A Holier Approach to Ministering | Neil L. Andersen

A Holier Approach to Ministering | Neil L. Andersen


My dear brothers and sisters, young friends
of Brigham Young University, how happy my wife, Kathy, and I are to be with you today. I feel your beautiful spirits. Always remember who you are. Some of the very noble spirits of our premortal
time together are here today. I am honored to be with you. The entire Church is speaking about general
conference. We participated in a solemn assembly sustaining
President Russell M. Nelson as the seventeenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints. Two new apostles were called to the Quorum
of the Twelve. Priesthood quorums at the ward level were
combined. Home teaching and visiting teaching were retired
for “ministering.” And, in the final session, seven temples were
announced, including in such exotic places as Russia, India, and Layton, Utah. I will never forget the sustaining of President
Russell M. Nelson. I anticipated that it would be a spiritual
experience, but the rush of power and peace that permeated the LDS Conference Center was
palpable to me. I pray that it was to you who were not in
the Conference Center as well. The closing session, with the announcement
of the temples and the singing of “Let Us All Press On,” moved my soul. Do you remember the words? We will not retreat, though our numbers may
be few When compared with the opposite host in view; But an unseen pow’r will aid me and you In the glorious cause of truth. There have been some humorous memes following
the conference. One I liked had three men in their seventies
or eighties dressed in gym clothes, revealing their sunken chests and protruding midsections. The tagline read, “Elders quorum basketball
this coming Wednesday.” Another had a close-up of the ferocious green
face of the Incredible Hulk, gritting his teeth, with the tagline “Young President
Nelson looking at those liquor bottles.” And finally, I liked the one emphasizing the
powerful announcements in the Sunday afternoon session. The tagline read, “You snooze, you lose.” I have entitled my talk “A Holier Approach
to Ministering.” It comes from the general conference words
of President Russell M. Nelson. He said: We have made the decision to retire home teaching
and visiting teaching as we have known them. Instead, we will implement a newer, holier
approach to caring for and ministering to others. We will refer to these efforts simply as “ministering.” Being a student at Brigham Young University
means you have chosen to be different from the world. The book entitled The Narcissism Epidemic
begins with exaggerated examples of our American culture: On a reality TV show, a girl planning her
sixteenth birthday party wants a major road blocked off so a marching band can precede
her grand entrance on a red carpet. A book called My Beautiful Mommy explains
plastic surgery to young children whose mothers are going under the knife for the trendy “Mommy
Makeover.” It is now possible to hire fake paparazzi
to follow you around snapping your photograph when you go out at night—you can even take
home a faux celebrity magazine cover featuring the pictures. A popular song declares, with no apparent
sarcasm, “I believe that the world should revolve around me!” . . . Babies wear bibs embroidered with “Supermodel”
. . . and suck on “Bling” pacifiers while their parents read modernized nursery rhymes
from This Little Piggy Went to Prada. As disciples of Christ, we strongly reject
the notion that our lives are all about ourselves. Rather, we follow the Savior: Whosoever will be great among you, let him
be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let
him be your servant: . . . The Son of man came not to be ministered
unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. We treasure His words: “Love one another; as I have loved you.” “Feed my lambs. . . . Feed my sheep.” “When thou art converted, strengthen thy
brethren.” “Succor the weak, lift up the hands which
hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.” Here is an example of the kind of Christlike
ministering that happens here on the BYU campus. One of you recently wrote: I was going through a really rough time. One day I was really struggling and on the
verge of tears. I pleaded and prayed silently for strength
to continue. In that exact moment, my roommate sent me
a text expressing her love for me. She shared a scripture and bore a testimony. It brought me so much strength and comfort
and hope in that moment of despair. Let me share a few thoughts that hopefully
will strengthen the already outstanding way that you now minister to one another. My first point is this: Remember the first
commandment before you exercise the second. One came to the Savior and asked Him: Master, which is the great commandment in
the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord
thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt
love thy neighbour as thyself. Your ability to bring a holier approach to
loving your neighbor, to caring for and ministering to others, will rest upon how strongly you
keep the first commandment. There is a unique and supernal gift of ministering
that can come from someone who loves God with all his or her heart; who is settled, grounded,
steadfast, and immovable in his or her faith in Jesus Christ and in the restored gospel;
and who keeps the commandments with exactness. Let me quickly give you some context that
you already know. Across the world, your generation is slipping
in its faith and especially in its belief in a specific religion. When I graduated from BYU in 1975, the number
of young adults (ages eighteen to twenty-four) with an affiliation with a religion was near
90 percent. It is now at 66 percent. A full third of young adults do not affiliate
with any organized religion. In 2001 the religious scholar Robert C. Fuller
wrote a book called Spiritual, but Not Religious. This may have been true twenty years ago,
but it is less true today. Young adults in the United States today pray
with less frequency, believe less in God, believe less in the Bible, and believe less
in commandments. On this wonderful campus, it is different. Faith flourishes, and we, here this morning,
are believers. But it is naïve to believe that the trends
of the world are not able to influence the very elect. Caring for others, physically and emotionally,
requires an unselfish and sensitive heart. It is an important part of the gospel. This caring is done in and out of the Church
by good people, believers and nonbelievers. There are many wonderful, kind people all
over the world, and we can learn from them. However, unique to a converted member of The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is another kind of ministering. At BYU you have the opportunities, as disciples
of the Savior, to minister in a way that helps keep a friend’s faith from faltering, that
reminds a roommate in a kind way that reading the Book of Mormon every day really does bring
miracles and that the standards of the Church are not just a set of rules but keep us closer
to God and bring us happiness. A person with a good heart can help someone
fix a tire, take a roommate to the doctor, have lunch with someone who is sad, or smile
and say hello to brighten a day. But a follower of the first commandment will
naturally add to these important acts of service, encouraging the person who is doing well in
keeping the commandments and sharing wise counsel to strengthen the faith of someone
who is slipping or who needs help in moving back onto the path he once traveled. At BYU you are surrounded by believers who
are in various stages of belief and testimony. I challenge you to strengthen your efforts
to spiritually minister to one another. To minister spiritually can begin with baking
cookies or playing a basketball game, but eventually this holier way of ministering
requires opening your heart and your faith, taking courage in encouraging the positive
growth you are seeing in a friend, or expressing concerns about things you see and feel are
not consistent with discipleship. Let us not be self-righteous, but let us be
spiritually courageous in ministering in a holier way, specifically by strengthening
the faith of others. To stir your thinking, consider these possible
situations: You notice that a roommate spends an inordinate
amount of time playing games on an iPhone but rarely engages in conversations relating
to gospel topics. You have a sense that a friend may have a
problem with pornography. You are in a conversation with friends and
notice that the language being used is edgy and inappropriate. You smell alcohol or marijuana in a friend’s
car. You see prescription drugs that you know are
not being used properly. Your friends are spending enormous time taking
and posting pictures of themselves that move to the edge of immodesty. You notice that someone who once seemed to
love to talk about the Book of Mormon now never mentions it. You notice that a friend who once seemed to
love to go to the temple now is not going. You notice a friend who once spoke with faith
about the prophet’s counsel now speaks critically. You have a returned missionary roommate who
has become very casual in wearing clothing that reflects temple covenants. You notice a friend who finds reasons to go
places on Sunday other than your ward. You have a sense that a friend has started
to be dishonest in small things. You have a classmate who began the semester
very engaged in your religion class but who now seems disinterested and disengaged. You know someone who had a light in his or
her eyes after returning from a mission, but now that light seems to have faded. You have a friend who jokes about sacred things. You have a friend who came to BYU with the
expectation of finding an eternal companion and hasn’t. The discouragement with dating has moved to
“God doesn’t love me.” You see a friend’s faith being affected
by compromised worthiness and his need to repent. Can you envision these situations or others
like them? Have specific names come into your mind? The Apostle Paul said, “We wrestle not against
flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the
darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” The greatest need here at Brigham Young University,
as anywhere else in the world, is to have more faith in our Heavenly Father and in His
Son, Jesus Christ, and to have a greater willingness to follow His commandments. Following the pattern of the Savior, most
of our ministering will be from one person to another. To the Samaritan woman at the well, the Savior
said: Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst
again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I
shall give him shall never thirst. . . . The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this
water, that I thirst not. . . . [Then she said,] I know that [the] Messias
cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. [Then] Jesus saith unto her, I that speak
unto thee am he. Even in declaring His own divinity, Jesus
ministered to the one. Here is an example from a BYU student: I got to know Tyler after he moved into the
apartment down the hall from mine. I helped him move some of his stuff into the
apartment, and as we talked we found that we liked the same kind of music. A few days later my roommate and I started
chatting with him. Without us guiding the conversation to Church-related
things, Tyler told us that he wanted to be straight with us about his relationship with
the Church. He said he had many doubts that he was working
through. What ensued was a deep conversation about
truth and how one finds truth in the world today. My roommate and I testified of the Book of
Mormon and about revelation. Tyler shared that his parents didn’t know
about his doubts and thanked us for listening and being so understanding. We prayed together before we left. That is a good illustration of how to begin
a longer process. Unlike changing a flat tire, just one experience
rarely fixes a spiritual problem. It takes time, conversations, and encouraging
experiences that will help rebuild faith. It comes more like the dew from heaven than
a one-time blast from a firehose. You have to minister again and again as you
help someone turn back to God and again rely on the Savior and His Atonement. To minister in the Lord’s way, we need the
help of the Holy Ghost. President Nelson spoke powerfully on this
subject in general conference: “In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually
without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.” President Nelson added, “I urge you to stretch
beyond your current spiritual ability to receive personal revelation.” He counseled us to pray, to listen, to write
down our thoughts, and to take action. Can we apply this to ministering in a holier
way? Let us pray, listen, record our thoughts,
and take action regarding those to whom we can minister. Pray for opportunities to build faith in others. Not all of those you help will be people you
know. When Jesus ministered to the widow of Nain,
He was on His way to somewhere else. However, while on His way, Christ saw her
and had compassion for her, and it changed her life. Pray that these opportunities will come to
you, listen, write down your thoughts, and then be ready to take action as people are
put in your way. I have always been moved by the Psalmist’s
cry: “I looked on my right hand . . . but there was no man that would know me: refuge
failed me; no man [or woman] cared for my soul.” There may be some here who feel that way. Let’s help them. To have the help of the Holy Ghost, we have
to prepare our minds and hearts. In your generation, you need discipline and
restraint in how you use your technological devices. Adam Alter, in his book called Irresistible,
spoke about the addictive behavior of technology and social media. He quoted Greg Hochmuth, one of Instagram’s
founding engineers, who commented, “There’s always another hashtag to click on. Then it takes on its own life, like an organism,
and people can become obsessive.” Mr. Alter went on to say: Instagram, like so many other social media
platforms, is bottomless. Facebook has an endless feed; Netflix automatically
moves on to the next episode in a series; Tinder encourages users to keep swiping in
search of a better option. . . . According to Tristan Harris, a “design
ethicist,” the problem isn’t that people lack willpower; it’s that “there are a
thousand people on the other side of the screen whose job it is to break down the self-regulation
you have.” Mr. Alter continued: A like on Facebook and Instagram strikes one
of [the right neurological] notes, as does the reward of completing a World of Warcraft
mission, or seeing one of your tweets shared by hundreds of Twitter users. The people who create and refine tech, games,
and interactive experiences are very good at what they do. They run thousands of tests with millions
of users to learn which tweaks work and which ones don’t—which background colors, fonts,
and audio tones maximize engagement and minimize frustration. As an experience evolves, it becomes an irresistible,
weaponized version of the experience it once was. In 2004, Facebook was fun; [today,] it’s
addictive. For the Spirit to dwell in us, we have to
have time and space. Learn to put your smartphones down. Insert time when your technology is intentionally
not accessible. In last week’s general conference, President
M. Russell Ballard said: Too many allow themselves to almost live online
with their smart devices—screens illuminating their faces day and night and earbuds in their
ears blocking out the still, small voice of the Spirit. If we do not find time to unplug, we may miss
opportunities to hear the voice of Him who said, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Now, there is nothing wrong with taking advantage
of the advances in the technologies inspired by the Lord, but we must be wise in their
use. Now, let me say a word to the wonderful faculty
about their opportunity to minister. No one comes to the faculty of Brigham Young
University without desiring to lift both the intellect and the spirit. How thankful we are for this great faculty
of faith that reaches out and shares with students not only the important learning of
their discipline but the principles and experiences that have built their faith in the Savior. Brothers and sisters of the faculty, please
be very vigilant with this vital contribution that you make. Perhaps this thought could be helpful to someone
on the faculty: As General Authorities, we often speak to large stake conferences of
several hundred people. We come to these meetings without prepared
text, praying for the inspiration of the Lord. That inspiration rarely comes to me as I look
over the large congregation; rather, it comes to me as I look into the individual faces
of the members. As I speak to the one, the message is magnified
for all. I encourage you professors to pray for opportunities
to share your faith and spiritual experiences. I know you do. The words will come as you look into individual
faces. As you speak to the individual student, all
will be lifted. Thank you, dear brothers and sisters of the
faculty, for your willingness to minister to these very elect sons and daughters of
God. During my undergraduate days at BYU, other
than my wife, Kathy, whose eternal influence is impossible to measure, there were two ­roommates—one before my mission and one after—who greatly shaped my spiritual foundation. One was Reid Robison, now a professor here
in organizational behavior. I met him on my mission, and we were roommates
afterward. Reid’s exactness in following the commandments,
his love for the prophet, and his unwavering testimony of the Savior strengthened me and
all those around him. And he has continued to be an example to me
for the past forty-five years. The other roommate I mention is Terrel Bird,
who now lives in St. George, Utah. I first met Terrel as we attended high school
together in Pocatello, Idaho. Although we played basketball together, our
friendship came as I observed his spiritual maturity. He would openly share spiritual insights he
was having and principles of life he was reading about and learning. I was surprised to hear these things from
a seventeen-year-old. We decided to room together at BYU. In those days we didn’t have computers;
we had typewriters. Terrel would take scriptures that were meaningful
to him and quotations that instilled character, type them, and then store them in a small
box so he could draw from them frequently. It was not uncommon for him to have more than
a thousand scriptures and quotations, many of which he would memorize. Although I was working—cleaning the library
every morning from four to seven—and carrying a full load of classes, in watching Terrel,
I began to build my own file box. Here is one of the quotes I still remember
from almost fifty years ago: Mind is the Master power that moulds and makes, And Man is Mind, and evermore he takes The tool of Thought, and, shaping what he
wills, Brings forth a thousand joys, a thousand ills:— He thinks in secret, and it comes to pass: Environment is but his looking-glass. I also remember, of course, powerful scriptures
like this one: I am the resurrection, and the life: he that
believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall
never die. Terrel helped me put into my mind as a freshman
at BYU words of scripture and words of wisdom that have influenced me all of my life. I thank Reid Robison and Terrel Bird for caring
about me spiritually at a time when it made a difference. Here is some poetry of my neighbor, Thomas
L. Kay: Thank God for all who give relief for those who really care Who put their arms around the weak and plead for them in prayer Thank God for those who hear the heart and listen to the words Who know a look or gentle touch mean more than all the world Thank God for those who lift the hands and strengthen feeble knees Who go about restoring souls in quiet ministry. My dear friends and fellow disciples here
at BYU, I give you my sure witness that I know the Savior lives. He is resurrected. He guides this holy work. President Russell M. Nelson is His anointed
prophet upon the earth. Our time upon the earth is eternally important. I promise you that as you love God with all
your heart, pray to be an instrument in His hands, minister to individuals, build your
capacity to receive revelation, and trust in the influence of the Holy Ghost, the Lord
will put His special sons and daughters in your path, and you will become their ministering
angels, blessing their lives eternally. You will minister in a holier way. I witness of the Savior and of your eternal
worth to Him and that He will come again and will embrace us as His sons and daughters,
as His disciples. I so declare in the name of Jesus Christ,
amen.

11 Replies to “A Holier Approach to Ministering | Neil L. Andersen”

  1. Elder Andersen has such a sweet soul. I love him and know he is an apostle of Jesus Christ as much as Peter, James, or John. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the same gospel from Christ's time and this is His Church. In the name of Christ, Amen.

  2. Elder Neil L. Andersen delivered a timely message and my ears heard. Essential ministering entails the conscientious direction of every word and action.

    “Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them, shake the hand, that they may go into the gates of the nobles.” – 2 Nephi 23:2

  3. Going say this in order for this to work members should nvr leave others hanging they should be willing to help others out not say one thing but do the opposite

    I’ve had this happen to me several times recently

  4. I am grateful for prophets and apostles that teach us truth, that encourage us to look beyond ourselves and our mortal experience

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