As the youth of the Church begin a new year they have also been given a new Mutual theme which will be the focus of youth conferences, camps, programs and lessons throughout the year. This year’s theme is found in the Doctrine and Covenants 4:2, “Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.”
The word “embark” prompts thoughts of setting sail on a sea voyage. We hope that in 2015 our youth will set out on a journey of discovering the many ways they can serve those around them and in so doing will tune their radars into listening for “SOS” signals which will lead them to find those who need a helping hand.
Service has always been an important part of the Church’s youth program. Youth come together to work on service projects, help the elderly with yard work, assist the needy and donate their time to helping worthy causes. Those efforts are noteworthy and much appreciated by those whom they serve.
Youth are also encouraged to share the good things they are doing with friends and acquaintances through social media venues such as Facebook and Instagram often inspiring others to perform their own acts of service. There are times when this sharing is appropriate and inspiring and does much good. For some examples, check out the new music video which can be found on the Church’s youth website at www.lds.org/youth/theme/2015.
However, there is another aspect to service which we hope our youth will also learn this coming year. It involves tuning into the quieter and more private SOS signals which individuals sometimes send out and serving secretly or anonymously with no expectation of reward or recognition.
This aspect of service is exemplified by a story which a friend recently told me about her then-16-year-old daughter, Katie. She had noticed the sadness of a recently widowed woman in her ward and decided to befriend her. My friend noticed her daughter’s frequent absence and when asked where she had been, Katie simply said that she had been over to this widow’s home for a little visit. She was often seen with a flower in her hand as she headed to her new friend’s home or was noticed as she raked the leaves in her yard. The mother soon realized that no one had asked her daughter to befriend this sister, rather she had seen a need and decided to quietly fill it all on her own. The two formed a sweet friendship which lasted until the widow passed away many years later.
This young woman understood the joy of performing service quietly and without fanfare. The Savior Jesus Christ taught, “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth” (Matthew 6:1,3). There is much to be said for the quiet acts of service of which no one ever knows except the one being served and the server.
The best place to perform this kind of service is within our own families. Seeing a need and filling it will increase love in both the giver and the recipient. Helping a younger sibling with homework, taking out the trash without being asked, straightening a room while no one is looking, offering a word of encouragement to a discouraged family member are all small acts of quiet service which help invite love and the Spirit into a family and a home. The entire family is blessed when even one person in the family is watching for small and quiet ways to serve those around them. How much more is the whole family blessed when everyone is looking for ways to serve?
Opportunities to serve in quiet, simple ways are also to be found outside the family and home. The Church setting provides many opportunities for service and it is often the smallest of generous gestures which can make the biggest difference in others’ lives. Helping a young busy mother with her children during sacrament meeting, inviting someone who is alone to sit by you, making an effort to reach out to someone who has trouble fitting in, or calling someone who has missed a meeting can all make a world of difference to someone who is struggling.
A revelation from the Lord given through Joseph Smith encourages us to, “be faithful; ... succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees” (Doctrine and Covenants 81:5). There is no better way to emulate the Savior than to show Christlike love by serving those around us and to encourage, model and teach our children to do the same. When our youth lift others, they begin to see themselves as worthwhile and valuable members of a community. When they look outside of themselves for ways to serve, their own problems seem less daunting.
There is value in both kinds of service — group service projects which often benefit many, and the small and quiet acts of love which touch only the giver and receiver. The 2015 Mutual Theme provides a great reminder to be anxiously engaged in listening for the SOS signals of those in need and finding ways to quietly and faithfully follow the example of the Savior to love one another.