Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles addressed a Marriott Center crowd on ministering in a holier way, one of the changes announced during the April 2018 General Conference.
In his devotional address on Tuesday, Elder Andersen elevated ministering above everyday service by encouraging shared testimony and calls to action.
He began by giving a recap of the announcements made in general conference: a solemn assembly with a new prophet, two new apostles, high priests combining with the elders quorum, home and visiting teaching being replaced by “ministering” and seven new temples.
Elder Andersen bore his spiritual witness of the sustaining of President Russell M. Nelson.
“I anticipated that it would be a spiritual experience, but the rush of power and peace that permeated the Conference Center was palpable to me,” Elder Andersen said.
He gave exaggerated examples of American culture from the book, “The Narcissism Epidemic,“ that showcased worldly wants and selfishness.
Elder Andersen said the audience has chosen to live differently as BYU students and disciples of Christ.
“As disciples of Christ, we strongly reject the notion that our lives are all about ourselves,” Elder Andersen said. “Rather, we follow the Savior.”
Elder Andersen recognized that students already minister to one another and gave counsel on strengthening ministering efforts.
The first commandment must be understood and followed before exercising the second, he said. Students must love God with all their heart in order to fully love their neighbor.
“There is a unique and supernal gift of ministering that can come from someone who loves God with all his or her heart,” Elder Andersen said.
He added that it is important for students to be grounded in their faith in Jesus Christ and the restored gospel and “(keep) the commandments with exactness.”
Elder Andersen said there is difference between ministering and service. He said people across the world have good hearts and already perform acts of service, such as changing a flat tire or driving a neighbor to the doctor.
Ministering, according to Elder Andersen, is when members not only provide acts of service but also encourage the person they are serving to keep the commandments and share spiritual insight.
“To minister spiritually can begin with baking cookies or playing a basketball game, but eventually this holier way of ministering requires opening your heart and your faith, taking courage in encouraging the positive growth you are seeing in a friend or in expressing concerns about things you see and feel that are not consistent with discipleship,” Elder Andersen said.
He gave examples of fellow students who may need ministering efforts, including a friend is attending the temple less frequently, a roommate who may be using prescription drugs inappropriately or a classmate who jokes about sacred things.
Ministering will be more one-on-one, much like the Savior’s way, according to Elder Andersen.
“Unlike changing a flat tire, one experience rarely fixes a spiritual problem. It takes time, conversations and encouraging experiences that will help rebuild faith,” he said. “It comes more like the dew from heaven than a one-time blast from a firehose. You have to minister again and again, as you help someone turn back to God, again relying on the Savior and his atonement.”
Elder Andersen said ministering will require using the Holy Ghost and the revelatory power that President Nelson stressed in the last General Conference.
To have the companionship of the Holy Ghost, students will need to be careful with their use of technology and social media. This is because the companies creating social media do everything they can to make the experience user-friendly and rewarding, he said. He quoted the author of “Irresistible,” Adam Alter, to emphasize this point.
“As an experience evolves, it becomes an irresistible, weaponized version of an experience it once was … In 2004, Facebook was fun; (today) it’s addictive.”
Elder Andersen said students will need time and space away from technology to have the spirit.
He then directed his comments to BYU faculty. Faculty members come to BYU with the desire to lift students both intellectually and spiritually, he said.
He instructed faculty to minister to the individuals in their classes by looking at the faces of their students as he does by looking at the faces of congregations he is speaking to.
“As you speak to the individual student, all will be lifted,” he said.
Elder Andersen said two of his roommates during his time at BYU had a lifelong impact on him because of their spiritual maturity and character.
“At BYU, you have the opportunity as disciples of the Savior to minister in a way that helps keep a friend’s faith from faltering, that reminds a roommate in a kind way that reading the Book of Mormon every day really does bring miracles, and that the standards of the church are not just a set of rules, but keep us closer to God and bring us happiness,” Elder Andersen said.
He closed with his testimony of the Savior, the prophet and the holy work of the gospel. He encouraged the audience to grow in ministering efforts.
“I promise you as you love God with all your heart, pray to be an instrument in His hands, minister to individuals, build your capacity to receive revelation and trust in the influence of the Holy Ghost … the Lord will put his special sons and daughters in your path, and you will become their ministering angels, blessing their lives forever. You will minister in a holier way.”