Monday, August 15, 2011

Serving in the Church

Since this serves as my journal, it occurred to me that it would be good for me to include a copy of the sacrament talk I gave about a month ago. Usually I would have stapled a copy into my journal...and I would like my children to someday be able to read my thoughts and testimony. So here it is.

My talk today is about service in the Church. I’d like to talk about why we receive callings and how we should magnify them, particularly how we should follow our Savior’s example as we serve.

First, why do we receive callings? I think there are several reasons.
#1- Callings help us learn and grow. The Lord qualifies us for the work He calls us to do.
#2 Callings require us to listen to the Spirit and learn from the Holy Ghost.
#3Service in the church helps us to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.” (D & C 81:5)
#4 Callings help us to develop the pure love of Christ.
#5 Callings lead us to become more like our Savior Jesus Christ.

First, callings can help us to learn and grow. Often, callings require us to stretch ourselves and can lead us to gain new talents, new understanding and greater faith. In Phillipians 4:13 we read, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

I have had a few callings that I felt unprepared for. But Heavenly Father knows what He is doing and if we have faith and do our best, He will qualify us for the work. But He requires “the heart and a willing mind.” I am not naturally a very outgoing person. I often get nervous in groups or when going to meet someone for the first time. Doing visits when I was in the Relief Society Presidency were often hard for me. However, I don’t have any problem teaching classes…that rarely makes me nervous. So, for me, if I could choose, I would probably want to teach Relief Society or Primary forever…but then I wouldn’t be pushed to grow. And few callings have taught me as much as being in the Relief Society Presidency at least partly because I had to do things that were not easy for me…and because I had to rely on the spirit.
We also learn through our interactions with those we serve. I remember serving in YW… I taught a lesson on repentance. One of the young women said she was going to try to repent daily of her mistakes.. Then months later she told me that she had been doing that… she taught me an important lesson that day, one that I think about often… and many others have taught me lessons as well…

Elder Henry B . Eyring, Watch Over and Strengthen, April 2000 Conference said, “Confidence depends on your seeing the call for what it is. Your call to serve is not from human beings. It is a trust from God. …Because you are called by Jesus Christ to His service, you may go forward with great confidence. First, you may be assured that He knows you and your capacity to grow. He has prepared you. Calls will stretch you, often at the start and always over their course, but He will give you the Holy Ghost to be your companion.”

A second reason we serve in the Church is to learn to listen to the spirit. Often, callings require us to really turn to the Lord for help. We must rely on the Holy Ghost to guide us.
Elder Eyring explained, “The Holy Ghost will tell you what to do when your own abilities and efforts are not enough The Holy Ghost will prompt you to bear testimony with conviction. The Savior will let you feel the love He feels for those you serve. The call is an invitation to become like Him The Lord is (our) only hope for success. Most of the help will come through the ministrations of the Holy Ghost. The Lord’s servants cannot succeed without it. We can only have the Holy Ghost as a companion if we plead for it and if we qualify for it. And both require a lot of praying, praying with real faith in our Heavenly Father and in His Beloved Son and in the Holy Ghost.”

Elder Eyring also said, “….As the humble servants of the Savior, we should pray for the manifestations of the Holy Ghost to come to us in our service and to those we serve. Humble prayer to our Heavenly Father, in deep faith in Jesus Christ, is essential to qualify us for the companionship of the Holy Ghost.”

Third, Callings also allow us to serve and bless the lives of others, which is part of the covenant that we made at baptism. I’m sure you’ve all heard the quote from
"President Spencer W. Kimball said, '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'
Elder Eyring said, “every call is an opportunity and an obligation to watch over and strengthen the children of our Heavenly Father. The Savior’s work is to bring to pass their immortality and eternal life (see Moses 1:39). He called us to serve others so that we could strengthen our own faith as well as theirs. He knows that by serving Him we will come to know Him. An inspired prophet saw service as the way we come to want what the Lord wants. He wrote: “For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart.”

I have experienced this many times. For awhile, Alfredo and I had only one car and he often worked on Sundays. I walked to church often… but at the time, Julie Cannon was my wonderful visiting teacher and she often gave me rides to church. Julie was an amazing visiting teacher. She helped with so many things…including delivering Ella at home unexpectedly J and she and her family answered many of our prayers, especially when Ella had her open heart surgery. I can remember another time in college when I was feeling very discouraged. My home teacher at the time dropped by a plate of goodies, which was nice, but more importantly included a note saying that He’d felt prompted to write to let me know that the Lord loved me and was aware of me and telling me of a few of my good qualities. The goodies and note were so special…particularly to know that the Lord was aware of me and knew what I needed right then. Home teaching and visiting teaching are such important callings that we’re given… they truly allow us to become a friend, set an example and provide service to others.

Perhaps most importantly service helps us to develop love and charity for those we serve as well as those we serve with. Some of my dearest friends are those I have served with or had the opportunity to serve.. NO matter what our calling, we are serving sons and daughters of God. He loves each of His children, and if we pray to Him, He will help us feel pure love for those we serve. Sometimes it is easy to feel that love, … for example, right now, I am teaching the Sunbeams in primary. I love it! They are so sweet and so full of love that it is easy to love them back. Other times, it may be more difficult… perhaps we’re assigned to visit teach someone who is not active in the church and may even be hostile… or maybe there’s someone who has different political views than us…or maybe we just don’t seem to have much in common with those we are called to serve. But the Lord can bless us to love these brothers and sisters, if we diligently pray for that love and if we continue to serve them. I work at a challenging school, and there are at times, students that are difficult to deal with and to love… I realize this isn’t a church calling, but I do feel like my job as a teacher to these kids is part of my calling in life… and I have found that even with very difficult students, if I will pray for them and try to love and serve them, then the Lord will bless me to be able to love them., to begin to see them as He does..
Elder Holland said, “If our service is to be most efficacious, it must be accomplished for the love of God and the love of his children. The Savior applied that principle in the Sermon on the Mount, in which he commanded us to love our enemies, bless them that curse us, do good to them that hate us, and pray for them that despitefully use us and persecute us. (See Matt. 5:44.) He explained the purpose of that commandment as follows:
“For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
“And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?” (Matt. 5:46–47.)
Moroni chapter 7 talks about charity, the pure love of Christ. It is often quoted. My favorite verse is verse 48 which reads, “

” This is, what service really means, I believe… as we serve, if we ask our Father to, we will be filled with love for those we serve. And this love will purify us and help us to become like Jesus Christ.

Finally, service leads us to become more like the Savior. Jesus went about doing good. As we serve in the Church, we to are going about doing good. Jesus loved others and as we serve, we too are developing and showing love for our fellowman. President Uchtdorf gave a wonderful talk in October 2010 General Conference called “Of Things that Matter Most.” While his talk was not specifically about service in the Church, I believe some of his counsel applies to our service. I believe that our service in the Church can help strengthen our relationship with our Savior and our Heavenly Father. As we serve, we are able to become more like Them. He said , “My dear brothers and sisters, we would do well to slow down a little, proceed at the optimum speed for our circumstances, focus on the significant, lift up our eyes, and truly see the things that matter most.”- I believe that among the things that mater most are taking the time to study the scriptures, pray for our families and those that we serve, and then doing our best to magnify our callings…while carefully balancing the needs of our families. We should remember that the first great commandment is to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind…And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” I think as we truly develop love for God and love for our fellowmen, it becomes easier to prioritize and to focus on what really matters most. President Uchtdorf said, -“our relationship with God is most sacred and vital. We are His spirit children. He is our Father. He desires our happiness. As we seek Him, as we learn of His Son, Jesus Christ, as we open our hearts to the influence of the Holy Spirit, our lives become more stable and secure. We experience greater peace, joy, and fulfillment as we give our best to live according to God’s eternal plan and keep His commandments.

Elder Uchtdorf said, “Brothers and sisters, diligently doing the things that matter most will lead us to the Savior of the world. That is why “we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, … that [we] may know to what source [we] may look for a remission of [our] sins.”8 In the complexity, confusion, and rush of modern living, this is the “more excellent way.”9 As we listen to the Spirit, and as we talk of Christ and preach of Christ and rejoice in Christ, we will come to know Him and love Him and we will be able to return to live with Him again someday which is our ultimate goal. Let us be diligent in doing the things that matter most: serving in the Church, teaching our families, and becoming like our Savior so that when we see Him again, we shall be like Him, we shall have “received His image in our countenances.”

Ultimately, while I have talked about several reasons that service in the Church is important, I believe that the most important reasons are that it will help us to gain charity and to become like our Savior. That is my hope and prayer.