In a recent installment on the On Faith blog of the Washington Post, Michael Otterson expressed some thoughts about how the year-to-year increase in the number of LDS missionaries is not only amazing, but also illustrates what “makes Mormons tick.” It was a good read, well reasoned and measured, but there was one phrase he used that struck me as I read it.
Service to others is so much more meaningful when it’s inconvenient.
To many LDS the truth behind that statement is rather self-evident. When we truly give of ourselves instead of indulging ourselves, we benefit as much if not more than the person we are serving. Jesus stated the seeming paradox this way:
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Matthew 16:25)
Service often takes us of the couch, out our door, and out of our comfort zone. Whether it be missionary work (as Bro. Otterson was discussing), helping at a soup kitchen, sitting up with a sick friend, or tutoring a neighbor child in math, it doesn’t really matter. When we serve we trade time (and sometimes goods) for something of greater value—a sense of meaning and purpose that illuminates our life and brings us closer to those around us. It does this in a way that sending a Facebook post or writing a check could never do.
The LDS Church is focused on service. Children are taught to emulate Jesus by serving one another. Youth are given wide-ranging opportunities to engage in service projects. Relief Society sisters rally around needs within the ward under the coordinating hand of the a Compassionate Service Leader. In priesthood quorums men are taught to worthily bless the lives of others as needs arise—and provide muscle to move and work, when needed.
The service happily and cheerfully provided by so many at inconvenient times helps lift giver and receiver. Non-LDS may marvel (or scoff) at such levels of service, but they are part and parcel to being LDS.
This brings to mind one of my favorite quotes from Joseph Smith:
Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation (Lectures on Faith, 6:7).
While providing a meal for a neighbor or helping to care for a widower’s yard doesn’t rise to the level of sacrificing “all things,” such service is a type and a shadow for what the Lord would have us do: Serve, sacrifice, love, ennoble.
Meaningful service—inconvenient or not—is one thing in which disciples of Christ engage.