Friday, May 4, 2018

President Dallin H. Oaks on our motivations for serving

President Dallin H. Oaks (born August 12, 1932) served as president of BYU from 1971-1980.  He was then appointed as a justice of the Utah Supreme Court, and resigned when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1984. He became President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles and also 1st Counselor in the First Presidency in January 2018.
"People serve one another for different reasons, and some reasons are better than others. Perhaps none of us serves in every capacity all the time for only a single reason. Since we are imperfect beings, most of us probably serve for a combination of reasons, and the combinations may be different from time to time as we grow spiritually. But we should all strive to serve for the reasons that are highest and best.
"What are some of the reasons for service? By way of illustration, and without pretending to be exhaustive, I will suggest six reasons. I will discuss these in ascending order from the lesser to the greater reasons for service.
"Some may serve for hope of earthly reward....
"[Some are] motivated by a personal desire to obtain good companionship....
"Some may serve out of fear of punishment....
"Other persons may serve out of a sense of duty or out of loyalty to friends or family or traditions....
"There are still higher reasons for service. One such higher reason for service is the hope of an eternal reward....
"The last motive I will discuss is, in my opinion, the highest reason of all. In its relationship to service, it is what the scriptures call 'a more excellent way' (1 Cor. 12:31)....
"Even the most extreme acts of service—such as giving all of our goods to feed the poor—profit us nothing unless our service is motivated by the pure love of Christ.
"If our service is to be most efficacious, it must be accomplished for the love of God and the love of his children."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Why Do We Serve?," General Conference October 1984
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

When Elder Oaks was sustained to the Quorum of Twelve in April 1984, he was serving as a justice on the Utah Supreme Court. He had to finish that obligation before he was set apart as an apostle, so this was his first talk after having formally begun his service. He had some time in the intervening months to ponder the lifetime of service he had been called to devote; that may have contributed to this particular topic.

Elder Oaks shares six of the possible motivations we might have for serving one another; he elaborates and gives examples in the full talk, which is worth reviewing. It's interesting to ponder which of those motivations is behind our efforts, and to consider whether that has changed over time as we've developed and matured in the gospel and service of the Savior.

Of course, the highest and noblest motivation is pure, Christlike love for God and for our fellowmen:

Elder Oaks notes that with this motivation, our service becomes "most efficacious," perhaps both on behalf of those we serve as well as ourselves. We must seek always to do the right things for the right reasons, and this is a prime example of that opportunity.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

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