Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
LDS Church President Russell M. Nelson announces that ministering will replace home and visiting teaching programs during the Sunday afternoon session of the 188th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, April 1, 2018.

When leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that “ministering” would now replace home and visiting teaching, it seemed apparent, at least to me, that the leaders were taking off the “training wheels." It was time to ride or slide.

For decades when the Saints were asked to keep an eye on the welfare of their neighbors, we did it by keeping score. How often did we visit our families? Where did we visit them? What did we say?

Now, to quote a hymn, it's “Let the Holy Spirit Guide.”

The shift reminds me of when LDS leaders asked us to stop keeping score of temple attendance. No more cases of members thumping their chests or cowering in corners.

Temple attendance became an affair of the heart.

Now, too, it's the same with being the keepers of our brothers and sisters.

And if the new program works as well as the “trust system” for temple attendance, the work should soon grow sweeter and deeper.

I think of the apostle Peter asking the Lord how many times he should forgive a trespass. Peter was a scorekeeper. He wanted to make sure he was fulfilling his obligation. Jesus Christ’s answer, that we should forgive “seventy times seven,” was his way of telling Peter, “It’s not about duty, Peter, it’s about love.”

Ditto for the new ministering plan.

I think of the early Saints arriving in “Deseret.” They were so full of zeal, so ready to create heaven on earth, that they jumped right in and tried creating utopian communities — towns that shared every care. Some of those communities — my hometown of Brigham City under Lorenzo Snow, for example — lasted for a impressive number of years. But, alas, heavenly behavior among mortal beings is hard to maintain. Things were soon scaled back to accommodate human weakness.

But now, it seems to me, we’ve taken another step toward Zion, toward the gates of Enoch. We’re “making haste slowly,” as the pioneers used to say. But we’re showing progress. I doubt we’ll make it there in my lifetime. But during the lifetimes of my grandkids or great-grandkids? Who can say? Zion is not a place. It’s a place in the heart. Getting there is all about attitude, not latitude.

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So, somebody asked in our ward recently, with this ministering business, how often should we visit the homes of our neighbors? Twelve times annually?

If the Lord were here he may very well say, “Visit them 70 times 12.”

In other words, “Never stop being with them in your feelings and your prayers.”

On the surface, this new ministering approach can look like a lot less hassle and a lot less time-consuming.

But for those with Zion-shaped hearts, it’s the dawning of a brighter day.

It’s a chance to edge our handcarts closer to the gates of the Celestial City.