The last segment of this series on service will mostly be quotes from the Brethren that were too long to put in the previous sections. They are powerful lessons on how service affects our lives.
Service is the fluid art of touching another person’s life with love. To do it successfully and frequently takes practice and dedication in listening to the Spirit. President Uchtdorf has this lesson for us to learn.
Preaching is fine, but sermons that do not lead to action are like fires without heat or water that cannot quench thirst.
Thomas Edison, the man who bathed the world in glowing electric light, said that “the value of an idea lies in the using of it.” In a similar way, gospel doctrine becomes more precious when it is put to use.
Understanding the why of the gospel and the why of the priesthood will help us to see the divine purpose of all of this. It will give us motivation and strength to do the right things, even when they are hard. Staying focused on the basic principles of gospel living will bless us with clarity, wisdom, and direction. 1
Note that he is not saying to stay intellectually focused on the basic principles. He is saying that we need to go out and live those basic principles. We do that through service. It is the living of the principles through our acts of service that “will bless us with clarity, wisdom, and direction.” That clarity, wisdom, and direction will come in no other way.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks used Mother Teresa of Calcutta as an example of how a person can lose themselves, lose their life in the service of others. He then turns that lesson around and convicts many of us who attend church with the attitude of getting rather than giving.
A great example of unselfish service is the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whose vow committed herself and her fellow workers to “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.” She taught that “one thing will always secure heaven for us—the acts of charity and kindness with which we have filled our lives.” “We can do no great things,” Mother Teresa maintained, “only small things with great love.” When this wonderful Catholic servant died, the First Presidency’s message of condolence declared, “Her life of unselfish service is an inspiration to all the world, and her acts of Christian goodness will stand as a memorial for generations to come.” That is what the Savior called losing our lives in service to others.
Each of us should apply that principle to our attitudes in attending church. Some say “I didn’t learn anything today” or “No one was friendly to me” or “I was offended” or “The Church is not filling my needs.” All those answers are self-centered, and all retard spiritual growth.
In contrast, a wise friend wrote:
“Years ago, I changed my attitude about going to church. No longer do I go to church for my sake, but to think of others. I make a point of saying hello to people who sit alone, to welcome visitors, … to volunteer for an assignment. …
“In short, I go to church each week with the intent of being active, not passive, and making a positive difference in people’s lives. Consequently, my attendance at Church meetings is so much more enjoyable and fulfilling.”
All of this illustrates the eternal principle that we are happier and more fulfilled when we act and serve for what we give, not for what we get.
I lived in a number of wards comprised of many old timers and newly weds. We see this attitude of “what’s in it for me?” among both age groups. Some of the elderly have grown tired of serving and just want to coast through to the end of their mortal time. Some of the newly married folk want to shop for a ward where they are greatly valued and wanted, but where they don’t have to commit to anything. They want the best of both worlds.
It doesn’t work that way. In every case our personal growth depends on our personal commitment. That is true, even if our capability doesn’t equal our commitment. There are those who must learn to receive service because they can no longer serve in the ways they were previously accustomed to.
Does this mean they are not living up to their covenants? No, of course not. It just means that in this segment of their life they must learn a new skill, that of receiving graciously. They must learn to accept the love of others rather than being the one who is always giving it. In the meantime there is never a cap or limit placed on our ability to love unconditionally. As long as a person can hear, see, touch or feel with their heart, they can bless the lives of someone. That is all God asks for, that we never stop trying to do more.
I would like to close this series with an extensive quote from Carlos H. Amado of the First Quorum of the Seventy. His description of what service will do for us when we apply the principles of service in our lives is profound.
I testify that through serving our fellowmen we come to know the Lord.
Service makes us strong in our faith and useful in His kingdom. Service gives us purpose and courage in life. It brings us closer to God and helps us refine our divine nature. It teaches us to love and understand our fellowmen, and it helps us forget about our personal desires, eliminating selfishness, pride, and ingratitude. It teaches us to think of the needs of others, which allows us to develop the virtues that the Savior possesses.
Kindness, love, patience, understanding, and unity will increase as we serve, while intolerance, jealousy, envy, greed, and selfishness decrease or disappear. The more we give of ourselves, the more our capacity to serve, understand, and love will grow.
Those who serve will always seek to please God and live in harmony with Him. They will be full of peace; they will have a cheerful countenance and a spirit of kindness.
Those who serve will strive to ennoble, build, and lift their fellowmen; therefore, they will find the good in others, and they will not find reason or have time to become offended. They develop the virtue of praying for those who criticize. They don’t expect recognition or reward. They possess the love of Christ.
Those who serve will always be willing to share what they possess and what they know at all times, in all places, and with all people.
Those who serve even in adversity will maintain a living hope of a better future. They will continue to be firm in the midst of a crisis because their hope is in Christ.
Those who serve will accept their assignments with humility, recognizing their limitations but convinced that two people can do all things they propose to do as long as one of the two people is God.
With divine inspiration, King Benjamin declared, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17). Those who serve will have greater understanding of the personality and attributes of God.
Those who serve with devotion, even when things don’t turn out the way they would like, are not easily discouraged, fatigued, or frustrated because the promise of peace of mind and the companionship of the Holy Spirit will never abandon them. 6
Following are the talks used to support this series of articles.
1 Dieter F. Uchtdorf
2 David B. Haight
3 Dallin H. Oaks
4 Steven E. Snow of the Presidency of the Seventy
5 M. Russell Ballard
6 Carlos H. Amado first quorum of seventy
Kelly P. Merrill
Kelly Merrill is semi retired and writes for https://gospelstudy.us. He lives with his wife in Idaho. His strength is being able to take difficult to understand subjects and break them down into understandable parts. He delights in writing about the gospel of Christ. Writing about the gospel is his personal missionary work to the members of the Church and to those of other faiths who are wanting to know more about Christ's gospel and His Church.