Teachings of Presidents
Chapter 38: Serving in the Church

“Chapter 38: Serving in the Church,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith (2011), 339–44

“Chapter 38,” Teachings: Joseph F. Smith, 339–44

Chapter 38

Serving in the Church

Let us serve faithfully in our callings under the direction of priesthood authority.

From the Life of Joseph F. Smith

When President Joseph F. Smith had served as an Apostle for 44 years and as President of the Church for 9 years, he stood in the October 1910 general conference and said, “I feel happy, this morning, in having the privilege to say to you that in the days of my childhood and early youth, I made a pledge with God and with his people that I would be true to them.” He explained that since that time he had served faithfully in every calling given to him:

“In looking over the experiences of my life, I cannot now discern, and do not remember a circumstance, since the beginning of my experience in the world, where I have felt, for a moment, to slacken or relax in the pledge and promise that I made to God and to the Latter-day Saints, in my youth. … As an elder in Israel I tried to be true to that calling; I tried to my utmost to honor and magnify that calling. When I became a seventy, I felt in my heart to be true to that calling, and I strove, with all the intelligence and fervor of my soul, to be true to it. I have no knowledge nor recollection of any act of mine, or any circumstance in my life where I proved untrue or unfaithful to these callings in the Priesthood of the Son of God. Later in my life, when I was called to act as an apostle, and was ordained an apostle, and set apart to be one of the Twelve, I strove to honor that calling, to be true to it, and to my brethren, to the household of faith, and to the covenants and obligations involved in receiving this holy Priesthood which is after the order of the Son of God. I am not aware that I ever violated one of my obligations or pledges in these callings to which I have been called. I have sought to be true and faithful to all these things.”1

President Smith admonished the Saints to commit themselves to the work of the Lord and to serve devotedly—in priesthood callings, in the auxiliaries of the Church, and in other kinds of unselfish service—always honoring the priesthood authority by which they were called and directed.

Teachings of Joseph F. Smith

The priesthood is given for the ministry of service.

Priesthood is not given for the honor or aggrandizement of man, but for the ministry of service among those for whom the bearers of that sacred commission are called to labor. Be it remembered that even our Lord and Master, after long fasting, when faint in body and physically weakened by exhausting vigils and continued abstinence, resisted the arch tempter’s suggestion that he use the authority and power of his Messiahship to provide for his own immediate needs.

The God-given titles of honor and of more than human distinction, associated with the several offices in and orders of the Holy Priesthood, are not to be used nor considered as are the titles originated by man; they are not for adornment nor are they expressive of mastership, but rather of appointment to humble service in the work of the one Master whom we profess to serve.2

I have known Elders, who, all their lives, have been “minute men;” they have never stopped a moment to question the calls that have been made upon them, neither have they stopped to consider their own temporal interest, they have gone and come at the request of their brethren in the service of the people and the Lord. … They were on hand, like the ready watchman, scarcely stopping to think of themselves. … This they have done with all their hearts, and their labors have never been regarded as burdensome; but on the contrary, they afforded them joy, pleasure and constant satisfaction. … They are still ready and willing to go or come, or do whatever may be required of them, regarding, at all times, their duties in the priesthood of greater moment than any personal considerations.3

The weekly meetings of the priesthood quorums … will not only increase the proficiency of the priesthood by reason of its educative features, but by bringing all the brethren together once a week they will acquire the habit of regular activity as servants of the Lord.4

O God, bless the Holy Priesthood, the noble men, pure men, just men, men of honor, men of integrity, men who have gathered out, many of them, from the nations of the earth for the love of the gospel; and many of them have been born under the covenant of the Holy Priesthood, and I pray God to bless you, my brethren, with an abundance of His goodness, of His mercy and loving kindness, that you may prosper in the land, that you may be indeed truly His servants.5

Auxiliary organizations allow all to serve under the presiding authority of the priesthood.

The Priesthood stand at the head. They preside over all things. It is the duty of those that bear the Priesthood to look after all the organizations of the Church; not only the organization of the Priesthood, but also all the organizations instituted for the benefit of the people at large—our Relief Societies, Mutual Improvement Associations [Young Men and Young Women], Primaries, … and all our organizations that have been devised for the building up of the people of God and the prosperity of truth and righteousness in the land. All of these should receive the supervisory and fatherly care and attention and the deep and abiding interest of the authorities of the Church, whether in the ward or in the general authorities of the Church, because the Priesthood are interested in the welfare of the people of God and the building up and establishment of Zion on the earth. And all these organizations that have been framed, established and ordained of God should look to these presiding authorities and operate in harmony with them; honoring them in their places.6

There is no government in the Church of Jesus Christ separate and apart, above, or outside of the holy Priesthood or its authority. We have our Relief Societies, Mutual Improvement Associations, Primary Associations and Sunday Schools, … but these organizations are not quorums or councils of the Priesthood, but are auxiliary to, and under it; organized by virtue of the holy Priesthood. They are not outside of, nor above it, nor beyond its reach. They acknowledge the principle of the Priesthood. Wherever they are they always exist with the view of accomplishing some good; some soul’s salvation, temporal or spiritual.7

I would like to say that it is expected of the Relief Society, especially the general [officers] of that great organization, that they will have a watchcare over all its organizations among the women of Zion. They stand at the head of all such; they ought to stand at the head, and they should magnify their calling.8

Through [the] auxiliary organizations we have been able to reach out a guiding hand, and to exert an influence for good over many of our young men and women, whom it would have been difficult to reach by the organizations of the Priesthood. So far, these organizations have accomplished a most excellent primary work.9

I pray God to bless all our auxiliary organizations, from the first to the last, that they may do their duty, that they may not sit idly down and neglect to work. … We are only safe when we are doing, when we are at work, when we are in earnest, when we are engaged in the discharge of our duty, and when this condition exists with us we are safe, for then we are in the hands of God and not in the hand of the adversary.10

We should all labor for the welfare and salvation of others.

If we are in the line of our duty, we are engaged in a great and glorious cause. It is very essential to our individual welfare that every man and every woman who has entered into the covenant of the gospel, through repentance and baptism, should feel that as individuals it is their bounden duty to use their intelligence, and the agency which the Lord has given them, for the promotion of the interests of Zion and the establishment of her cause, in the earth.11

We should all be willing to labor for the welfare and salvation of the people—to sacrifice our own desires and feelings for the good of the whole, being perfectly willing to do the bidding of the Almighty, with no will of our own but to serve the purposes of the Lord. … We are laboring for the salvation of souls, and we should feel that this is the greatest duty devolving upon us. Therefore, we should feel willing to sacrifice everything, if need be, for the love of God, the salvation of men, and the triumph of the kingdom of God upon the earth.12

We expect to see the day … when every council of the Priesthood in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will understand its duty; will assume its own responsibility, will magnify its calling, and fill its place in the Church, to the uttermost, according to the intelligence and ability possessed by it. … The Lord designed and comprehended it from the beginning, and he has made provision in the Church whereby every need may be met and satisfied through the regular organizations of the Priesthood. It has truly been said that the Church is perfectly organized. The only trouble is that these organizations are not fully alive to the obligations that rest upon them. When they become thoroughly awakened to the requirements made of them, they will fulfil their duties more faithfully, and the work of the Lord will be all the stronger and more powerful and influential in the world.13

Every man should feel in his heart the necessity of doing his part in the great latter-day work. All should seek to be instrumental in rolling it forth. More especially is it the duty of every one who possesses any portion of the authority of the holy Priesthood to magnify and honor that calling, and nowhere can we begin to do so to better advantage than right here, within ourselves and when we have cleaned the inside of the platter, cleansed our own hearts, corrected our own lives, fixed our minds upon doing our whole duty toward God and man, we will be prepared to wield an influence for good in the family circle, in society, and in all the walks of life.14

The men and the women who are honest before God, who humbly plod along, doing their duty, paying their tithing, and exercising that pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father, which is to visit the fatherless and the widows in their afflictions and to keep oneself unspotted from the world [see James 1:27], and who help look after the poor; and who honor the holy Priesthood, who do not run into excesses, who are prayerful in their families, and who acknowledge the Lord in their hearts, they will build up a foundation that the gates of hell cannot prevail against; and if the floods come and the storms beat upon their house, it shall not fall, for it will be built upon the rock of eternal truth [see Matthew 7:24–27].15

Suggestions for Study

  • What does the example of Jesus Christ teach us about the use of priesthood authority?

  • How is ordination to the priesthood an “appointment to humble service”?

  • What are the purposes of the auxiliary organizations of the Church? How do they bless the members of the Church? Why is it important to know that the auxiliaries function under the direction of the priesthood?

  • What are the benefits of sustaining and honoring one another in our responsibilities and callings in the Church?

  • How should we feel about “laboring for the salvation of souls”? What are some sacrifices that others have made to labor for your salvation? What are you willing to sacrifice for the benefit of others?

  • What does it mean to become “thoroughly awakened” to our obligations? What will be the results if this happens?

  • What does it mean to “humbly plod along”? What blessings come to those who do so?


  1. Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. (1939), 504.

  2. Joseph F. Smith, Anthon H. Lund, Charles W. Penrose, “On Titles,” Improvement Era, Mar. 1914, 479.

  3. Deseret News (weekly), 10 Dec. 1879, 2.

  4. In James R. Clark, comp, Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. (1965–75), 4:195.

  5. In Conference Report, Oct. 1911, 132.

  6. Deseret Weekly, 9 Jan. 1892, 70.

  7. Gospel Doctrine, 144.

  8. Gospel Doctrine, 386.

  9. Gospel Doctrine, 393.

  10. In Conference Report, Oct. 1911, 131–32.

  11. Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, 28 Nov. 1876, 1.

  12. Deseret News (weekly), 10 Dec. 1879, 2.

  13. Gospel Doctrine, 159–60.

  14. Gospel Doctrine, 168.

  15. Gospel Doctrine, 7–8.