According to French professor, historian and writer Chateaubriand, the history of the world could be summed up in a single sentence:
“In the days of service all things are founded, in the days of special privilege they deteriorate, and in the days of vanity they are destroyed.”
This quote hung in the office of Frank William Gay, the father of Elder Robert C. Gay of the Presidency of the Seventy. It’s something he wanted his son to know and understand.
“But what does this really mean?” Elder Gay asked during a devotional broadcast to BYU–Hawaii students on Feb. 23. “It means that all we do must be about service. For relationships to thrive, for societies to flourish and for mankind to fulfill his potential, we must choose to serve.”
Elder Gay addressed three kinds of service that people should embrace in their lives. “These things serve both God and man and are a failsafe equation to becoming your best self.”
‘First, serve God by knowing the truth’
“By following gospel truth, we can overcome life’s challenges, remove the world’s incessant call to compare and aspire, replace misplaced time and attention with things that matter most and avoid becoming a stumbling block in the lives of those around us,” Elder Gay said.
Knowing life’s great truths comes by studying and experimenting upon God’s word in faith, sincerity and with real intent. Trusting in man’s learning cannot be relied upon as an absolute guide for life.
“While true science will always agree with true religion, God’s truth is eternal and scientific reality is ever changing,” Elder Gay said. “There is ever a constant need to be cautious about what the world declares to be reality. Do not ever let yourself be at ease in the world of knowledge.”
Some parts of God’s word and work may not always be understood and can lead to legitimate questions, concerns and doubts. “The Savior knows you personally and He understands your deepest concerns,” Elder Gay said. “But it is only by revelation you will receive all the needed wisdom to sustain and lift you through questions of policy, doctrine and history.”
Elder Gay encouraged listeners to find “your own sacred grove where you can come to know from your own individual and independent awareness of the underlying truth and reality of the living Christ, His restored gospel and how you’re to move your life forward from this place and time.”
‘Second, serve God by forsaking the world’
Just as Joseph Smith was told by God in the First Vision that He had a work for him to do, this is true for each person on Earth.
Elder Gay warned that as students work and study at BYU–Hawaii, they will likely feel inklings to live their lives in the world’s way. “Please understand and know that you cannot do the work God has called you to do through the world’s ways,” he said.
“Revelation from the Lord can direct you in school, family, business and science as well as in Church. Our Father in Heaven needs you, His sons and daughters, to let God prevail in everything you do — whether that is in raising a family, your career or even in giving humanitarian service.”
Each member of the Church needs to have the courage to stand against a world that will increasingly mock, scorn or accuse them.
“Be not ashamed of the Savior. Stand tall. Deny yourself of all ungodliness. Bear the cross of Him who bled and died for us. Turn away from any who would have you compromise what you know to be true and let your service show that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ. Forsake the world.”
‘Third, serve by lifting the disenfranchised and loving your enemies’
Elder Gay told a story shared by C. Terry Warner, an emeritus professor of philosophy at BYU, of two men in the same ward who had been at odds for years. Both had been offended by the other in un-Christlike ways. “Their differences seemed beyond repair,” Elder Gay said.
When one of these men was about to move to another state, he felt uncomfortable with the situation. Before his move, he met with the other man in a Church parking lot. One man grasped the other man’s arm, apologized for all he had done and asked for forgiveness. When the other said he had done nothing to be sorry for, the man replied: “I have loved you less. That is my sin. I have loved you less.”
“Are there friends, students, teachers, family or others around you that you have loved less than you could have?” Elder Gay asked. “Are there some that you have not forgiven or helped in the way you should have?”
Each person serves God by serving the least, the last and the lost. “There is no room for racism and discrimination in the gospel and Church of Christ,” Elder Gay said. “To see others as God sees them requires the sacrifice of any or all justifications, even when resulting from offensive words or actions.”
On the night of Christ’s Atonement, He declared, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34). This is the standard to which one’s actions and words must rise.
In closing, Elder Gay told students: “Do not fear the future, but embrace it by serving God and mankind. Choose this day to serve the Lord in every needful way.”