Service Soothes Suffering

Roger Adams
 Senior Software Engineer Brigham Young University - Idaho 
October 6, 2020

Speaking here today is not an opportunity or privilege I thought I would ever have. It definitely validates the campus focus of “every employee a teacher.” I am grateful that I could have a few of my children help out today. It’s always good to have family to share such experiences with. Also—and my wife can attest to this—I can usually only focus on one thing at a time. So, if I focus too much on speaking and just happen to stop breathing, somebody please catch me before I hit the floor.

Back in August, during his excellent devotional address, Brother Tim Belnap spoke in part on the eternal results that come due to service. I want to speak more on the immediate results that service can have. I hope what I have to say will only add to his message and the Spirit we felt.

I want to start my address out with a short video clip that will help me introduce my topic. It doesn’t have any audio, so for those just listening today, I do apologize.

When I am suffering from stress or anxiousness, my wife knows that she can make me smile and feel more at ease by treating me to chocolate in one of its many forms of deliciousness. Her service to me in these times really does help soothe my suffering.

Nobody is immune from suffering, whether it be great or small. Heavenly Father is keenly aware of our situations and has provided ways to help us get through these times. The greatest of all is the gift of His Son. Through the atonement, Christ suffered all so that He would know how to succor us through our seasons of suffering.

In last week’s devotional, Brother Peter Williams brought this exact concept to life by showing the importance of having Christ be the center of our lives. If you missed it, I recommend that you take some time to study it. The insights that he shared can help us take advantage of this great gift that we can receive through Christ. Here is just one small excerpt: “We all have different trials in life. . . . But whatever challenges you will have to bear, you can live successfully here if you make Christ the center of your life![1] And, don’t forget the three suggestions he gave in how to do this: pray, recite, and serve Him. You can find the details to those suggestions by studying the devotional address.

In addition to the gift of His Son, Heavenly Father also provided a method for us to help each other during these difficult periods of our lives. That method is through service.

Jesus Christ is the perfect example of soothing the suffering of others through service.

In Mosiah 3:5 we read what King Benjamin taught about Christ’s service:

For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases. [2]

Our scripture today described some acts of service that can soothe suffering. Let me just read a part of it again.

And now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort . . .” [3]

I really enjoyed reading the experiences of service that so many of you shared in response to my questions on the devotional discussion board this week. I was truly inspired by your comments. Here are just three of the many wonderful insights that I have gleaned from those.

One individual stated, “These experiences have taught me so much about how we all need each other and how our small acts can help build each other up.”

Another wrote, “I have found when I serve others, I am happier and filled with the Spirit.”

And finally: “As we lose ourselves in service for other people, we will find ourselves in the loving arms of our Savior.”

If you haven’t had the chance yet to comment yourself or read the existing quotes, I encourage you to do so. The examples that have already been shared show us how many different ways service can be offered and how impactful that service can be.

In a more general sense, service can soothe suffering in these two ways.

Listen carefully to the following statement. It is kind of a tongue twister, so bear with me. Service soothes the suffering of those being served, and service soothes the suffering of those doing the serving. Let me say that once again: service soothes the suffering of those being served, and service soothes the suffering of those doing the serving. In either of these instances, the service only effectively soothes the suffering if the one being served is accepting of the service. In his BYU devotional address given in October of 1981, Elder William R. Bradford of the Seventy stated:

When one is serving, another is being served. Faith, love of God and fellowman, patriotism, and self-esteem all depend on how we practice serving and being served. Perhaps this principle is best understood if it is referred to as selflessness. Selflessness is the giving of oneself in the serving others and the giving of oneself in being served  by others. . . . In order to understand selflessness, we must also understand its opposite, self ishness. Selfishness is the closing of the door of service to others and the disallowing of others to serve us in love. [4]

When we are suffering, Heavenly Father will often send others to our aid. If we refuse this service, we are in effect refusing our Father’s help.

Let me share a personal example of how our family learned the hard lesson of receiving Heavenly Father’s help by allowing others to serve us. I won’t share too many details, but hopefully you get the point. Our family tries to be self-reliant, but I in particular maybe push it too far sometimes. I try to be the do-it-all handyman, handling most of our home and vehicle maintenance. Our family loves to provide service to others, but we find it hard to allow others to serve us. However, Heavenly Father has ways of humbling us when we tend to be prideful. In the spring of 2015, I was diagnosed with stage 3-4 colorectal cancer. In the ensuing year I had to receive initial chemo and radiation treatments, followed by life-changing but life-saving surgery, and finally hard-hitting chemotherapy treatments. I was literally knocked off my feet. To make matters worse, it seemed like everything around the house started falling apart, and we had two vehicles break down during our treatment trips to Utah. These were things that I would usually attempt to fix on my own, but now it was impossible for me do so, and my family felt the weight of it all. Humbled in our situation, we acquiesced and allowed others to serve us. They were as angels sent from above. Service did soothe our suffering. Our lesson was needed again almost immediately, because the suffering was not over. In the next year, we lost my mother, her sister, two young nephews, our newly wed son-in-law and a grandson. However, this time, we were more willing to accept the service of others. Our suffering was truly soothed through the service of friends and family, and we made it through.

As we allow others to serve us in our times of need, we are allowing Heavenly Father to work through them to soothe us.

Growing up, I had great examples of service from both my parents. I could always tell when someone in the neighborhood was sick because my mother would be cooking her famous custard to deliver to them. Many people have said that her custard was the only thing they were able to eat when they were sick. My father, a mechanic by trade, would spend many a night after work fixing the cars of family and friends. He would only allow them to pay for parts and provided his expertise as service. My parents brought smiles to the faces of the many people they served.

On a similar note, as we listen to the Spirit, Heavenly Father can direct us to serve others that are suffering. One of my favorite examples of someone who learned to listen to the Spirit and soothe others through service is President Thomas S. Monson. In a Church video titled “On the Lord’s Errand,” President Monson said:

The sweetest experience I know in life is to feel a prompting and act upon it and later find out that it was the fulfillment of someone’s prayer or someone’s need. And I always want the Lord to know that if He needs an errand run, Tom Monson will run that errand for Him. [5]

In an April 2000 general conference talk entitled “Your Eternal Voyage,” President Monson related one specific example from his childhood. He and his friends enjoyed playing baseball in the alleyway by their homes. There was one problem, though: a neighbor named Mrs. Shinas. If the ball went onto her property, her large dog would retrieve it and take it to Mrs. Shinas who would place it with all the other balls she had confiscated. In his own words he stated, “She was our nemesis, the destroyer of our fun—even the bane of our existence.” [6] There was some obvious suffering on both the part of the boys and Mrs. Shinas. One evening as he was watering his lawn, young Tommy noticed that Mrs. Shinas’ lawn was dry. He decided to take a few extra minutes and water her lawn. This service continued through the summer. When the fall came, he even cleaned up her leaves. During all this time he had not seen Mrs. Shinas. Early one evening, Mrs. Shinas opened her door and invited Tommy over for cookies and milk. She then presented him with a box filled with all the balls she had confiscated over the years. Let me finish the story in his own words:

The treasure, however, was not to be found in the gift but rather in her words. I saw for the first time a smile come across the face of Mrs. Shinas, and she said, “Tommy, I want you to have these baseballs, and I want to thank you for being kind to me.” I expressed my own gratitude to her and walked from her home a better boy than when I entered. No longer were we enemies. Now we were friends. [7]

Lastly, as we are suffering, Heavenly Father will often inspire us to serve others. By serving others, we will focus more on them and less on ourselves. In an August 5th Facebook post by President Russell M. Nelson, he made the following comment in reference to the much suffering during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Fear, isolation, and loss can be mitigated by immersing oneself in caring for other people. [8]

In the July 2006 New Era, President Gordon B. Hinckley related the following story that hits a little closer to home:

I recall visiting a college campus where I heard the usual, commonplace complaining of youth: complaints about the pressures of school—as if it were a burden rather than an opportunity to partake of the knowledge of the earth—complaints about housing and about food.

I counseled those youth that if the pressures of school were too heavy, if they felt to complain about their housing and their food, then I could suggest a cure for their problems. I suggested that they lay their books aside for a few hours, leave their rooms, and go visit someone who is old and lonely, or someone sick and discouraged. By and large, I have come to see that if we complain about life, it is because we are thinking only of ourselves.

For many years there was a sign on the wall of a shoe repair shop I patronized. It read, “I complained because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet.” The most effective medicine for the sickness of self-pity is to lose ourselves in the service of others. [9]

A crucial component in making service soothe suffering most effectively is our ability to listen to and follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost. In his April 2020 conference address entitled “Hear Him,” President Nelson seemed to plead with us:

It has never been more imperative to know how the Spirit speaks to you than right now. In the Godhead, the Holy Ghost is the messenger. He will bring thoughts to your mind which the Father and Son want you to receive. He is the Comforter. He will bring a feeling of peace to your heart. [10]

As we learn how to listen to the Holy Ghost, we will be guided in how we can be of service to others. Listen, hear, and act.

In conclusion, I want to leave you with a challenge and a promise. In the coming week, pay close attention to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. Listen to how you will be guided to serve someone. Act on that prompting. Then, note how providing that service has either, or in some cases even both, soothed that person’s suffering or soothed your own. If you feel inclined, share your experience on the discussion board.

I know that as we hear Him and do His will to serve others, we will be blessed in ways that we can’t even imagine. He loves us, and He wants us to love each other. Chocolate makes me smile. My parents knew how to make others smile. Tommy Monson found out what made Mrs. Shinas smile. I challenge you to find out what makes someone else smile!

 

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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