Topic Study: Personal Ministry

(May 2009.  A sacrament meeting talk for the Oswego Ward, May 17, 2009.  Source material from Pres. Thomas S. Monson, “The Long Line of the Lonely,” Ensign, Feb 1992.  It appears the recording of the complete talk was not finished.)

I             Intro

Good afternoon brothers and sisters.  I am Kip Twitchell from the Woodridge Second Ward.  I am the stake Young Men’s President, and am filling in for Brother Rudy Kannepin of the high council in this assignment to speak to you.  I have served on the high council before, and have spoken to you in that capacity.  So I recognize my talk would not be complete without expressing to you the love and concern I see manifested by our stake presidency about your welfare as I interact with them.

II            President Clark

I have always been impressed by Pres. Clark’s strong desire to know you, and the fact that he does know so many of you.  As you know, this year he and his councilors have chosen the theme of personal ministries.  In his training during ward conference I heard him explain that he spends a great deal of time simply reading lists of names of people in the stake.  He has thoughts come to him as he does so.  I was impressed by that.  President Clark may not know you; but he probably knows your name.

My assigned topic for today is about one facet of personal ministry; that of visiting and ministering to the lonely.  The suggested source material from Pres. Monson’s Ensign article in Feb 1992, “The Long Line of the Lonely,” made me think of his personal ministry.

As President Clark has trained us on personal ministries, he has noted there are two aspects to it.  One aspect is our calling; the ministry we are formally assigned to at this time.  But he noted there are also personal ministries we are to undertake that we choose.  In studying priesthood authority recently in my personal scripture study, I wrote the following in my study journal.  I would encourage you to keep a study journal, and write in it at the conclusion of your scripture study.  If you will, you will find that the act of writing down what you have learned will increase the clarity of revelation you receive, you will retain that revelation longer, and will be able to act upon it more fully.  Here is what I wrote.

“I have always heard the word calling since I am a life long member of the church and I translate it into job.  But converts to the church would likely know and think more about [the natural meaning of] that word.  It speaks of a longing, full devotion of heart, something we would choose to do, not be forced to do like a job; commissioned.  It also speaks of the Lord’s voice coming to us to call us to the work.”  It may also speak of the voice within ourselves that manifests our deepest desires.

III           President Monson

Perhaps about 10 years ago I heard Pres. Monson speak at a BYU leadership conference, and he spoke of one aspect of his personal ministry, outside of his calling.  As part of his remarks, he mentioned, I believe, that in the prior few weeks he had spoken at a funeral for a widow.  Many of you are familiar with the fact that he was called to be a bishop very soon after getting married in his early 20s, and he had eighty-seven widows in his ward.  He cared for them as bishop, but his personal ministry did not end when he was released.  Over the years, he visited each one at Christmas.

At the time he spoke, I remember him noting that he had just turned 70, and had served in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for 35 years: half his life he had carried that heavy load.  Yet through all of the travel required of members of the twelve, he had never missed a funeral of any of the 87 widows.  In fact, he had been asked to speak at every one, and he had been able to keep that promise.

As I consider how that could be possible, I am sure that President Monson would attest:

20  And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you. (3 Ne. 18:20)

I am a witness that the Lord will grant our righteous desires.  If we will ask him to bless us with a sense of our personal ministry, he will make it manifest to us; sometimes much sooner than we might think.  If we will then ask for assistance in fulfilling that ministry, he will give us strength, knowledge, means, and the capabilities to do so.  I know that to be true.

IV          The Lonely

But my topic isn’t on personal ministries, it is on visiting and ministering to the lonely.  I would like to convince you to make this a part of your personal ministry, an aspect of it.

As I pondered this, I asked my wife Kari what it means to be lonely.  We agreed that there are likely many more types of loneliness than just being alone.  For our purposes today, consider if loneliness isn’t simply caring a burden of some kind.

A few weeks ago a beloved Aunt of mine passed away.  She had lived to be 91; there were no regrets in her life.  But her last years were very trying to her; losing her health was very challenging.  She had grand daughters and two sons that were very solicitous of her, and visited her frequently.  Yet they could not lift the burden her health imposed.

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