This is a General Conference Odyssey post.
“The essence of the gospel is service.” So sayeth Sis. Bonnie L. Oscarson this past Oct. 2017 conference. She also raises these challenging questions:
- What good does it do to save the world if we neglect the needs of those closest to us and those whom we love the most?
- How much value is there in fixing the world if the people around us are falling apart and we don’t notice?
Challenging questions indeed! With so much turmoil in the world, sometimes it’s easier to just fall down and give up, exclaiming, “What in the world can I do?” Jesus Christ simply stated, “This is my gospel; … for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do” (3 Ne. 27:21). As we all know, Jesus Christ didn’t travel across the world to serve, do any big humanitarian service project, or juggle a hundred different obligations. His service was simple, sincere, and singular. And this is all that He asks of us. Starting in our own families.
Pres. Uchtdorf says, “The reality is that there are no perfect families … ” (link). So many problems stem from difficult family situations. There are broken homes, angry family members, financial troubles, and the lack of training to handle the difficult world we live in. If only our homes were true havens, places where one can find security and unconditional love. We were reminded that, whatever age we happen to be, we can make a contribution that brings love into the home. “We are not just receivers and takers. … We are needed to be givers and suppliers.” Children are encouraged to be example setters in their own homes and parents can be consistent teachers of gospel truth.
During General Conference, I felt a power being offered to us. We don’t have to slump down as helpless victims. We have power given to us by a loving Heavenly Father to love others around us. We can reach across the world if we want, but the more important part of the work is right in our own homes, or next door, or down the street. Not all of us are called, or even expected, to do anything magnificent and show-stopping in “saving the world.” But we can save our children, our parents, our friends, and our neighbors simply by showing kindness and love.
One of the greatest acts of love is to hold regular family prayer, family scripture reading, and Family Home Evening. Our daughter, who recently passed away, wrote in her journal how grateful she was that she came from a home that did these three things. This is where she learned that she was loved and that she could love others. Her writing this down in her journal was a great service to us to help in the healing of our broken hearts. This is an encircling service that benefits all in its path.
Instead of feeling the frustration of not being able to do enough for those across the world who are suffering, we are encouraged to give a generous Fast Offering and donate to the Church’s Humanitarian Aid Fund. But let us never forget that there are critical needs in our own homes, wards, and communities.
A friend, feeling despair at yet another bombing across the world, feels grateful that she can bring in a meal to a friend whose child has undergone brain surgery. None of these sufferings are small things, and this young mother is still able to do something extraordinary.
This General Conference is full of golden nuggets that encourages us to reach out to others no matter who we are, where we are, what we’re doing, or how much we can do. We have been challenged to give wherever we can. We can do a little or a lot. We can look outside ourselves and notice a need. We can ask for divine direction and act on a prompting. Any simple act of genuine love will bring us peace, goodwill, and joy.
Elder Stevenson reminds us of Pres. Monson’s ideal birthday gift: “Find someone who is having a hard time, or who is ill and lonely, and do something for them” (link).
Sis. Bingham suggests, “As you reach out to serve and lift your brothers and sisters … you will feel greater peace and healing, and even progress” (link).
Elder Alonso counsels, “Leave our mobile devices behind and with our hands and feet help others in great need. Love without service is like faith without works. It’s dead indeed” (link).
As Sis. Oscarson was speaking, I was reminded of the final words of King Benjamin’s speech (see Mosiah 4–worth re-reading!). He declared that we are all beggars, needing sustenance from the Lord. And when He blesses us, O how we ought to bless the lives of others. In Mosiah 5:2 they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken … which has wrought a mighty change in us.”
For me, this conference has wrought a mighty change in me. I want to learn how to serve better. I want to serve in a way that pleases the Lord. I want to act more swiftly when I am inspired. I want to be more positive, more giving, more kind. I want to impart what I can to my family, my ward, and my neighbors. I want the essence of my service to be the fabric of my gospel, the very likeness of my Savior.
Opposites, but both are necessary Marilyn Nielson