Just as He Did

Just as He Did

Approximately 18 months
ago, in the fall of 2017, my 64-year-old brother
Mike informed me that he had been diagnosed
with pancreatic cancer. He also told me that he had
received a priesthood blessing from his home teacher and that
he had met with his bishop. He later texted me a picture
of the Oakland California Temple taken from the hospital
where he was receiving treatment, with the
caption “Look what I can see from my hospital room.” I was as surprised
by his comments about home teachers, priesthood
blessings, bishops, and temples as I was about the cancer. You see, Mike, a priest
in the Aaronic Priesthood, hadn’t regularly attended
church for close to 50 years. As a family, we were
almost as intrigued with his spiritual progress
as we were with his progress in fighting the cancer,
largely due to his now-frequent questions about
the Book of Mormon, the sealing power,
and life after death. As the months passed
and the cancer spread, a need for additional and
more specialized treatment eventually brought Mike to Utah
and the Huntsman Cancer Center. Shortly after his
arrival, Mike was visited by John Holbrook,
the ward mission leader of the ward that
served the care facility where he was now living. John commented that
“it was obvious to me that Mike was a son of
God” and that they quickly developed a bond
and a friendship, which led to John becoming
Mike’s de facto ministering brother. There was an
immediate invitation to have the missionaries visit,
which my brother politely declined. But a month into
their friendship, John asked again,
explaining to Mike, “I think you’d enjoy
hearing the gospel message.” This time the
invitation was accepted, leading to meetings
with the missionaries as well as visits with Bishop
Jon Sharp, whose conversations eventually led Mike to receiving
his patriarchal blessing, 57 years after his baptism. In early December of last year,
following months of procedures, Mike decided to stop the
cancer treatments, which were causing severe
side effects, and just to let nature
take its course. We were informed by his doctor
that Mike had approximately three months to live. In the meantime,
the gospel questions continued, as did the
visits and support of his local priesthood leaders. On our visits with Mike,
we often saw an open copy of the Book of Mormon
on the bedstand as we discussed the Restoration
of the gospel, priesthood keys, temple ordinances, and
the eternal nature of man. By mid-December, with his
patriarchal blessing in hand, Mike actually appeared
to be gaining strength, and his prognosis of at
least another three months seemed likely. We even made plans for him
to join us for Christmas, for New Year’s, and beyond. On December 16, I received
an unexpected call from Bishop Sharp,
who informed me that he and the stake
president had interviewed Mike, had found him worthy to receive
the Melchizedek Priesthood, and asked when I would be
available to participate. The ordinance was scheduled
for that Friday, December 21. When the day arrived,
my wife, Carol, and I arrived at the care facility
and were immediately met in the hallway near
his room and informed that Mike had no pulse. We entered the room to find
the patriarch, his bishop, and his stake president already
waiting–and then Mike opened his eyes. He recognized me
and acknowledged that he could hear me
and was ready to receive the priesthood. Fifty years after
Mike had been ordained a priest in the
Aaronic Priesthood, I had the privilege, assisted
by his local leaders, to confer the
Melchizedek Priesthood and ordain my brother
to the office of elder. Five hours later,
Mike passed away, crossing the veil to meet
our parents as a holder of the Melchizedek Priesthood. Just one year ago, a call was
extended by President Russell M. Nelson for each of us to care
for our brothers and sisters in a “higher, holier way.” Speaking of the Savior,
President Nelson taught that “because it is
His Church, we as His servants will minister to the
one, just as He did. We will minister in His name,
with His power and authority, and with His loving-kindness”. In response to that invitation
from a prophet of God, remarkable efforts to
minister to the one are taking place
all over the world, in both coordinated efforts,
as members faithfully fulfill their
ministering assignments, as well as what I’ll call
“impromptu” ministering, as so many demonstrate
Christlike love in response to unexpected opportunities. In our own family, we
witnessed, up close, this type of ministering. John, who was Mike’s
friend, ministering brother, and a former mission president,
used to tell his missionaries that “if someone is
on a list that says ‘not interested,’ don’t give up. People change.” He then told us, “Mike
changed mightily.” John was first a
friend, providing frequent encouragement
and support, but his ministering didn’t
stop at friendly visits. John knew that a minister
is more than a friend and that friendship is
magnified as we minister. It isn’t necessary for
someone to be suffering, like my brother, from
a life-threatening disease in order to be in
need of ministering service. Those needs come in a variety of
shapes, sizes, and conditions. A single parent, a less-active
couple, a struggling teen, an overwhelmed mother, a trial
of faith, financial, health, or marriage issues–the
list is almost endless. However, like Mike, no
one is too far gone, and it’s never too late for
the Savior’s loving reach. We are taught on the ministering
website of the Church that “while there are many
purposes of ministering, our efforts should be
guided by the desire to help others achieve a
deeper individual conversion and become more
like the Savior.” Elder Neil L. Andersen
said it this way: “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.” In modeling our ministering
after Jesus Christ, it is important to
remember that His efforts to love, to lift,
to serve and bless had a higher goal than
meeting the immediate need. He clearly knew of
their day-to-day needs and had compassion on their
current suffering as He healed, fed, forgave, and taught. But He wanted to do more
than take care of today. He wanted those around Him
to follow Him, to know Him, and to reach their
divine potential. As we seek to minister
“just as He did,” we will be provided
opportunities to forget self and lift others. These opportunities may
often be inconvenient and test our desire
to become more like the Master,
whose greatest service of all, His infinite Atonement,
was anything but convenient. In Matthew chapter
25, we are reminded how the Lord feels about
us when, like Him, we are sensitive to the struggles,
the trials and challenges faced by so many but that can
often be overlooked: “Come, ye blessed of
my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for
you from the foundation of the world: “For I was an hungred, and ye
gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink:
I was a stranger, and ye took me in. … “Then shall the righteous answer
him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and
fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? “When saw we thee a stranger,
and took thee in? … “And the King shall
answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto
you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the
least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Whether we serve as ministering
brothers or sisters, or simply when we are made
aware of someone in need, we are encouraged to seek
the guidance and direction of the Spirit–and then act. We may wonder how best to
serve, but the Lord knows, and through His Spirit we will
be directed in our efforts. Like Nephi, who “was
led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the
things which [he] should do,” we will also be
led by the Spirit as we strive to become
instruments in the Lord’s hands to bless His children. As we seek the guidance of
the Spirit and trust the Lord, we will be placed in situations
and circumstances where we can act and bless–in
other words, minister. There may be other times
when we recognize a need but we feel
inadequate to respond, assuming that what we have
to offer is insufficient. To do “just as He did,” however,
is to minister by giving what we are capable of
giving and to trust that the Lord will
magnify our efforts to bless our “fellow travelers
on this mortal journey.” For some, it may be giving the
gift of time and their talents; for others, it may be a
kind word or a strong back. And although we may feel that
our efforts are inadequate, President Dallin H. Oaks
shared an important principle regarding “small and simple.” He taught that small
and simple acts are powerful because they
invite “the companionship of the Holy Ghost,” a companion
that blesses both the giver and the receiver. Knowing that he would soon
die, my brother Mike commented, “It’s amazing how
pancreatic cancer can make you focus on
what’s most important.” Thanks to wonderful
men and women who saw a need, who did
not judge, and ministered like the Savior, it
wasn’t too late for Mike. For some, change may come
sooner; for others, perhaps not until they pass the veil. However, we must remember
that it is never too late and no one has ever wandered
so far from the path that they are beyond the reach
of the infinite Atonement of Jesus Christ, which is
limitless in its duration and scope. In last October’s general
conference, Elder Dale G. Renlund taught that “no matter
how long we have been off the path …, the moment
we decide to change, God helps us return.” That decision to
change, however, is often the result
of an invitation, such as “I think you’d enjoy
hearing the gospel message.” Just as it is never too
late for the Savior, it is never too soon for
us to extend an invitation. This Easter season
provides us, once again, a wonderful opportunity to
reflect on the great atoning sacrifice of our Savior Jesus
Christ and what He did for each of us at such a tremendous
cost–a cost that He Himself declared “caused [Him],
the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain.” “Nevertheless,” He
states, “I partook and finished my preparations
unto the children of men.” I testify that,
because He “finished,” there is always hope. In the name of
Jesus Christ, amen.

2 Replies to “Just as He Did”

  1. Beautiful testimony about ministering. It really touched my ❤️ Thank you for sharing 🙏🏼❤️👍🏼

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *