Every year tens of thousands of young Latter-day of Saints submit their papers for full-time missionary service. Young men and women voluntarily put work and education on hold and make themselves available to serve wherever they are assigned at their own expense. Communication with family is even limited to letters or email and very occasional phone calls so that they can focus wholeheartedly on serving the Lord and the people where they serve. During their two years of full time service they devote themselves to studying, meeting people, and teaching about Jesus Christ and His restored Church. Their work is a labor of love, and most missionaries end up feeling they gained more than they gave by serving.
I have been called to serve in the Kyiv Ukraine mission. That is where I will spend the next two years of my life. I will learn the native language of Ukrainian so that I can teach and serve the people in their own language. As a missionary one of my main focuses will be, as it says in Doctrine and Covenants 81 to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees;”1 Or in other words, giving service.
I would like to share a story that Elder Uchtdorf once shared in conference. “During the bombing of a city in World War II, a large statue of Jesus Christ was severely damaged. When the townspeople found the statue among the rubble, they mourned because it had been a beloved symbol of their faith and of God’s presence in their lives. Experts were able to repair most of the statue, but its hands had been damaged so severely that they could not be restored. Some suggested that they hire a sculptor to make new hands, but others wanted to leave it as it was—a permanent reminder of the tragedy of war. Ultimately, the statue remained without hands. However, the people of the city added on the base of the statue of Jesus Christ a sign with these words: ‘You are my hands.’”2
When Jesus Christ was on the earth He explained that He didn’t come to earth to be served but to serve and to give His life for us.3 Jesus Christ loves each of us more than we can understand. Throughout His earthly life He served the poor, the ignorant, the sinner, and the despised. He taught the gospel to all who would listen, fed crowds of hungry people who came to hear Him, healed the sick, and raised the dead.
As the hands of Jesus Christ upon the earth we are surrounded by those in need of our attention, our encouragement, our support, our comfort, and our kindness. Whether they are family members, friends, acquaintances, or strangers we can reach out to give service. As His hands we can lift up His children.
On one occasion a curious lawyer posed this question to the Savior, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”4 The Savior responded, “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 neighbor as thyself.”5
Along with the question asked by the lawyer I would pose the question, who is our neighbor? Our neighbor does not mean merely one of the members of the church or faith to which we belong. It has no reference to race, color, or class. Our neighbor is every person who needs our help. Our neighbor is every soul who is wounded and bruised by the adversary of life. Our neighbor is every child of God. The way we show our neighbors we love them is by serving them. Every act of service counts, whether it’s something small like a smile to lift someone’s spirits, or something big like spending hours collecting food so that families won’t have to go hungry.
The next time you help someone, picture them as the Savior. King Benjamin taught “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”6 As we show those around us that we love them by rendering our service to them, we are also showing God and the Savior that we love them. King Benjamin’s teaching is echoed in the 25th chapter of Matthew.
“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.”7
As you make someone feel welcome by showing interest in them, help someone move from one home to another, or even help someone rebuild their home that has been damaged from a storm you are serving Christ.
Some resistance to giving service may creep in with the thought “How can I ever make a difference?” To those of you who feel that way let me share a story with you written by Jack Canfield.
“A friend of ours was walking down a deserted Mexican beach at sunset. As he walked along, he began to see another man in the distance. As he grew nearer, he noticed that the local native kept leaning down, picking something up and throwing it out into the water. Time and again, he kept hurling things out into the ocean. As our friend approached even closer, he noticed that the man was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and, one at a time, he was throwing them back into the water. Our friend was puzzled. He approached the man and said “Good evening, friend. I was wondering what you are doing.”
“I'm throwing these starfish back into the ocean. You see, it's low tide right now and all of these starfish have been washed up onto the shore. If I don't throw them back into the sea, they'll die up here from lack of oxygen.”
“I understand,” my friend replied, “but there must be thousands of starfish on this beach. You can't possibly get to all of them. There are simply too many. And don't you realize this is probably happening on hundreds of beaches all up and down this coast? Can't you see that you can't possibly make a difference?”
The local native smiled, bent down and picked up yet another starfish, and as he threw it back into the sea, he replied, “Made a difference to that one!”
Though there are billions of people living on this earth and the task may seem overwhelming at times, our Christ like service can and does make a difference.
As I have given service I have been blessed. One of my fondest memories of serving comes from the winter time. Snow falls would bring blocked driveways, and I would usually be the one tasked with shoveling ours. On several occasions before I shoveled my driveway I would shovel the driveway of one of my older neighbors. It made me feel happy inside, to know that I could be of help. The Savior taught his disciples, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”9 President Monson said “I believe the Savior is telling us that unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives. 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.”10
I am sure that we all have the intention as a member of the Church to serve and to help those in need. We need to remember our baptismal covenant to “bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light.” I know that my heart is touched each time I am given the opportunity to serve others and when I witness others serving those in need. How often have you intended to be the one to help? I know that I have missed a few opportunities as my day-to-day life seems to interfere and I have justified this by feeling by thinking others will step up and take care of that need.
We become so caught up in the busyness of our lives. Were we to step back, however, and take a good look at what we’re doing, we may find that we have immersed ourselves in the “thick of thin things.” In other words, too often we spend most of our time taking care of the things which do not really matter much at all in the grand scheme of things, neglecting those more important causes.
That service to which all of us have been called is the service of the Lord Jesus Christ. As He enlists us to His cause, He invites us to draw close to Him. He speaks to you and to me:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”11
If we truly listen, we may hear His voice say to us, as it spoke to another, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”12 This is my goal as I leave to serve the Lord as a missionary in the Ukraine. It is also my prayer that all of us may qualify for the blessing that have been promised from the Lord as we served those in need.
As I close my talk let the words of a familiar hymn ring in our minds:
“Have I done any good in the world today?
Have I helped anyone in need?
Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad?
If not, I have failed indeed.
Has anyone’s burden been lighter today,
Because I was willing to share?
Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way?
When they needed my help was I there?”13I offer this in His name, even Jesus Christ, our Savior, amen.
1. D&C 81:5
2. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “You Are My Hands”, April 2010 General Conference
3. Matthew 20:28
4. Matthew 22:36
5. Matthew 22:37-39
6. Mosiah 2:17
7. Matthew 25:34-40
8. Jack Canfield, “Chicken Soup for the Soul”
9. Luke 9:24
10. Thomas S. Monson, "What Have I Done for Someone Today?" Ensign, Nov. 2009
11. Matthew 11:28-30
12. Matthew 25:21
13. “Have I Done Any Good?” Hymns, no. 223.