Bill Pringle - Bill@BillPringle
I gave this talk in Sacrament Meeting on 8 August, 2010.
It is hard to join the Mormon Church. It is even harder to stay active. Unlike other religions, being a Mormon means much more than where you go to church on Sunday; it is what you do each day of the week. The Mormon Church is clearly different than most other religions.
One of the things I noticed when I first attended a Mormon church service was the number of people who talked to me. I had attended various services for a number of religions, and I was used to having very few people actually talk to me. This was very different. People seemed to come out of the woodwork to say hello and ask me things. It seemed that there were a lot of people who was glad to see me there, and wanted to get to know me. I was impressed. Especially since the person who was supposed to give me a ride to church that Sunday couldn't get a hold of me because of a problem with my phone. When I called to see what had happened, I started to say something about coming the next week. The person said that somebody would drive back to get me and take me to church. Just to pick up one person that nobody really knew. I was amazed that anyone would think I was worth that much fuss.
The second thing I noticed when attending the Mormon Church was the youth. They were polite, well dressed, and seemed to get along with each other. One of my earliest memories in the Mormon church was hearing a teenage boy bearing his testimony with tears running down his face, talking about how much he loved the Lord and was glad to serve Him. At that point, I said to myself, either these people are crazy or they have found something that I need to have. Fortunately, they were not crazy.
What they had found was that doing things for other people brings great blessings. Being nice to others, caring about them, and helping them would actually help themselves more than the people they were serving. At first this didn't seem to make any sense, but there was no denying that the members felt that way. And eventually, when I got to the point where I was willing to serve others, I too learned that you receive great blessings when you are helping others.
As I mentioned before, joining the Mormon Church isn't easy, but there are great blessings that come along with it. What makes it difficult at first is that most of us have to change a lot of things about us. We have to give up coffee, tea, alcohol, smoking, drugs, etc. and most of us had at least one thing on the list of “don'ts”. What made that a little easier was the number of people who took an interest in us, and had faith that we could kick our addictions and bad habits. Having others involved in your struggles seems to make it easier to overcome things. You try harder because you don't want to disappoint your new friends.
The next stage was, in some ways, even harder than giving things up. The commandments changed from “Thou shalt not” to “Thou shalt.” Thou shalt attend church, read your scriptures, say your prayers, do your home and visiting teaching, etc. It turns out that it is easier for many of us to stop doing certain things than it is for us to start doing other things. But it is these kinds of things that makes the Mormon Church so different than other churches: there is as much emphasis on what we should do as what we should not do. Being a Mormon changes us because being a Mormon changes how we live our lives.
At some point, we find that we must transition from being served to serving. People stop fussing over us and asking us how we are adapting to being a member. That is a sign that people no longer consider you a new member. If you think about it, anybody who was baptized or moved into the area after you joined most likely doesn't think of you as a new member. To them, you are just one of the members. I was surprised to find out that Nunu has been a member for less than a year. I thought he was a member for much longer than that. With the number of baptisms we have, it doesn't take long in this church to become one of the old-timers.
One thing that sets the Mormons apart from many other religions is the emphasis on service. We are encouraged to do good, to take care of others, to provide help to friends and strangers alike.
In Matthew 25:34-40 we read about a king who separated the good on his right and the bad on his left:
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed [thee]? or thirsty, and gave [thee] drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took [thee] in? or naked, and clothed [thee]?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done [it] unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done [it] unto me.
We are expected to serve, and while serving our fellow man, we are also serving our Lord. Here are some ways that we can serve:
One way is by talking to investigators and new members. Remember how others showed an interest in you when you were a new member? You can return the favor by talking to those who are investigating the Church. Just walk up to anyone who is sitting next to a missionary and say "hi". Ask them their name, how they like church, etc. Tell them you are glad they came, you hope they enjoy their visit, and you hope they will come back soon.
That was very hard for me to do at first. I was very quiet and didn't like talking to strangers, but when I remembered how much I appreciated people talking to me when I first joined the church, it made it a little easier. I also found that the more often I did it, the easier it became. And eventually I stared to like talking to people and getting to know them better.
Another way of providing service is by doing our home and visiting teaching. Each adult member should have a home or visiting teaching assignment. This involves more than simply visiting people, it basically means loving our families and making sure they have what they need. Look around and see who is missing. Call them, see why they weren't there, and tell them you miss them.
I can promise you that as you strive to be a good home or visiting teacher, that you will receive great blessings in return.
Another way we can provide service is to magnify our callings. This means that we not only do the things we are expected to do, but we go the extra mile. Instead of thinking about what you have to do, think about what you can do.
In D&C 58:26-28, we read:
26 For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.
27 Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
28 For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.
This scripture is often quoted to show us how we should constantly be looking for good things that we can do. I have always wondered why most people stop quoting there, because the next verse contains what I think of as an even more important message:
29 But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.
This tells me that if you do the right things, but continually complain about having to do them, if we only do what the branch president says, but keep thinking he is wrong, if we do the bare minimum of what we think we have to do and still feel that we shouldn't have to do even that much, then we are in danger of severe repercussions.
The commandments started out as “Thou shalt not”, changed to “Thou shalt”, and finally ended up with “Thou mayest”. We learn some of the things that we can do to help others. Instead of doing things because we have to, or we were asked to, instead we do them because we want to help others. When we get to that point, we start getting tons of blessings for our service.
King Benjamin gave a famous talk in the Book Of Mormon. For me, King Benjamin's speech has always been associated with Mosiah 2:17:
17 And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.
And that is why we get great blessings for serving others - because when are serving others, then what we are actually doing is serving the Lord.
Here is a story about someone who went the extra mile:
Few people enjoy waiting in long lines. Fewer still enjoy waiting in long lines when there is a crying baby.
This is a story of a young mother with a two-year-old daughter who was stranded by bad weather in [the] Chicago airport. The daughter was crying, but the mother wouldn't pick her up. She would only nudge the child with her foot as they slowly moved up in the line. Needless to say, there were a lot of very cranky people behind her in the line.
Hour after hour she stood in one line after another, trying to get a flight to Michigan. The terminal was noisy, full of tired, frustrated, grumpy passengers, and she heard critical references to her crying child and to her sliding her child along the floor with her foot as the line moved forward. No one offered to help with the soaked, hungry, exhausted child.
Then, the woman later reported, ‘Someone came towards us and with a kindly smile said, “Is there something I could do to help you?” With a grateful sigh I accepted his offer. He lifted my sobbing little daughter from the cold floor and lovingly held her to him while he patted her gently on the back.
It turned out that the young mother was two months pregnant and threatened with miscarriage, so she was under doctor’s instructions not to carry the child unless it was essential. She was without food or clean clothing for the child and without money. The kind stranger asked if the baby could chew a piece of gum. When she was settled down, he carried her with him and said something kindly to the others in the line ahead of her, about how she needed their help. They seemed to agree and then he went up to the ticket counter [at the front of the line] and made arrangements with the clerk for her to be put on a flight leaving shortly. He walked with them to a bench, where they chatted a moment, until he was assured that they would be fine. He then went on his way. About a week later she saw a picture of Apostle Spencer W. Kimball and recognized him as the stranger in the airport’ ” (Edward L. Kimball and Andrew E. Kimball, Jr., Spencer W. Kimball , 334).
I love this story for several reasons. Spencer W. Kimball was the president of the church when I was baptized. He is my favorite prophet, and was well known for his love of others and for his service.
It is my hope and my prayer that each of you gain a strong desire to perform service for others, to help your loved ones as well as strangers who are in need of help. I know that this church is true, and that the Lord will bless us when we perform acts of service because of love. Not because we think we should, or because we will get great blessings (which we won't if that is why we are doing things), but rather because we love our Father in Heaven and we want to do His will.