Mormons believe service is a necessary element in becoming more charitable and Christ-like. To show charity, which they view as the pure love of Christ, Mormons seek for opportunities to serve their fellow men.
Former President of the Mormon Church David O. McKay said, “Godhood, brotherhood, service—these three guiding principles permeate all our Church activity” (Cherished Experiences from the Writings of President David O. McKay (1976), 15–16).
This great importance Mormons place upon service is manifested in their performance in church callings. All leaders, teachers, and administrators in Mormon congregations are unpaid. Mormons willingly accept and serve as best they can in whatever position they are asked to fill. This willingness comes from an understanding that the Lord desires their service and needs each member to fulfill his or her responsibility for the growth of the Mormon Church.
This responsibility to serve others is also fulfilled in families. Mormons believe families to be the most basic and fundamental unit of the Church and of life on earth. In families the example of service begins, as parents teach their children with love and devotion the principles of living a righteous life.
Another well-known aspect of Mormon service is missionary work. Mormon missionaries are also unpaid. In fact, missionaries pay their own support while in the mission field, so it costs money to serve a mission. A man of at least nineteen years of age or a woman of at least twenty-one years has the opportunity to serve a full-time mission for the Mormon Church. They submit information to the Presidency of the Church in Salt Lake City, Utah, where the leaders there, including the Prophet, prayerfully select where each missionary should serve. The over 350 missions of the Mormon Church exist all over the world and are spreading rapidly. While serving as missionaries, Mormons teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and do all they can to set examples of righteous service. Former President of the Mormon Church Ezra Taft Benson illustrated the aspects of service well when he counseled, “Let us serve one another with brotherly love, never tiring of the demands upon us, being patient and persevering and generous.”
Service is related also to the importance of work, which is a basic tenet of Mormonism. Mormons believe they should be “anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:26–27). The desire to serve individually or as a group is encouraged throughout the Church. The youth of the Church frequently participate in organized group service projects. Adult men and women participate in programs called Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching. Home Teaching offers each man in the church the opportunity to visit another member or family of members of the congregation. Visiting Teaching is a program where women meet and travel to the homes of other women in the congregation. Both programs are designed to ensure that every member in a Mormon congregation feels included and has the opportunity to receive any help he or she may need.
The Priesthood, the power of God given to worthy men on Earth, is a wonderful example of service in the Mormon Church. A calling of leadership in the Church is not a status symbol, but rather an opportunity for service. As Church leader Elder M. Russell Ballard stated, “All priesthood holders assist our Heavenly Father in accomplishing His divine purpose: ‘to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man’ (Moses 1:39).”
Mormons view the best example of service to be that of the Lord Jesus Christ. On his last night before the crucifixion, Jesus washed the feet of his twelve disciples to teach them the importance of service, among other things. The account of this act of service is given in John 13:14-16, which reads, “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.”
This type of Christ-like service and love for all men is an important goal for all members of Mormonism. Mormons believe that when they serve any of the Lord’s children, they are serving Jesus Christ (see Matthew 25:40). Any service in the name of Christ and His Church is service to the Savior. Revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1831 presents service to the Lord as an important commandment: “in the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him [the Lord thy God]” (Doctrine and Covenants 59:5). Service in Mormonism is a way to show gratitude to the Savior Jesus Christ and a way to get to know Him by following His example.