When I think of teachings about love and service, I think of the life and ministry of the Saviour Jesus Christ and the normal and natural ways He expressed his love for and gave service to all He encountered. Not only in what He did, but also in how He taught about love and service. This has had a profound effect in my life. One of the Saviour’s parables, the good Samaritan, embodies what unconditional love and service is all about.
“And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
“And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
“And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
“But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
“And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
“And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee” (Luke 10:30–35).
Most times it is not by chance that opportunities come our way to serve others. Often, Heavenly Father uses us to bless those who need that service at that specific time, knowing full well we are the best match to meet those needs and to lift their burdens. Repeatedly, Heavenly Father prepares us for just such opportunities like in the case of Alma and Amulek.
Alma, after having laboured much in crying repentance to the people of Ammonihah, encountered people who hardened their hearts towards his message. They “reviled him, and spit upon him, and caused that he should be cast out of their city” (Alma 8:13). The scriptures continue to teach that he was “weighed down with sorrow, wading through much tribulation and anguish of soul” (Alma 8:14). How would you feel if you were Alma?
Heavenly Father and the Saviour know our needs and will come to our aid whenever we seek Their help. In Alma’s case, he had a visitation from an angel who gave him encouragement. Listen to these words from a portion of the message the angel delivered, “Blessed art thou, Alma; . . . lift up thy head and rejoice, for thou hast great cause to rejoice” (Alma 8:15).
Simple words of encouragement can truly lift a burdened soul. This, however, was not all Heavenly Father had prepared to bless Alma. He had prepared Amulek to receive this prophet of God. Was it coincidence that Amulek just happened to be at the very place Alma entered the city? Not in Heavenly Father’s plan. As we remain on the covenant path and as we seek to serve others, we can be led by the Spirit to those in need. We learn of the service Alma and Amulek gave each other in preparation for their task. As they served side by side, they became inseparable friends, who served God and their fellowman faithfully to the end.
Looking closer at the parable of the good Samaritan, many, like the priest, pass by opportunities to serve by finding excuses and focusing on things that seem more important. Some, like the Levite, come and look and that is where it stops. We may often feel inadequate or feel we have nothing to offer. When we are on the Lord’s errand we are entitled to the Lord’s help.
What did the Samaritan do? What did he have to offer?
The parable teaches that when the Samaritan saw him he showed compassion and went to him. With what he had and with what skills he possessed, he bound up his wounds and took care of him. The parable does not continue beyond than the inn, but in my mind’s eye the Samaritan’s compassion and service to the wounded stranger did not end there.
A talk at Brigham Young University, given by music professor Kirt R. Saville, entitled “Living a Life of Service and Love: What Goes Around Comes Around”, mentions the following important principles regarding service he learnt from his father while growing up:
“Service should be given with a smile and with no expectation of a return.
“Too often we pass by opportunities to serve because we can’t see them.
“Service is seldom convenient.
“Service most often happens when we are on the way to do something else.”1
In the words of Elder M. Russell Ballard, “Oftentimes we are like the young merchant from Boston, who … was caught up in the fervor of the California gold rush. He sold all of his possessions to seek his fortune in the California rivers, which he was told were filled with gold nuggets so big that one could hardly carry them.
“Day after endless day, the young man dipped his pan into the river and came up empty. His only reward was a growing pile of rocks. Discouraged and broke, he was ready to quit until one day an old, experienced prospector said to him, ‘That’s quite a pile of rocks you are getting there, my boy.’
“The young man replied, ‘There’s no gold here. I’m going back home.’
“Walking over to the pile of rocks, the old prospector said, ‘Oh, there is gold all right. You just have to know where to find it.’ He picked two rocks up in his hands and crashed them together. One of the rocks split open, revealing several flecks of gold sparkling in the sunlight.
“Noticing a bulging leather pouch fastened to the prospector’s waist, the young man said, ‘I’m looking for nuggets like the ones in your pouch, not just tiny flecks.
“The old prospector extended his pouch toward the young man, who looked inside, expecting to see several large nuggets. He was stunned to see that the pouch was filled with thousands of flecks of gold.
“The old prospector said, ‘Son, it seems to me you are so busy looking for large nuggets that you’re missing filling your pouch with these precious flecks of gold. The patient accumulation of these little flecks has brought me great wealth.’”2
Alma taught his son Helaman:
“By small and simple things are great things brought to pass. . . .
“And by very small means the Lord . . . bringeth about the salvation of many souls” (Alma 37:6–7).
President Russell M. Nelson has placed great emphasis on the two great commandments taught by the Savior:
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
“This is the first and great commandment.
“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:37–39).
When we love God and Jesus Christ with all of our hearts, we are able to then share this love with our neighbours through acts of kindness and service—the way that the Saviour would love and serve all of us if He were among us today. For as we keep our eyes centred on the Saviour and emulate Him in all we say and do, we will become instruments in the hands of our Heavenly Father in lifting the burdens of others and in bringing joy to their lives.
Duane Donald James Bell was named an Area Seventy in April 2018. He is married to Jocelyn Lee Scott and they are the parents of four children. Elder and Sister Bell reside in East London, South Africa.