Poem: Late Autumn Night

Autumn Night

Written years ago and revised today, this seems like the perfect poem for the coming night.

Late Autumn Night
Unseen leaves skitter past
In the shadows cast by the frost-calling moon
Hung ominous in the trees:
It sings the newly cold wind–
A wind of harvest past, brown grass;
Not quite numb to the heart,
But dangerously near.
A season is dying here,
And all its bones
Are rattling along the ground,
Whispering, “Hurry, hurry, haste:
This bare gray chill is not for you–
We rush to a hopeless grave;
You are of mercy and grace:
The lamps of home.”

–Lisa Bolin Hawkins

Myths about Ministering, Myth 6: “It doesn’t matter if I report my ministering efforts, especially if I didn’t do anything.”

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Part of ministering is a quarterly interview (or additional contact as needed) with a member of the Relief Society presidency to counsel together about the sisters to whom we minister, their needs, and our contacts with and service to them. It could be a brief, casual report or something a little more formal, and ideally would include both companions. And when a sister needs service beyond that which we or our companionship can provide, we need to contact a member of the Relief Society presidency or the bishopric to ensure that her and her family’s needs are met.

Why do we need to report our ministering efforts?

  • This is the Lord’s plan for seeing that every sister in the Church has at least two people who are looking out for her and to whom she can turn for help, and the Lord and those who administer the program have asked us to report. If that’s not enough, then
  • The ministering reports give the Relief Society president and, through her, the bishop, a good picture of how the ward is working (or not) as an extended support system;
  • The stake president needs to know about ministering in the stake, and it’s hard for him to know how things are going if he doesn’t have accurate reports; and
  • Reports of service let our ward leaders know the depth and breadth of, and needs for, service in the ward. If we think of ministering reports as unimportant numbers or statistics (even though they may represent an important program), consider that without the statistics we don’t know if or how well the program is working. Without our reports, our leaders can’t know if we are keeping the commandment to “sincerely come to know and love each sister, help her strengthen her faith, and give service” (Handbook 2: Administering the Church, section 9).

Even (or perhaps especially) if we are having problems with ministering, the quarterly interview gives us and the Relief Society presidency important information about what is happening with our sisters. And the interview is a good reminder to ponder and pray about our connections to our companion, our sisters, every sister in the ward, and most important, to the Savior.

“We are here on this earth to learn and grow, and the most important learning and growing will come from our covenant connection to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. From our faithful relationship with Them come godly knowledge, love, power, and capacity to serve.”

–Neill F. Marriott, “Abiding in God and Repairing the Breach,” https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2017/10/abiding-in-god-and-repairing-the-breach?lang=eng

Edited and revised, 4 August 2018.

Poetry: Companion for the Journey

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How grateful I am for the doctrine of eternal marriage and families, as symbolized by this picture of the Provo City Center Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“our” temple). When we get married, we know so little about the ups and downs and everydays that are part of what we hope will be a joyous, forever union of two best friends and lovers. Even after forty years of marriage, I am still working on being good at it, and marveling at the opportunities, successes, failures, and blessings that it brings us as we try to work out our relationship to each other and to the Lord. And it all plays out against the epic background and intimate spaces of our Heavenly Father’s glorious plan. Here is a poem about being married, I hope forever.

Companion for the Journey

I choose you as I’ve chosen you before—
a choice that echoes down time’s mirrored line,
unbreaking, first and last, like our clasped hands,
as you led me through gossamer in white
to kneel with you outside time, inside love.

For years we have created our time-world,
and peopled it and nurtured it as best
we could; we have learned life
and death and opposition in all things.
And we have learned each other, more or less,
while you remain a mystery to me—
a depth that my own depth might never reach;
a power that is other than my own.

You are the men with sun-caught swords upraised,
the men who huddled fearful in the trench,
who trod the silent trail in dappled light,
who cracked the stones in hope and sowed the seeds,
who touched, desired, slept, prayed, wept, worked, blessed,
who stood tall, silent, through the watchful night,
who saw the stars reflected in the sea.

Father, brother, husband, son, and friend—
you hold the earth and skies within your hands.
Behind your eyes the molten worlds are shaped;
their spring is breathed from chaos-fiery night.
And while we meet mortality’s dark blows,
still we can glimpse the light that beacons home.
I choose you yet again, as when I reached
to clasp your hand and thus begin the bond
that seals our timeless, time encircling love.

Lisa Bolin Hawkins
BYU Studies 33:2:311 (1993)

Myths about Visiting Teaching, Myth 5: “She’s a strong member of the Church and doesn’t really need us to visit.”

reading the Ensign

Even the sisters with the strongest testimonies need meaningful contact with their visiting teachers. Every sister needs to know that she can call on her visiting teachers if she needs help—and if we haven’t established a relationship with a sister during her good times, she may not feel comfortable turning to us when life gets tough, or even tragic. Plus, appearances can be deceiving. A sister with a strong testimony may still have health problems, an overwhelming schedule, a child with special needs, or other concerns that could be helped by a listening ear or some understanding help once in a while. And even the strongest testimonies could use encouragement. Do we know what life is like for the sisters we teach? Would they call us if they needed something, or do they not know us well enough to admit that they’ve reached a vulnerable moment in life? Sometimes life-long friendships develop as a result of visiting teaching assignments. But even when they don’t, part of our stewardship as visiting teachers is to be available to the sisters we visit, whether or not they seem to need us right now. According to the Lord’s plan for His Church, they do need us—right now. We are the eyes, ears, and hands of the Relief Society president, the bishop, and of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We can learn to love the sisters we visit by getting to know them, through meaningful contact with them at least once each month.

Poem: Preferring the Fall

autumn

I love autumn–here’s a poem I wrote about it.

Preferring the Fall

Summer is lethargy and sweat,
Clothes that wrinkle and wilt,
Plans for later, and wishing you could
Find a shaded place, lie down, and drink,
Close your eyes ’til thunder drums you up
To seek the lightning-heavy breeze.
Curtains of rain lower—
All that water dropping, but none disappears;
The air damps and steams
Like beach towels we left in the storm.

But if you shade your eyes you see fall distance:
Mornings crisp and evenings dry and warm
Like the flaming trees;
Open before you are all roads
Leading from hills and to hills,
All clear-eyed promises and dreams;
Knowing that in autumn,
You must be all you should,
That you can walk, work, rest;
Feel rough, smooth, soft, warm,
Wood, metal, stone, parchment, homespun, bread.
All tools and roads await your highest thoughts
While autumn blazes and cools.

–Lisa Bolin Hawkins

 

Myths about Ministering, Myth 4

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Myths about Ministering, Myth 4: “She is (or I am) only going to be in the ward for a short time, so we won’t be able to develop any kind of relationship—she’ll be okay without ministering sisters for that little while.”

“My husband and I moved to Vienna, Virginia, from Utah for a three-month assignment. We didn’t even transfer our records to our new ward, so they were not technically responsible for [ministering to] me. I was pleased and surprised when  [ministering sisters] contacted me and came to see me each month while we were there. I was having health problems and I was unable to attend church meetings on some Sundays, and because I was afraid to drive in the Washington, D.C.-area traffic, I did not attend homemaking meetings (as they were called then). And yet I felt welcome and loved in that ward. I still have a little gift that those [ministering sisters] brought me. I don’t remember their names, but I will always remember their faithfulness and friendship.”

When we accept an assignment to be a ministering sister, we promise the Lord that we will serve in that capacity, no matter how long we or the sisters we teach will be in the ward. If a sister is assigned to us for only one month, that sister will be blessed (and so will we) by contacting her that month. Yes, it can be difficult to develop a new relationship with a sister we don’t know. But the Lord has promised us the spiritual gift of charity (the pure love of Christ—Moroni 7:47) and has commanded us to “follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts” (1 Corinthians 14:1). By praying for the spiritual gift of charity with regard to our sisters, we are praying that the Lord will open our hearts to the love He has for those sisters. The Lord knows each sister perfectly and loves her completely, and can bless us with a portion of His love for her, so that we can serve her and bless her life even if she is assigned to us for only a short time. As we pray for each sister and ask the Lord to bless us with the gift of His love for her, we will be prepared to receive personal inspiration to know how to respond to her needs. The Spirit will bless us, also, as we grow in love and in our testimonies of ministering.

 And above all things, clothe yourselves with the bond of charity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and peace.–Doctrine & Covenants 88:125

Edited and revised, 4 August 2018.

Poem: Prayer of Peace

prayer of peace

These are the lyrics to a setting I composed, based on J. S. Bach’s melody for one of his chorales, meant to be a hymn. It seems like a good time (it’s always a good time) to pray for peace.

Prayer of Peace

We pray God’s peace be with us here:
Teach us to know our neighbor’s need—
Through Thy Spirit work Thy lambs to feed—
To show our love for Thee and them
And heal sin, need, and fear.

We pray God’s peace be in our homes:
May Thy kindness and truth abound,
While gratitude and love are found,
That we may make a haven of righteousness,
Welcoming those who roam.

We pray God’s peace throughout the earth:
Help us all to do our part;
Help us to have a generous heart–
To care for the world where everyone in every land
Is a child of precious worth.

—Lisa Bolin Hawkins

Myths about Ministering, Myth 3

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Myths about Ministering, Myth 3: “I don’t know her—how am I supposed to begin this relationship? I feel like I’m imposing on her.”

One thing the Lord wants us to do is to get to know, appreciate, and work with people we might never otherwise meet or spend time with. This is an inspired, ingenious aspect of the Church organization along geographic lines and through callings, rather than completely through choice and affinity–it is part of having “our hearts knit together in unity and love” (Mosiah 18:21). But it is difficult to be asked to contact and develop a relationship with someone you have not met and who may not be inclined to meet you. Yet, we are asked to do exactly that to see that each sister is watched over and cared for through ministering.

It may be comforting to remember that you are not just pushing into this woman’s life: You are on the Lord’s errand. (See “Myths about Ministering, Myth 1” about visiting teaching being more than “assigned friends.”) Here are some practical suggestions for things you can do to get this relationship started:

  • First, pray—that you will develop a greater testimony of ministering; that it will be a good experience for you, your companion, and your sisters; and that the Spirit will be with you all.
  • If you are new to ministering, or you haven’t had good examples, ask the person who gave you the assignment for ideas or resources. You can read about ministering at lds.org by typing “ministering” into the search box, reading Handbook 2: Administering the Church, section 9; Daughters in My Kingdom, chapter 7; and Jeffrey R. Holland, “Emissaries to the Church,” October 2016 General Conference (yes, it’s about home teaching, but change that to ministering and it applies). All of these are available on lds.org
  • Contact your companion and talk about ministering and when you can contact your sisters (evenings? weekends? weekdays? at church?). (A future “Myth about Ministering” will deal with companionship issues.) If you can’t initially contact your sisters together, you’ll add stars to your heavenly crown (as my aunt used to say) if you volunteer to make the first contact.
  • If possible, you (and your companion) should introduce yourselves to your sisters at Church. You’ll want to check in with her at church meetings and Relief Society activities as often as possible.
  • Soon after your initial contact, call each sister, remind her who you are, and ask her how she wants the ministering relationship to work: Does she want a scheduled visit in her home? Would she prefer regular or occasional calls or texts?

Finding inspired answers to such questions and using all available methods for making contact with those they are assigned is central to inspired ministering. To provide Christlike service, ministering brothers and sisters cannot rely on routine visits or predetermined messages; they seek inspiration and counsel with family members to best care for those to whom they are assigned—using the time and resources they have.–“How is Ministering Led By the Spirit?” Frequently Asked Question 12, Ministering, at lds.org

  • If you weren’t able to introduce yourself at Church, you may have to call a sister without meeting her first. This is a hard thing to do, but we can do hard things. If a sister is impossible to contact or visit (for example, her contact information on lds.org is wrong, or she seems impossible to find), notify the person who gave you the assignment as soon as possible.
  • Try to have at least one face-to-face contact (and, we hope, many more). This could be a very brief drop-in visit at a sister’s door if all attempts to make other contact have failed. Ask each sister if she would like to be contacted by phone, text, or email, and double-check her contact information. Some sisters can’t or won’t be able to visit in their homes; you could invite a sister to meet at a park or restaurant or to go for a walk, or plan to contact her at Church. Take her a card with your names and contact information.
  • Some reasons to contact a sister, even if your relationship is new: for her birthday (on lds.org or ask a member of the Relief Society presidency to find out), Christmas, other holidays; when you like something she posts on social media (search her name to find her); to remind her of upcoming events, such as General Conference women’s session and other general, stake, or regional meetings, or to remind her of Relief Society weekday or evening activities. Consider offering her a ride or arranging to meet her there.

 

As a ministering sister, you are the Lord’s representative to your sisters, as much as a missionary, a bishop, or a Relief Society president. This one-to-one stewardship is a reflection of the way Jesus Christ cares for, atones for, and blesses each of us (see 3 Nephi 17). Consider His words–each tailored to a specific need–and some variations on them:

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. (Matthew 25:35–36.)

For I was new in the ward, and you welcomed me;
Busy, and you worked around my schedule;
Shared with you, and you respected my confidence;
Lonely, and you visited me;
Discouraged, and you gave me hope;
Needed help, and you helped me.
My house was a mess, my dog jumped on you, and my children were out of control, but you kept coming back.
We didn’t seem to have anything in common, but you kept trying.
And I’ll always remember you.

Therefore, dearly beloved [sisters], let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed (D&C 123:17).

Edited and revised 4 August 2018.

Myths about Ministering, Myth 2

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Myth 2: “Ministering isn’t as important as my other callings or priorities.”

We must prioritize things in our lives. And we have Church callings, other than ministering, that are obvious and demanding places to spend our time. But it’s easy to let the days go by, responding to immediate needs and deadlines, and forgetting about ministering. Before we know it, weeks or months have gone by and we still haven’t contacted the sisters to whom we are assigned to minister.

One way to keep ministering in our minds is to pray each day, by name, for the sisters we minister to and for our companion. Ministering contacts often take only moments, such as sending an email or text to a sister, if we have an established relationship with her so she knows who we are and feels our concern. Nevertheless, as with parenting, there can be a connection between a quantity of ministering time and the quality of the ministering relationship.

The importance of ministering relative to other callings and demands on our time is a part of our personal testimony. Because ministering callings are often extended somewhat informally by a member of the Relief Society presidency  they can seem less important than the callings extended by a member of the bishopric. But we must be careful not to dismiss a prophetic request just because it is delivered by a messenger we didn’t expect (as did Naaman the Syrian in 2 Kings 5). And consider this story:

LDS counselor and therapist Wendy Ulrich describes a new stake president who worked for some time to learn what he should emphasize in his stake. In the temple, he gained a vision of his stake in which children would be nurtured, youth would be confident in their gospel journey, and adults would joyfully and thankfully “be yoked with Jesus Christ to bear the burdens of the kingdom.” The stake president came to understand that the way to implement this happy vision was through home and visiting teaching (now called “ministering”). Ulrich continues:

He is not the only inspired leader to come to that conclusion. Going as healers and messengers to one another, [ministering brothers and sisters] were to bless each member’s life, temporally and spiritually, one person at a time. They were to become conduits of a mighty river of love that would reach into every home of the stake. That river is reminiscent of the one described in Ezekiel and John the Revelator’s visions. The river of living water comes out from the altars of the temple to heal a dying world.

Wendy Ulrich, The Temple Experience: Passage to Healing and Holiness (Springville, UT: CFI, 2012) 158–60 (see Ezekiel 47:1–12; Revelation 7:17).

Ministering sisters can be the Lord’s first responders, His eyes, ears, and hands. The bishop and the Relief Society president certainly can sleep better if they know that the sisters of the ward, knit together in love through the fabric of ministering (see Colossians 2:2; Mosiah 18:21), are the “agents in place” who watch over one another and create the relationships they wish they could have with each sister—because that’s impossible for either of them to do without help. With the increasing number of adult sisters who live alone, or who are parenting alone, the ministering sisters are essential to the unity and love within a ward. Ministering is the Lord’s plan to ensure that each of His daughters feels that she has sisters who care for her.

Ministering is crucial. President Gordon B. Hinckley said,

No calling in this church is small or of little consequence. All of us in the pursuit of our duty touch the lives of others. To each of us in our respective responsibilities the Lord has said: ‘Wherefore, be faithful; stand in the office which I have appointed unto you; succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees’ (D&C 81:5).

Gordon B. Hinckley, “This Is the Work of the Master,” Ensign, May 1995, 71.

Edited and updated, 4 August 2018.

 

Poem: On Admission to the Bar

 

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It’s that time of year again, when after a grueling summer of study and anxiety, law school graduates are learning that they’ve passed the bar exam. I wrote this poem in 1980, when I learned I had passed the Arizona bar exam and would soon be licensed to practice law. I was relieved and humbled.

On Admission to the Bar

The field of Justice has become my ground,
and some name me as an adversary.
But I have adversaries of my own,
and I ask to appear, for my own sake,
in Mercy’s court. Yet not for my own sake—
dear Lord, be there for my sake, take my case.
I bluster brave before the earthly bar
but cannot practice in the highest court.
Still I need Thee to be my Advocate.

 

–Lisa Bolin Hawkins

published in the April 1984 Ensign