Recently, I quizzed a group of friends about how things are going in their wards (local congregations) at church. Our leaders have made a number of important changes over the last couple of years. As these changes were made, my group of friends had several lively discussions about how we thought our wards would adapt. I was curious to follow up and see if progress is being made. Are we faithfully being obedient to the counsel of our leaders? Do we have the faith to carry out our responsibilities? Do we have the desire to be obedient? I had an idea how this discussion would pan out, but wanted to check in to see how things are going.
In April 2018, President Russell M. Nelson, asked us to truly minister to others in our wards. Instead of going into the homes of ward members with a pre-assigned spiritual message, he asked us to actually lift up those in need of comfort and mourn with those that mourn. He asked us to minister to others the way Christ ministered. We were asked, if you will, to live a higher law. We had been used to reporting whether or not we had visited someone. Now we were asked to go and do the work of the Lord.
Were we prepared to be faithful and obedient? Some of us were already doing the work of the Lord, and this wasn’t big news. Some of us were just going through the motions, and we didn’t know how to go about changing our hearts. We put stumbling blocks in our path and didn’t want to hear anything more about ministering. What was wrong with the status quo?
January 1, 2019, brought us the “Come Follow Me” program. Instead of spending three hours in church on Sunday, we now only attend for two hours. That extra hour was given to us specifically to study the scriptures at home with our families. Would we be faithful and obedient? Some of us embraced the idea of truly delving into gospel subjects with our families. Some of us were tempted to cheer that we were given an extra hour for less spiritual activities.
My group of friends that I spoke with live in several U.S. states, with one living outside of the United States. They reported mixed results with ministering in their wards. Most of them said that ministering either isn’t happening at all, or that it is a mixed bag depending on who is doing the ministering. I was encouraged to hear that one of my friends had nothing but good things to say about the ministering that is happening in her ward. This person lives outside the United States, and I wondered if that was significant, or just coincidence.
A few months back, my youngest daughter broke her ankle. It was several days before I could travel to be with her. When I finally arrived, I was pleased and humbled to see that her ward had been hard at work ministering to her and her husband. Her husband was working hard to complete the last weeks of his last semester at BYU-Idaho, work at his job on campus, take care of his wife, handle the medical paperwork, and pay the bills. He was doing his best on virtually no sleep, but was struggling.
When I got to Idaho, I discovered that my daughter and son-in-law had an “open door policy” in their home. The front door was never locked. Ward members came every three hours while my son-in-law was not home to take my daughter to the bathroom, bathe her, shampoo her hair, feed her, and anything else she needed. They had cleaned, cooked, prepared, fixed, visited, and ministered. I was in awe at the service of these wonderful people! Frankly, I wanted to bottle the energy and enthusiasm for ministering and take it back home with me. Their ministering did not stop when I arrived, but continued throughout the entire two weeks I was there. I was particularly impressed by a newly called compassionate service leader who visited every day with a baby in her arms.
“Come Follow Me”
My friends also had mixed reviews for the success in the wards of “Come Follow Me.” After speaking with them, my impression was that some people have truly embraced the idea of home gospel study with their families; but some have done little, if anything, in the home. It seems that those who “get it,” really “get it;” but those who don’t are sliding on a slippery slope. I’ve personally heard people say, “How do you have time for that?!” It completely escapes them that we were given the time.
I’m not going to say that it is easy to gather a family together for intense scripture study. In fact, there are times when it’s downright frustrating. I’ve seen that firsthand. My husband and I do “Come Follow Me” with our children and grandchildren. Since two of the families don’t live in town, the frustration of technical issues in Facetiming alone sometimes could make us give up—let alone some rebellious grandchildren. However, if we are to be faithful and obedient, giving up is not an option.
“As we gain experience in this demanding “real world,” we sometimes fail to see the sacred nature of our seemingly routine daily tasks. Fundamentals of daily living—scripture reading, prayer, family home evening, the conversation at dinner—these provide the experiences that make faith a reality. … The time we spend with children and youth in their growing years provides the experience that is preparation for the real world (Janette Hales Beckham, “Making Faith a Reality,” Oct. 1997 General Conference).
Faith … is a heavenly gift, but it can be sought and cultivated. … Faith is … nurtured as we allow ourselves to believe. Like all other virtues, faith is strengthened as we practice it, as we live and act as if our faith were already deep. Faith is the product of righteous desire, belief, and obedience” (David S. Baxter, “Faith, Service, Constancy,” Oct. 2006 General Conference).
Obedience leads to true freedom. The more we obey revealed truth, the more we become liberated. … We are individuals, but we live in families and communities where order provides a system of harmony that hinges on obedience to principles. Just as order gave life and beauty to the earth when it was dark and void, so it does to us. Obedience helps us develop the full potential our Heavenly Father desires for us in becoming celestial beings worthy someday to live in His presence. … When obedience becomes our goal, it is no longer an irritation; instead of a stumbling block, it becomes a building block (James E. Faust, “Obedience: The Path to Freedom,” Apr. 1999 General Conference).
Too often we think of obedience as the passive and thoughtless following of the orders or dictates of a higher authority. Actually, at its best, obedience is an emblem of our faith in the wisdom and power of the highest authority, even God. … Strong, proactive obedience is anything but weak or passive. It is the means by which we declare our faith in God and qualify ourselves to receive the powers of heaven. Obedience is a choice. It is a choice between our own limited knowledge and power and God’s unlimited wisdom and omnipotence (L. Tom Perry, “Obedience through Our Faithfulness,” Apr. 2014 General Conference).
Thinking about the recent changes in ministering and “Come Follow Me,” it occurs to me that it is not as much about “programs,” “ministering,” “Come Follow Me,” “2-hour block,” or “worldwide need,” as it is about faith and obedience. The Lord wants to know what we are made of in that regard. This is a sifting of the wheat from the tares. Those who “get it” really “get it.” Those who don’t “get it” are falling farther down the rabbit hole. I testify that faith and obedience are the key to returning to our Heavenly Father.
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.