Service to others is a demonstration of discipleship, gratitude and love for God and His Son, Jesus Christ, Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society general president, said in her address during the Sunday afternoon session of general conference.
"Sometimes we think we have to do something grand and heroic to 'count' as serving our neighbors," she observed. "Yet simple acts of service can have profound effects on others — as well as on ourselves."
In addition to the Savior's supernal gifts of the Atonement and Resurrection, "He also smiled at, talked with, walked with, listened to, made time for, encouraged, taught, fed and forgave," Sister Bingham noted. "He served family and friends, neighbors and strangers alike, and He invited acquaintances and loved ones to enjoy the rich blessings of His gospel."
Ministering can be done in a variety of individualized ways, Sister Bingham said, posing the question "What does it look like?"
She gave several illustrations, including leaders counseling about individuals and families as assignments are given to minister.
"It looks like going for a walk, getting together for a game night, offering service or even serving together," she said. "It looks like visiting in person or talking on the phone or chatting online or texting. It looks like sharing a scripture or quote from a conference talk that would be meaningful to the individual. It looks like discussing a gospel question and sharing testimony to bring clarity and peace. It looks like becoming part of someone's life and caring about him or her. It also looks like a ministering interview in which needs and strengths are discussed sensitively and appropriately. It looks like the ward council organizing to respond to a larger need."
Alluding to the announcements made the previous evening at the priesthood session of the conference, Sister Bingham said combining Relief Society efforts with the now-restructured elders quorum "will bring a unity that can yield astonishing results."
"Ministering becomes one coordinated effort to fulfill the priesthood duty to 'visit the house of each member' and 'to watch over the church always, and be with and strengthen them,' as well as to achieve the Relief Society purpose to help one another prepare for the blessings of eternal life," she said, drawing upon wording in Doctrine and Covenants 20 and from Handbook 2: Administering the Church.
"Working together under the direction of the bishop, elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies can be inspired as they seek the best ways to watch over and care for each individual and family," Sister Bingham said.
Another blessing of the announcements is the opportunity for young women ages 14 to 18 to participate in ministering as companions to Relief Society sisters, just as young men their age minister as companions to Melchizedek Priesthood brethren, she said. That will increase the reach of Relief Society and elders quorums in caring for others by increasing the number of members who participate, she explained.
Young women are already ministering to others without assignment or fanfare, Sister Bingham said, sharing incidents of a 14-year-old who took a plate of cookies to a family that had moved into her ward and of a 16-year-old who, noticing a lonely widow who lived nearby, took a flower to her and continued to visit her.
"Each of these young women, and many more like them, noticed someone's need and worked to meet it," Sister Bingham said.
"After all is said and done, true ministering is accomplished one by one with love as the motivation," she said. In that way, "miracles will happen, and we will find ways to bring our 'missing' sisters and brothers into the all-inclusive embrace of the gospel of Jesus Christ."