Sunday, April 8, 2018

I Will Hasten My Work In Its Time

This past weekend (March 31-April 1, 2018), The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held its 188 Annual General Conference and it was an historic one. We were able to sustain a new prophet and in the priesthood session later that day our prophet announced that in the wards the high priests and elders quorums were now going to be meeting as one quorum instead of separately as a high priest group and an elders quorum. President Nelson said the changes were made “to accomplish the work of the Lord more effectively…This adjustment will greatly enhance the capacity and the ability of men who bear the priesthood to serve others.” (Introductory Remarks)

Elder D. Todd Christofferson explained in more detail how the changes will affect the local wards. He said:

“Having one Melchizedek Priesthood quorum in a ward unifies priesthood holders to accomplish all aspects of the work of salvation, including the temple and family history work previously coordinated by the high priests groups. It allows quorum members of all ages and backgrounds to benefit from the perspective and experience of one another and of those in different stages of life. It also provides additional opportunities for experienced priesthood holders to mentor others, including prospective elders, new members, young adults, and those returning to Church activity. I cannot adequately express how excited I am to contemplate the increasingly vital role that elders quorums will play in the future. The wisdom, experience, capacity, and strength that will be found in these quorums portend a new day and a new standard of priesthood service across the Church.” (The Elders Quorum)

I was with two of my sons and two grandsons at the priesthood session. It was exciting for our grandsons to be a part of that meeting. My younger son that was with us said that this change was exciting. When he was serving as an Elders Quorum President in is ward he was always telling his bishop that whenever they took someone out of the elders quorum to make them high priests they were taking the best people out of his quorum. It was frustrating to him to lose such good quality people and then start over training new elders in how they should fulfill their priesthood assignments, just to lose them to a different calling that would take them from their quorum. That will no longer happen. All Melchizedek priesthood holders (except those serving in bishoprics, stake presidencies, high councils, and active patriarchs) will be together in one elders quorum. Elder Ronald A. Rasband described the benefits that will come with this change:

“As previous presiding leaders return to share their experience with the quorum of elders, a stronger quorum membership will result.

“There will be a greater diversity of gifts and capacities within the quorum.

“There will be more flexibility and availability to meet current and urgent needs within the ward and quorum and in fulfilling our various ministering assignments.

“There will be an increase in mentoring and unity as a new elder and an experienced high priest share experiences, side by side, in quorum meetings and assignments.” (Behold! A Royal Army)

One of the positive aspects that I see is that there is a greater emphasis on unity in the priesthood instead of being the elders, or we are the high priests; we are all one elders quorum. We are all elders when we receive the Melchizedek Priesthood but we may also be ordained to different offices based on our current assignment. In addition to being an elder I have been a seventy, a high priest, and a bishop but I never had any more priesthood power in those offices than I had when I was first ordained to be an elder. Even general authorities are called Elder because they have the same priesthood power as all other elders. To me this is the greatest benefit in uniting us all as brothers in the priesthood.

After the priesthood meeting, and our traditional ice cream treat, we returned to our son’s home and his wife asked her 12 year old son to tell her about the meeting. After he told her his experience she, with tears in her eyes, said that as he was speaking the spirit bore witness to her that President Nelson was the Lord’s prophet and that she was grateful for her son’s witness to her. It was a thrilling experience to see my family grow in the gospel and our grandsons testimonies develop.

Then came the Sunday afternoon session when President Oaks announced that President Nelson would speak to us briefly. President Nelson then announced that the home and visiting teaching program would be done away and a new program with an emphasis on ministering would be implemented. I texted my other son and said: “Whenever one of the counselors in the First Presidency says ‘President Nelson will speak to us briefly’ we should pay attention!

When this announcement was made my oldest son, who is serving as a counselor in the bishopric, told me later that he started weeping. In their ward they have been struggling getting the elders quorum to do their home teaching. He said that in their ward council meetings the bishopric tried to encourage the leaders to teach their members to reach out to the families that they were assigned to home/visit teach and instead of focusing on a once-a-month visit to developing the attitude of ministering in the way the Savior would minister to those he came in contact with. He said that this announcement was an answer to their prayers as a bishopric. Doing away with home and visiting teaching and focusing on having the members ministering with each other is the greatest thing that can happen for their ward; and the entire Church.

Explaining the principles found in this change Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said:

“Brothers and sisters, we have a heaven-sent opportunity as an entire Church to demonstrate “pure religion … undefiled before God”8—“to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light” and to “comfort those that stand in need of comfort,”9 to minister to the widows and the fatherless, the married and the single, the strong and the distraught, the downtrodden and the robust, the happy and the sad—in short, all of us, every one of us, because we all need to feel the warm hand of friendship and hear the firm declaration of faith. However, I warn you, a new name, new flexibility, and fewer reports won’t make an ounce of difference in our service unless we see this as an invitation to care for one another in a bold, new, holier way, as President Nelson has just said. (Be With and Strengthen Them)

Sister Jean B. Bingham added:

“After all is said and done, true ministering is accomplished one by one with love as the motivation. The value and merit and wonder of sincere ministering is that it truly changes lives! When our hearts are open and willing to love and include, encourage and comfort, the power of our ministering will be irresistible. With love as the motivation, miracles will happen, and we will find ways to bring our “missing” sisters and brothers into the all-inclusive embrace of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Savior is our example in everything—not only in what we should do but why we should do it.8 “His life on earth was [an] invitation to us—to raise our sights a little higher, to forget our own problems and [to] reach out to others.”9 As we accept the opportunity to wholeheartedly minister to our sisters and brothers, we are blessed to become more spiritually refined, more in tune with the will of God, and more able to understand His plan to help each one return to Him. We will more readily recognize His blessings and be eager to extend those blessings to others.” (Ministering as the Savior Does)

Elder Rasband added this testimony of the Lord’s involvement in this work:

“The Lord declared to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the prophet of the Restoration:

“Behold, and lo, I will take care of your flocks, and will raise up elders and send unto them.

“Behold, I will hasten my work in its time.”

“Indeed, this is a time when the Lord is hastening His work.” (Behold A Royal Army)

I am grateful to have been a participant in this historic general conference. I am also grateful to know that the Lord Jesus Christ directs His Church through living prophets today.

Your questions and comments are welcome.