"S" is for Happiness: Part 2

Of all the activities that can stir both impassioned displeasure and rich fulfillment, I believe this to exist at the forefront.  The individual engaged thus goes out into the unpleasant, inconvenient, depressing, and generally negative world of another individual, healing the wounds inflicted by Nature, life, or others nearby, and providing solace to the one damaged. Sometimes, one feels as though they might well as tie their arm to the back of the railway train and let it slowly drag them across the tracks, for it would take up the same amount of time.  However, on the opposite side, in a noble and charitable spirit, the person involved with this act also wipes away the flowing tears, embraces weary limbs, and sometimes carries a brother/sister onto higher ground, figuratively speaking.  How interesting, I have discovered, that people often discover and dig out the greatest strength, which they have unconsciously buried the deepest as well, when serving others with a genuinely charitable heart.

Interestingly, as I type these words, I am not doing it to bolster my own strength in a "selfless" act of selfishness, as some may believe is possible.  Rather, I take great pleasure in the thought of providing hope for the individual who is suffering, lonely, unhappy, underneath the burden of sin, etc.  Moving forward, when I speak of service, I am not at all speaking of the generalized idea of doing something for someone else.  Rather, service should be, by definition, a specific, individualized approach to meet a person's needs and desires at the present moment.  Perhaps this is why Christ expressed the thought, "If a man compel thee to go with him a mile, go with him twain (two)."  Not just because we should go the extra mile, but we should double our efforts to meeting desires, not just needs. That scripture could also correctly mean that when we do not desire to give service, we give it anyway because it will bless the other person and in so doing, God will strengthen and bless us for our integrity.

Peculiar, perhaps, that one should think of giving service at an inconvenient time as being a matter of integrity.  But as I recall, whenever Jesus healed people, He was amid a multitude of people, cast aside all thought of reputation when eating among "publicans and sinners", ignored societal rules/norms of ostracism when He healed lepers outside Jerusalem, and so forth.  The life of service Jesus gave was not one of convenient service, as indicated by Elder Holland in the beautiful talk, "The Inconvenient Messiah".  Service should always be a matter of charity and doing it purely for the joy it brings, not in self-seeking, self-righteousness, or any other form of pride.  That includes serving people to make friends, to appear as a "good person" in the eyes of your bishop or ward, to establish some kind of reputation, or serving people on conditions such as them being your friends, being "normal", or whatever else.

Corn does not grow on trees and berries do not grow on grape vines, and so it is with service.  The motives must be entirely pure, and offered to others as such.  Charity is the lifeblood, essence, and purpose behind service.  Without it, service either becomes mediocre or corrupted somehow.  As a Latter-Day Saint, I would daresay this is the reason why Paul and Moroni both declared that without charity, man is nothing, because our entire existence here centers on charity-the pure love of Christ.  Nothing we do here, not our ordinances, priesthood, the Book of Mormon, etc. would have any validity at all if we didn't engage ourselves in their restorative influences with a spirit of charity.  It was this way with the Pharisees whom Jesus condemned because they were hypocrites.  Their hearts were "full of dead men's bones and all manner of uncleanness", and yet they kept the Mosaic law more perfectly than anyone.  Why then, were they hypocritical?  Because of the lack of love within.

Going back to the restorative influences of the Church, though, charity enlivens them for this reason.  In the last days, Jesus prophesied that because iniquity shall abound, the love of men shall wax cold.  And charity, though it is on a higher level than such love, influences people to love on a somewhat lower level of friendship and acceptance.  Now, what is the reason for the lack of love?  Iniquity, or, translated differently, could read "lawlessness".  Pride, in other words, being the root of all desire to have no laws from God and consequently commit sin, is the opposite of charity-not hatred.  Think of it. God is love, by what we know from what revelation is.  What is Satan, though...what is his purpose?  Jesus told us in 3rd Nephi 11:29, "For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another."  His purpose is contention, and from Proverbs we read, "Only by pride cometh contention."  (Proverbs 13:10).  How did Satan become who he is?  By pride.  So, in other words, service must be done in charity, so that we can become as our Father in Heaven, and subject ourselves to His loving influence.

I personally can bear my testimony on the power of service.  When you help others, when you are getting outside yourself and helping people feel good, you feel good and attract good to you. Serving for the joy of it blesses me far more than when I set out with selfish motives because of an attitude of self-importance, arrogance, self-pity, unrighteous judgment, or whatever the case may be.  Joy in service comes to those who seek it out for that purpose.  I am reminded of the words of our prophet when he said, in essence, "Those who live to serve others blossom and grow, while those who live to serve themselves shrivel up and die unto themselves."  Love comes when we give it, not when we are constantly seeking it, because any blessing we obtain comes when we have first used our divine free agency to give first.  As a favorite quote of mine declares, "Love without any thought of reward, and your life will never be the same again".     

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