Sunday, August 30, 2009

Service - Mosiah 2:17

During his earthly ministry, Jesus spent his time serving and helping others. As true disciples we should be doing everything we can to emulate the master. The Savior said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

When we entered the waters of baptism, we took on us the name of Jesus Christ. This was a covenant that we would always remember Him. Alma told a group of new converts that their desire to come “into the fold of God” also included a willingness to give meaningful service.

“And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
“Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life” (Mosiah 18:8-9)

Willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light.
Willing to mourn with those that mourn.
Comfort those that stand in need of comfort.

In a parable, the savior told of his return to the earth in His glory. To the righteous he said: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 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.”

The righteous, who are puzzled by this asked, “Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?”

Then He answered, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”

King Benjamin, a very wise and serviced minded leader of men, taught: “And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”

So why do we serve?

The Lord loves and watches over us. He knows each of us individually and understands our needs. He knows what our lives will provide and what struggles we will face. In most cases, however, there is no divine intervention. God simply does not step into the fray on our behalf personally.

Upon death a man finds himself before the lord in judgment. This man was angry with God. All his life he saw the problems that seemed to pervade the earth. He is angry and blames God for all the problems he sees. At the end of his angry rant he asks God, “Why did you not do something to help these who could not help themselves?”

The Lord’s response was simply, “I sent you.”

In the Book of Mormon and also in other scriptures when we read of a prosperous people – it’s the spiritual sum that is arrived at by the multiplying of service to others and by investing talents in service to God and to man. Jesus taught that the two great commandments upon which hang all the prophets and the law involved a deepening of love for our God and our fellow man.

For a good part of my life, the account of the barren fig tree in Matthew 21:19 confused me. It seemed the Lord was simply mean spirited. This went contrary to everything I knew to be true. The account in Matthew reads:

“And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.”

Surely, this tree was doing nothing for the benefit of anyone but itself. With a gloriously lush exterior, the tree stood out as being wonderful. The tree had the outward appearance of greatness without the true benefit of service to others. With a true loss of potential, this tree was nothing more than self-serving. We are no better than this tree if we live our lives without service.

Spencer W. Kimball: “The more we serve our fellowmen in appropriate ways, the more substance there is to our souls.”

What does he mean by appropriate service?

There are so many of these causes to which we can give ourselves fully and freely and which will produce much joy and happiness for us and for those we serve. There are other causes, from time to time, which may seem more fashionable and which may produce the applause of the world, but these are usually more selfish in nature. These latter causes tend to arise out of what the scriptures call “the commandments of men” rather than the commandments of God. Such causes have some virtues and some usefulness, but they are not as important as those causes which grow out of keeping the commandments of God.

Civil Service – We are encouraged by the Lord and our church leaders to become actively engaged in worthy causes to improve our communities, making them more wholesome places in which to live and raise a family.

Early in this dispensation the Lord made clear the position his restored church should take with respect to civil government. In a revelation he gave to the Prophet Joseph Smith, he said: “And now, verily I say unto you concerning the … law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, [that it] belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.

“Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you … in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land” (D&C 98:4–6).

In harmony with this statement, the Church later adopted as one of its Articles of Faith: “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law” (A of F 1:12).

We should uphold and sustain the law, but work within the law to be an influence for good, as the Prophet Joseph Smith counseled us.

We Love those who we serve

There isn’t a returned missionary who hasn’t admitted to a great love for the people in his mission. Why is this? The missionary learns to love those to whom their service is directed. Whenever we truly serve another, the side affect is a love unfeigned.

I have known a man who lived his life in service. He was faithful and knew a happiness most people never do. He didn’t just serve those he loved and knew. Through service he grew to love and know those around him. This knowledge provided even greater opportunity and desire to serve. This truly is a good cycle of life.

We are commanded to “love one another”. It is through service that we are able to develop love.

We are commanded to “love our enemies”. It is through service that we are able to develop love.

This man of whom I spoke lived his life in service. Once one of his children was having a feud of sorts with another boy down the street from where they lived. That feud culminated in a broken window. Rather than react as many would think normal, this man did not jump to the defense of his child or argue that it must have been the fault of the other boy. Conversely, he went to the hardware store, purchased the materials and replaced the window. This was not good enough. The following day, after the weekly bread was baked, he delivered a loaf of that bread to the family at the home. There was no space in the man’s heart for judgment. There was no place in the man’s heart for the selfish, unfulfilling life of blame. He found strength in serving others.

True service

True service is more than the works of our hands. The scriptures teach the Lord sees our thoughts. Deuteronomy records one of God’s earliest commandments to Israel that they should love him and “serve him with all [their] heart and with all [their] soul.”

God sent Samuel to Bethlehem to choose and anoint one of the sons of Jesse as a new king for Israel. He was to reject the first son, though he was a man of fine appearance. The Lord explained, “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7.)

Solomon exhorted in proverbs – and this is something with which I’m sure we’re all pretty familiar – the statement that as a man “thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Prov. 23:7)

Latter-day revelation declares that the Lord requires not only the acts of the children of men, but “the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind.” (D&C 64:34.)

Numerous scriptures teach that our Heavenly Father knows our thoughts and the intents of our heart. (See D&C 6:16; Mosiah 24:12; Alma 18:32.) The prophet Moroni taught that if our works are to be credited for good, they must be done for the right reasons. If a man “offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing.

“For behold, it is not counted unto him for righteousness.” (Moro. 7:6–7.)

Similarly, the prophet Alma taught that if we have hardened our hearts against the word of God, we will “not dare to look up to our God” at the final judgment because “all our works will condemn us; … and our thoughts will also condemn us.”

It is through service that we learn to love one another. Through service we become true disciples of our Savior. Through service we are sanctified and become more like Christ.
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