Several months ago, Sister Sitati and I were in the home of a member family. The topic of ministering, just announced by President Nelson, came up. Jack, the father (not his real name), wondered in what ways ministering would be the same or different from home teaching.
As the discussion progressed, Sister Sitati suggested that we do a mock ministering visit and learn from it. The suggestion was accepted and so Sister Sitati and I became a ministering companionship and the family of six—comprising (not their real names) Jack, mother Cindy, twenty-year-old son Amos, sixteen-year-old daughter Winnie, thirteen-year-old son Paul, and nine-year-old daughter Charity—became our assigned family for the purpose of the mock ministering visit.
The conversation went something like this:
Elder Sitati: Jack, Cindy and children, Sister Sitati and I are thrilled to be assigned as your ministering brother and sister. Thank you everyone for making the time to meet with us in your home today.
Sister Sitati: After praying about it, we felt that on this first ministering visit, we want to explore together with you where you feel you currently stand temporally and spiritually as a family and individually and where you want to be.
Cindy: I think temporally, the Lord has blessed us, and we are very grateful. Quite frankly, we are all in different places in our spiritual progress, and so each one of us will likely have a different answer to where they are.
Elder Sitati: Let us begin with family prayer. How do you feel about how that is going?
Jack: Our schedules are crazy. For most of the week, because of the different activities in which we are involved, some of us are coming—while others are going—and it is difficult to find time to be together for family prayer.
Sister Sitati: How do you feel about continuing that way?
Jack: Clearly, we can do better. We want to do better. Today for example, we were able to coordinate our schedules so we could all be here at this time for your visit. So, we will try and coordinate better, to be together more often.
Elder Sitati: How can we help you to be better coordinated as a family?
Cindy: I would love it if Sister Sitati could call from time to time and just ask how we are doing with praying together.
Sister Sitati: What about reading the Book of Mormon daily?
Cindy: I think the same approach as with prayer will work.
Elder Sitati: Are there any other aspects of your discipleship that you wish to improve as a family?
Jack: Cindy is quite diligent with temple attendance, and the girls often go with her to do proxy baptisms. I have been a bit careless and have been without a current temple recommend for the last few months.
Elder Sitati: How can we help?
Jack: Your question is enough! I will repent and go and see the bishop next week.
Sister Sitati: What if we could plan to go to the temple together with your family?
Winnie: I would love that!
Cindy: Jack, would you like us to look at some possible dates?
Jack: Yes, of course. We can coordinate that over the phone. But the first week of next month looks like a good possibility. I will have renewed my Temple Recommend by then.
Elder Sitati: Amos, you have been quiet. How are things going with you?
Amos: Well, I don’t know. I don’t seem to feel much of anything these days.
Sister Sitati: What are the things that capture your interest, in which you find that you are usually fully engaged?
Amos: I like biking, especially going up and down mountain trails.
Elder Sitati: One of our sons likes mountain biking as a hobby. He is a member of a national internet biking community that you may be interested in. We would be happy to connect you with him.
Sister Sitati: Amos, the bishop mentioned that you have been thinking about going on mission lately.
Amos: Yes, but I am not sure. I don’t want to go just because of the bishop or my parents!
Sister Sitati: You don’t have to. Have you considered the covenant you made with the Lord when you received the priesthood? What did you promise you would do for the blessings the Lord offers you as a priesthood holder?
Amos: To serve Him.
Elder Sitati: And from Moroni 7:13 and 7:17, you can learn why you are not sure about serving, and then do something about it. Would you like to read it and let me know what you find out?
Amos: Sure. I can text you?
Elder Sitati: Yes, sure. Here is my cell phone number.
Sister Sitati: What about you Winnie, Paul and Charity? Are you working on any personal spiritual goals?
Winnie: I am working on some goals in Personal Progress. Mum is helping me.
Sister Sitati: Excellent! (Looking at Paul.)
Paul: Boys don’t do Personal Progress!
Elder Sitati: You are right Paul. They do something else.
Paul: Last year, one of the teachers talked about Duty to God. When I looked at the book, the stuff in there was boring!
Elder Sitati: Most things are boring until we take an interest and really try them out. Then the Holy Ghost can help us. (Looking at Jack) I am sure Daddy can help you.
Jack: Of course. I should have done that earlier, but my priorities were kind of upside down.
Charity: In Primary, we are memorizing the Articles of Faith. I can say them without reading up to number seven!
Sister Sitati: Excellent! (Gets up and hugs Charity.)
Elder Sitati: Well, that is the end of our short mock ministering home visit. What do you think? You all did so well!
A spirited discussion followed on the merits of the ministering approach versus message-based home teaching.
Each family or person to whom we minister is unique and has a specific set of needs. Our role as ministers is to—under influence of the Spirit—discover those needs, offer some solutions, and commit, as needed, to new behaviors. The mock visit above is but one way in which ministers can learn our duties and fulfill the sacred responsibilities with which we have been entrusted.
Postscript: As I have reflected back on that true experience from time to time since arriving in the Africa South East Area, I have felt that our conversation with Jack, Cindy, and the family could have been greatly enriched if we had used a resource like the pocket size 2019 Area Plan card that has been provided to every member.
I commend this card with its three priorities and nine goals to everyone, to use in our personal discipleship, as well as in our ministering efforts. It is an excellent reminder and pattern of how we can deepen our own conversion and to be with and strengthen others.