Relief Society Lesson 8: Selfless Service

Opening Discussion

Question: What well-known women can you think of who have changed the world through service?

You might want to have some of these quotations written out on paper to post on the board, or perhaps you can read them out to the class as some of these names are mentioned as women who have changed the world (you can certainly add a few of your favorite famous women to this list, too).
————

“Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ~Margaret MeadEvery individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference. ~Jane Goodall

If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one. ~Mother Theresa

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain.
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
~ Emily Dickinson

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. ~Anne Frank

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Question: How does the example of these women inspire you to want to serve others?
(Write replies on one side of the chalkboard)

Question: What are the realities of our lives that make it difficult for us to serve humanity as these notable women have?
(Write replies on other side of the chalkboard)

Spend some time discussing the responses on each side of the chalkboard. Do you see any connections or contradictions? Encourage class members to chime in with their reflections on the two lists.


Seeking Answers in the Scriptures

Suggest that we might find some ideas on how to reconcile our desires to serve and the realities of our lives by looking to the scriptures. Have class members read the following (you might want to hand these out on slips of paper beforehand):

In the Book of Mormon, in Mosiah, King Benjamin speaks of service as a necessary part of our belief in God. He explains that those who have a testimony of the Savior will feel a particular way towards their neighbors.
Read Mos 4:14

In addition, King Benjamin explains that our own sins will be forgiven as we participate in selfless service.
Read Mos 4:26.

This scripture gives us some a heavy list of duties: to give to the poor, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to visit the sick, to lift others spiritually.

Question: Given the restraints that we already discussed (refer back to lists on the chalkboard), how can we do what the verse 26 asks of us? Is it humanly possible?
Read Mos 4:27

Question: Does verse 27 make you feel any better, knowing the Lord doesn’t expect you to “run faster than you have strength” or to serve more than you are able?

Advice from a modern-day Prophet

President Kimball’s words speak to the conflict many of us might feel between our desires to serve and the many limitations we might have in doing so as fully as we would like to.

Have a class member read the following sections from the lesson (you might want to assign this reading before class starts):

“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 in the kingdom. The people of the Church need each other’s strength, support, and leadership in a community of believers as an enclave of disciples. In the Doctrine and Covenants we read about how important it is to “… succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.” So often, our acts of service consist of simple encouragement or of giving mundane help with mundane tasks, but what glorious consequences can flow from mundane acts and from small but deliberate deeds! …”
“If we focus on simple principles and simple acts of service, we will see that organizational lines soon lose some of their significance. Too often in the past, organizational lines in the Church have become walls that have kept us from reaching out to individuals as completely as we should. We will also find as we become less concerned with getting organizational or individual credit that we will become more concerned with serving the one whom we are charged to reach. We will also find ourselves becoming less concerned with our organizational identity and more concerned with our true and ultimate identity as a son or daughter of our Father in heaven and helping others to achieve the same sense of belonging.”

Personal Stories of Selfless Service

Assign two or three sisters from your ward (perhaps calling them during the week before the lesson) to share an experience they had where they performed a small act of service, especially an act of service that was beyond the “organizational lines” that Pres. Kimball refers to in the quotation. Encourage them so speak of the benefits that they experienced from giving service. Suggest that they speak for 3-5 minutes each.

Affirm the importance of small acts of service by sharing this quotation from the lesson:

“Some observers might wonder why we concern ourselves with such simple things as service to others in a world surrounded by such dramatic problems. Yet, one of the advantages of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that it gives us perspective about the people on this planet, including ourselves, so that we can see the things that truly matter and avoid getting caught up in the multiplicity of lesser causes that vie for the attention of mankind.”

At this point you might want to also repeat some of the statements from Mother Theresa or other well-known women that you shared in the beginning, as a way to reinforce the message that each person has the capability to make a difference in the world.

Closing

Close by paraphrasing the well-known story of Spencer Kimball and the woman at the airport, then read the letter from her missionary son. Share a personal experience of the way serving others has impacted your life and bear your testimony of selfless service.

Added Inspiration for the Teacher

Though it probably wouldn’t be possible or appropriate to share a music video in Relief Society, you might want to watch this one as you’re preparing, as an inspiration to you of the good that small efforts can do to change the world:

Jana

Jana is university administrator and History professor. Her soloblog is http://janaremy.com/pilgrimsteps/

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2 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    What an interesting way to present this lesson. I am always amazed by how differently we each approach a RS lesson. Thank you for sharing your point of view on this lesson. It has helped me make my lesson a little more meaningful

  2. Anonymous says:

    Wow—that is a wonderfully creative way to discuss selfless service! I rarely see RS lessons on a macro level as you have set yours.

    Looking back over these past few months at how I’ve been teaching/facilitating in RS (I’m fairly new at it), I realize I’ve had a grand theme going on through each one of them: the first and great commandment, love God. So with this lesson, I think the direction I want to take it is to discuss the difference between self-service and selfless service, and how the key is to develop and embed in our very nature a Christlike, selfless way in which our focus is first and foremost: “God, what would You have me do?” and then working to do His will and not our own, for His purpose and not our own. To that end, I’ll be pulling some quotes and ideas from an Ensign article by William Bradford titled “Selfless Service”, and a very good book by a non-LDS author: When People Are Big and God is Small by Edward Welch.

    By the way, thank you for posting these RS lesson notes. It’s fun to see how others develop their lessons.

    -Brooke

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