“Words of the Prophet: Forget Yourself and Serve,” New Era, July 2006, 2–5
I believe in the obligation and blessing of service. I speak of that service which is given without expectation of monetary reward. Most of the troubles of the world come because of human greed. What a therapeutic and wonderful thing it is for a man or woman to set aside all consideration of personal gain and reach out with strength and energy and purpose to help the unfortunate, to improve the community, to clean up the environment and beautify our surroundings. How much greater would be the suffering of the homeless and the hungry in our own communities without the service of hundreds of volunteers who give of their time and substance to assist them.1
I remember visiting a friend in southern India. This man worked as an accountant in a cement plant. His salary was meager. His house was small; it would fit into the front room of many homes. But his heart was large and overflowing. Out of a great love for others that came from his understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ, he built a school with his own hands on a piece of ground he bought from his savings. It was a simple, rough building; but studying there were some 400 poor children, each being brought out of the darkness of illiteracy into the light of learning. What this act of love has meant and will mean in their lives is beyond calculation.
Through this one man’s efforts, there were established five small branches of the Church in the rural villages of southern India. The members constructed three or four little buildings, neat and clean. Over the door of each was a sign, in both English and Tamil, that read, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” The floors were of concrete and without benches where the people sat together as we met, shared our testimonies, and partook of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.
Someday, someone will write the story of the Church in India. That story will be incomplete unless there is a chapter on my friend who lost himself in the service of others.2
I recall visiting a college campus where I heard the usual, commonplace complaining of youth: complaints about the pressures of school—as if it were a burden rather than an opportunity to partake of the knowledge of the earth—complaints about housing and about food.
I counseled those youth that if the pressures of school were too heavy, if they felt to complain about their housing and their food, then I could suggest a cure for their problems. I suggested that they lay their books aside for a few hours, leave their rooms, and go visit someone who is old and lonely, or someone sick and discouraged. By and large, I have come to see that if we complain about life, it is because we are thinking only of ourselves.
For many years there was a sign on the wall of a shoe repair shop I patronized. It read, “I complained because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet.” The most effective medicine for the sickness of self-pity is to lose ourselves in the service of others.3
Let us now in our time, each one, reach out more generously to love those around us in the spirit of the Christ. It is not enough even to give alms to those in need. For as important as that is, it is as Sir Launfal, worn and old, learned from Him who shared his crust, “the gift without the giver is bare; / Who gives of himself with his alms feeds three, / Himself, his hungering neighbor, and me.”4
May the real meaning of the gospel distill into our hearts that we may realize that our lives, given us by God our Father, are to be used in the service of others.
If we will give such service, our days will be filled with joy and gladness. More important, they will be consecrated to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and to the blessing of all whose lives we touch.5
Let the Church be your dear friend. Let it be your great companion. Serve wherever you are called to serve. Do what you are asked to do. Every position you hold will add to your capacity. I have served in many responsibilities in this great organization. Every service brought its own reward.
You will serve in many capacities before your lives are complete. Some of them may seem small, but there is no small or unimportant calling in this Church. Every calling is important. Every calling is necessary to the advancement of the work. Never demean a responsibility in the Church.
The Church may call upon you to make sacrifice. It may call upon you to give of the very best that you have to offer. There will be no cost in this, because you will discover that it will become an investment that will pay you dividends for as long as you live. The Church is the great reservoir of eternal truth. Embrace it and hold fast to it.6
How lucky can you be to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! Here you find choice and wonderful friends. Here you find able and faithful teachers. Here you find opportunities for service. For instance, where else is there any service to compare with being baptized for the dead? You, each of you, may have that opportunity of going to the Lord’s holy house, there to be baptized in behalf of someone who is helpless to go forward in the world beyond without the service you can give. That individual might have been a woman of great power and influence when she was upon the earth. But without the ordinance of baptism she is stopped in her eternal progress. Yours is the opportunity to free her. What an unselfish and wonderful thing this is. You, through a little effort, can become the one to unlock the gate that will permit that individual to move forward on the way of immortality and eternal life. There is not another organization in all the world that offers you this opportunity. It affords the means by which to give the most unselfish kind of service. You will receive no thanks in this life for that which you do in being baptized for the dead. But you will receive a satisfaction in your heart of having done something totally unselfish and much appreciated.7
There are opportunities all around to stretch our lives and our interests in behalf of others.
My plea is—if we want joy in our hearts, if we want the Spirit of the Lord in our lives, let us forget ourselves and reach out. Let us put in the background our own personal, selfish interests and reach out in service to others. In so doing, we will find the truth of the Master’s great promise of glad tidings:
“Whosoever will save his life, shall lose it; or whosoever will save his life, shall be willing to lay it down for my sake; and if he is not willing to lay it down for my sake, he shall lose it.
“But whosoever shall be willing to lose his life for my sake, and the gospel, the same shall save it” (Joseph Smith Translation, Mark 8:37–38).
I testify that these words are as true today as when He first spoke them. I testify that God, our Eternal Father, lives. I testify that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of this world. And I testify that as each of you reach out to help others, you will find your true selves and bless greatly the world in which you live.8