Ana De Agostini, a former member of the Relief Society general board, gave a BYU Women's Conference address on May 5 about finding one's purpose through consecrated service to others.
“To qualify for and help others attain the blessings of eternal life is our purpose,” she said. “Can we think of a purpose that is more ambitious, more glorious than that?”
De Agostini said when we reach out to others, we are not only serving; we are literally becoming like the Savior as we develop charity, the pure love of Christ. She clarified that service and charity are not synonyms.
“Charity is when we’re doing everything we can to help ourselves and others obtain eternal life,” De Agostini said. “To reach our full potential and purpose in this life, we must know God and Jesus Christ, and we must be more like Jesus Christ.”
She talked about the difference between obedience and sacrifice. Although being obedient means we are on the right path, it puts the focus on ourselves, De Agostini said.
“When we are focused on obedience, we are still thinking about ourselves; we’re facing inward,” she said. “When we’re focused on sacrifice, we’re thinking about others; we’re looking outward.”
De Agostini illustrated this with three scenarios involving a visiting teacher who shows up at the home of a sister she is assigned to visit and sees the sister struggling to bring in groceries and take care of her children.
In the first scenario, the visiting teacher recites the visiting teaching message in 30 seconds or hands the sister a printed copy, and on the way out says, “If you ever need help, let us know.”
In the second scenario, the visiting teacher forgets about the message for a moment and focuses on entertaining the kids while the sister takes care of the groceries.
De Agostini described the third scenario: “A visiting teacher who is trying to have the pure love of Christ inside her heart also helps the sister with the groceries and her children, but in the process, she catches a glimpse of the sadness in her sister’s eyes. She pleads with her Heavenly Father to help her see that sister as He sees her, and to know what she can do to help her sister, according to her needs and the divine inspiration she receives. She follows that prompting and truly ministers to the sister in a profound, meaningful way. She becomes an extension of the love of the Savior to this sister.”
De Agositini said that through Christ we can be filled with godly power to overcome trials in our lives. She shared a personal example of a time in her life when she felt “unusually overwhelmed” with the challenges she was facing. As she prayed, she visualized these problems as a wall of water she could no longer shoulder on her own.
“I felt like I was ready to succumb and to be engulfed and completely overtaken by these menacing waves,” she said.
De Agositini said in that moment, she felt an outpouring of love and heard a voice assure her, “Ana, I know what you're going through.” She said the voice went on to say that because she had been faithful to her covenants, she had been given power from on high to command the waters to subside.
“And as I thought that, I did just that: I commanded the waters, which were a representation of my problems, to go away,” De Agostini said. “And at the same time, I could see the waters coming down until the ground was dry, and I was full of strength.”
She said in that moment, she was given godly power through the Holy Ghost to overcome the world.
“I felt the Holy Ghost because of grace, a blessing of the Atonement of Jesus Christ,” De Agostini said. “I was able to more fully partake of the blessings of grace and the Atonement of Jesus Christ because of the ordinances I have received and the covenants I am keeping.”
De Agostini said this power of godliness can enable us to move forward in consecrated service.
“This is service without applause; this is the pure love of Christ,” she said. “This is service according to the real needs of others as we prayerfully seek the guidance of the Spirit to know from a loving Father what the real needs of His children are.”
There are as many ways to serve and express love as there are people in need of help on the earth, De Agostini said.
“When we humbly ask for Heavenly Father to help us know what to do for one person at one time and then react on it, we are becoming more like Him,” she said. “We are then developing our true identity.”