False Prophets, True Prophets and Service

June 4, 2008

“A false prophet tells you what you want to hear. A true prophet tells you what the Lord wants you to hear.”

I heard this a few weeks ago, and it rings true to me. I can’t seem to get it out of my mind. Ever since mankind left the Garden of Eden, he has been stoning the prophets, and otherwise killing them. And that certainly was not because they were telling the people what they wanted to hear.

Is this a true principle that can be applied to service work? We hear a lot about service in the Church as the answer to almost everything, but when service is mentioned it is usually in general terms. One rarely hears anyone explain just exactly what it is. What is service anyway? Is it work that is wanted by those who receive it, or is it work that the Lord wants them to receive? Sometimes I get the idea that service is whatever we want to do for neighbors that will make us feel good rather than what they need or want.

For instance, to many Elder’s Quorums, service is fixing a roof or painting a fence or perhaps doing some yard work for an elderly widow. Perhaps it is collecting some canned goods for donating to a “poor” family that doesn’t have enough to eat. Does this mean that a brother or sister doesn’t need “service” if he can afford to hire a contractor to fix his roof or paint his fence? If he has plenty of food, does that mean he needs no service? What if his biggest need is to overcome the problem of loneliness? Does the Church have service projects to deal with that? It is hard to see how paint, yard work, canned goods, etc. will help a new member deal with his loneliness after he has lost all his friends and family when he joined the Church. And we all know that many new members lose everything socially. They have no friends except us when we do “service” by taking them into our families and circles of friends. And a person does not have to be a new member to be lonely. With the disintegration of the family in our time, loneliness has become a major problem everywhere including the Church.

What many think of as service is highly overrated, in my view. We need to provide the service that the Lord wants us to provide, not what we think we would like to do. The first step is to find out from the Lord and from our fellow ward members what is really needed. And then we must do like a true prophet does and provide what the Lord wants us to provide. Service is wonderful indeed, but that depends on the service. Let’s not be like the Boy Scout who came home all beat up.

“What happened,” his family asked.

“I helped a little old lady across the street,” he replied.

“But why are you all beat up?”

“I guess she didn’t want to go,” he shrugged.

Let us provide the service that is needed. If we aren’t willing to do that, let us just forget about service.