The Blessings of Service

Kent L. Barrus


Brigham Young University–Idaho Devotional

July 8, 2008



I am so grateful to be with you this day, joined together in the spirit of gathering that we may be edified together.  As we have exercised our agency to be here today we have invited the Holy Ghost to teach us during this sacred and set apart devotional time. It is my hope and prayer that the spirit may attend and teach each of us one-on-one and that we all may come away from this devotional with new insights into how we can be better servants in Heavenly Father’s kingdom.


I want to thank President and Sister Clark for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today and for their effort and hospitality in making this a special day for me and my family.


I am grateful to have my family here in a show of support as I share my thoughts with you. I have been blessed in my life to have been surrounded by parents and parent’s in-law who have been exceptional examples of living the gospel and have shown and continue to show unconditional love to me as I work to become the person Heavenly Father wants me to be. 

I have been blessed in my life to have seven wonderful children who have taught me how to love and the joy that comes from fatherhood as we strive together to build our family in the light of the gospel.


Finally, I am especially grateful to have my eternal companion and the love of my life with me today.  My wife Jennifer.  She is a strength beyond words to me, always encourages me to do the right thing, and is a wonderful mother to our children raising them in love and righteousness.  I am so thankful for her, I love her, and I am so glad to be sharing life’s journey together.




I have the privilege of working here at BYUIdaho where I am continually edified as I interact with employees and students who know why we are all here and who strive to live the gospel each day.  My office is in the Spencer W. Kimball building.

On the second floor of this building is a small, powerful display highlighting the life of this remarkable servant of the Lord who literally wore out his shoes in the service of God and his fellowman.  This display contains a beautiful painting of President Kimball, graced on both sides by thought inspiring quotes made by this prophet of the Lord.  Each day as I climb the flight of stairs to the second floor, one of these quotes always catches my attention and I take a moment’s pause to read this great council.

 “God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs.”1

What a profound and powerful statement from a prophet of God.  Each day as I reflect on this idea, I ask myself, how may I be an instrument in the Lord’s hands to meet the needs of those around me? It is this idea on which I wish to focus my message to you today.


Brother and Sisters, there are many among us, including ourselves from time-to-time, who have become bereft of hope because of the challenges of life. Many among us feel that their lives are meant to be lives of darkness and despair, that there is no joy, that there is no hope, that there is no light. These feelings of darkness can come from disappointment, discouragement, loneliness, past experiences, and sometimes sin.


The good news is that through the gospel of Jesus Christ we can find our way out of the darkness and into the light.  The Prophet Joseph Smith revealed this principle in the Doctrine and Covenants, “If your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you”2. What a promising message of hope.


I enjoy spending time learning about the histories of hymns and the people who authored and composed them.  I personally find much deeper meaning when I understand the background that inspired a particular hymn.


One such story is about the hymn “Lead, Kindly Light”. It describes the Savior as a guiding light during our personal moments of darkness.


As a young Catholic Priest from England, John Henry Newman became very ill while visiting Italy in 1833.  He was unable to travel for almost three weeks and during that time became despondent with his situation.  He sat on his bed and sobbed bitterly.  When asked by his nurse what was wrong, all he could answer was that he had “work to do in England.”  Finally, he was able to gain passage on an orange boat bound for Marseilles; one step closer to England.  While passing through the Straits of Bonifacio the ship was beset by a dense fog.  For one week the ship sat anchored, unable to move, surrounded by a thick, gray fog.  It was during this time that John Newman pleaded for the Savior’s help and penned the words to the hymn “Lead, Kindly Light”

Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom, lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home; lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still will lead me on.
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till the night is gone.

Brothers and Sisters, our Savior is the kindly light.

I have had the opportunity to visit the coastlines of several countries around the world. I have always enjoyed seeing and visiting some of the many lighthouses that exist there, some very old.  I have marveled at the wondrous comfort that these lighthouses must have given to the seamen who used their light to guide them safely through the rocky shoals.

I have learned that when seas were particularly bad or visibility extremely poor, the lighthouse keeper would ask those living along the coast to put lanterns in their windows, thus adding definition to the shoreline during the most dangerous times. These lights were referred to as the lower lights. They too are credited with keeping many ships from peril. These lower lights inspired the hymn: "Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy."

This famous hymn was written by Philip Bliss over a century ago. He was inspired during a sermon by the famous preacher D.L. Moody while living in Chicago. In that sermon, the preacher talked about a ship that was trying to find Cleveland harbor in the midst of a terrible storm at night. The waves were large, the night sky without a star.  The captain strained his eyes in the darkness yearning to find a signal of light by which to guide the ship.

When finally a single light from the lighthouse was spotted, he turned to the pilot and asked:

“Are you sure this is Cleveland harbor?”

“Quite sure, sir,” the pilot replied.

“Then where are the lower lights?” the captain continued.

“Gone out, sir,” the other man answered.

“Can you make the harbor?” the captain asked anxiously.
“We must, or perish, sir,” the pilot replied.4

With that he sailed his ship into the harbor, passed the lighthouse, missed the channel, and was dashed against the rocks. It was a terrible tragedy. Many lives were lost.

The preacher concluded the story with these words, "Brothers and sisters, the Master will take care of the lighthouse. Let us keep the lower lights burning."

Brightly beams our Father's mercy
From his lighthouse evermore,
But to us he gives the keeping
Of the lights along the shore.

Dark the night of sin has settled,
Loud the angry billows roar;
Eager eyes are watching, longing,
For the lights along the shore.

Trim your feeble lamp, my brother;
Some poor sailor tempest tossed,
Trying now to make the harbor,
In the darkness may be lost.

Let the lower lights be burning,
Send a gleam across the wave!
Some poor fainting struggling seaman,
You may rescue, you may save.5

Through the darkness that can sometimes accompany life, our Savior shines brightly to guide men to the safety of the harbor.

Sometimes, however, as the storm increases with the ever-present shore drawing near, those lost in the waves cannot see the harbor. Then, through the darkness and windswept waves towering over them, lights appear along the shore. The way becomes clearer as the lower lights burn to guide the struggling to a place of safety.

As we learn to become the lower lights to bring people into the loving arms and peaceful safety of our Savior, we discover that love is the core principle.  Love of one another has been the center of every Zion society which has every existed on the earth. 

King Benjamin, the great Book of Mormon prophet, taught that the atonement of our Savior and showing love one for another are tightly linked.  “For the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God, I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.”6


As we strive to make a difference in other’s lives we can become a source of great comfort and blessing to those we serve.  But it doesn’t end there.  We can also become the recipients of blessings in our own lives and are often the ones who benefit the most.  Service to others deepens the meaning of our sojourn on the earth and brings us closer to our Savior. When we sacrifice for others we become refined.  We discover that our problems are not as great, that our joy has increased, that our spirit has become strengthened, and that our capacity to love grows. 

I would like to suggest six areas in which we might find opportunities to bless the lives of others through our service.

1.      Families.

2.      Missionary Work.

3.      Neighbors.

4.      Weary and Sick.

5.      Temples.

6.      Church Callings.


1.      Families

The Apostle Paul warned that in the times which we now live, “Men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, … lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God”.7

With Satan and his followers being relentless in their goal to win the hearts of the children, there is no greater place where love is essential than in our own homes.  Love is the essence of protecting our families. Our homes should be a haven of love. The character of a righteous family exists through love, courtesy, respect, and placing other family member’s needs ahead of our own.

I wish to speak for just a moment to current and future mothers and fathers.

In The Family: A proclamation to the world, we learn many important things about protecting our families through serving them.

“Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live.”8  

Sisters, please own this obligation to serve and teach.  Many future generations depend on you to teach correct principles as you nurture your children.

“By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.”8

Brethren, I hope you take this responsibility seriously.  Far too many fathers in the world are choosing to live a life of self-centered ambition.

Brethren, never, ever find yourselves deserving the chastisement of the Lord as recorded in the book of Jacob, “Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them; and the sobbing of their hearts ascend up to God against you”9 .

A very sad and piercing description of what not to be. Brethren, let us commit to serve our families and put their needs above our own.

Again quoting from the family proclamation.

“Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.”8

If we look to the scriptures, there are many great examples of how to serve in our families:

Father Lehi frequently bore testimony to his family, Nephi taught us to provide for our families, and Alma the elder prayed for his wayward son: “Behold, the Lord hath heard the prayers of … thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth”.10

As we learn, teach, pray and serve together as families we will be united in a common goal which will richly bless many generations to come.

2.      Missionary Work

We belong to a church of great missionary work. We are to seek opportunities to show love for our fellow man as we share our personal testimonies. The restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the great source of hope in the latter days. In a world of evil influences we turn to the gospel to bring hope to our families, our friends, and our society. 

We show our love for others by standing as a witness of God “at all times and in all things, and in all places”11 .

Our message is simple:

...come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungoldliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ;...

Our place is not to judge, but to invite all to come unto Christ regardless of station in life and circumstances.

President Thomas S. Monson taught us concerning this principle, “Some point the accusing finger at the sinner or the unfortunate and in derision say, “He has brought his condition upon himself.” Others exclaim, “Oh, he will never change. He has always been a bad one.” A few see beyond the outward appearance and recognize the true worth of a human soul. When they do, miracles occur. The downtrodden, the discouraged, the helpless become “no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19).13

As we show an outpouring of love for those who need the gospel in their lives, a great change of heart can occur.  People can learn of their potential and relish in the joy and blessings they receive as they change their lives.

In the popular musical “My Fair Lady”, the flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, expressed her appreciation for a friend who helped her realize her potential through the way in which she was treated. “I should never have known how ladies and gentlemen behave if it hadn’t been for Colonel Pickering,” Eliza explained, “He showed me that he felt and thought about me as if I were something better than a common flower girl.  You see … apart from the things one can pick up, the difference between a lady and a flower girl isn’t how she behaves but how she is treated.  I’ll always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins because he always treats me as a flower girl and always will.  I’ll always be a lady to Colonel Pickering because he always treats me as a lady and always will.”14

Again, quoting from President Monson, “When we treat people merely as they are, they may remain as they are. When we treat them as if they were what they should be, they may become what they should be.”13

People need to be treated as who they really are, sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father. Many times our brothers and sisters have feelings of hopelessness in a disparaging world.  As we keep ourselves close to the spirit, we are able to receive and understand the promptings necessary to truly be an instrument in the Lord’s hands to bring hope to those without hope.

In the book of Psalms those in anguish are given a taste of the hope the gospel brings, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”15

Through our simple acts of kindness and offers of friendship we can be as the rising sun to bring the joy that cometh in the morning.

The Lord wants all to return to the safety of his fold and understands the challenges along the way.

"Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world, and you are of them that my Father hath given me; and none of them that my Father hath given me shall be lost."16


The Lord expects us to assist him in the work of seeking out the lost sheep and returning them to his fold.

The hymn Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd states this well,

”Hark! He is earnestly calling,
Tenderly pleading today:
“Will you not seek for my lost ones,
off from my shelter astray?

Green are the pastures inviting;
Sweet are the waters and still.
Lord, we will answer thee gladly,
“Yes blessed Master, we will!
Make us thy true undershepherds;
Give us a love that is deep.
Send us out into the desert,
Seeking thy wandering sheep.”

Brothers and Sisters, sweet is the peace the gospel brings. Let us not miss an opportunity to share this happy news.


3.      Neighbors

One of the most famous questions of all time was asked anciently by Adam’s son Cain after he murdered his brother Abel.  In response to the Lord questioning the whereabouts of Abel, Cain replied, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”18

An interesting question and one that we all should consider. Are we our brother’s keepers? 

One answer to this question comes from the teachings of Alma:

 “… and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.”19  Are we our brother’s keeper?  Are we our neighbor’s keeper? The answer for all those who wish to come into the fold of God is a resounding “YES”.

It is not requisite, however, that we form a complicated plan to serve our neighbors.  The service that is most needed occurs one-on-one in the basic daily interactions we have within our families, our neighborhoods, our wards and our communities. It is the simple sharing of ourselves with those we know and those we don’t know who surround us every day.

We have all had the experience of being guided and lifted up by good men and women.  In one way or another we all rely on each other as fellow saints to make it to our eternal goal.  Let us find simple ways that we may be the good men and women in others lives that lift, support, and encourage a smile.

 “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.”20

4.      Weary and Sick

In a revelation given through the Prophet Joseph Smith at Hiram, Ohio, in March 1832, he counseled: “Be faithful; stand in the office which I have appointed unto you; succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.”21

An admonition we hear often in the church.  There are many opportunities to serve those who are struggling with health, poverty and disaster.  We know this.

But again, I want to stress the importance of looking for small acts, not only grand and glorious ones. One of the greatest examples I have ever witnessed of this type of act occurred during a recent General Conference. 


Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, of the Quorum of the Twelve, had stood to give his assigned conference address. Suddenly, and without warning Elder Wirthin began to shake violently. Potentially a very dangerous situation and one that made everyone concerned for his immediate safety. It appeared, however, that Elder Wirthlin seemed unconcerned with his condition.  He had a message to deliver and that is exactly what he intended to do.


The poignant moment came when we witnessed the love of an apostle for his fellow quorum member. Elder Russell M. Nelson dealt with the situation in a way that was somewhat surprising.  Based on his many years of medical experience, Elder Nelson clearly understood that it was vital to intervene. The obvious outcome of this intervention would have been to help Elder Wirthlin off the stand where he could get the medical attention he needed. But this is not what Elder Nelson did.

Elder Nelson shored up his friend. Gently he took Elder Wirthlin by the arm and held on to the back of his belt. He stayed by his side through the remainder of the talk. A message delivered, a duty fulfilled, Elder Nelson helped Elder Wirthlin to his seat.  What an example, what sensitivity, what love.


5.      Temples

President Kimball’s council that “it is usually through another person that ‘God’ meets our needs” was never more evident than in the temples of the Lord.

We enter holy temples to be taught and to receive the personal blessings of worshipping. True.  But we also enter the temples of the Lord because of our love for our fellow man. We enter holy temples to stand in vicariously for those who have passed on without the blessings of temple ordinances. This service is a selfless act of love and compassion for our ancestors. I believe there are many who pray continually for our help to receive the fullness of the gospel.

Let us be a temple going people.  This is a blessing for many, many generations. We must do our part by serving in this great work.

6.      Church Callings


As members of the Church we have an obligation to help those we have been given stewardship over through our callings.  We have been given the charge to invite all to come unto Christ.


It is because of love for our brothers and sisters and for our Savior Jesus Christ that we choose to sacrifice our time and our talents to the work of the gospel.  We can have a great influence on others as we befriend and help those we serve to fulfill their dreams, ambitions, and goals.


The great blessing of the gospel is that through our service we not only can bless the lives of others, but we also can receive great blessings for our families and ourselves.

I want to relate a story about a man who demonstrated love through service in a way that not only greatly blessed the lives of those he served, but who also worked out his own salvation in so doing. 

The man in this story is my Grandfather, Glenn Walters known to his friends as Walt.

Walt made choices in his life that led him away from the gospel.  An alcoholic, a heavy smoker, completely inactive in the church.  His wife and two children would travel the lonely path to church each week missing father and husband as they witnessed other families worshipping together.

In spite of this trial, my grandmother always felt that her sweetheart would be brought back into the church through service to the youth.  You see, my grandfather was a great outdoorsman. A true man’s man to whom the youth could relate because of their love of similar things.

My grandmother asked the Bishop to consider calling Walt to a position with the youth to encourage him to get involved.  After prayer to the Lord, the Bishop called Walt to his office to issue the call: explorer scout leader.  The answer from Walt, a resounding NO!

A few weeks later his young son Max was asked to give a talk in sacrament meeting.  He pleaded with his father to attend the service to hear his talk.  With much trepidation Walt decided to go.  Sitting through the sacrament meeting it was finally time for Max to give his talk.  He stepped to the podium and proceeded to give a wonderful address about the importance of accepting callings in the church and said that if the Bishop called you to serve you were to accept it every time. That even if someone were called to be the Explorer Scouts Leader they should accept it.

As Max stepped back from the podium, his message delivered, my mother recalls Walt leaning over to his wife and whispering, “Why, that little devil”.

Walt had a change of heart that day.  He quit alcohol; he quit smoking.  A carpenter by trade, he gave his family a very special Christmas gift, a beautifully carved, exceptionally appointed coffin just the right size for his pack of cigarettes.

He met with the bishop, accepted the call, and became an exceptional scout leader. 

Walt created an explorer post that was second to none. His post was called to Salt Lake City and was named by general authorities as the top explorer post in the church and was featured in the Church News. He became an outstanding leader in the community that all the boys in Sugar City, Idaho looked up to and wanted to emulate.  He developed a code of conduct for his scouts that taught the boys the value of having a moral, ethical and spiritual standard and he held those boys to that standard.

Walt became a great source for good to all who knew him.  He became a great friend to others struggling with alcohol and literally helped over 100 men quit drinking. 

Many, many years later, after struggling for years with Alzheimer’s disease, Walt passed away.  At his funeral, over 100 of Walt’s scouts came from all across the country, including one of BYUIdaho’s former Vice Presidents, dressed in their explorer scout shirts, and saluted Walt’s casket as it was carried to the hearse.

Many lives were touched by the remarkable service of one man. One man’s life saved because of his willingness to serve.

“…and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” 22


Now, I have suggested a lot to you today.  I don’t want you to feel overburdened by the responsibility to serve.  While it is vital to serve, it is also vital to “see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength.”23

President Kimball stated it well. “The people of the Church need each other’s strength, support, and leadership in a community of believers as an enclave of disciples... 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!”1

As we prepare to end another semester at BYUIdaho, it is my hope and prayer that we will all take the thoughts we have had this day and act upon them.  As you return home, begin another semester, or work this summer; please look for ways to serve that you might be an influence for good in a weary world. I promise you that you will feel your burdens lighten, you will find reserves of strength you never knew you had, and you will feel the love of your Savior.

I testify that as we seek to serve each other we will be about our Father’s work.


I know my Savior lives and that he loves and cares about each and every one of us. 


I know the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth and that everyone is able to receive great blessings because of this truth.


In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


1.        Spencer W. Kimball, “There Is Purpose in Life,” New Era, Sep 1974, 4

2.        D&C 88:67 

3.        “97: Lead, Kindly Light,” Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, no. 97


5.        “335: Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy” Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, no. 335

6.        Mosiah 4:26

7.        2 Tim. 3:2, 4

8.        see “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102

9.        Jacob 2:35

10.      Mosiah 27:14

11.      Mosiah 18:9

12.      Moroni 10:32

13.      Thomas S. Monson, “With Hand and Heart,” Ensign, Jan 1995, 2

14.      See My Fair Lady, adapted from George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion

15.      Psalms 30:5

16.      D&C 50:41-42

17.    “Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd,” Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, no. 221   

18.      Genesis 4:9

19.      Mosiah 18: 8-9

20.      D&C 64:33

21.      D&C 81:5

22.      Matthew 16:25

23.      Mosiah 4:27