Hello everyone! I am grateful for this opportunity to be able to speak today. I am very grateful for that beautiful musical number. That brought the Spirit so strong, and I love music so much. I am also grateful for the words Luke shared. It is fun to have one of my co-workers kind of be my opening act, so thank you, Luke.
When I was 16 years old, my first job was working as a cashier at a grocery store in Brigham City, Utah. I later moved to Logan to attend Utah State, and I worked in a grocery store in Cache Valley. I loved working in grocery stores as it gave me a great chance to meet many interesting and wonderful people and – I learned very quickly – that I could have a pleasant conversation with just about anyone.
At the store in Logan, a manager approached me and asked me if I would do a favor for the store and for a customer. When I soon realized that the favor meant that I would get to leave the store, drive to nearby city, and deliver groceries to someone, I was ecstatic. I remember turning to my co-workers and saying, “I get PAID to go deliver groceries!” (Of course, this was before Uber, so maybe that would be my calling in life… so it was really exciting).
After I asked my manager why I was delivering groceries, he mentioned that someone wanted to give them to a neighbor as an anonymous gift. So, I got into my car and I drove to that person’s house. When I arrived, I knocked on the door and I clearly remember a woman answering the door and seeing me standing there in my work shirt, wearing a navy blue apron. She was surprised to see me and I smiled and said, “Hi, I’m here to deliver some groceries to you.” She stood there flabbergasted and didn’t know what to say. I, of course, also didn’t know what to say, so I asked if she wanted to come with me to my car to help me bring the groceries into her house - to which she agreed.
We made many trips back and forth to her house with loaded bags of food, cleaning supplies and produce. While we were carrying the bags into her house, I remember seeing many small children running around and noticing that the kitchen and pantry were almost empty. After everything was unloaded, she looked at me and began to tell me how she and her family had really been struggling financially and they were not sure how they would continue to feed their kids during that difficult time. She mentioned that both she and her husband had recently been praying for some type of help, and then I showed up at her door.
She began crying, then I began crying, and she thanked me repeatedly. I kept telling her that I was not the person who had purchased the groceries, so there was no need to thank me – I was just the delivery person. Before I left, she gave me the biggest hug and I will never forget how I felt that day. Seeing someone so visibly benefitting from such a wonderful and thoughtful gift was a sacred thing for me to witness. That day I remember feeling sad for the person who purchased the groceries – because they did not get to see that woman’s expression, her effusive gratitude and feel what it felt like to see someone having their prayers answered.
That day taught me a very valuable lesson. Loving acts of service can bless the lives of so many. My attitude about the entire situation had changed. When I returned to work, I had a difficult time keeping my emotions in check when my co-workers asked how it went. I was truly humbled by someone else’s selfless service and was inspired by it.
In 1987, Elder William R. Bradford stated the following, “Recognition from on high is silent. It is carefully and quietly recorded there. Let them feel the joy and gain the treasure in their heart and soul that come from silent, selfless service.” The person who purchased the groceries gave silent and selfless service. People who serve without receiving any earthly recognition inspire me to be a better person.
Working at LDS Business College has been a wonderful experience for me. I love getting to see the students packed into elevators, coming in and out of classrooms, and smiling and chatting with their friends. From my perspective as the Manager of Financial Aid, I also see that many of you also have had or currently have difficult moments in life and each one of you has a unique story and perspective. Life is definitely not always easy. My hope and prayer today is that I can share some insights that I have learned about how loving acts of service can be incorporated into our lives to bless others and how we can be blessed by giving and receiving service.
My three challenges to you today are to look outward instead of inward, demonstrate love through service and allow people to serve you.
The first challenge I have for you is to “look outward instead of inward.” To explain this challenge, I’d like to tell you a story about math.
I know some people love and excel in math, and it brings them joy and happiness. Math and I do not have that relationship. I remember a difficult semester when I was spending my Saturday morning trying to figure out how to do a very complex math problem. No matter what I did, what section of the book I read over and over again, what video I watched, I could not figure out how to get the solution. While I was sitting there thinking about it and trying not to be too frustrated, I received a text that reminded me that I had agreed to help clean someone’s house who's husband was in the hospital. I am embarrassed to admit that I was a little irritated that I had signed up to do that because I had a math assignment due and I just felt busy and overwhelmed. I also remembered that I had made a commitment to this family in my ward so I went and helped clean the house.
Guess what? The work was fun, I was able to get to know several sisters in the ward whom I had not previously been familiar with and I really enjoyed the cleaning project. I remember thinking, “Why isn’t it this fun to clean my own house?" The obvious answer to that question was because I was serving someone else and taking the time to think of someone other than myself.
When I returned home, something amazing happened. I was able to complete my math homework in a miraculous amount of time – faster than I had previously been able to do with any other weekly assignment. I think I received help on my homework because I had put someone else’s needs before my own. Doing service that day also helped me make new friends that I still keep in touch with – even though I have since moved to a different neighborhood.
Elder Derek A. Cuthbert said, “Service changes people. It refines, purifies, gives a finer perspective and brings out the best in each one of us. It gets us looking outward instead of inward. It prompts us to consider others’ needs ahead of our own. Righteous service is the expression of true charity, such as the Savior showed.”
I love that last sentence – righteous service is the best way to express true charity to our fellowmen.
I’m sure many of you can think of a time when someone was thinking of you at a time that you really needed it. Sister Ellen W. Smoot stated, “When we are truly converted, our focus shifts from self to others. We can find inner strength through service.”
So many people need our help and there are so many opportunities to serve. I hope and pray that you will take some time to ponder how you can look outward instead of inward in your life. Each of us has the opportunity to be that person that helps someone who needs it. This can be done when we fulfill our church callings and ministering assignments and act on promptings from the Holy Ghost about someone who needs us.
The second challenge I have for you is to demonstrate love through service. I am lucky enough to have both my mom and dad sitting with me on the stand today. My parents are wonderful and they are both a great example to me of people who demonstrate love through service.
The first story I want to share is about my mom. My mom and I used to get our nails done the same night each month, and one day, we had our appointment the evening of my birthday. We spent a few hours at that appointment and then went to dinner afterwards. Little did I know that my mom had been very busy earlier that day – though she did not say a word about it to me.
When I got home that night, I noticed a BIG change. My house was PRISTINE. Full disclosure, I am not always the most organized and super clean person (I have other talents), and that night my house truly “shined like the top of the Chrysler Building,” as is said in the movie Annie. I remember standing there in shock. Everything was put away, the floors were mopped, the kitchen was sparkling clean and the place looked amazing. I remember immediately bursting into tears as I realized my mom must have snuck into my house and secretly cleaned it for my birthday.
That day, my mom showed her love for me by cleaning my house – and I couldn’t have asked for a better gift. I had been working a lot of late hours and was overwhelmed by the amount of work I had waiting for me at home. What I learned later made this act of service even more special. To tell this part, I need to go back a bit and explain that my mom had recently had surgery on her neck and upper spine. That day, when my mom arrived at my house and realized that the floors needed to be mopped, she could not find my mop anywhere. I promise I owned one! That little snag would not deter her – so she sat on the floor with a canister of Lysol wipes and mopped the entire main floor of my house by sitting on the ground and scooting section to section. Because of her neck, she could not lean over or look down, so she just sat, scooted and cleaned it literally by “hand.”
John 13:34-35 reads, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you…By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
In regards to that scripture, Elder M. Russell Ballard stated the following, “The love the Savior described is an active love. It is not manifested through large and heroic deeds but rather through simple acts of kindness and service.”
My mom may not have considered her deed to be heroic, even though I feel that it was, but I believe it shows the love referred to in that scripture. Cleaning my house was a simple act of kindness and service and it meant so much to me.
My dad shows his love to me through service in a different way. Other than the regular “dad” things he does – like teaching me how to change the oil in my car, or face-timing me to look at some sprinkler issues I’m having…my dad is also someone I can talk to – just about anything. When I began my job at LDSBC, it was a stressful time learning a new job, working with new people and dealing with the day-to-day stresses and challenges that come with any job. Because I happen to be single and live alone, I don’t have the benefit of having someone at home ready to talk to me about my day, what went well, what didn’t…and at times it can be difficult. For the last eight years since I’ve been working at LDSBC, my sweet dad spends a lot of time on the phone patiently listening to me talk about the events of the day, my concerns and gives me great advice. How grateful I am for the time he takes to show his love for me by being a listening ear and loving me unconditionally.
Elder Claudio R. M. Costa said, “The family proclamation helps us understand much of the love the Savior referred to when He told us we must 'love one another.' He gave us the supreme example of love when He declared, 'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.' He later atoned for all our sins and finally gave His life for all of us. We can lay down our lives for those we love not by physically dying for them but rather by living for them—giving of our time; always being present in their lives; serving them; being courteous, affectionate and showing true love for those of our family and to all men—as the Savior taught.”
I love what he said about how we can live for those we love by giving of our time, being present and serving them. Is there anyone in your life that could use some service? If you live at home, is there someone in your family who needs you? If you have roommates, is there something you can do to serve them? Could you clean someone else’s dishes that they left in the sink (instead of being extremely frustrated that “someone” left their dishes in there again?! (I remember how that feels. Of course, sometimes the dishes were mine!).
There are many opportunities to show we care for and love those around us by giving service. The service we give does not have to be grand or elaborate. As we learn from Alma, by small and simple things, great things are brought to pass.
The last challenge I’d like to give you is one that is sometimes the most difficult – at least it is for me. This challenge is to allow people to serve you.
To illustrate this point, I need to share a story with you. Living in my first home came with several challenges and, as I mentioned earlier, when you are single you get to address all the challenges by yourself – for the most part. The first summer in my home, my lawn really started to struggle. How did I know?
I’m no lawn expert, but even I can tell that this is not what a healthy lawn should look like. After much research, (sometimes at 3 a.m. outside with a flashlight to see water pressure) I learned that some of my sprinklers were not installed correctly and that I needed to adjust when my sprinklers ran so I could get the most water pressure that was possible. The sprinkler heads all needed to be dug up and raised so the water could reach the lawn.
Knowing what needs to be done is different from knowing how to fix it. One evening as I was digging away at each sprinkler head, I remember thinking, “Sigh. I wish someone would help me…”
At church the next Sunday, one of the men in my neighborhood commented about seeing me working in my yard the previous evening. (For this story, I’ll call him John.) Our conversation went a little something like this:
John: Hey, saw you working on your sprinklers the other night. Well done for being able to do that by yourself – without any help!
Me: Oh, thanks for noticing! Yeah, I did it on my own. No one pulled over to help…
John: Oh… Did you ask anyone to help?
Me: Uh… No.
John: Well, it’s hard for people to know when you need help! In this day and age, women can do so much on their own and sometimes, we’re not sure if it would insult you to ask! If you wanted help, you should have stood there holding a hammer with a really confused look on your face. I promise you that if people saw you standing by your sprinklers with a hammer and a super confused expression, everyone would have pulled over to help.
He was right. I fixed them.
We cannot go through life assuming that people will just know we need help. Unfortunately, people don’t carry around signs saying what they need and it is not as obvious when service is needed like it is when a lawn obviously needs water.
Sometimes we need to let people know what they can do to help. This requires humility and can be difficult. So, how do we do it? Well, I have an idea – and I learned it at Girls Camp.
I currently serve in the Young Women as the secretary and our young women’s president had a great idea. One evening at camp, the president had us all gather into a circle and she held up a poster with some talking points. Two stood out specifically for me.
Tell us something that is hard or difficult for you
Tell us what we can do to serve you
This ended up creating a wonderful discussion with the girls and the leaders and each person was encouraged to answer the questions honestly – if they felt comfortable. Before it was my turn, I remember pondering about what I could say to the group and then the answer came to me. I told the group that sometimes it was hard for me to go to church by myself and know that I’d be sitting alone in sacrament meeting each week.
I’m a social person and I’m not afraid of talking to people; however, it was hard for me to go to church every Sunday and sit by myself. For years, I had my family to go to church with, and later on, I went to the single’s wards with my roommates and friends. When it came to the family ward setting, I didn’t really fit the “family ward” mold and would often end up coming in and sitting near the back. When I addressed what they could do to serve me, I said that if they ever saw me sitting alone, they’d be more than welcome to sit by me.
That next Sunday, when I arrived to church, I noticed one of the young women was waiting for me right outside the chapel doors. When she saw me, she got a big smile on her face and said, “Hi, Sister Conover! Can I come and sit by you today?”
That sweet and simple act of service on her part absolutely made my day and I could barely keep my emotions in check during the meeting. I was so touched and grateful for the kindness she showed by remembering what she could do to serve me. She probably has no idea how much that small act of service has meant to me and still brings tears to my eyes when I think about it. When someone knows what he or she can do to serve us, many will do it! That idea sounds so simple but it made such an impact on me that day – and still does each Sunday. Since that time, there are still girls who walk over and sit by me or other days when they wave me over to come and sit with them and their family.
Since we all don’t have the opportunity to sit around a fire and talk about what is hard for us and how people can serve us, how can we allow people to serve us? What can we do?
Well, the first thing we need to do is let people know when we have a need. We should also share the hard things we are going through with friends, family and maybe even the brothers and sisters in the ward assigned to minister to us. Have your home or visiting teachers ever quickly said, “Well, let us know if there’s anything we can do for you” on their way out the door? I know I have said it when I've visited members of my ward. When they ask this question, how do you normally respond?
Years ago, my younger sister was a single mother with two young boys and she shared a story with me about a time when a neighbor served her and her small family. That first winter after her husband passed away, an older neighbor in the ward helped her by offering service. When I recently asked her about it, my sister said that he wasn’t the type to say, “Let me know if there is something I can do for you” – he would just look for a need and do it. After it snowed, he would come clear the snow from her driveway. On one occasion, he knocked on the door and said, “It’s really snowy today – is there anything you need at the grocery store?” Her first response was to say, “I’m good – I don’t need anything” – which most of us would automatically say to that question. He pressed, so she decided to let him serve that day and said that she could use some milk. He returned later with milk and brought extra treats for the boys as well, and she said that it made him so happy to be able to serve and he was so pleased to do it. She remembers that he had a daughter who had also lost her husband several years earlier and thought it must have made him more sensitive to the situation. Perhaps this was why he was so thoughtful to her and her family’s needs.
I love this story for so many reasons. First, I love my sister so much, and I know that her life was not easy as a single mom. When someone asked her if she needed anything, her first response to say no is something many of us would do. Secondly, we are normally self-sufficient, and we normally don’t want to inconvenience anyone by asking for help. We should allow people to serve us by sharing when we need help and by saying yes when someone offers to help us with something.
To close, I would like to read a quote that I have loved for many years from President Spencer W. Kimball. He said, “God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another mortal that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other in the kingdom.”
Our Father in Heaven needs each of us. We need to serve each other and help those around us to find joy and happiness.
I believe that serving others is the best way to fulfill the covenant we all made at baptism. In the Sunday session of the last General Conference, President Russell. M. Nelson said, “Latter-day Saints, as with other followers of Jesus Christ, are always looking for ways to help, to lift and to love others. They who are willing to be called the Lord’s people 'are willing to bear one another’s burdens, … to mourn with those that mourn; … and [to] comfort those that stand in need of comfort.'
They truly seek to live the first and second great commandments. When we love God with all our hearts, He turns our hearts to the well-being of others in a beautiful, virtuous cycle.”
The three challenges I have given you today to look outward instead of inward, demonstrate love through service and allow people to serve you – can help you on your journey through this life. My prayer today is that we can seek to live the first and second commandments that President Nelson mentioned about loving God with all our hearts and loving those around us in that beautiful and virtuous cycle.
I just want to close with my testimony that I know that our Father in Heaven loves us so much that He sent His son to come to this earth. I am so grateful for Jesus Christ and I know He is perfect and that we can all do whatever we can to be like Him. I say these things in His name, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Melanie Conover grew up in Brigham City, Utah, and now resides in Farmington. She has worked at LDS Business College for the past eight years as the manager of financial aid. She says that the best part of her job is helping students achieve their educational goals by helping them get access to the financial aid they need.
Melanie attended Utah State University and enjoyed singing in the Logan Institute Show Choir. She began her career in 2001 working in Seminaries and Institutes at Church Headquarters in the Financial Services division.
Melanie has served as a counselor in the Relief Society presidency, gospel doctrine teacher, primary chorister, and a temple ordinance worker. She currently serves as the young women’s secretary.
When she is not working, she enjoys reading, going to movies, seeing Broadway musicals, laughing at a good joke, and spending time with family and friends.