Selfless service

As the line of cars drove into the cemetery on an uncomfortably hot summer day, the daughter of the woman to be buried found comfort in seeing one particular man standing near the grave site.

He had been a faithful home teacher for many years. Even after ward boundaries were realigned and her mother's membership records had been transferred to another ward, he still visited occasionally. He was in poor health. The decedent's daughter, who lived several states away from her hometown, had not been aware of his precarious health at the time she invited him to dedicate her mother's grave.

The mother and daughter were the only members of their immediate family who were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The dedication of her mother's grave by a faithful and worthy bearer of the Melchizedek Priesthood was of utmost importance to the daughter. But she felt she had imposed upon this brother in the gospel; it was obvious that he was at the burial site under great physical discomfort. He could barely stand up; walking on the cemetery's uneven terrain was difficult for him. When the time came, he offered the prayer to dedicate the grave.

Several days later, she spoke with this brother, and apologized for asking him to offer the prayer. "I didn't know you're having health problems," she said. "I could have asked someone else and not caused you the discomfort of going to the cemetery."

With a catch in his voice, this bearer of the priesthood responded, "Don't apologize. It was a great honor to dedicate your mother's grave. It was the last thing that I could do for her on this side of the veil. It was my privilege to serve her one last time."

To serve others is a privilege and a blessing. During a Sunday School lesson that focused on the priesthood, a class member said that priesthood authority, when all is said and done, is about serving others. "As a holder of the Melchizedek Priesthood, I can't give myself a blessing," he said. "Someone else with the authority must do that. I can't baptize myself, I can't perform my own marriage ceremony, I can't set myself apart to a calling in the Church. I cannot use the authority and power of the priesthood on myself; I can use it only to serve others. Other brethren call upon it to serve me."

We all receive blessings as we serve others when they need a particular service and not just when it's convenient for us to render that service. The man who dedicated the grave — his understanding of and willingness to give selfless service — is an example for all of us, whether we're male or female, young, old or in between.

President Thomas S. Monson, speaking during the Sunday morning session at the October 2004 general conference, said: "In the New Testament we learn that it is impossible to take a right attitude toward Christ without taking an unselfish attitude toward men. In the book of Matthew, Jesus taught, 'Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me' " (Matthew 25:40).

Further, President Monson gave a far-reaching formula:

"Fill your minds with truth.

"Fill your hearts with love.

"Fill your lives with service."

Many years ago, President Spencer W. Kimball said: "I have learned that it is by serving that we learn how to serve. When we are engaged in the service of our fellowmen, not only do our deeds assist them, but we put our own problems in a fresher perspective. When we concern ourselves more with others, there is less time to be concerned with ourselves. In the midst of the miracle of serving, there is the promise of Jesus, that by losing ourselves, we find ourselves. (See Matthew 10:39.)

"Not only do we 'find' ourselves in terms of acknowledging guidance in our lives, but the more we serve our fellowmen in appropriate ways, the more substance there is to our souls. We become more significant individuals as we serve others. We become more substantive as we serve others — indeed, it is easier to 'find' ourselves because there is so much more of us to find' " (First Presidency Message, Ensign, Dec. 1974, p.2).

During our earthly sojourn, we serve others and others serve us. As we go about serving with a selfless attitude, let us receive service from others with an expression of heartfelt gratitude.