When my husband and I first met, he wasn’t a member of the church and I hadn’t gone on a mission so I like to say that David was my mission. I truly believe that Heavenly Father brought us together so that he could have the gospel and we could serve each other eternally. Along those same lines, I believe that every person we meet is put into our lives in order for us to serve them. Which is why I am so grateful that our topic today is on serving the people who are closest to us including our family and neighbors.
This last conference, Bonnie L. Oscarson gave a talk that was actually one of my favorites and probably one of yours, called “The Needs Before Us”. In her talk, she explained the importance of service, especially how important it is to serve those directly in our lives like our families, friends, and neighbors.
From her talk, I gathered 3 tips to help us better serve the people in our lives. They are 1) Listen to the Spirit, 2) Put Away Distractions, 3) Lead by Example.
Listen to the Spirit
Sister Oscarson said, “My young friends, I can guarantee that there will always be someone at every Church meeting you attend who is lonely, who is going through challenges and needs a friend, or who feels like he or she doesn’t belong. You have something important to contribute to every meeting or activity, and the Lord desires for you to look around at your peers and then minister as He would.”
When I was in college I was pretty inactive from the church for a period of time. I would show up every once in awhile but never often enough to make any friends, know my bishop, have any callings, or get asked to speak in church. The only person I kind of knew was a woman in my relief society presidency named Kristi.
Kristi was not my visiting teacher but without fail, she would come and visit me every single month. Either to invite me to church, bring me a treat, or talk to me about life over some frozen yogurt. She probably didn’t know it but I was struggling with a lot of things at the time and every time she would show up at my door unannounced, it would remind me that I wasn’t alone.
To this day I think about Kristi and how she never knew what was going on in my life but she always showed up at the right place and the right time. She was able to listen to the spirit and became the angel that Heavenly Father sent me to remind me that He never forgets about His children, even when they forget about Him.
I have a very strong testimony that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God. Service is heavenly father’s way that He sends us angels when we are in need, and the angels He sends are you and me. There is a reason you live where you live, you know who you know, and work where you work. Heavenly Father planned for his children to help take care of each other, to listen to the spirit and to show up for the people in their lives at the right place and the right time.
Put Away Distractions
Sister Oscarson said, “We live in a culture where more and more we are focused on the small, little screen in our hands than we are on the people around us. We have substituted texting and tweeting for actually looking someone in the eye and smiling or, even rarer, having a face-to-face conversation. We are often more concerned with how many followers and likes we have than with putting an arm around a friend and showing love, concern, and tangible interest.”
I work in organizational development where I help develop people into better leaders. Because of my job, I am always asking my husband to give me feedback on our marriage and I am constantly sharing my feedback as well. Now, David and I have only been married for two months and already we have experienced the mind-numbing satisfaction that can come with getting home from work and immediately turning on Netflix while simultaneously checking Instagram and Pinterest. Obviously, I’m guilty here. However, my biggest piece of feedback is that we just need to spend more time without our phones, talking to each other and asking each other questions outside of “how was your day?”. And after a long day at work, putting down our devices is definitely a form of service.
Just like Sister Oscarson mentioned, having face-to-face conversations can be rare, even within our own families. Technology, even for the best of purposes, can distract us from what is truly important in our lives. We should consume technology like we consume sweets, in moderation. The greatest service my husband and I can give each other is to simply put away our distractions, look each other in the eye, and ask each other our thoughts on politics, childhood memories, or the latest book we’ve been reading.
In D&C 4:2 it reads that “those who embark in the service of God should serve with their whole hearts”. We cannot give our whole hearts to the service of those we know and love when we are distracted by other things.
Lead by Example
Sister Oscarson told a story of her grandson Ethan who was inspired by his mother’s example to pray every day to have an opportunity to serve someone. Sister Oscarson spoke highly of the example her grandson was to her and his siblings. Rather than focusing on what her grandson did to serve, I would like to emphasize the fact that the example that Ethan’s mother was to him, caused a chain reaction where Ethan was then inspired and became an example to others.
In first Timothy chapter 4 verse 12, the apostle Paul said to “Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” I think President Thomas Monson put it best in his April conference talk to the women called “Be Thou an Example” when he said, “you possess a testimony; share it. Never underestimate the far-reaching influence of your testimony. You can strengthen one another; you have the capacity to notice the unnoticed. When you have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to feel, you can reach out and rescue others of your age.”
I mentioned earlier that when I met my husband he was not a member of the church. I was nervous to start dating David because I had recently regained my own testimony of the gospel and I was worried that his Catholic upbringing would conflict with my renewed faith. However, I had reached a point in my life where I began vocalizing my conviction for the gospel instead of hiding it to fit in and I had seen and heard the stories of many friends who had gone on missions and shared their testimonies on a daily basis. So, I made it very clear when I started dating him that I wasn’t going to renounce my beliefs.
David grew up Catholic and I knew it wouldn’t be easy to share my testimony with him. So we made a compromise that one week we would go to his church and the next week we would go to mine. After about 3 months of trading off churches and asking each other about the beliefs we grew up with, I told David that I just wasn’t getting as much out of his church as I did mine, and I asked him if he would be willing to take the missionary lessons. Reluctantly he agreed and we began the lessons together.
Sharing my testimony with David was one of the most terrifying and personal experiences I’ve ever had because for many years I tried to suppress my ties to the church. At the time my testimony was small, but it was my own, and that was powerful. There were many nights when we would read the Book of Mormon together and talk about what it meant and the spirit was so strong I could feel both mine and David’s testimonies growing together.
I am blessed to say that David and I were married in the temple after a long spiritual journey together. I didn’t serve a traditional mission but it is an act of service to share our testimonies with others. And for us, it was an act of service that completely altered our lives. Now, David is my constant reminder to be better, to pray and read my scriptures more often, and to live as if Jesus stood beside us.
I hadn’t thought about sharing my testimony as much of an act of service before but service is defined as the act of helping or doing work for someone. But our testimonies can help others find the truth of the gospel and get their spiritual work done.
In Matthew Chapter 22 verses 37-40 it reads:
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like, unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
We have been commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves and have been told that charity is the pure love of Christ. Just like Sister Oscarson said, “Remember that some of the greatest needs may be those right in front of you. Begin your service in your own homes and within your own families. These are the relationships that can be eternal. Even if—and maybe especially if—your family situation is less than perfect, you can find ways to serve, lift, and strengthen. Begin where you are, love them as they are, and prepare for the family you want to have in the future.”
I believe that if we can listen to the spirit, put away our distractions, and lead by example more often, we will be able to create a culture of service within our families and neighborhoods. I know that Heavenly Father brought us into each other’s lives to act as answers to each other’s prayers. I know that the gospel is true and that Heavenly Father’s plan is perfect and that we play a very important role in helping each other get back to Him. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.