If you’re still puzzled by the concept of ministering, then I offer some things to consider which will drastically alter the perspective you have about this higher law. At least for me, these inspirational discoveries have changed how I feel because I finally feel like I have the power to act. Haven’t many of us, despite lesson after lesson and discussion after discussion, still pondered, “But, HOW DO I DO IT? How do I know I’m doing it? How do I do it better or differently than visiting and home teaching?”

So, what has helped me? My perspective of what ministering is supposed to look like has changed, and that has changed everything else and given me the ability to act with understanding and power.

What we perceive, believe, and think has an incredible amount of power to expand or limit our ability to receive personal revelation and guidance from the Holy Spirit. If we are wearing sunglasses, or an eye patch, our field of vision will be changed. Colors will be different. Peripheral vision will be challenged. So, what we think ministering is, how we picture it in our minds, has the power to keep us from ministering. So, our perspective has to change if we are grasp the “how-to”.

What Ministering Does NOT Look Like

In the past, visiting and home teaching was primarily focused around assigning two people as a “companionship” to watch over and care for a list of families/individuals of varying numbers. So, visiting and home teaching looked like this:

ministeringperspectiveNOT

The problem with this perspective is that time, culture, and tradition turned it into a one-way flow of service from the companionship to the assigned individuals/families. The question was always, “How can we serve you?” or “What can we do for you?” This question was delivered with differing levels of sincerity. Some, surely, truly wanted to serve. Others were secretly hoping the response included an easy form of service, or a “we’re good for now” response, because such responses absolved them of having to invest further time and thought…until next month. And these are not necessarily unrighteous or unloving people. We’ve all felt that way from time to time.

The problem with this perspective is also that somehow “watching over and caring for” got boiled down to only “how can we serve you,” and most other forms of love and ministering were never even considered (Yes, there are many more!). At times, the truly diligent were able to bust this system and actually love and minister. They did so because they thought outside-the-box and sought the guidance of the Holy Ghost, or at least were sufficiently open to its promptings. But these instances were rare as a whole.

What Ministering Does Look Like

Ministering is still begun by assigning a companionship people/families to minister to. This companionship with assigned people is to maintain order and to ensure that everyone is being ministered to. But, that is the end of any other similarity to visiting and home teaching. This is what ministering looks like:

ministeringperspective

Ministering power and authority comes from more than a companionship serving an individual or family. It is not a one-way flow of service. It is a circular flow, a radial flow of love between the component people and families.

That means ministering includes service with those to whom we are assigned. It includes those to whom we are assigned serving us. It includes inviting all within our circle to aid us, aid each other, or even to aid those with whom we may associate with outside of our “assigned” circle. It includes seeking the direction of God, through the Holy Ghost, as to which of these radial flows will best help us to increase the love and unity in our circle. We are not, and should never be, limited to service only in one direction.

Ministering also means that spiritual thoughts are not boxed or scripted. It means being in tune with the Holy Ghost through prayer, experience, and understanding so that spiritual thoughts shared are directly related to the spiritually perceived needs of our ministering circle; and/or are prompted by real discussions we’ve had with them.

Ministering also means that we ponder specific Christlike love tactics (Doctrine and Covenants 121:41-42) that we may be inspired to use either alone or in combination with the other radial flows of love.

If you study Christ’s ministry, you’ll will find that He ministered in five (5) clear ways. In fact, His service was rarely ever given unless someone had served Him first, or served by His side first, or He had invited them to talk with Him, or walk with Him, or to feed Him, or to follow Him, etc. It was then after these things that they came to Him with questions or needs. He served others during/while/after He had created opportunities for others to serve Him or with Him.

This is how the Savior ministered. He used all five of these flows (back and forth between Himself and all those whom He reached out to). He used His needs to invite others to serve with Him and to directly serve Him. Indeed, He used none of His powers to build Himself a home or to get an occupation to earn money to eliminate His needs. He felt no shame in receiving charity or help because it was never “about Him.” It was always about how He could use every aspect of His life to minister to others.

Christ never gave packaged or boxed sermons. He walked with, talked with, served with, and was served by all. In these interactions He followed the promptings of the Holy Ghost to share parables, ask questions, and give sermons that were applicable and needed. Christ’s service was always in direct relation to the needs others had—which He learned about through the other forms of ministering.

In all these ways/flows, Christ was able to use godly love tactics to discern gospel questions, bless others, and give kindness and service in return. And that means that if we want to minister as He ministered, we must use all five. We must learn to:

  1. Actively find ways (seek revelation) to gracefully receive from others, and use our needs to empower and learn the needs of those in our ministering circle.
  2. Actively find ways (seek revelation) to invite those in our ministering circle (not just our companion) to serve with us as we complete service to others (whether in our circle or without).
  3. Actively find ways (seek revelation) to have discussions with and understand what spiritual thoughts/testimonies we need to share with those in our ministering circle.
  4. Actively find ways (seek revelation) to be inspired—through all our other interactions with our ministering circle—as to what forms of service we can offer them.

Notice, clearly, that giving service is only ONE of the ways we minister. Service flowing from the companionship to the other members in the circle is only ONE of the directions that love and ministering can flow. True power in ministering comes from the unity we create by all of the other flows back and forth between each other. We create this back and forth unity by NOT focusing only on one direction for the love to flow or only on one type of ministering.

How To Know You Are Ministering

  • If you are learning to own up to your needs and to use them to let others serve you, you are ministering.
  • If you are learning to find opportunities to invite people to serve with you as you serve others, you are ministering.
  • If you are gaining experience and learning about others needs as they serve you or serve by you, you are ministering.
  • If you are receiving inspiration on ways you can help others during your interactions with them, and you follow that inspiration, you are ministering.
  • If you are receiving inspiration on thoughts you can share, testimonies you can bear, as you serve with and discuss with others, you are ministering.
  • If you are beginning to see ministering more clearly in the scriptures as you study them, you are ministering in your own life (or minimally, understanding it better).
  • If you find the structured visits/meetings you do make and the service you give are more inspired and more sincere, you are ministering.
  • If you are becoming more humble and better at gracefully admitting your needs and gracefully receiving help, you are ministering.
  • If you are beginning to see how much more unifying and genuine ministering is than visiting and home teaching, you are learning how to minister.

If you feel you still do not yet grasp the spirit of ministering, then I make three suggestions:

  1. Study the New Testament, praying both before and after to be able to understand better how to minister. Record any impressions you have during and after studying.
  2. Evaluate your life and eliminate anything that may be hindering you from the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. This may be anything from what you eat, how you seek entertainment, grudges you’re holding, and so forth. Pray for and work to remove these hindrances to the Spirit.
  3. Make lists of needs you have and ways that you can involve others in helping you eliminate those needs. Make lists of needs of others you wish to meet and ways you can involve others in helping you meet those needs. Make a list of needs that you can contrive that will allow you to invite others to help you. Make a list of things you know others might like and invite others to help you fulfill those wants/likes. Then, start acting on these lists.

I hope this is of help to some. It may be simply the way I think that it has taken me so long to wrap my head around ministering. But, I was determined not to let it become “the same” as before. And the only way to do that was to see it differently, to pay closer attention to what Christ did in His ministry, and then find a way to package it for my own life.

Best of luck to all of you as you rise up to minister with power.

BT

I’m a writer of fiction of all kinds. I’ve been writing for years. And, one of the biggest things I have to decide when a character visits (from another world, time, or place) and starts telling me their story is: what perspective do I write this story from?

Perspective can make all the difference in the world. It can ruin a story. It can turn an otherwise poor story into a page turner. Indeed, perspective is one of the most powerful tools a writer has.

Some characters are more interesting in first person. We get to see everything they think. However, the downside is we never know what any other character is thinking. It’s a very narrow perspective and often leads the character (and the reader) to make false and incorrect assumptions about his/her life, other characters, and the story itself.

Third-person perspective steps back just a bit and as a reader we can see a little bit more of what all characters are thinking. This removes ambiguity but creates a little less of a relationship between the reader and the characters. The reader (and characters) is still too blind to make completely accurate assumptions about the story or the state of others.

Omniscient third-person perspective is my least favorite for story writing, but it is the best for real life. This tends to be more of narrator perspective. The suspense we feel is that we know more than the characters and we are waiting for them to figure out what we already know. A very effective perspective for some stories and often for fairy-tales and age groups who can’t handle as much suspense. This, also happens to be the perspective that God has—omniscient. It’s a perspective we can’t get except from God.

So, why all this talk about writing perspective? What does this have to do with making your home a heaven on earth? Well, making your home a heaven on earth is 80% perspective and 20% action (in my opinion).

Perspective2: is a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.

If you view your home with only a first-person perspective you will always make hasty conclusions about how heavenly your home is. If you view your home with a third-person perspective, trying to see more of what others are thinking, you’ll do a bit better. But, ultimately, you’ll still make incorrect conclusions about how heavenly your home is. But, if you learn to (and seek to) see your home as God sees it, your chances of having a heavenly home will increase exponentially.

Toxic Homes

First, let’s address toxic homes. They exist—far more than we’d like to admit. And, they cannot be treated the same as other homes.

Abraham 1:1, 16, 18

Abraham had a toxic home. His dad was an idol worshipper (who placed many things before God and family). His dad tried to have him sacrificed to Egyptian gods. We don’t know anything about Abraham’s mom. But, many people have one-parent homes. They tend to be either tight and loyal or horrific on many levels. But, it is apparent that Abraham was commanded by God to leave his father (and the Egyptians) so that he could make a heavenly home. His own community and home had become so toxic and corrupt that it was “needful” for him to obtain another place of residence.

From Abraham we learn that not all homes can be turned into heaven. Sometimes we must be led out to a home of promise that God helps us make as we keep His commandments.

Ruth (the whole book)

Ruth, we don’t know much about her Moabitish family. But, we know she married into a covenant Israel family, of which Naomi was a part. Then, by tragic circumstance all the males were killed (her husband, her brothers-in-law, and her father-in-law). Ruth, chose to make Naomi her family rather than go home to her blood family. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

What we do learn from Ruth is that our family, and our heavenly home, doesn’t have to be conventional or blood relations. She felt loyalty and love for Naomi. She made her home with Naomi. We too can create our heavenly home with those who love us (and they may not always be our blood relatives).

Genesis 37+

Joseph may have been a little self-righteous and annoying. But, he was essentially good and righteous. He was doted upon by his righteous (yet imperfect) parents. Yet, he was resented and hated by his brothers because he had lived righteous enough to inherit the birthright blessings which the few in front of him had forfeited by their sins and lack of repentance. In jealousy and hatred his brothers sold him into slavery. Not very heavenly.

We learn from Joseph that it’s not only our parents who can make our home toxic. Siblings can do that as well. Sometimes we ride it out. Sometimes we suffer at our siblings hands. From Joseph we learn that time, forgiveness, and mercy can often change the toxicity of sibling relationships. Life tempers us all. Sometimes we simply have to patiently wait.

There are numerous stories in the scriptures, and our own lives, that show that toxic homes cannot always be transformed. Addictions like anger, pornography, alcohol, and others cannot always be rectified in a reasonable amount of time. But, many homes can be saved by repentance, faith, love, and patience. The only way to know if your home can be saved is to seek the Lord’s will. But, be prepared to accept His answer and His guidance. He may tell you that your home can be saved. In which case you may be in store for a long, hard journey—that will end up in a heavenly result. If your home cannot be transformed, God will teach you what to do next.

The perspective we need, if our home is severely toxic, is God’s perspective. We need to know what He sees. We need to know if our heavenly home lies elsewhere or if we have a mission to save our currently, toxic home.

Regular Homes

When I say regular, I don’t mean perfect. I simply mean to imply that, in general, these regular homes contain individuals who want to get along, be happy, and basically do what’s right. Sure, toxicity might enter from time to time in small ways (a short-temper, a bad day of constant fighting, etc.). But, regular homes weather these moments of toxicity and move on because the individuals in the home eventually self-regulate, seek repentance, forgive, try harder, and so forth.

So, remember we were talking about perspective. And, that it’s God’s perspective that we need in order to begin the process of making our home a heaven on earth.

How do you seek, and learn, to see your home as God does? An LDS Hymn (#2980 begins with the following line of lyrics:

Home can be a heav’n on earth when we are filled with love

The hymn also goes on to point out characteristics that make a home “like heaven:” warmth, kindness, charity, safety, and security. It continues on in the second and third verses to mention things that may help to create a heavenly home: drawing family near each week, serving with cheerful hearts, parents teach and lead by example, children honor and obey, praying daily as a family, searching scriptures as a family, and singing hymns of thanks. It ends each verse by mentioning how family members feel about the home: where we long to be, where we long to stay…

To me the first line is the one that matters most. Home can be a heaven on earth when we are filled with love. Others in our home don’t have to be what we want them to be in order for our home to be heavenly. We have to be loving in order for our home to be heavenly. We have to feel love. We have to see through the eyes of love. It is our perspective, the way we view our home and tell it’s story.

So, your home being a heaven is all about you. It’s your perspective that makes the difference and that has to change. It’s your actions despite your circumstances and hopes and wants that makes the difference. You can’t have a heavenly home if you see through eyes of disappointment, ingratitude, revenge, resentment, and anger. You can’t have a heavenly home if you focus only on what your home doesn’t have or what the people in it don’t do. You can’t have a heavenly home if the people who are supposed to want to be there don’t want to be there. Their feelings about your home reflect what it is.

…where we long to stay…

Conversely, you can have a heavenly home if you see through the eyes of encouragement, gratitude, forgiveness, appreciation, and joy. You can have a heavenly home if you focus on what your home does have and what the people in it do that’s good. You know you have a heavenly home if people long to be there, and to stay there. Whether you or the people who belong in your home are perfect, if they all “long to be there,” and “long to stay” there, then that speaks volumes!

Home and Heaven are Far More Than a Place

For me, my home is far more than a place. It’s the place, the feeling I get of loyalty, love, appreciation, tolerance, safety, and security. Those feelings are created by the people who are part of my home—my family. These include blood relations, in-laws, through-laws, adopted, and so forth.

My family includes people from all walks of life that simply belong with us. It just happens, you know. They come in the door and then, suddenly, they are ours. Admittedly, at first we are reluctant to accept some individuals based upon the circumstances that bring them into our home. But, then, they simply become ours. I don’t know how it happens, exactly, but I do know that it happens primarily because of our perspective.

At first we see these individuals one way. Then, as we bide our time and try to hold our tongues, we suddenly see their virtues, how they bless our lives (or the lives of family members), and then bam! We see them through the eyes of love. Our perspective changes.

I feel that I have a most excellent family full of amazing and excellent people. But, sometimes I don’t wonder if that’s because I’ve decided they are excellent or if they are truly excellent. Does the difference matter? I don’t think so.

What matters is how I see them. When I am filled with love then all these people suddenly become beautiful, angelic, strong, dedicated, resilient, talented, and so forth. I don’t see where they are in life as anything other than where they currently are. I appreciate how they support and tolerate me. I count it a privilege to pass through this mortal estate in their godly-assigned support group. What a blessing!

Home can be a heaven on earth when we are filled with love

Perspektive Vision ©yvonneweis

So, you might ask: “How can I be filled with love when my family doesn’t respond to all the good I’m trying to do? How can I be filled with love when they treat me poorly? How can I see my home as a heaven when everyone grumbles during family prayer, family scripture study, and when I wake them up to go to church?”

I posted recently on “The Power to Become.” In summary, I learned that I can spend the rest of my life reacting to all that other people do, all that life throws at me, and my frustrations with God’s timing–in an attempt to create what I want or take control of what I want. Or, I can act how I want to act completely independent of those other factors. I can choose who I want to be, how I want to act, what I want to do, and how I will live and do those things no matter what else happens. By doing that I will become the person I want instead of a person who changes who they are based on what life throws at me.

It is the same with having your home be a heaven. It SERIOUSLY can be a heaven if you choose to focus on seeing your home with love, filling yourself with love, and acting with love. If you decide now that no matter how your spouse, children, or life acts that you will see with and act with love, then you have the power to create a heaven on earth. It’s your perspective that has to change. It’s you who has to “be love” so that your home is filled with it.

Do you realize what power you obtain when you act heavenly because that’s what you want to be instead of only acting heavenly if you feel heavenly, or if others are acting heavenly? You gain the power of control over your life and your home. You don’t change simply because others change. You simply are heavenly because that’s what you want to be. You see with love because that’s what you want to do—that’s who you are. Then, no matter what others do, you don’t react, in an attempt to change them. You only act in the attempt to be who you want to be.

Others may come and go in and out of your physical home or your family. But, you will always be in it. Make it a heaven by filling your life and your perspective of your home with love. Do this independent of the rest of the “story” and that perspective will write your story. Your home will be a heaven on earth.

BT

I’m going out of my normal format on this post. It’s a poem…and a painting.

I have to be honest. I did not come up with this idea on my own. A lady, named Naomi, in a the ward I grew up in, through various circumstances, provided the title and the impetus. It was such a brilliant idea! The moment it was presented to me I felt immediately impressed to write the poem below after studying Lehi’s dream for an entire day. The inspiration and work for the painting followed last night and today. So, here’s a brief thought to preface it.

Lehi recounted a dream/vision he had to his children: Laman, Lemuel, Sam, Nephi, etc. We get Nephi’s summary of the dream in 1 Nephi 8, and the interpretation thereafter. I’m quite sure there was more to it. But, because Nephi was the mouthpiece, we are resigned to be happy with his particular perspective. Which, is an effective perspective.

However, did Lehi’s dream, in detail, include more information on what it looks like when we begin to feel the pull to come back? Does the original (which we don’t have) talk more about repentance and those who come back from the great and spacious building, or who manage to find their way back after wandering off and being lost?

When those of us who do falter for a while begin to feel the pull to come back, it can be a daunting view when we turn again to find that sweet white fruit. We are living “Lehi’s dream,” and it’s not the part of the dream that’s fun. That tree, which contains the fullness of God’s love (as available through His ordinances and covenants), seems awfully far away. It’s not a matter of simply grabbing back onto the iron rod after having taken a few steps away. It’s a matter of starting a journey full of peril and struggle simply to get back to the iron rod. Then, once we find the rod it’s another journey to get back to the tree.

I wrote this poem for my kids…all of them. My past seminary kids. My present YW. My step kids. My daughter (who is still a toddler).  I also wrote it for my family–all of them. I dedicate this to “those whom I love,” that they may know that when they decide to turn back to that sweet, white fruit, that they can make it. The Man-in-white will be there. Christ’s grace is sufficient.

Below, find the picture I painted and the poem I wrote, both titled, “Back to the Tree.” Any time you see a (…) it indicates a “pause for effect.”

BackToTheTree

Back to the Tree

By the Doctrine Lady

I’m standing on a balcony that’s way up in the sky

I sometimes can’t remember how I got up here so high

I look across a wilderness with shadows long and tall

Then chance a glance down toward the ground, it makes me feel so small

The balcony it trembles underneath my tired feet

Then suddenly I am pelted with dark rains and bitter sleet

I take a step back from the ledge to get out of the rain

And find that even inside there is emptiness and pain

I cast my eyes out to the field as backward I retreat

And see a small light flickering with continual repeat

It wakes a mem’ry in my mind, I know that tiny flare

It’s small white fruit that’s on a tree in the darkness way out there

 

My soul begins to rumble like the building that I’m in

I’m hungry for that fruit, but my head is in a spin

The cement beneath my feet begins to crack a little bit

I turn and run to find some stairs, then fall into a pit

The people all around me, I guess they’ve been there all along,

Take notice of my wretched fall but still won’t heed my song

“We cannot get you out—if we do you’ll run away.”

“You’re better off here, trust us—it has to be this way.”

I cast my eyes up to the sky, but the building blocks my view

I feel no hope, I’m in despair, I don’t know what to do

I bow my head, hand on my heart, yet not sure how to begin

Then the building shakes, the ceiling cracks, and a little light gets in

 

My courage grows, I open my mouth and call out to the Lord

Then the building falls into an abyss, and I’m left hanging by a single cord

I get cradled by a warm south wind and it carries me to the ground

My feet touch down onto the earth, I don’t even hear a sound

My hungering soul leads me forward—into a deep dark night

But my feet trudge through some dreary waste and I lose the small white light

I walk and walk for hours and collapse upon the dirt

And when I wake I find myself in red mud up to my shirt

Determined to press forward now that day at last has dawned

I cast my eyes fast forward where a dirty fountain spawns

I scarce can see a trace, of the white fruit through mist and trees

Unworthiness, it crushes me, and I sink back to my knees

 

And then, before I cast myself back on the filthy ground

I hear a glorious being say, “At last you have been found.”

“I have left the flock to seek you. Please rise and take my hand.”

“For I am here to lead you past the river and the sand.”

Before I can look up, I feel sore tears upon my face

Then the Man-in-white He wipes them with His robes and with His grace

He bids me take His hand, then pulls me up off of the sod

Then strangely now He places my hand on a rusty iron rod

I take the metal in my hand, but I don’t want to cling real tight

And after walking just a bit, the Man-in-white soon leaves my sight

I panic now and stop and look to see where He has gone

And I only see the iron rod, it’s extensive, it is long

 

Yet, it’s dark enough to see among the mists and all the fog

That seem to appear from nowhere, so I break into a jog

But in my haste, my hand breaks free from the solid metal rail

My feet twist up, I trip and fall, and muddy water hides my wail

I’m drowning now in a murky bog, it’s bottom binds my feet

And suddenly, the rain is back, as is the cold, dark sleet

My limbs go numb and I curse myself, for letting go the rod

Why couldn’t I have just slowed down and been satisfied to trod

Impatience was my downfall, and some carelessness, and fight

I was angry that I had been left by the Man I saw in white

Not ready yet to freeze to death I start paddling with my hands

I call for help, … and there He is, … to remove my selfish bands

 

“Hold to the rod, I promise you, it’s strong and bright and true.”

“Look past the rust and hold on tight, it’ll safely guide you through.”

I’m shivering now with cold, and I still feel a bit uptight

But I trembling stomp up to the rod while mumbling about my plight

Yet, casting my eyes forward I see through the mists a hole

And through that hole I see the fruit, it’s flickering warms my soul

Clinging a little tighter, I walk forward next to the rod

It’s sturdy, and it’s iron, and I trod and trod and trod

I’m tempted very often to keep my eyes cast down and back

But as I trip and stumble I notice my hand begins to slack

Remembering the filthy bog, I grab tight to the cold rail

I raise my eyes and find the fruit, I’m determined not to fail

 

The mists are cold, the darts are sharp, it would be so easy to let go

And the building in the air is back, it’s in the sun and all aglow

I see its people laughing, clinking glasses, and poking fun

They are pointing at me and my sodden clothes, and I suddenly want to be done

One hand pulls free from the iron rod, and for a moment I feel the warm

From the sun, and the building up in the sky, seep into that one arm

I start to cast off, to join the group, they beckon with hands to me …

Then I see the building shake a bit and my temptation is wrestled free

I remember how it crumbled and the treatment of its crowd

I remember how the Man-in-white heard my voice when I called out loud

I quickly grab back hold again of the rusty iron rod

But it looks a little more shiny to me, which I find a little bit odd

 

Hand-over-hand, I pull myself, with my eyes fixed upon the tree

The mists, they clear, and at last I see my fam’ly beckoning to me

A fire kindles in my soul and renewed hunger in my heart

I reach for their hands, and the offered fruit, and pull out a final dart

They pull me in, I feel ashamed, how had I forgotten they were here?

But they hold me tight and tend my wounds, and it’s suddenly all so clear

When finally fed and rightly healed, I feel a pounding in my head

It’s a mix of awe and gratitude and just a little dread

I turn my face toward the beautiful tree and see the Man-in-white

With arms outstretched, He calls to me, and I remember again my plight

I bow my head, in a mess of shame, as I think back on my past

Back then I didn’t quite understand what it meant to get off the path

 

Then feeling the pull of His powerful gaze, I slowly raise my eyes

He beckons to me, I swallow hard, wishing I’d prepared my weak replies

“I lost my way but I’ve come back. I never forgot the light.”

“I simply looked away too long, and doubt bedimmed my sight.”

“When mists of darkness hid the way I sought the building in the sky.”

“And then once there, I couldn’t recall, how I’d gotten up so high.”

“It wasn’t until I found the courage to look back the way I’d come.”

“Then, I saw the little light flickering, and I knew it was time to go home.”

… With measured steps, I close the space between His feet and mine

When barely there, … I fall to my knees, … and say, “My will is thine.”

The Man-in-white, He lifts me up, His hand beneath my chin

“Your will was all that I required so that I could cleanse your sin.”

 

BT