[Given by Chris Juchau at Stake Priesthood Meeting, March 2016.]
Before getting to my primary topic tonight, brethren, a quick word about PPIs…
Please take advantage of PPIs. One good reason to do so is to sustain your Elders Quorum presidency or High Priest Group leadership. But there are other excellent reasons, including realizing the benefits that come both from being accountable to and sharing your goals, challenges, and concerns with a priesthood leader.
Men do too much alone. If two men go to sit down in a row of three chairs, you can bet your mortgage that the empty seat will be the one between them. Big mistake. When life’s challenges come, too many men internalize things, limit or shut down communication, and turn themselves into a pressure cooker, which is neither necessary nor healthy.
You don’t have to tell your deepest darkest concerns to everyone. And I don’t suggest you share personal things with someone who has not yet earned your trust. But I have been on both ends of PPIs and I have very much appreciated the sincere love and concern I have felt from my priesthood leaders. I have appreciated that their concern was genuine to the point, in some cases, that they would ask me questions about things that matter. PPIs in my life, though too seldom throughout the years, have blessed me.
You young men leaders—and I’m not talking about young men advisors. I mean those called as leaders: you young men who are in Deacons Quorum, Teachers Quorum, and Priests Quorum presidencies. I think we old men and you young men share the same goal for you, which is that you become mature men and feel successful in your manhood. I encourage you to work with your bishop or his counselors to establish PPIs in your Aaronic Priesthood quorums.
You need to learn while you are young about the spiritual and emotional benefits of having a support system in your life and not trying to do too much alone. You need to learn what it is like to sit down with a peer, one on one, face to face, and care deeply about each other.
Now to my main topic…
Magnifying Through Ministering
When we receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and are ordained to the office of Elder, we enter into the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. Many of us received the Melchizedek Priesthood with only the vaguest idea of what the Oath and Covenant should mean to us. That problem continues in the Church for too many young men and sometimes happens still in our stake, though it should never happen. This is why we hold a class every winter for graduating seniors and other Melchizedek Priesthood candidates.
You boys—who will become men as you learn to focus more on the well-being of the people around you, starting, but not ending with your families—it is critical that you understand that receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood means committing to an entire lifetime (and beyond that) of devotion to God and to helping Him fulfill his purposes. Two years on a mission is typically the beginning of that devotion, but it is not intended to drop off after your mission—nor ever in all eternity.
Whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods… and magnifying their calling…”
According to the Oath and Covenant, we are required, if we want to receive all the blessings Heavenly Father offers us, to “magnify our callings.” To what calling is the Lord referring when He says that? Broadly speaking, there are two:
First, as Alma indicates in the Book of Mormon, the Lord is referring to the priesthood itself.
As holders of the priesthood, we have specific duties. One of those is to home teach. There are duties related to the sacrament and other ordinances. There are duties to provide service and help where needed. There are specific duties to fulfill when we are asked to take specific assignments, whether that be a shift at the cannery or setting up chairs for a meeting or helping a family get moved in or out.
But we also have a broader but very critical duty to help everyone around us come to the Savior. We do this when we care about the Savior and when we care about people enough to extend ourselves to them. It is, in my opinion, part of true manhood. We do it by setting an example, by teaching (sometimes formally, sometimes informally), and by taking sincere interest in individuals.
Secondly, when the Lord talks about magnifying our callings, he is surely also including specific callings that we receive and are sustained and set apart to perform. That may mean being a counselor or secretary or teacher in a priesthood quorum. It may mean teaching primary or Sunday School or being a clerk or family history consultant.
What, though, does it mean to magnify? Well, we all know that to magnify means to enlarge. I find it helpful to contrast the idea of magnifying with the idea of minimizing.
“Magnify” ≠ “Minimize”
To minimize a calling, we do as as much and as little as necessary. We attend only the meetings we feel absolutely compelled to attend. We may not actively drive the success of those meetings. We lay low when volunteers are requested. And we do no more than explicitly required. We move when told to move—or we resist moving (either actively or passively) when we think the person asking us to move has exceeded his or her authority. Where we are talking about that our responsibility for helping others come to the Savior, as referred to a moment ago, specifics are often lacking; so if we are in minimize mode, we don’t reach out to people any more than we have to.
I want to focus for a few minutes on magnifying our callings as that relates to helping others coming to the Savior, sometimes referred to as missionary work or reactivation work, though we could also be talking about reaching out to fully active members.
There is a statement in the Handbook that marries two critical “M-words” (one of which is not “minimize”). You’ll remember my talk tonight if you remember that it is about “M&Ms.”
In Chapter 2 of Handbook 2 (which is available to everyone online) “magnifying” is defined in large part as “ministering.” We find this statement:
“Priesthood holders magnify their callings as they minister in their own homes and to other Saints…”
In connection with that statement is a description also that we should “lift, strengthen, and nurture” others.
We also read this:
“Like the Savior, [priesthood holders] seek to minister to individuals and families, both spiritually and temporally. They care about each person…. They reach out to new members, less-active members, and those who may be lonely or in need of comfort.”
Lastly, from the Handbook, we are given some very specific examples of what is included in “ministering.” What does lifting, strengthening, and nurturing others look like more specifically? Well, here are four strong suggestions, again from Handbook 2:
Ministering to others includes:
- Remembering their names and becoming acquainted with them (Yikes! Please forgive me!)
- Loving them without judging them. (We have a lot of work to do in this area.)
- Watching over them and strengthening their faith “one by one,” as the Savior did. (Notice the emphasis on one-on-one. Good things can happen in Sacrament Meetings and Sunday School classes, seminary classes, and priesthood quorum meetings. Good things can, should, and do happen in those settings, but there is something critical about one-on-one ministering where especially good things can result. I think I will probably remember certain PPIs that I have had more than lessons I have been taught.)
- Establishing sincere friendship with them and visiting them in their homes and elsewhere. (Note that there are important places to minister to others besides within the walls of the church.)
Now, brethren, I would like to show you a video…
What did we see in that video?
We saw a young man begin to do something out of a sense of duty. Though he was obedient, he didn’t initially see the person on the other end of his assignment. He did not know that to magnify his assignment, he was going to have to minister to a person—a real person who has struggles and problems and who responds to love. And he could not minister effectively (or really at all) without becoming sincere in his desire for friendship with Steve.
Was his heart in his response to the bishop at first? Perhaps, but not to the extent that it would be after he began to know and care about Steve. His first attempt was actually not that bad, but something was missing which appeared in the end.
What made his heart begin to change in this assignment? Do you remember when he asked the bishop, in frustration, “What’s the point?”
The bishop responded by quoting Mormon’s teachings about charity. Moroni admonished:
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ;“
The bishop then commented, “Some wounds are large and they take time to heal.” Guillermo found out Steve was dealing with something real and something difficult— and then Steve switched in Guillermo’s mind from an assignment to a human being.
Guillermo’s heart changed. Friendship became the primary issue—not trying to get somebody to do something.
Brethren, part of what we’re talking about tonight is about human connection and happiness. It is hard to have happiness without real human connection—and that connection doesn’t have to come as much from someone loving us as it has to come from us loving someone. When we do, reciprocation is not guaranteed, but is common. Part of “living after the manner of happiness” is loving others—or, as the handbook calls it, “ministering,” which is what we have covenanted to do when we agreed to “magnify” our priesthood.
[“Magnify” = “Minister”]
This week I received a text from a friend of mine who is going through some very hard things and is struggling with herself. Her text came unexpected in the middle of the day and it said, “One who loses his life shall find it? How does one lose his life?”
One loses his life by becoming concerned for the welfare of others and by ministering to them. In the perfect example, this is what the Savior did. If we will follow his lead and attempt to the same—if we live up to the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood—we will receive all that He has.
With regard to some practicalities… There may be a million ways we can love and serve other people in various contexts. Let me just throw out a few ideas…
If you are a home teacher, you can…
- Drop in on your family between monthly visits—even if you’re 14 years old.
- Find time—somewhere / anywhere—to spend a few extra minutes visiting with Dad about his family.
- Do something socially with the family or share a Family Home Evening together or just a bowl of ice cream sometime.
If you are a Primary or Sunday School or Priesthood Quorum teacher, you can…
- Stop by the home of a class member who couldn’t make it on Sunday.
- Support a class member at one of their activities.
- Send a note or drop by just to tell someone how much you enjoy their being in your class.
If you are husband, you can…
- Do something nice for your wife that she would appreciate but wasn’t expecting.
- Make sure you have a weekly date with her.
- Be sure to spend quiet time with her just talking and listening and making sure you understand how she feels.
If you are a father, you can…
- Spend one-on-one time with a child.
- Make sure your child hears much more that you love them and are proud of them than they hear criticism.
- Talk to your children about their goals and dreams.
- Lead the family in prayer, scripture reading, and Family Home Evening.
If you are a son, you can…
- Do something kind for your mother.
- Tell your parents you love them and give them a hug.
- Spend one-on-one time with a sibling—whether older or younger.
If you are teenage young man, you can…
- Invite someone into your circle of friends who could use some friends and some validation.
- Begin smiling and saying hello to people you don’t normally smile at or say hello to.
- Make sure that you stand up for the absent when something judgmental or unkind is said about them.
If you are a neighbor, you can…
- Share that bowl of ice cream or dinner together.
- Provide a listening ear when times are tough.
- Pitch in with the yard or whatever when help is needed.
Brethren, my message tonight is very simple. There are two reasons we should magnify our callings:
- By virtue of the priesthood, we are under covenant to do so.
- It is one of the key ingredients in the recipe the Book of Mormon refers to as “the manner of happiness.”
Magnifying your calling means ministering to individuals. It means:
- getting to know them
- judging them kindly or not at all—being inclusive and accepting
- showing personal, sincere, one-on-one interest in them
- becoming a real friend, regardless of their choices for or against the Church.
My invitation to you tonight is to magnify by ministering. Magnify your calling in the priesthood by ministering to individuals and families around you. My testimony is that you and they will feel edified and uplifted.
I am deeply grateful to those brothers and sisters who minister to me and to my family. I feel their sincere love. If you ask me who loves me and my family, I will place my home teacher, my High Priest Group Leader, and my Bishop at the top of the list—not alone, but among many dear friends who do not have a specific leadership responsibility for me or our family right now, but who are accepting, non-judging friends nevertheless and whose ministering to our family strengthens us.
May we go out of our way a little bit to establish friendships and communicate love and encouragement to those who are close to us or should be is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.