Aaron Bujnowski has served in many leadership capacities in the Church, including bishop and high counselor. He is currently serving as the elders quorum president of his ward. Aaron and his wife, Julie, are high school sweethearts and are co-authors of Discovering Your Temple Insights,. They have two adult children and live in Frisco, Texas.
I was recently called as the elders quorum president of my ward. I’ve held this calling four times, the last being 15 years ago. Since that time, I’ve served as a counselor in a bishopric, as a high counselor, and as a bishop.
I am serving in the same ward where I was the bishop only four years ago, which has allowed me to understand the many needs of our members quickly.
The Same, but Totally Different
Even though my title is the same, much has changed about this calling since I last served. First, we no longer have separate high priest and elders quorums in the ward—we only have a single quorum of Melchizedek priesthood holders.
Bishops are now asked to work primarily with the youth, leaving issues with adults not involving worthiness or welfare primarily to the Relief Society and elders quorum presidents.
Finally, instead of home teaching, we have ministering, a higher and holier way of caring for each other.
As I pondered what the Lord would have me do in this calling this time, I had an overwhelming feeling come over me. The answer was direct and took the form of a single word: Love.
The Two Great Commandments of Love
When I thought about love, the two great commandments came to mind. Jesus was asked by a lawyer,
“What is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matt. 22:36-40)
The Savior’s response specifies who we must love: God and our neighbor.
Jesus further clarified in the parable of the good Samaritan that our neighbor includes our enemies (see Luke 10:29-37).
Who to love is unambiguous: We are to love everyone!
The remaining question for us is how to love God and our neighbor.
In His final teaching to the twelve at the last supper, Jesus taught His apostles and us how to love. He said,
“If ye love me [and my Father], keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
He also soberingly taught,
“This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12-13)
Jesus Loved Authentically
Given that all gospel laws and teachings fall under these two commandments, I realized that Jesus spent much of His ministry showing us how to love God and our neighbor.
How did He love God?
He was perfectly submissive and obedient to all His Father asked of Him.
He said, “I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30), and “Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).
How did He love His neighbor?
- He served them.
- He listened to them.
- He healed them.
- He taught them.
- He cried with them.
- Ultimately, He gave His very life for them.
He did all these things for them—and for me—because He actually loves us, not just because He was commanded to love us.
I believe Jesus taught His disciples the two great commandments at the last supper because He was about to show them powerfully and persuasively for the final time in the garden of Gethsemane and on the cross what loving God and neighbor really looked like
We Must Also Love
Like Him, I wondered why Heavenly Father gave us the second great commandment when He could have just given us a single commandment to obey Him and then ask us to love our neighbor as one of His requirements.
But He didn’t.
He gave us a second great commandment and told us it should be “like unto” the first, meaning it’s just as important. Why? I believe Heavenly Father is telling us, “I want you to love your neighbor because you actually love them, not because you are supposed to love them. I love them completely and authentically. I love them so much that I gave my precious, only Begotten Son for them. If you want to become like me, you must also genuinely love your neighbor. In fact, you’ll need to love people who don’t like you and who work against you.
“I love those who complain to me and blame me for things. I even love those who don’t believe in me and reject me. Can you do the same? If you can’t, then you won’t be able to live with me and share in my work for eternity.”
How We Love Through Ministering
Understanding these principles of love led me to do something unique with ministering in our elders quorum. On my first Sunday as president, I asked the elders to consider using the following questions when they minster to their families:
- How is your family striving to love God and love your neighbor?
- Do you feel loved by our ward?
- In what ways can we show your family love?
When we perform ministering interviews each quarter, I’ve asked my presidency to first minister to the ministers by asking the questions above. Then, they should ask,
- How did your ministering families need love in the last quarter?
- How did you and others in the ward show them love? (See an example of ministering is love resource)
If we were to ask the common questions of “How is your family doing?” or “What do you need?” we would get the typical answers of “Fine” and “Nothing.”
My secretary pointed out that by framing our ministering questions around love, our interactions move from transactional to relational.
Relationships are personal and powerful. They encourage belonging and connectedness. They bind us together. Covenants are relational—defining and governing our relationship with God and our neighbor. These questions are, therefore, covenant questions because covenants are always founded on love.
Love Given Is Love Received
When I shared this approach with the elders quorum and asked these questions to individuals in the room, an amazing thing happened: people began to open up and share their feelings.
When I asked one brother how he was striving to love God, he said, “Well, today I showed my love for God by not losing my patience when I barely got my family with small children to church on time.”
We all laughed, and I said, “That’s a perfect way to show God that you loved Him today. That was good enough for today!”
I asked another person how he loved his ministering families. He said, “I tried to go by, but the father said he doesn’t like people coming over.” I know the brother to whom he was trying to minister. He’s very active but very independent. I also know that this brother loves to read gospel books and enjoys spiritual quotes. I suggested to the minister that he could show love to this brother by texting him spiritual quotes or book recommendations. He agreed.
After the meeting, another brother approached me and said he and his family didn’t feel like they belonged in or were needed by our ward. He told me his daughter feels the same way in her YSA ward. I asked him how we could show him and his family love. He told me that he would appreciate it if I reached out to his daughter. I asked him for his daughter’s number, so I could text her and express my love and gratitude for her.
Showing genuine love opened channels of communication and service. It softened hearts and engendered belonging. Showing love was powerful and persuasive.
Yes, ministering is love. When we express and give love, we become a little more like our Savior. Those who receive our love will experience Jesus through us because He is love.
May you find ways to love in your ministering. You and those to whom you minister will experience joy and peace. You will see miracles of healing and hope. Ultimately, you will build Zion.