In a chapter titled ‘Service and the Second Commandment,’ Neal A. Maxwell wrote:

. . . .Indeed, in the macropolitical processes and trends in the world, we are seeing the large scale consequences of individual selfishness; there is even in some areas a possible loss of nationhood in the recurrence of sectionalism and tribalism. There is surely a hardening of regional and class interests. These trends are obvious manifestations of selfishness and of the coarsening of people. The less love, the less service. The more selfish assertiveness, the less neighborliness.

These times, therefore, with their hardening effects and the abnormal way in which people will be selfish “lovers of their own selves” and when “the love of many shall wax cold” will make the giving of wise and loving service to others a particular challenge, like maintaining one’s balance on the tilted deck of a sinking ship. (2 Timothy 3:2; Matthew 24:12; Doctrine and covenants 45:27.)

Yet, regardless of the times, one of the vital but hard things all of us must do is to keep serving—for among “all these things” will be some of our most choice mortal experiences that occur as we serve others in fulfillment of the second commandment.

Isn’t it interesting that of the many ways in which the Lord might have phrased the object of the “thou shalt” in the second great commandment, He chose the word neighbor—not mankind, not organizations, not people, and not society, but neighbor. 

It has only been in recent times, since people started saying that they loved all mankind, that neighbors have suffered so much neglect.

In keeping the second commandment, the most significant and basic service we can regularly render unto others will emerge from our most basic roles—as brothers and sisters, as parents, as neighbors, as disciples. What we do vocationally and professionally matters, of course—and sometimes very much. But those of us who try to escape from, or neglect, our basic roles will find that we have only made the effective keeping of the second commandment even more difficult.

Keeping the commandments and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ are the two most relevant things we can do to assist our fellowman in our time. In addition to keeping the second commandment by direct service to others, what a service we render others when we do not commit adultery or steal, even though these become more and more fashionable!

But genuine service to others will clearly set us against the prevailing political and social tides. Thus, among “all these things” that can give us good experience in mortality is the experience of giving loving service in selfish societies; it is another hard doctrine for hard times.

Parenthetically, the adversary, who displays no true love, has sought (with renewed efforts in recent times) to cripple the family, the natural locus of so much love. The adversary, interestingly enough, has even tried to ruin the word love itself, making it seem to be a one-dimensional thing, a base act instead of a grand thing. If the adversary could have his way, loving would mean only copulating—and even that in violation of the seventh commandment. Such a narrowing is nonsense, for it is like saying freedom is merely voting or that literature is simply words in print. Carnality is always such a profound contraction of life; it destroys even that which it pretends to focus upon!

Serving others is one of the best ways to nourish our testimonies, but, more than in the past, paradoxically we will need to be spurred on to give service by our testimony and by the counsel of the prophets. We can thus go on feeling responsible even when human institutions seek to excuse us from our duties to others—or when service seems to be such a futile gesture.

In a very real way, service, to be understood and effectively pursued, requires us to restructure our view of things from a worldly to a heavenly point of view. To do this is simple—but not easy. It is somewhat like flicking a light switch from “off” to “on” lighting up a room so that we see more clearly (or for the first time) all the possibilities for service that we simply did not see in the darkness of devotion to self. ~Neal A. Maxwell, All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1979) 52-4. . . .continued

(Posts with a preamble asterisk * are for a more general audience and not specific to teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.)

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