Learning to Serve

[this is a continuation of a previous post]

#2 We Must Learn to Serve

This is a huge aspect of missionary service. Fortunately, though, we don’t have to be serving missions to serve our neighbors! We can, and should, serve others willingly and wherever possible.

Christ was asked:

Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

This is the first and great commandment.

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Matt 22:36-39

We are also told in Mosiah 2:17 that “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God.”

Okay, so maybe we understand that serving others is important. After all, it’s a commandment, right? But why is it really that significant? Can’t the Lord provide for His children, much better than we ever could?

Sister Linda K. Burton, the Relief Society General President, offers a new perspective on this. She spoke in this past General Conference about how service helps us, and allows us to become more like the Savior.

Her catchphrase? “First Observe, Then Serve.” She shares the following story:

A six-year-old Primary child said: “When I was chosen to be a class helper, I could choose a friend to work with me. I picked [a boy in my class who bullied me] because he never gets chosen by others. I wanted to make him feel good.”

What did this child observe? He noticed that the class bully never got chosen. What did he do to serve? He simply chose him to be his friend as a class helper. Jesus taught, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you.”

Some things are easier said than done. Sometimes we think we are happy to serve others, but we are selective about which “others” we want to serve. Sister Burton says:

Sometimes we are tempted to serve in a way that we want to serve and not necessarily in the way that is needed at the moment. When Elder Robert D. Hales taught the principle of provident living, he shared the example of buying a gift for his wife. She asked, “Are you buying this for me or for you?” If we adapt that question to ourselves as we serve and ask, “Am I doing this for the Savior, or am I doing this for me?” our service will more likely resemble the ministry of the Savior. The Savior asked, and so should we, “What will ye that I shall do unto you?”

The actual process of serving–our works–are essential. But just as important are our motives for that service. The scriptures teach that a gift given unwillingly is counted the same as one not given at all (Moroni 7:8).

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, in a Conference talk in 1984, discussed the reasons and motivations for our service to others. He identifies 6 possible motivations, and discusses them in ascending order from least to greatest.

  1. Hope of an earthly reward or worldly honors
  2. To obtain good companionship
  3. Fear of punishment
  4. A sense of duty or loyalty to friends, family, or tradition
  5. Hope of an eternal reward
  6. Charity, the pure love of Christ

Knowing this, we must ask: into which category do our motivations fall? Each one has some merit, and where they are driving us to righteous action, they are worthwhile motives. And yet it is not hard to see that the most pure and divine motivation should be our love for others. We must see and love them as Christ does, and serve them as He would.

Charity, or love for others, isn’t the most intuitive thing for me sometimes. I’ve found, though, that service is one of the most effective ways to discover it. The more I serve, the more my gratitude and love for my brothers and sisters grow.

These are the conclusions I’ve come to: we need to serve for the right reasons (“it’s the thought that counts”), but our service should also be meaningful and driven by the needs of those around us (it’s not the only thing that counts). As we serve, we will grow closer to our fellow beings. We will also grow closer to our Savior, as we follow His example.

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