President Russell M. Nelson announced The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will discontinue visiting teaching and home teaching institutions during the Sunday afternoon session of General Conference.
According to President Nelson, the change will be a coordinated, more personalized approach known as “ministering.”
“For months, we have been seeking a better way to minister to the spiritual and temporal needs of our people in the Savior’s way,” President Nelson said. “Effective ministering efforts are enabled by the innate gifts of the sisters and by the incomparable power of the priesthood. We all need such protection from the cunning wiles of the adversary.”
In his Sunday afternoon talk following the announcement, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said the change is evidence “that the Lord is hastening his work.”
“Clearly as the work of the church matures institutionally, it follows that we should mature
personally — individually rising above any mechanical, function-without-feeling routine to the heartfelt discipleship articulated by the Savior at the conclusion of his earthly ministry,” Elder Holland said.
What is ‘ministering’?
Ministering is similar to home teaching and visiting teaching in that each household will have priesthood holders assigned to it and each adult sister will have members of the Relief Society assigned to her, but formal visits are no longer required.
According to ministering.lds.org, ministering is meant to help individuals and families prepare for their next ordinance, keep their covenants and become self-reliant.
Those assigned to minister can meet at home, at church “or in any setting that is safe, convenient and reachable.” These adjustments are meant to place greater focus on meeting members’ needs and may take multiple forms such as texting a scripture, attending a soccer game or inviting someone to a service project, according to ministering.lds.org.
Relief Society President Sister Jean B. Bingham said members should listen to the spirit and ask themselves how they can share “the light of the gospel” with the family they’re assigned to minister to.
“Ministering can be done a great variety of individualized ways,” Sister Bingham said. “Sometimes we think we have to do something grand and heroic to ‘count’ as serving our neighbors. Yet simple acts of service can have profound effects on others — as well as on ourselves.”
Sister Bingham said this change will be a unifying force for Relief Society sisters and elders quorums “as they seek the best ways to watch over and care for each individual and family.”
Church members will decide “through communication and inspiration” the type of and amount of contact they will have with those they minister to.
Some church members may need less ministering than others.
The restructured priesthood and the Relief Society will make ministering assignment recommendations to the bishop, meet quarterly to discuss needs of individuals and families and enact plans to meet those needs.
Elder Holland said when Jesus Christ prepared to end his mortal ministry and leave behind his apostles, he didn’t “list a dozen administrative steps they had to take or hand them a fist full of reports to be filled out in triplicate.”
“No, he summarized their task in one fundamental commandment: ‘Love one another, as I have loved you,'” Elder Holland said.
Elder Holland said the ministering initiative won’t make any different in members’ service unless they “see this as an invitation to care for one another in a bold new holier way.”
“We have a heaven-sent opportunity as an entire church to demonstrate pure religion undefiled before God … because we all need to feel the warm hand of friendship and hear the firm declaration of faith,” Elder Holland said.
Elder Holland jokingly added that this change will not give people the excuse to take on the mindset of a bumper sticker he once saw that said, “If I honk, you’ve been home taught.”
How will ministering be reported?
Church members will report to their leaders — preferably in their companionships — about their service and the needs and strengths of those they minister to. However, they will no longer report the number of visits or contacts made. In addition, ministering is intended to create a communication network that leaders can use when dangers or emergencies arise.
Elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies will keep records of ministering interviews by indicating the months interviews are held and who participated.
They will report the companionship as interviewed if at least one member of the companionship is present at the quarterly interview. Updates for such reporting will be available on the LDS Tools app and the Leader and Clerk Resources on LDS.org by Aug. 1, 2018. More details from LDS Church headquarters are forthcoming.
Priesthood holders will now be called “ministering brothers” and Relief Society sisters “ministering sisters.” However, they will continue being called by their names — such as “Brother Jones” — and will not be called “ministers.”
How will youth be involved?
According to information on ministering.lds.org, Laurels and Mia Maids may now serve as companions to Relief Society sisters, similar to the way Priests and Teachers serve with Melchizedek Priesthood holders.
This increases the reach of Relief Society and elders quorums and allows youth to “share their unique gifts and grow spiritually as they serve alongside adults in the work of salvation,” according to Sister Bingham.
Sister Bingham said this will help youth to better build the church and prepare for their future roles at church, in their communities and in their families.
“As I think about the stellar young women I have known, I get excited for those Relief
Society sisters who will have the privilege of being blessed by a young woman’s enthusiasm, talents and spiritual sensitivity as they serve side-by-side or are ministered to by them,” Sister Bingham. “And I am equally delighted by the chance young women will have to be mentored and taught and strengthened by their sisters in Relief Society.”
“The ministering adjustments may take some time but should be in place as soon as possible,” according to the website.
Video: members react to replacement of home and visiting teaching programs with “ministering”
Editor’s note: this story will be updated as more information is given.