‘A higher and holier way’: Relief Society general presidency shares more insight to the call to minister

PROVO, Utah — Just a few weeks ago, Sister Reyna I. Aburto was in the hall at Church when her friend, five-year-old Seth, came up to talk to her.

“I know who is speaking in conference,” he said.

“Who?” she asked the boy.

He replied, “You. And I am praying for you, Sister Aburto.”

Admittedly nervous to give her first address in general conference, Sister Aburto, who serves as the second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, said of the moment, “A five-year-old ministered to me. I felt so loved. It doesn’t require much for a person to feel loved. I add my witness that offering comfort is one of the most Christlike acts we can perform for others. … This beautiful story shows that it doesn’t always have to be a big thing.”

That example is one of the many she and Sister Sharon Eubank, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, shared during their keynote address at BYU Women’s Conference on May 3.

Covering the topic many in the Church are talking about, the duo spoke of the recent call to minister, shedding more insight into the new initiative.Recognizing the absence of Sister Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society general president, Sister Eubank said, “The First Presidency asked her to represent the Church at the White House observance of the National Day of Prayer. We selfishly miss her but are thrilled she is representing the Church in the nation’s capital.” (See story on pg. 9)

“The theme of this year’s Women’s Conference is to ‘Strengthen One Another in the Lord,’ ” Sister Eubank said. “That is a perfect definition of true ministering.”

Focusing their remarks on a statement by Lucy Mack Smith, the mother of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Sister Eubank said, “ ‘We must cherish one another, watch over one another, comfort one another, and gain instruction that we may all sit down in heaven together.’ Sister Aburto and I love the idea that after we serve each other and learn and work together, we can all be united in heaven. To me, that’s what my real paradise is — sitting down and enjoying the relationships of all those I loved on this earth.”

Discussing the charge to minister in “a higher and holier way,” the two counselors expounded on what that means.

“A few years ago, my two youngest children left on missions at about the same time,” Sister Aburto said. “So it was hard for me and my husband to adapt to our new life without our children.”

After redefining their daily routines, reinventing the way they grocery shopped, cooked and entertained themselves, the couple had a lot of adjusting to do.

“It was during that period of adjustment that I received a new companion for visiting teaching,” she said. “When I saw her name, I thought: ‘This is going to be interesting.’ If you look at us, it may look like we don’t have much in common.”

At the time, her companion was a young newlywed who had two jobs and was a full-time student. As the two ministered to others, they discovered they weren’t as different as they initially thought.

“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. “From her, I have learned about resilience and faith, and how to live the gospel more joyfully.”

To those who feel they don’t have anything in common with the sisters they are called to minister to, Sister Aburto said, “I want to recommend that the higher, holier way of ministering is to make us feel comfortable sitting down with each other, even if we think that we are very different.”

“We can sometimes be hard on each other as women, we might start judging, comparing and competing, rather than having compassion and charity. But, we can change that culture in the Church, and we must.”

Stating that it doesn’t matter who has 10 kids or none, who is a scientist and who has an elementary education, or who wears pants and who wears a skirt — “to those who say we don’t have anything in common, I would suggest that those superficial things matter the least. What unites us is our divine heritage; the people who help us grow spiritually, the assignments we receive from the Lord, our faith in God’s plan, our love of Jesus Christ, and our sisterhood in Heavenly Father’s family.”

Drawing upon the part of Lucy Mack Smith’s statement that says to watch over, Sister Eubank recounted stories shared on Sister Bingham’s Facebook page after she invited people to tell personal experiences of how ministering had blessed their lives.

She shared the first-hand account of a young women whose Relief Society president felt impressed to text her and invite her to come over to her house on a day she “just felt so broken.”

Another woman shared how, after moving 2,000 miles away from her family, she was invited to spend time with another woman in her ward.

“These relationships weren’t just assignments on a slip of paper,” Sister Eubank said. “They came from the Lord.”

Watching over one another was one of the very reasons the Relief Society was established, Sister Eubank said, and it all starts with getting to know the person and what she really needs.

“Service is never going to be a one-size-fits-all,” Sister Eubank said. “The First Presidency has directed that ministering should be led by the Spirit, flexible and customized to the needs of the person we serve. I testify the Lord will reveal to you how to minister in small ways, so you will feel the promptings showing you where to go and what to do.”

The purpose of ministering isn’t to do something for a person every month, she said. Rather, it is to do whatever it takes to help another person know that she has a true friend, who will help them when they need help.

“I know this isn’t unique just to me, but sometimes I’m so pressed with everything I have to do that I don’t even know what the priority is,” Sister Eubank said. “I have started asking the Lord every morning, ‘What is one thing You want me to do today?’”

Calling her self a “maximizer,” Sister Eubank said “I tend to think if one thing is good then five are better and 10 are best. Then I’m overwhelmed.”

Recognizing that even one thing a day adds up to be a grand number, Sister Eubank recognized that as she tries to respond to the Spirit, she is led in meaningful, sometimes “creative” ways.

“I want to assure you that the Lord accepts all your efforts,” Sister Aburto said. “The announcements in general conference weren’t necessarily asking us to do more — our lists are already very full. But maybe we can do the right things. The simple things. The things the Lord himself wants done. …

“You don’t have to do it all, and you are never done, and you can be OK with that, and you can accept that. Do what you can each day, ask the Lord to fill in the gaps, and then, a new day starts, and you begin again. That is part of the beauty of being disciples of Jesus Christ, that we are never done, that there is always something else to do, and that there is always room for improvement.”Sister Eubank reminded listeners that “doing better doesn’t always mean doing more.”

“And if you do just one inspired thing each day — you are nevertheless the Lord’s agent.”

She asked the question, “What are you going to do to minister in a higher, holier way?”

Emphasizing the need to be Spirit-led, flexible and customized to the need of those a person ministers to, she asked, “What is going to be different than before?”

It is through following the example of Jesus Christ that individuals will know how to move forward.

Although the examples help bring clarity to what Church members are being asked to do, conferencegoer Nellie Golden recognizes that the absence of specific requirements is “moving forward.

“Instead of going to the Ensign magazine, we are going to the Spirit for direction,” she said. “How can they give us specific direction when it was to come by the spirit. We need to respond to the impressions we receive.”