Good Works

This past year brought an increased emphasis in our church on service to those in our lives, beginning with family, extending to neighbors, our community and basically all of God’s children. Shortly after Russell M. Nelson became president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a name change in the long-time program of monthly member visits to other members signaled a new direction.

No longer home teachers or visiting teachers, those asked to watch over other church members are now ministering sisters and brothers. The traditional structured contact and report has been modified to simply serving those people as we are inspired to do.

Being asked to serve through personal inspiration is humbling as well as challenging, requiring prayer, meditation and sincere inquiry of the Lord. Then one needs to have faith to act on the prompting. Sometimes we may wonder if it is really inspiration or just our own thoughts.

Moroni, the last Book of Mormon prophet, assured us “that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.” Moroni 7:13

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The charge to church members to expand our service in the broader community follows the same lines. Serve where and as you can, when you can. Follow promptings.

All of us are sons and daughters of God, born with the Light of Christ and a desire to serve. All of us who reach out to others and serve in our community need to be aware of those spiritual nudges. When we serve others, we are serving God and doing his work, so a hint as to how or what we should do is not unexpected.

Inspiration, a spiritual nudge, or just an impulse to help, a good deed is never the wrong response. It is better to act on the prompting and help someone than to engage in an internal debate about whether it is really inspiration only to realize you have missed an opportunity to serve.

What happens when volunteering, helping your neighbor and otherwise serving becomes burdensome or discouraging? Perhaps you have reached out to help someone in need and felt your efforts were unappreciated or unwanted. Maybe when it was time to fulfill a service commitment, you wondered why you were wasting time where you were not needed.

Joy D. Jones, the primary general president of the church, spoke about such an experience when she and her husband accepted an assignment to serve, only to find their efforts unwelcome. They tried many approaches, growing increasingly frustrated as their efforts were unfailing rejected.

The breakthrough came when they took a step back and asked themselves, “Why are we doing this? What is our purpose?” They sought the answer in study and prayer, finding the answer in scripture: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength; and in the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him.” D&C 59:5

King Benjamin, one of my favorite Book of Mormon prophets, taught that when we reach out to others, “Ye are only in the service of your God.” Mosiah 2:17

Why do we serve? For many reasons, but perhaps for most of us it stems from a heart of gratitude for all that God has done for us. Charity, love for fellow men and service to others is a tenet common to all religions. We show our love by ministering to the poor, the sick and the needy.

President Jones shared this thought attributed to Mother Teresa:

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. What you spend years building someone could destroy overnight. Build anyway. The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough. Give the world the best you’ve got anyway. You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God ... anyway.

Glenna M. Christensen is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Idaho Statesman’s weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.

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