The comment rang in my ears, “You Mormons do a lot of good things, but I have a hard time with a religion where everything you do is for an eternal reward.” I was quite caught off guard by his comment and puzzled it over in my mind. “Do people really think of us that way?” “Do we do things solely because of some future reward?” His perception was foreign to my feelings about service. Yes, we know that God, our Father in Heaven, is a rewarder of every good thought and deed and He wants us to receive an incomprehensibly beautiful inheritance of joy, eternal life and exaltation… But do I predicate an act of service on whether or not I will receive a reward? I didn’t think so, and hoped it wasn’t so, but it caused me deep reflection.
Service is a way of life, and the joy of service is its’ own reward.
Serving or Being Served?
Perhaps the most unexpected thing I have learned about service is that the more I serve, the more I am actually being served. For example, for many years I worked as a volunteer leader in Cub and Boy Scout troops. I loved these boys and gradually began to realize that their growth was directly impacting my growth. Their successes became my successes. Their smiles became my smiles. And when they graduated on their lives had become part of my life. They were serving me.
These same feelings come as I gather with men in my capacity as an addiction recovery missionary. These men lifting each other lift me. Their smiles also become my smiles and their tears become my tears. Tears of gratitude and joy oftentimes are mixed with tears that come because my heart is crying. It is no wonder that the capstone and last step of the 12-step recovery program is continuing in service.
Service in the Family
Serving one another in the family creates the deepest love.
I got an unexpected glimpse of the depth of family love and service when my son suddenly became very ill. We made him comfortable in our bedroom, hoping he would feel better in the morning. In the morning he was still doing very poorly so my wife took him into the hospital. She called me from the hospital saying, “Your son is dead.” Even while sitting down, I remember the room around me actually blacked out as I gathered strength to ask, “Can you explain what you mean?” She answered, “He is extremely ill.” I felt powerful relief and love and gratitude that he was spared. The next 10-days or so in the hospital were anxious ones for us. Our son’s appendix had ruptured and he required expert care.
Choco-Bear: A hospital gift my son held close as he recovered.
Family service requires the longest and most patient commitment and can often be the most thankless. But while many lives touch ours for good, only in the family do those ties find root, deep into the heart of who we are. It is said that salvation is a personal affair, but exaltation with fullness of joy is realized in families.
Tonight I attended the viewing of a younger man from our neighborhood whose life was taken through substance abuse. His parents were heartbroken and his young family bereaved. They are receiving the love of neighbors and friends who are there to give comfort and service. And in the middle of it all I felt my Savior’s love. When there is nothing else that we can do, the mending of broken hearts and redemption of our loved ones is in His beautiful and matchless hands.
I saw a glimpse of my Savior’s love as I was leaving a Bountiful Temple worker’s area and I noticed a small board with obituaries posted of three brothers who served with us, and were now complete in their ministry on the earth. In many cases their frames had trembled exceedingly as they wore out their lives in administering the saving ordinances of the gospel.
I saw Christ’s love this week as I observed people loading vehicles with food for the poor while the snow fell around them. I’ve seen it many times in the hands of those giving service to those no longer able to care for their own homes or in groups of people who simply show up because they find a neighbor is in duress because their home has been damaged . I see Christ’s love in smiles and kind words. I’ve seen that love from my earliest memories of parents who loved me, and I see it now in children and grandchildren. I see service everywhere.
As we serve we become more like our Savior. It defines who we are.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. Luke 9:24
When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. Mosiah 2:17