Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Acts of Service

                    Our Savior, even Jesus Christ, taught, "And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant" (Matthew 20:27).  In order to develop true charity - the pure love of Christ - we must each be willing to give of ourselves in service to our fellow humans beings.  We each have the capacity to serve someone else, and we should be looking for opportunities to help others.  Just such an opportunity was presented to a man traveling far from home in an airport terminal; his experience is told in the following story.

                    "A young mother on an overnight flight with a two-year-old daughter was stranded by bad weather in [the] Chicago airport without food or clean clothing for the child and without money.  She was two months pregnant and threatened with miscarriage, so she was under doctor's instructions not to carry the child unless it was essential.  Hour after hour she stood in one line after another, trying to get a flight to Michigan.  The terminal was noisy, full of tired, frustrated, grumpy passengers, and she heard critical references to her crying child and to her sliding her child along the floor with her foot as the line moved forward.  No one offered to help with the soaked, hungry, exhausted child.  Then, the woman later reported, `Someone came towards us and with a kindly smile said, "Is there something I could do to help you?"  With a grateful sigh I accepted his offer.  He lifted my sobbing little daughter from the cold floor and lovingly held her to him while he patted her gently on the back.  He asked if she could chew a piece of gum.  When she was settled down, he carried her with him and said something kindly to the others in the line ahead of me, about how I needed their help.  They seemed to agree and then he went up to the ticket counter [at the front of the line] and made arrangements with the clerk for me to be put on a flight leaving shortly.  He walked with us to a bench, where we chatted a moment, until he was assured that I would be find.  He went on his way.  About a week later I saw a picture of Apostle Spencer W. Kimball and recognized him as the stranger in the airport'" (Edward L. Kimball and Andrew E. Kimball, Jr., Spencer W. Kimball [1977], 334).

                    The immediate effects of Elder Kimball's service were a comforted child and a relieved mother who were able to board their airplane more quickly, but acts of service often have far-reaching effects also.  In this case, President Kimball received the following letter many years after he helped the woman at the airport.

"Dear President Kimball,
"I am a student at Brigham Young University.  I have just returned from my mission in Munich West Germany.  I had a lovely mission and learned much….
                    "I was sitting in priesthood meeting last week, when a story was told of a loving service which you performed some 21 years ago in the Chicago airport.  The story told of how you met a young pregnant mother with a young screaming child in … a [condition of] distress waiting in a long line for her tickets.  She was threatening miscarriage and therefore couldn't lift her child to comfort her.  She had experienced four previous miscarriages which gave added reason for the doctor's orders not to bend or lift.
                    "… You comforted the crying child, and explained the dilemma to the other passengers in line.  This act of love took the strain and tension off of my mother.  I was born a few months later in Flint, Michigan.
                    "I just want to thank you for your love.  Thank you for your example!" (As quoted by Gordon B. Hinckley, in Christmas Devotional address, 18 Dec. 1983).

                    When Elder Kimball helped the woman in the airport, the person who wrote this letter had not yet been born; however, Elder Kimball's service had a great impact on his life.  Elder Kimball's service may have actually saved the unborn baby from coming prematurely.

                    The unselfish act of service by Elder Kimball may have affected many other people.  Surely the family members and friends of the woman and her daughter were affected.  The other people standing in line at the airport were affected as were the employees at the ticket counter.  In addition to those immediately impacted, there were people in Germany who were taught the gospel by the young man who wrote the letter.  Elder Kimball - who later became President Kimball - and his family were impacted; we know this because his son and grandson wrote the story.  In addition, all who hear this story of unselfish service are touched.  This one act of service has the potential of reaching untold numbers of lives.

                    There are many, many unselfish acts that are never recorded for publication but kept in journals and passed down to posterity.  Another story that has received much notice is about Emma Somerville McConkie, a widow; Sister McConkie used her time and energy to serve others who were suffering even though she was ill herself.  The following story was related by her son, Oscar McConkie.

                    "Mother was president of the [ward] Relief Society….  [A nonmember who opposed the Church] had married a Mormon girl.  They had several children; now they had a new baby.  They were very poor and Mother was going day by day to care for the child and to take them baskets of food….  Mother herself was ill, and more than once was hardly able to get home after doing the work at [this family's] home.
                    "One day she returned home especially tired and weary.  She slept in her chair.  She dreamed she was bathing a baby which she discovered was the Christ Child.  She thought, Oh, what a great honor to thus serve the very Christ!  As she held the baby in her lap, she was all but overcome….  Unspeakable joy filled her whole being.  She was aflame with the glory of the Lord.  It seemed that the very marrow in her bones would melt.  Her joy was so great it awakened her.  As she awoke, these words were spoken to her, `Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me'" (As quoted by Bruce R. McConkie, in "Charity Which Never Faileth," Relief Society Magazine, Mar. 1970, 169).

                    Jesus Christ taught His disciples about the importance of giving away ourselves in service to other people.  He often taught with parables, stories, and every day experiences and always explained His teachings to those who sought further understanding.  While relating the parable of the sheep and the goats, He taught the following.

                    "Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, 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.
                    "Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, 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?
                    "And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matthew 25:34-40).

                    These verses describe acts of service performed for other human beings but also serving "the king" who is Jesus Christ.    When we serve each other, we are actually serving God. 

                    King Benjamin taught a great sermon on service and included this same wonderful truth:  "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" (Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Mosiah 2:17).

                    I learned the truthfulness of this principle when I became a mother with numerous children.  I was always very grateful for those who helped my children, probably more grateful than I would have been if they simply serving me.  Since my children are so precious to me, I will be eternally grateful to everyone who helped or will help my children  - and my grandchildren.

                    Sister McConkie served the young family so diligently out of the goodness of her own heart.  She was going far beyond the ordinary duties of a ward Relief Society president, and the Lord recognized her willingness to give of herself.  I am fairly certain that she had a great influence on the young family.  Surely the mother felt loved by the devotion of her president.  The husband must have been touched by Sister McConkie's willingness to help his family even though he was antagonistic toward the Church.

                    Even though Jesus Christ commanded us to love and serve everyone, some people limit their service to those people they enjoy being around.  Other people give service only to be seen of other people.  We show our willingness to give of ourselves when we love and care about all people.  Most of us have far more capacity to serve others than we currently use.

                    "We need to look around us, and if we cannot see poverty, illness, and despair in our own neighborhood or ward, then we have to look harder.  And remember, we cannot be afraid to go beyond our own social and cultural circles.  We have to rid ourselves of religious, racial, or social prejudices and expand the boundaries of our service.  Service should never discriminate and is hardly ever easy.  Did not Jesus Himself mingle with those who were branded unfit by the self-righteous Pharisees?  And were not those people the ones who needed Him the most?"  (See Elder Hans B. Ringger of the Seventy in Ensign, May 1990, 26.)

                    We are each surrounded by people who are in need of assistance or friendship, and we should look for those opportunities to serve.  We cannot always know who is pleading with God to send someone to them.  I myself have been the recipient of such service.

"God does notice us, and he watches over us.  But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs.  Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other in the kingdom.  The people of the Church need each other's strength, support, and leadership….  So often, our acts of service consist of simple encouragement or of giving mundane [ordinary] help with mundane tasks, but what glorious consequences can flow from mundane acts and from small but deliberate deeds!"  (See President Spencer W. Kimball, "Small Acts of Service," Ensign, Dec. 1974, 5).

Small and simple acts of service show others that we care about them, and there are many small and simple acts that we can perform without cost of much time or energy.  How many times has a simple smile brightened your day?   How many times has a hug from a colleague or a word of praise from a supervisor made your life much brighter?  How has a telephone call from a loved one made you feel more loved?

"We observe vast, sweeping world events; however, we must remember that the purposes of the Lord in our personal lives generally are fulfilled through the small and simple things and not the momentous and spectacular….
"We must never ignore or pass by the prompting of the Spirit to render service to one another."  (See Elder M. Russell Ballard in Ensign, May 1990, 6, 8.)

I know that we can all feel joy through serving other people; I know that we can receive great blessings of love and personal growth that come through serving others. 

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