The Spirituality of Service

Healing at the Pool of Bethesda, Carl Bloch, 1883

In a lesson on Sunday, the teacher talked about service and then referenced a talk by Elder Derek A. Cuthbert entitled, “The Spirituality of Service” (Ensign, May 1990, 12) from which I will draw some ideas and the title of this post.

The main premise of the talk is this –

The Lord’s work is spiritual work. It relates to changing lives, developing true values, and overcoming worldly influences.

Service changes people. It refines, purifies, gives a finer perspective, and brings out the best in each one of us. It gets us looking outward instead of inward. It prompts us to consider others’ needs ahead of our own. Righteous service is the expression of true charity, such as the Savior showed.

Elder Cuthbert listed ten ways in which service increases spirituality;

  • Service helps us establish true values and priorities by distinguishing between the worth of material things that pass, and those things of lasting, even eternal, value.
  • Service helps us establish a righteous tradition. I think that this is vital in the age of affluence that we live in.  Youth and children need to learn that self-indulgence is the oldest path to destruction.
  • Service helps us overcome selfishness and sin. “We have turned every one to his own way.” (Isa. 53:6.) In modern parlance, they “did their own thing,” whatever the adverse effect upon others.
  • Service helps to recompense for sin. The prophet Ezekiel explained this when he declared, “None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right.” (Ezek. 33:16.) Again, James taught that to “save a soul … shall hide a multitude of sins.” (James 5:20.) We can express regret and feel remorse for things done wrong, but full repentance should include recompense, such as service gives.
  • Service helps us generate love and appreciation.
  • Service is the principal way of showing gratitude to the Savior. “Inasmuch as [we] have done it unto one of the least of these [his] brethren, [we] have done it unto [Him].” (Matt. 25:40.)
  • Service channels our desires and energies into righteous activity.“Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.” (D&C 58:26–27).
  • Service helps us cleanse ourselves and become purified and sanctified.
  • Charitable service helps us do as the Savior did. “I am among you as he that serveth” (Luke 22:27), and again, “For I will raise up unto myself a pure people, that will serve me in righteousness” (D&C 100:16).
  • Service helps us to get to know the Savior, for “how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served?” (Mosiah 5:13)

A Confession –

I’ve always had a problem with traditional service.  Since I was a young girl, wonderful youth leaders set up “service opportunities” that were difficult for me.  On my mission, there were times that I felt guilty if I didn’t go tracting (going door-to-door to find persons interested in our message).  I listen to discussions on “community action” and “friends for change” and I shudder.

Then I feel guilty that I am not “healing the world”, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving the shirt off my back, or caring the way that others feel that I should be caring and pitching in.

But maybe, that’s because I wasn’t made for that kind of service.

Please understand me, I believe that all people should learn to serve, but I wonder sometimes, if our service is the right kind – the kind that the Lord would have us give.

A Mini Parable –

Tonight, I was preparing dinner.  My five-year-old wanted to help.  I got out some beautiful paper dolls and asked her to play with her two-year-old sister.  That would help me immensely as I got the rest of the dinner ready.

No, no, she wanted to set the table, and insisted on getting the china plates out herself.

But, I had made soup.

All I needed, the thing that would give me the most help, would be for her to play with her sister, so I could take care of everything else.

The role that I asked her to fill was one that fit her capabilities, would develop her talents, would help her learn to love her sister more, and would bless me by helping keep both of them happily occupied so that I could finish my work.

So, by not doing what I asked, she caused more work for me – I had to clean up the plates, re-set the table, comfort her sister, keep them both occupied, and, you guessed it, clean up the paper dolls.

Thoughts on Serving in the Lord’s way –

Several months ago we were singing, Because I Have Been Given Much, Hymn #219 and the phrase,  I shall divide my gifts from thee with every brother that I see, caught my attention.  Again, the guilt (as previously mentioned) set in –  I don’t go to the homeless shelter, we have very little money, I don’t have time to volunteer, thoughts ran through my head.

Then it occurred to me to think about the gifts that the Lord did give me, and whether or not I was sharing them.  A happy heart, smiles, faith, gospel knowledge, kindness, love. Yes, I had been sharing those.  Not perfectly, but I’ve tried.

The Savior said;  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)

If I start to find out what the Lord would have me do to serve, utilizing my talents (which I am commanded to develop – D&C 60:13) and the abilities (time, resources, etc) that are at my disposal.  In this way I will not run faster than [I have] strength (Mosiah 4:27).

How do I find out what I need to do?  I pray.

For prayers to be efficacious, they must be in harmony with the plan of heaven. The prayer of faith bears fruit when such harmony exists, and this harmony exists when prayers are inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit manifests what our petitions should be. 21 Absent this inspired guidance, we are inclined to “ask amiss,” 22 to seek only our will and not “Thy will.”23 (Bishop McMullin, Our Path of Duty, April 3, 2010)

In this way, I am doing the work that the Lord needs done, and it will bless both me, and those that I am prompted to serve.

When priesthood authority is exercised properly, priesthood bearers do what He would do if He were present.  (President Boyd K. Packer, The Power of the Priesthood, April 3, 2010).

I can’t do it all, but I can do some things well –

A good woman knows that she does not have enough time, energy, or opportunity to take care of all of the people or do all of the worthy things her heart yearns to do. Life is not calm for most women, and each day seems to require the accomplishment of a million things, most of which are important.  A good woman must constantly resist alluring and deceptive messages from many sources telling her that she is entitled to more time away from her responsibilities and that she deserves a life of greater ease and independence. But with personal revelation, she can prioritize correctly and navigate this life confidently.  (Sister Beck, And upon the Handmaids in Those Days Will I Pour Out My Spirit”, April 3, 2010)

I think it begins when I realize that there are times and seasons to do different types of service.

When I was a single seminary teacher, I was able to go to the Temple weekly.  Now, as a part time working wife and mother of two, I hardly have time to go to the temple.  But my service, those I’ve been called on to love and care for, are my husband and daughters.

I promised the Lord, that even when the service is hard, and even when I’m tired and don’t get a lot of “me time”, that I would find ways to give Christ-like love to them.  I promised to make my home a safe-haven, so that they can become beings of love and service as well.

As my children grow older, as circumstances in life improve, as I have more to give, I can go to the Lord and ask for more assignments.

Jesus Christ healed the sick because He had the power to do so.  He taught because He had studied the gospel, knew the revelations and was given the commission to teach.  He performed the Atonement and Resurrection because He was the only uniquely qualified Being to do that imperative work.  He understood His calling, prepared Himself and finished the work that He was called to do.

So maybe, I should find out what I need to do for Him and do it, realizing that (though it may not be what I think is necessary)  it will be unique and vital for me and it will serve His eternal purposes.

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