Area Presidency Message | February 2020

Missionaries and Members Linking Arms in Ministering

Missionaries and members linking arms in ministering.

President Russell M. Nelson has declared that the gathering of Israel is the most important work taking place on earth in our day. In the spirit of President Nelson’s prophetic counsel, the Philippines Area Presidency has introduced under direction of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles a heightened effort whereby ministering brothers and sisters on the one hand, and full-time missionaries on the other will more perfectly unite their efforts to gather scattered Israel from among part-member families.

As disciples of Jesus Christ our charge is “to declare his word among his people that they may have everlasting life.”ⁱ To assist us in accomplishing that divine mandate, the Lord, through His prophet, invites us to a higher and holier form of ministry.ⁱⁱ Approximately 46% of ministering brother companionships and 49% of ministering sister companionships have received timely ministering interviews during 2019. These percentages are up significantly from 19% and 15% respectively, during the same period in 2018. We attribute this rising tide to effective training the Area has received from General Organization and Priesthood leaders. That training has been followed with consistent, concerted training and modeling at the local level by Area Seventy, Stake Presidents, Bishops, Branch Presidents, Relief Society and Elders Quorum Presidents.

With this progress in effective ministering interviews, we desire to now have a more direct impact on the effectiveness of ministering brothers and sisters within the homes of part-member families. The vision of ministering is that each member, missionary and leader will minister to all through personal, meaningful invitations and service. To more effectively accomplish this vision in the Philippines, we seek to more fully unlock the potential of Relief Societies, Priesthood Quorums and full-time missionaries by establishing an organized approach to link arms in their ministry to part member families.

Teachings found within Preach My Gospel allow missionaries to receive ministering assignments on a “limited basis.”ⁱⁱⁱ However, we feel to propose a more extensive use of full-time missionaries in ward and branch ministering efforts.

As Elder Holland has counseled, we seek to “labor side by side with the Lord of the vineyard, giving the God and Father of us all a helping hand with His staggering task of answering prayers, providing comfort, drying tears, and strengthening feeble knees.”ⁱᵛ

For decades bishops and branch presidents have been counseled to review lists of part member families with full-time missionaries. The hope was that missionaries would thereby be enabled to make visits to teach and strengthen those individuals and families. Among the inherent weaknesses we have seen in this approach is the lack of connection and trust that would otherwise be grown and developed when members living nearby are involved in the process of ministering.

With this progress in effective ministering interviews, we desire to now have a more direct impact on the effectiveness of ministering brothers and sisters within the homes of part-member families.

Following much counseling and prayer together, the Area Presidency proposed to the Quorum of the Twelve that Relief Society and Quorum Presidencies, as authorized by their presiding key-holder, identify part-member families living within their boundaries. Members of the presidency will then be assigned to meet, together with the ministering brothers or sisters assigned to each part member family and the full-time missionaries. In that meeting a “linking of the arms” will occur. Ministering brothers and sisters will be assigned to minister along with missionaries on a regular basis to part-member families.

While members are assigned to minister only to a few, missionaries have much greater capacity to receive assignments to visit many homes of part-member families and can work with many ministering brother and sister companionships.

In preparation for this effort, mission presidents will link arms with stake presidents by authorizing their full-time missionaries to meet with Relief Society Presidencies and Quorum Presidencies to receive these assignments. Mission presidents will train their missionaries on their role in accompanying ministering brothers and sisters, which is to assist in inviting all to come unto Christ.

By assigning full-time missionaries to link arms with members in the ministry among part-member families, a greater number of missionaries could be effectively engaged in significant, productive efforts. Further, we feel this directed ministry will provide spiritual and emotional benefits to missionaries like those experienced by missionaries who participate in JustServe, in locations where that program is available. We feel that heightened missionary exposure to healthy, meaningful relationships with part-member families, as directed by inspired leadership, will serve to bolster their success as disciples of Jesus Christ, while at the same time assisting members in the Philippines to grow spiritually and mature in skills and abilities necessary to be effective ministers.

Our prayer is that all members of the Church in the Philippines may be washed over by a sense of the Holy Spirit’s confirming witness that this linking of the arms is the Lord’s direction. If we will unitedly act in a concerted manner, the Lord will sustain and magnify our efforts.

As an Area Presidency we have engaged Area Seventy with a commission to meet with, train and motivate Stake Presidents in their respective coordinating councils regarding members and missionaries linking arms in ministering to part member families. In turn, Stake Presidents will meet with and train Bishops and Branch Presidents who will do the same among their respective Relief Society and Elders Quorum Presidents.

Mission Presidents will meet with, train and motivate District Presidents who will then do the same with Branch Presidents. They will then meet, train and motivate their Relief Society and Elders Quorum Presidents to action. Mission Presidents will do the same among their scores of missionaries.

My dear brothers and sisters, we cannot hope for success, we cannot hope for anything or any result better than what we have experienced in the past, if alignment does not occur. That is to say, we must achieve one mind and one heart in this great effort.

Recall the Saints in the early church how, in the days following miracles that attended the day of Pentecost the members of the church came together. In the midst of intense persecution they became knit together as one - “they lifted up their voice to God with one accord…And when they had prayed…the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul;”ᵛ

My dear brothers and sisters, we cannot hope for success, we cannot hope for anything or any result better than what we have experienced in the past, if alignment does not occur.

My dear brothers and sisters, may we now move forward as one unified body of saints acting in faith. After Relief Society and Elders Quorum Presidencies have met and prayerfully made assignments for ministering brothers and sisters in the ward or branch, they will then meet with the missionaries assigned to their unit. At that time, the arms of ministering brothers and sisters will then be linked with full-time missionaries who will be assigned to be their companions, to minister to part member families. In this regard, one companionship of missionaries will be assigned to minister alongside ministering brother and sister companionships. Missionary companionships should not be divided in this process, they must remain as a companionship in these assignments.

Since the time we sustained President Russell M. Nelson as the president of the Church and as prophet, seer and revelator to the world, we have repeatedly seen by his example the power that linking arms with our fellow men can have. Images depicting President Nelson linking arms inspires us to more effectively link our arms as disciples of Jesus Christ in sharing the good news of His gospel with others.

May we likewise engender bya linking of the arms our perfect alignment with the Quorum of the Twelve from whence this charge comes. As we do so, we will thereby raise our ministry among part member families to a “higher and holier” place. Dear brothers and sisters, we pray that in this great work you will feel the enabling power of the Lord as He labors alongside all of us in this, His vineyard, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.ᵛⁱ ◼︎

i      3 Nephi 5:13
ii     Russell M. Nelson, “Ministering,” April 2018 General Conference.
iii    “With approval from the mission president, local leaders may consider asking full-time missionaries to assist in ministering assignments on a limited basis. The mission president communicates this approval to the stake president, who informs bishop [and branch presidents].” Preach My Gospel, p. 217.
iv     Jeffrey R. Holland, “Be With and Strengthen Them,” April 2018 General Conference.
v      Acts 4:24, 31-32
vi     Jacob 5:72