Photographs by Reeve A. Nield; background by iStock/Thinkstock
I witnessed the joy of pure, selfless service shown in these pictures of a boy named Elijah giving his shirt to a new friend he met in a remote village of Africa. Elijah saw an immediate need, and then he responded. Like young Elijah, we have the opportunity to render service to others in many ways. We may not need to give others the shirts off our backs, but if we are listening to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, we will know whom to serve and how to help those who are in need.
“Service is synonymous with keeping the commandments of God,” and it represents our love for the Lord.1 The Savior taught, “If thou lovest me thou shalt serve me and keep all my commandments” (D&C 42:29); “thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength; and in the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him” (D&C 59:5). At baptism we covenanted that we would serve God and keep His commandments (see Mosiah 18:10). As followers of Christ, we always strive to participate in His work, and that involves serving.
Service: The Gospel in Action
Service is the gospel of Jesus Christ in action, and it’s evident in a story I love about Brigham Young. Upon learning that hundreds of handcart pioneers were stranded on the plains in unbearable conditions, he taught with power in this simple sermon at the October 1856 general conference: “I will now give this people the subject and the text for the Elders who may speak, … it is this, … many of our brethren and sisters are on the plains with hand-carts, and probably many are now 700 miles from this place, and they must be brought here, we must send assistance to them. The text will be, ‘to get them here.’ …
“That is my religion; that is the dictation of the Holy Ghost that I possess, it is to save the people. …
“I shall call upon the Bishops this day, I shall not wait until to-morrow, nor until next day, for 60 good mule teams and 12 or 15 wagons. I do not want to send oxen, I want good horses and mules. They are in this Territory, and we must have them; also 12 tons of flour and 40 good teamsters, besides those that drive the teams. …
“I will tell you all that your faith, religion, and profession of religion, will never save one soul of you in the celestial kingdom of our God, unless you carry out just such principles as I am now teaching you. Go and bring in those people now on the plains.”2
“Save the people”—that is the command. When we serve others, we are engaged in the work of salvation. As King Benjamin taught, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).
Opportunities All Around
Photo illustrations by Sidney Hatada, Christina Smith, and Whitney Tutt; background by iStock/Thinkstock
We do not need to look very far to find opportunities to serve. Our living prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, taught, “We are surrounded by those in need of our attention, our encouragement, our support, our comfort, our kindness—be they family members, friends, acquaintances, or strangers. We are the Lord’s hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children. He is dependent upon each of us.”3
Our Father in Heaven needs us to administer to the relief of others spiritually and temporally (see Mosiah 4:26). “The greatest service we can provide to others in this life … is to bring them to Christ through faith and repentance.”4 We set an example of living gospel standards. We share the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We do family history and take family names to the temple for our ancestors. Oftentimes, small and compassionate acts of service like a simple smile, a friendly hello, a warm embrace, or a note of gratitude are all that is needed to lift the heart and cheer the soul. On other occasions, a great sacrifice of time and energy may be required.
But in every instance, faithful, loving, Christlike service invites the companionship of the Holy Ghost and brings to each one of us the promise of “peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come” (D&C 59:23).