa Barbara, California, after he spoke at the BYU Women’s Conference at the Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, May 4, 2018. Photo by Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.

Speaking about the covenant of eternal marriage, Elder Gong said, “While eternal marriage is our ideal, infidelities, abuse of any kind, insurmountable incompatibilities may necessitate immediate, protective action, also separation and possibly divorce. We know covenants are binding and eternal only by mutual consent of the parties affected and when confirmed by a merciful heaven’s manifestation of the Holy Ghost, which the scriptures describe as the Holy Spirit of Promise. There is comfort, peace, and hope in the Lord’s assurance that worthy individuals will receive all promised blessings.”

Love as Jesus loves

In her address, Sister Gong offered additional insights on recent changes from “visiting teaching” to “ministering” by sharing three observations about “what it might mean to love as Jesus loves.”

First, Jesus knows the heart of every daughter or son of God, she said.

“There is healing, there is hope in just being understood,” Sister Gong said. “Perhaps you instinctively know the hearts of those you minister to. Perhaps you have this incredible gift of discernment. I do not. So if I am to love as Jesus loves, what can I do?”

Sister Gong admitted she needed to learn to listen—to put down her electronic devices, shut out distractions, turn off the little voice in her head constantly reminding her of all of the things she has left to do on her to-do list.

Instead, she said she needed to listen with her heart, understanding “not just what someone is saying but who it is that I’m talking to: a child of God.”

“Listen for that,” she said. “I’m discovering this means not just listening to the person but listening to the Holy Ghost as well.”

It is with the help of the Holy Ghost that a person is able to ask inspired questions that lead to greater understanding.

The second observation about loving as Jesus loves is that compassion always accompanies Christ’s understanding of hearts.

“Compassion is at the heart of Christ’s parables: the parable of the debtor, the good Samaritan, the father of the prodigal son,” she said. “For most of us, compassion requires imagination and intention.”

As a person strives to feel how it might feel to be in another person’s circumstance, they are more able to minister.

“As Christians we are called to feel the pain of others,” she said. “In this we truly ‘bear one another’s burdens.’ When we have compassion—empathy—something wondrous happens. We begin to know how to help.”

Sister Susan Gong, wife of Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, speaks at the BYU Women’s Conference at the Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, May 4, 2018. Photo by Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.

Sister Gong’s third observation is that Jesus loves us to know how to succor us. “Having felt our fear, our want, our loneliness, our hunger, our hurt, He responds to our specific need. He comforts, supplies, feeds, heals, nurtures, teaches, and blesses us,” she said.

But where does a person get the patience, insight, imagination, courage, and strength to love like this?

“Because He loves us, we can learn to love and minister to one another. The Holy Ghost will help us know how,” she concluded.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Susan Gong, speak at the BYU Women’s Conference at the Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, May 4, 2018. Photo by Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks at the BYU Women’s Conference at the Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, May 4, 2018. Photo by Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks at the BYU Women’s Conference at the Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, May 4, 2018. Photo by Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles greets Mariama Olayemi of Sierra Leone, now living in Salt Lake City, after he spoke at the BYU Women’s Conference at the Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, May 4, 2018. Photo by Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles greets attendees after speaking at the BYU Women’s Conference at the Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, May 4, 2018. Photo by Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles greets Ann Madsen of Provo after he spoke at the BYU Women’s Conference at the Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, May 4, 2018. Photo by Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.

Sister Susan Gong, wife of Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, greets attendees after she and her husband spoke at the BYU Women’s Conference at the Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, May 4, 2018.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles greets attendees after speaking at the BYU Women’s Conference at the Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, May 4, 2018. Photo by Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles greets attendees after speaking at the BYU Women’s Conference at the Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, May 4, 2018. Photo by Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles greets attendees after speaking at the BYU Women’s Conference at the Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, May 4, 2018. Photo by Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles greets attendees after speaking at the BYU Women’s Conference at the Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, May 4, 2018. Photo by Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Susan Gong, left, are introduced before speaking at the BYU Women’s Conference at the Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, May 4, 2018. Photo by Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.

Attendees listen as Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Susan Gong, speak at the BYU Women’s Conference at the Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, May 4, 2018. Photo by Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.

BYU President Kevin J Worthen and his wife, Peggy, listen as Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Susan Gong, speak at the BYU Women’s Conference at the Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, May 4, 2018. Photo by Spenser Heaps, Deseret News.