Yesterday was our ward conference. This is the talk I gave:
As I spoke about in January, one of our main focuses this year is to reach out to our brothers and sisters that we don’t see as often as we’d like. Following the Stake Presidency’s example, we want to help all of our members remember the spiritual experiences they’ve had, and help them build on that. The inspiration for this is in the words of Alma when he asked:
And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?
Whether we are the newest convert or the most experienced member, these are good questions to ask of ourselves regularly. It leads to the question of how do we experience that rebirth, receiving Christ’s image, that change of heart? The simplest, most direct answer, is in our service to others. It is a common philosophy in the Christian world that we need to develop a personal relationship with Jesus. People will use the phrase, “He is my personal Savior.” It is vital to have that level of loyalty and testimony, but how do we demonstrate our commitment? How do we build that relationship with a being that we cannot physically be with? Again, it is through our service to others.
King Benjamin taught this principle beautifully when he said:
And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.
President Kimball explained why this sort of service is so essential:
God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other…
Perhaps this principle was taught most clearly by the Savior in one of his parables. He spoke of a King who commends a righteous man for all of the good works that he did for the King:
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
David O. McKay summarized it when he said:
There is no other way that you can serve Christ. You can kneel down and pray to him, that is good. You can plead with him to give you his guidance through the Holy Spirit—yes, we do that and must do it. We have to do it. But it is these practical, daily visits in life, it is the controlling of our tongue, in not speaking evil of a brother, but speaking well of him, that the Savior marks as true service.
Of course President McKay recognized that we each have needs to be filled. The challenges each generation faces may be a little different, but the essentials remain the same. We have families to care for and bills to be paid; some suffer from ill health. Whatever our circumstances, we must find a way to look beyond our own needs and think of others. Sister Cheryl C. Lant, the Primary General President said it this way:
…there’s so much talk in today’s world about “are my needs being met?” You hear that so much… And I think if we could just get to the point where we are thinking about someone else’s needs, our needs are met.
I’m sure there are many of you who have experienced this. It amazes me how when you serve others, your own problems seem to be less significant. The promise of the Savior rings true when he promised that “he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” If you haven’t experienced this miracle, then test it out. As members of the Church, we have committed to “mourn with those that mourn… [and to] comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” This is a large part of our baptismal covenant, and as we take upon us the name of Christ, our actions should lead us to act in Christ’s behalf for the benefit of humankind.
Going back to the question of how we receive Christ’s image in our countenances, it comes as we do what Christ would do. We see Christ’s compassion for us as our prayers are answered through the actions of others. We see His countenance in the good and righteous people around us. As we serve others they will see that in us. There is an old hymn by William Longstaff called Take Time to Be Holy. The lyrics are beautiful, and share a message of following the Lord and finding joy and love as a result. In the second verse are the words:
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.
I like the order of that. We first need to look to Christ. He is our example in everything. “There is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God.” We need to read His words; pray to the Father through His name; take upon us His name through baptism and as we partake of the Sacrament. As we do those things, we shall become like Him. All that he did was for the benefit of others. He was not concerned about his own health, his own welfare, his own life even. He looked for opportunities to teach and to serve. As we do those things, others will see Him in us.
I suppose we could ask ourselves these questions: Are we lacking Christ’s image in our countenance? Do we notice it ourselves? Do others notice it? Why are people NOT seeing Christ in us? Others will not see Christ in us if we are full of contention, for we know that “the spirit of contention is… of the devil”. Christ is rarely seen in the “wars, and rumours of wars” that we seem to be surrounded by. We don’t see Christ in the violent, immoral, and coarse entertainment that is presented to us in the modern media. Unfortunately, there are countless ways in which we can lose a portion of the Spirit. As I mentioned, contention and dissension can be one of the biggest causes of people losing the Spirit. Whether it is at home, Church, work, school, or anywhere, there is no place for a person with a Christ-centred heart to mock or tear down others. It can tear apart homes and be a divide among friends. If you have been wronged, forgive. If you have done wrong, repent. Do not delay in setting things right with God. Use that precious gift of the atonement of Christ.
Now, I share this message today with full knowledge that I have much work to do myself. I share this as what our ideal should be. I appreciate the support you’ve given me as I’ve tried to serve you. You have accepted me in my imperfection, and helped me to grow. I have been impressed with the faith that the members of the Church have in their leaders. It is wonderful. But we should also have faith in those around us. The man or woman beside you or across the chapel from you may need your help. They may just need you to believe in them and then they will be able to accomplish great things. Do you have a vision of what we can accomplish together? Each of us, individually, has the capacity for greatness, but our ability to bring about change is magnified exponentially when we work together with a common purpose. If we each look to the Savior and follow his example, and then reach out to others, there is no limit to the good that can be done. Our families will be happier. We will have more people attending and participating as active church members. Our missionary work will increase. We can strive to be like the people of Zion, who were “of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness.” I know that we are capable of this, and we must try harder if we are to claim the blessings that our Heavenly Father has in store for us. I so testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Spencer W. Kimball, “Small Acts of Service,” Ensign, Dec. 1974, 5
 David O. McKay, Conference Report, October 1955, pp. 128-130
 Cheryl C. Lant, Roundtable Discussion, Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting: Building Up a Righteous Posterity, February 9, 2008
 Words: William D. Longstaff, circa 1882, Music: “Holiness,” George C. Stebbins, 1890.