Sister Sharon Eubank opened her address with enthusiasm over the Women’s Conference theme, “Strengthen One Another in the Lord.”
“That is a perfect definition of what it means to minister,” she said.
The theme of the Relief Society presentation, according to Sister Eubank, was taken from a statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, “We must cherish one another, watch over one another, comfort one another and gain instructions that we may all sit down in heaven together.”
Sister Eubank said Lucy Mack Smith’s statement describes “paradise” for her — “sitting down and enjoying the relationships of the people I loved on the earth.”
A video clip of LDS Church President Russell M. Nelson was shared as part of the introduction. The clip featured President Nelson’s closing remarks about ministering in the April 2018 General Conference.
Sister Eubank said President Nelson’s description of the new ministering program as “a higher and holier way to minister” is likely what Lucy Mack Smith’s vision was from the beginning, and can be accomplished through “cherishing, watching over, comforting and learning from one another.”
Sister Reyna I. Aburto, second counselor in the general presidency of the Relief Society, shared a story about her two youngest children, who left to serve missions around the same time. She said it was difficult for her and her husband to adjust their habits to life without kids at home, such as daily routines, grocery shopping and cooking meals.
The void of her children being gone was filled by a new visiting teaching companion. At first, Sister Aburto said initially, they didn’t seem to have anything in common; however, after spending time together ministering, they began finding similarities between them. Her companion had served a Spanish-speaking mission and loved Mexican food. Sister Aburto and her companion turned this into a way to minister together by inviting their assigned sisters over to the Aburto home to make Mexican meals.
“This wonderful sister filled the void that my daughter had left, and we have become best friends, we are now ‘besties’ or ‘BFF’s,'” Sister Aburto said.
Sister Aburto said her companion has taught her resilience, faith and “how to live the gospel more joyfully.”
This story illustrated Sister Aburto’s point that sometimes it may seem that companionships won’t work out — that there is “nothing in common” within the companionship. However, Sister Aburto said the “higher, holier way of ministering” is to minister together regardless of differences.
Judging, comparing and competing should be replaced with compassion and charity, according to Sister Aburto, and this is a culture in the church “we can change.”
Watching over others
Sister Eubank, first counselor in the general presidency of the Relief Society, mentioned Sister Bingham had posted to her Facebook page asking people to share how ministering had blessed their lives. A few of these examples were shared via audio clips with accompanying slideshows.
The first examples shared from Sister Bingham’s Facebook post were of sisters who listened to the Spirit for direction in how to watch over and minister to those around them.
One was a Relief Society president who felt prompted to contact a sister in her ward who was struggling, and the other was a Relief Society sister who fellowshipped a new family by inviting them to see the local sites and visit parks together.
Sister Eubank said these examples of watching over are relationships that “weren’t just assignments on a slip of paper. They came from the Lord.”
Watching over was one of the very reasons the Relief Society was established, according to Sister Eubank.
Another example from Sister Bingham’s Facebook post was a story of a sister whose 30-year-old daughter passed away. This sister and her husband felt alone in their sorrow as they grieved the loss of their daughter. They believed in the plan of salvation, but they still felt isolated. After posting about their struggles on Facebook, a couple in their ward came over with a potted tulip, assuring this couple that when planted, the flower would remind them of their daughter.
“Ministering isn’t so much what you do — but what you feel, and how that person feels,” Sister Aburto said.
The key to ministering is doing whatever it takes to be a real friend to those you are called to minister, according to Sister Aburto.
Sister Eubank encouraged the women to look to the example of Jesus Christ in how he comforted others, and Sister Aburto added to that by saying it doesn’t take much to help someone feel loved.
Sister Aburto finished her remarks by encouraging the women to “do the right things. The simple things. The things the Lord himself wants done.” She said to not let everything add up to a long list but to pick a few things to do for the Lord each day.
Sister Eubank quoted President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency of the church in her closing remarks.
“It’s natural to feel some inadequacy when we consider what the Lord has called us to do,” President Eyring said. “In fact, if you told me that you feel perfectly capable of fulfilling your … duties, I might worry that you do not understand them. On the other hand, if you told me that you feel like giving up because the task is too far beyond your capabilities, then I would want to help you understand how the Lord magnified and strengthens (his servants) to do things they never could have done alone.”