10While Jesus was reclining to eat in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and dined with Jesus and his disciples. 11When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

12When he heard this, Jesus said, “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but those who are ill. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Matthew Chapter 9. Text from the study Bible published by Deseret Book.

A striking part of the ministry of Jesus and of the extinct Mormon ethnic group was a widespread effort to provide pastoral care.

Those who know my personal history know that while I admire some with training, I’ve had abominations of pastoral care too.

What else do I call an established pastor in post-graduate chaplain training who, when called upon to help prepare me to receive the news my daughter Jessica was going to die breaks the news to me by asking if he can observe my reaction to receiving the news in order to learn from sitting in?

Later, when I was in the hospital with my daughter Robin and went to the chapel for a moment while Robin was in surgery the head chaplain in charge of the program at Dallas Children’s rushed me out because she was decorating for the liturgical calendar and I was in the way by sitting in a pew.

That said, there used to be a “Mormon” focus on pastoral care, often at great sacrifice in time and effort by the lay ministry.

The story regularly told of President Monson as a bishop ministering to scores of widows and many others as a bishop is impressive but it obscures that it was all he did for many years.

President Monson was able to do what he did as a bishop only because he had inherited wealth and was basically able to do the job full-time without other employment.

When I was young I was raised on stories of Apostles ministering to those who needed care and personal touch. For example, President Kimball as an Apostle visited our branch and met for hours with members, giving them counsel, love and hope.

It has been a while since I met someone with that type of first hand story to tell. But then the Church is larger, which undoubtedly skews things.

Further, the post-ethnic group Church is marked by an administrative focus and an “up or out” approach to leadership which results in local leaders being younger. Without training or life experience front line younger leaders really aren’t prepared for pastoral care.

For more on the extinct ethnic group known as Mormons see Once there were Mormons.

The leaders I know care deeply. But the older leaders I grew up with were more prepared to care and counsel. The younger ones I know now love very much but are more skilled in administration.

In theory home teaching (Mormon) has been replaced by ministering (LDS) which would fill that gap created by focusing on administrative skill and provide front line pastoral care. In reality, that change has led generally to even less care and less contact.

Often when a family moves into a ward the question becomes not “what do they need?” (What care we provide) but instead “what can they offer?”

That results in the “up or out” having a definite “out” focus on a local level.

On the other hand, the up or out model means that at my age I am free to backpack and no one wants me for any callings or service. Guilt free hiking in the window while I am still physically capable and not too old is nice.

But the matter of changes in provision of pastoral care raises the questions:

  • Where would you go for pastoral care in the post-Mormon world?
  • What training would be appropriate for those who provide pastoral care? What training should individual quorum members receive if we want them to minister?
  • Share a story of when you or a family member received pastoral care from an Apostle.