General Conference October 2018 – Sunday Morning Session – “Becoming a Shepherd” by Bonnie H. Cordon, Young Women General President
Before I get to Sister Cordon’s talk, I must digress a little…
Shortly after the April 2018 General Conference when it was announced that visiting teaching and home teaching would be replaced by ministering, we had a great discussion in Relief Society about what ministering is and what it would look like. We came up with a variety of different terms, phrases, activities, and ideas that are each an aspect of ministering and we wrote them all down on the whiteboard. One of the phrases was “make friends.”
I’m reminded of something Hermione Grainger said in the film “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”
[T]he whole point of the [Triwizard] tournament is international magical cooperation. To make friends!
I would suggest that the whole point of ministering is also to make friends! To define ministering for myself, I think of the types of things I would do for my sister or my BFF–I would attend her children’s choir or band concerts or sports events, I would remember special dates for her family (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.), I would remember pertinent details about her and her family (allergies, hobbies, likes/dislikes), I would text her to let her know I was thinking of her (sharing a funny joke, a selfie, etc.), I would invite her to spend time with me doing things we both enjoy (playing at the park with our children, dinner and a movie at my home).
I would sincerely love her and do my best to support her in whatever way she needs.
In her talk, Sister Cordon says that the resurrected Savior knew he would no longer be with Peter, at his side, showing him who and how to serve, so Peter would need to “seek guidance from the spirit, receive revelation on his own, and then have the courage and faith to act.” That sounds an awful lot like ministering to me.
To become the shepherds the Lord needs, we must develop a shepherd’s heart and understand the needs of the Lord’s sheep: (1) the Savior’s sheep were known and numbered, (2) they were watched over, (3) and they were gathered into the fold of God.
Known and numbered. As we get to know each sister (or brother) to whom we are assigned to minister, the ministering assignment will gradually cease to feel like a responsibility and will feel more like a friendship.
I think back to how I met my BFF–as new acquaintances, we traded babysitting for several months–and now, more than 20 years later, my friend has become like a sister to me! Reaching out a hand in friendship can sometimes feel awkward, especially for the socially shy, like me, but as the friendship develops, the awkwardness disappears.
Watched over. Sister Cordon quoted a friend of hers who said “I think our tendency is to just bring brownies rather than figure out how to walk into that moment with honesty and love.”
I think Sister Cordon’s friend is exactly right about our tendency to “bring brownies” and I have a theory about why this happens! I think we’re all afraid to do or say the wrong thing and, by doing so, make someone’s situation worse, so we take the path of least potential for offense and we just “bring brownies.”
I think of what I might say if my
visiting teacher ministering sister told me that she was afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing and I think I would tell her that saying or doing nothing would be the worst thing! Even just a “thinking of you” text would be better than nothing. (I’ve had both happen to me so I feel I can speak with the confidence of some experience, here.)
Gathered into the Fold of God. I love knowing that we can come to the Lord exactly as we are, no waiting, no appointment, no two weeks’ notice. Just come to Christ!
And we can act as the Lord’s representatives in the same way, by showing Christlike love to those around us exactly as they are! No waiting to be the perfect
visiting teacher ministering sister, no waiting for the perfect words to pop into our heads, no waiting for the “perfect moment,” just reach out in love and friendship! It will feel a little awkward at first, but the awkwardness will soon be replaced by the comfort of friendship.
I’ll wrap this up with my favorite quote:
Live in such a way that people who know you but don’t know Christ will want to know Christ because they know you. (H. David Burton, General Conference April 1994)