Opening a new chapter in Church history, President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced “a new, holier approach” to caring for and ministering to others based on the two great commandments – to love God and our neighbor.
Local Mormons from the greater Chattanooga area gathered on Saturday and Sunday to learn more about what effective ministering looks like as we seek to “watch over” the temporal and spiritual needs of God’s children throughout the world, including in our local congregations and communities.
In a devotional at BYU, Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “As disciples of Christ, we strongly reject the notion that our lives are all about ourselves. Rather, we follow the Savior.” The Savior “went about doing good,” no matter how inconvenient, President John Griffey of the Chattanooga Stake reminded local congregants. “As His disciples, we should also go about doing good, no matter how busy we are.”
When speaking about “the demands of discipline and discipleship, of the responsibilities we have to face when we choose to follow Jesus Christ,”
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “Satan counters such disciplines with temptations of an easier way, with an offer of ‘convenient Christianity.’ It is a temptation Jesus resisted, and so must we” (The Inconvenient Messiah, Holland, 1982).
One local family spoke about how holy ministering and the good deeds of others changed their lives. President Griffey used their example to teach about the profound effect we can have on others when we keep the first two great commandments. Commandments are not just a “set of rules but keep us closer to God and bring us happiness,” as Elder Andersen stated. Happiness is what God wants for us and what we should want for each other.
This is why ministering is about becoming “a part of someone’s life and caring about him or her,” as Sister Bingham, President of the General Relief Society said during General conference. Elder Douglas Carter of the Seventy, who was assigned to preside over the Chattanooga Stake Conference, shared numerous examples as he reflected on his own life, recalling how simple acts of ministering brought about great blessings in the lives of many he knew in Argentina, Florida and throughout the Southeast. He reminded the congregation that Heavenly Father has a plan for all His children. His plan is that we return to Him. Jesus Christ is the only way we can return to the Father.
David R. Willey, first counselor in the Atlanta Temple Presidency, spoke about how the principle purpose of temples is to provide sacred, not secret, ordinances for the children of God to return to live with God. An ordinance is an act like baptism, confirmation, marriage that is performed by the authority of the priesthood, which is God’s power to seal and bind on earth and in heaven. He explained how temple blessings are made possible through Jesus Christ. As President Nelson previously taught, “the Savior’s atoning sacrifice is the central act of all human history” – “which made resurrection a reality for all and made eternal life possible for those who repent of their sins and receive and keep essential ordinances and covenants.”
And so “we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ” (2 Nephi 25:26). We minister as the Savior ministers and do so “out of love, in recognition that we are all, and those around us, children of our Heavenly Father.
We will serve not because our service is being counted and measured but because we love our Father in Heaven and are motivated by a higher and nobler pursuit – helping our friends find and stay on the path home to Him. This is where joy and lasting fulfillment come from for both the giver and receiver,” as Elder Patrick Kearon of the Presidency of the Seventy later taught in a worldwide devotion Sunday evening.
The Living Christ invites each of us to engage in the work of ministering – one by one – because “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God” (D&C 18:10). Using the Savior’s words, we are to “Love one another, as I have loved you.” In other words, as local Mormons were taught this weekend, we minister “out of heartfelt care for one another, motivated only by the pure love of Christ to do so.”
U.S. Congressman Chuck Fleischmann, Gerald McCormick of the State House of Representatives and Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond attended Sunday services.