In 1981, President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) taught, “God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs” 1 . To illustrate this point I will share a personal experience which occurred over 20 years ago.
Tickets for the October 2000 general conference were in high demand as it marked the dedication of the newly constructed Conference Center in Salt Lake City. Living in Germany at the time, we felt blessed to reserve a few tickets through our local ward and excitedly embarked on our journey as part of a business trip. Upon picking up our tickets at the Conference Center, because of a glitch in the system, I received three tickets to the priesthood session instead of the one I had ordered. Subsequently, I had offered the two extra tickets to friends, but an hour before the start of the priesthood session they informed me that they could not attend. Meanwhile, seemingly endless lines of brethren with standby tickets began forming around Temple Square, each ticket holder hoping to receive one of the rare empty seats left vacant by those with an official ticket. I prayed diligently before leaving my hotel room for the Lord to guide me to someone who might benefit from receiving the two precious tickets. With this prayer in my heart, I stepped outside and began walking around Temple Square. I passed hundreds of brethren who were looking for tickets, but I had not felt a particular prompting to give them away to anyone.
Sometime later, I found myself just outside the Tabernacle on Temple Square. There I noticed a father and son standing dejectedly on the outside steps and felt impressed to speak with them. I learned that they had just realized that they only had standby tickets and that due to the long lines they would not be able to attend the session. Sensing that the Lord had guided me to them I quickly I asked, “How would you like to get two real tickets for the priesthood session?” After first thinking that I was joking, their reaction was priceless as they wouldn’t stop thanking me. After exchanging business cards, I walked off satisfied that the Lord had answered my prayer and thought no more of the encounter.
After returning to Germany, I received a long e-mail from that father. He explained that his youngest son was approaching missionary age, but his testimony and his resolve to serve a mission were waning. The parents were concerned about him and spent many hours in prayer and fasting. A few weeks before general conference, an announcement was made in their ward that a small number of priesthood session tickets would be available for the brethren of their ward. The son unexpectedly turned to the father and said, “Why don’t we go?” The parents were thrilled about their son’s sudden enthusiasm, and after church they picked up two tickets from their bishop. In the weeks leading up to general conference, the parents of the young man spent much time in fasting, prayer, and temple worship, pleading with the Lord that the priesthood session experience would change their son’s heart and set him on the path of missionary service.
After arriving early to Temple Square, they had tried to enter the Conference Center, but were told that all they had were standby tickets and were asked to check for seats in the Tabernacle or to join the long lines of brethren in the standby line. Finding that there were also no more seats available in the Tabernacle, the father wrote that while standing on its outside steps, he prayed silently hoping for a miracle that would validate all the fasting and praying on their son’s behalf. The Lord heard his prayer and moments later he was holding in his hands two real tickets for the priesthood session. He reported that he and his son had a marvelous, spirit-filled experience, and that his son had made the decision to serve a full-time mission.
This is not a story about me. It is also not just a story about a father and a son who wanted to attend general conference. This is a story about a loving Heavenly Father who knows each of our needs. It is a story about a loving Heavenly Father answering our prayers through you and me. Although the Savior frequently addressed large crowds, you will notice that He served others, or should I say, ministered to others, in a very individualized manner. He always provided to them exactly what they needed in their various circumstances, often anticipating their needs.
Not long ago, President Russell M. Nelson invited us “to minister to our brothers and sisters in a higher, holier way” 2 . I invite you to ponder what it means for you to minister to those around you in a higher and holier way. Our motivation to bless others should be charity, the pure love of Christ, which we have been invited to pray for “with all the energy of heart, that [we] may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ” (see Moroni 7:48). As President Nelson invited us to embrace a new and holier way of personal ministering and discipleship, let us also remember the Savior’s new commandment:
“A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34–35).
We are all surrounded by a ward family, by friends and neighbors, and also by the individuals and families whom the Lord has assigned to us to watch over. I invite you to embrace a proactive approach to ministering by praying diligently for the Lord to help you see and anticipate the needs of those around you and then to minister to them as the Savior would. Be worthy of and pray diligently for the guidance of the Holy Ghost to allow the Lord to use you to answer the prayers of His children.
Elder Holland summarized this privilege and responsibility in the following way:
“Brothers and sisters, we have a heaven-sent opportunity as an entire Church to demonstrate ‘pure religion . . . undefiled before God’—‘to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light’ and to ‘comfort those that stand in need of comfort,’ to minister to the widows and the fatherless, the married and the single, the strong and the distraught, the downtrodden and the robust, the happy and the sad—in short, all of us, every one of us, because we all need to feel the warm hand of friendship and hear the firm declaration of faith.” 3
May we all desire to be worthy instruments in the Lord’s hands to bless the lives of those around us.