This post originally appeared as part of the Email a Believer blog at RE Online
Relationships, for the most part, are taken for granted by most people. Most of us would agree that our relationships with the Godhead and with our families should be preeminent in our lives. It is another relationship that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are all a part of that this blog post now turns. A relationship that can sometimes be overlooked or even neglected because our attention we feel is better served elsewhere. This is the relationship that can be found with ‘fellow saints.’
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a lay Church, where everyone participates in some way. At the moment, I serve as the Bishop of my local congregation. Our relationships to other people are formalised within the Church; as Church members we are given the opportunity to serve one another. Through these service opportunities we are able to draw close to God:
And we did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence; wherefore, by labouring with our might their blood might not come upon our garments; otherwise their blood would come upon our garments, and we would not be found spotless at the last day (Jacob 1:19).
The service that is given by all members of the Church is a prelude to the service and unity that can be found within exaltation. The Church is organised to help us develop unified relationships that prepare us for exaltation. Exaltation is a place where the “same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy” (D&C 130:2). I look forward to a heaven where I can be with all of those people I love in this life. This is usually interpreted to mean family, but it can also mean friends too.
Each member of the Church is an integral part of the Ward who should each make every effort to develop this service and unity.
If we are to have the type of relationships we are aiming for there are three things that each of us should have. These were first outlined by a former President of the Church, Gordon B. Hinckley:
- A friend
- A responsibility
- To be nourished by the good word of God
In exploring these things, it must be recognised that a person’s first responsibility is to themselves to ensure that they have, and are continuing to maintain, each one of these. I must then go beyond myself to ensure that every member has all three of these things as well. Although applicable to members of the Church, I think there are many things that I can learn from these three principles in developing relationships with everybody.
The best way to have a friend is to be a friend. We do not sit idly by waiting for someone to make an effort to be our friend, we make an effort to reach out to all of those around us. To take an interest in and develop relationships with others. The Saviour describes us as his friends- he is able to do so because of the service he has rendered and the relationship we are seeking to develop with him. Let us learn of each other, let us celebrate one another’s successes, and let us mourn with those that mourn. There are people from many backgrounds in this ward; we should make an effort with each and every one of them. I was somewhat surprised not long ago when a member of the ward told me of a job opportunity they thought I should go for. I was surprised because it was to be teaching in a school- I haven’t taught in a school in over five years. This told me that I had not made an effort to interact with this particular member in a meaningful way. I needed to do better. I don’t expect to know the ins and outs of all of our lives but it would be nice to take an interest in a person and help the feel as though they have a friend. As James tells us, ‘Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.’ What does it say about our religion and our conversion if we fail to visit people and spend time with them?
It is a goal that every member of the Church has a responsibility. This may be serving as a ministering brother or sister (someone who visits different members of the ward), serving on a presidency, teaching a class, organising some logistical issues, providing technical support and many other things that will help members of the Church in their efforts to draw closer to the Saviour. We are often told that it does not matter where we serve but how we serve. Our responsibility when we are given an assignment or a calling is to carry it out to the best of our ability.
One of the most told parables of Jesus is the Good Samaritan. In this narrative a priest and a Levite do not stop to help the injured man. Why do they not stop? We can imagine that there are very good reasons- maybe they are fearful of taking on such a responsibility, maybe they worry about being late for other events, or maybe they are worried for their own safety. If I stop and think these are all very good reasons to carry on their way. However, in the end none of these mattered in the eyes of the Saviour; the same person who uttered the words ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me’ (Matt 25: 40).
Nourished by the good word of God
What am I doing, first and foremost to ensure that I am nourished by the good word of God? Am I studying the scriptures, am I pondering and praying about their meanings? I often tell the story of falling in love with my wife, Ruth, through reading the words she sent me each week in a letter. It is eminently more possible to develop a loving relationship with the Saviour as we study his words. This will ensure that we are kept on the right path.
President Hinckley has said, beginning by quoting from the Book of Mormon:
Moroni [says] concerning them after they are baptized: “And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith” (Moro. 6:4).
In these days as in those days, [every individual is] “numbered among the people of the church . . . [to] be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer.”
I have a responsibility to ensure that every member is nourished by the good word of God? Am I reading from the scriptures in my visits with members, am I opening the scriptures with my family? We try and ensure that all are fed and nourished by the good word. I have outlined many things we must be doing. First and foremost I must address these issues for myself, then I must move out and help others draw close to Christ.
Christ’s example was one of drawing people in, including the excluded. I must follow his example.