Monday, February 27, 2012

Service in the Ward

Yesterday my husband gave a talk in what could possibly be (depending on when he's released) his last talk for ward conference. He focused on service, specifically in the ward. I wanted to share this talk with you today. I realize there will be many terms and people in this talk those of you not familiar with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will recognize. Feel free to ask if you'd like to understand more.

In a letter President Monson received, Sister Mori Farmer explained that her family had experienced difficult financial times. One week, the Farmers attended a family reunion, and when they returned they found a letter taped to the garage door. The note read: “We hope you had a great family reunion. While you were gone, we and about 50 of our friends had a great party at your house. We want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the years of unselfish service you both have given to us. You have been Christlike examples of untiring service to others. We can never repay you for that—but just thought we’d like to say thanks. Signed, your home teachers.”

The Farmer family was shocked as they entered their house.

“Our home teachers had decided that they would fix our carpet while we were away. They had moved the furniture out into the front yard so the carpet could get stretched and finished. One man in the ward stopped and asked what was going on. He returned later with several hundred dollars’ worth of paint and said, ‘We might as well paint the house while everything is out.’ Others saw the cars out front and stopped to see what was going on, and by week’s end 50 people were busy repairing, painting, cleaning, and sewing.

“Our friends and fellow ward members had fixed our poorly laid carpet, painted the entire house, repaired holes in the drywall, oiled and varnished our kitchen cabinets, put curtains on three windows in the kitchen and family room, did all the laundry, cleaned every room in the house, had the carpets cleaned, fixed broken door latches, and on and on. … All of this had been accomplished between Wednesday and our return on Sunday.”

Those who served the Farmer family said they felt spiritually uplifted and humbled as they demonstrated the pure love of Christ by serving those who had unselfishly served others for years.

“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 in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).

I have been a member of this ward for the last 13 years or so. I have served in a number of callings, have been a firsthand witness to the generous spirit that resides here. I have even been a recipient of this service, a few examples of which I will discuss later. Many have remarked over the years about the special Spirit that resides in this ward. I am convinced a major reason for this is because this is a ward that loves to serve.

A few weeks ago in a leadership training meeting that was broadcast by the general leaders of the Church, which many of us in the ward attended, a question was posed that received an unexpected answer. The question was, “Are Mormons Christians?” To this question Elder D. Todd Christofferson answered:

“You’ve said that the answers to life’s challenges and problems come from the gospel and applying the gospel, which means following the teachings and the commandments and the example of Christ. And I think that it’s in this Christlike conduct and service that we present our best and most persuasive argument of our own Christianity. I know that there are those who contend that we don’t fit their particular definition of Christian orthodoxy. So be it. But our example should be such that no one can deny that the Latter-day Saints love the Savior. No one can deny that the Latter-day Saints seek to emulate the Savior. And so we demonstrate, I think, by our actions. As the Savior said, “By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20). I happen to live, by the way, in a wonderful ward where this is really the environment and the pattern of life.

“One quick example. Amy has five children, is expecting a sixth, and has had a lot of illness herself during this pregnancy. Tiffany probably has more children at home right now than anybody else in the ward. But Tiffany makes it a point, from time to time, of taking Amy’s children to be with her for a while and giving Amy some time alone to rest and recuperate. That’s a simple example, but I think if you multiply that hundreds and thousands of times, that’s what it means for us to be a Christian.”

Every day we present ourselves as members of the Lord’s Church. Whether at school, at the store, at home, or at Church we are what others look to as examples of what this Church stands for.

The Lord spent the majority of His life in serving others. There were times those acts of service were miraculous, attracting the attention of many. Other times the service was small, known only to a few. It didn’t matter how grand or small those acts of service were, each counted as a work of love. Each brought with it a marvelous warmth, not only for those who Christ served, but for Himself.

What can service do for the individual who chooses to serve? Elder Christofferson says, “The focus in service always has to be outward. We’re thinking of what we can do to help others, but there’s no denying that it has an effect on us at the same time. There’s something about empathy and compassion, I believe, that changes our perspective, that adds courage and strength, I think, to deal with our own needs. It refines us. It sanctifies us.”

President Thomas S. Monson repeats what the Savior said—that in order to find purpose in life, lose yourself in the service of others.

“Those who live only for themselves eventually shrivel up and figuratively lose their lives, while those who lose themselves in service to others grow and flourish—and in effect save their lives,“ he says.

He also said, “Unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives.”

Many years ago a new missionary in England was frustrated and discouraged. He wrote home saying he felt he was wasting his time. His wise father replied, “Forget yourself and go to work.” Young Elder Gordon B. Hinckley went to his knees and covenanted with the Lord that he would try to forget himself and lose himself in the Lord’s service. Years later, as a mature servant of the Lord, Elder Hinckley would say, “He who lives only unto himself withers and dies, while he who forgets himself in the service of others grows and blossoms in this life and in eternity.”

This Church is a Church of service. Just this last week our youth were able to take a tour of the Humanitarian Center, where they could see first hand some of the service this Church renders not only on a world-wide basis, but for those who are employed there locally. As the leaders of the Granger 6th ward over the youth, we have asked these young men and young women to perform at least six hours of service between now and June 14th when many of them will attend Youth Conference. That means a half an hour of service every week between now and then. One half hour of service. Such a short amount of time that will yield so many blessings.

What if we were all to commit to this? One half hour of service a week. For many in this ward it will come naturally as they all ready give acts of service to others, acts which go unnoticed by many as they are done quietly.

One sister used to write notes to an older, and greatly loved, member of the ward. Another goes around to many of our sick sisters and willingly takes their laundry to do. A couple in the ward has been helping out wherever they can financially those who are hurting. Many members of this ward have been blessed with meals brought in by loving friends, even when it wasn’t asked for. There are several out there who willingly drive those who cannot to places they need to go.

As a bishop I have seen great and marvelous things performed by members of this ward for members of this ward. I have witnessed the love that passes between you all due to the acts of service given. I have witnessed the pure love of Christ. His image has truly been in the countenances of many here.

Another part of service that many pass over is a willingness to allow others to serve us. For many of us this is difficult. We are embarrassed at needing help, or feel as though it is a burden on others to help us when we are capable of doing things ourselves. But when we deny others the chance to serve us, we are denying them the opportunity to share that Christlike love, and receive the blessings that would be given to them.

A Sister Randall shares her experience with this:

“It was with awe that our children first heard the story about a family who gave away their entire Christmas—tree, food, and gifts. It all began when their neighbor’s home burned early on the morning of Christmas Eve. When the children heard of their friends’ situation, a family meeting was called and they all agreed, without exception, that they would share their Christmas.
“The day’s activities soon centered around switching name tags on gifts and boxing up Christmas goodies, turkey and all. And at the last minute, they even took the tree! When they gathered back home after delivering their project in secret, they had feelings
of excitement and love.

Questions came from our children: “Wasn’t it hard for the first family to give?” “Wasn’t it difficult for the other family to receive?”

“A short time later we had our own opportunity to be receivers of service. After living in a community for only one month, it became necessary for me to stay completely down for two months while expecting our eighth baby. Our first reaction was that we could handle this challenge all alone. The children were used to helping and had regular jobs around the house. However, we soon recognized that despite careful planning and added responsibilities, we needed help.

“Even after years of teaching and hearing lessons on serving others and accepting service, we found that to actually let someone help us was difficult to do. But, as we allowed them to help us, we soon found our hearts full of thanks for their thoughtfulness.

“A retired couple came by and picked up the youngest children for a morning outing. Our bishop organized a sacrament meeting and brought it in our home. Several busy sisters came by regularly just to chat, because they knew that I enjoyed adult company. A couple prepared and brought in a candlelight dinner to share with us for a date night. A batch of white shirts disappeared and then reappeared, freshly ironed.

“The phrase “Call me if I can do anything” took on new meaning. We learned that you will rarely take someone up on such an offer. Instead, we witnessed people who came by saying, “Is it the kitchen you want cleaned, or would you rather have me vacuum?” Many were good examples to us as they not only thought of helpful things to do, but did them.

“Another thought came forcefully to mind. Any time service was rendered they could probably have been doing the same thing for their own family at home. Yet a large family brought a canister of homemade ice cream to us. A lovely lady made our daughter’s eighth grade graduation dress. A sweet friend brought fresh loaves of homemade bread by the armful each week, insisting that our family was used to homemade, not store-bought, bread. One of our grandmas left her home and came to stay with us for two weeks.

“A line from my journal says: “If only I can remember the same gift of kindness to others when I am well.” Service had become a living principle, and we felt an overwhelming desire to be able to serve others.

“Then we could truly answer our children’s questions. “Is it hard to give?” Yes. It’s a sacrifice on someone’s part. “Is it difficult to receive?” Yes. But we love those who serve us and those we may serve.

Next month our family will celebrate the 12th birthday of our son. Most of you have heard us talk about him, but many of you who are new may not. When our oldest was only two my wife gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. He lived an hour and twelve minutes. The next few days were a blur. Had it not been for the service of family and ward members I honestly do not know how we would have made it through that time.

Bishop H___ and his wife, along with a good friend of my wife’s, stopped by that evening. Bishop and I gave my wife a blessing. Her friend brought to us a picture we have cherished since that day. My father was by my side as I planned my son’s funeral, with the help of a wonderful friend in the ward, Brother N____. Bishop H____ conducted the graveside service, where many friends, family, and ward members stood by our sides, offering love as I have rarely felt before.

One small act of kindness during that time, one which has meant the world to me, was done anonymously. A sister in the ward had crocheted a beautiful white baby blanket which was given to our son to be wrapped in as he was buried. Such a beautiful gift done with a beautiful talent. It may not have been a huge sacrifice on her part, but the love behind it touched my heart more than she can know.

One of the greatest ways I have been able to serve in this ward has been to visit with the members, especially those in the hospital, who are sick or otherwise afflicted. It has required much sacrifice both on my part and that of my family, but it has brought so much love into our home, into the lives of those I am able to visit, and the blessings we all have received have been wonderful.

As your bishop I encourage you to continue in the service you render to the members of this ward. I encourage you to speak up if you need help, especially to our youth who need the opportunities and the blessings from giving service. Even the littlest of children can give service to those in need. It is important to teach them this from a young age. Why? In the words of President Marion G. Romney, “Service is not just something we do to get into heaven, but service is the way of life in heaven. You know, it’s God’s way of life. It’s what we do there.”

1 comment:

strat said...

A huge sacrifice to do. Well, it's for the good anyways.