Have you seen all the memes about Elder Holland floating around the internet?
There’s a popular one that says, “Before Satan goes to sleep at night he checks under his bed for Elder Holland.” Another one says “Elder Holland and superman once fought on a bet. The loser had to wear his underwear on the outside of his pants.” And, finally, there’s one with the picture of Elder Holland that says, “I don’t always give the best talk in conference, oh wait, yes I do.” In all reality, Elder Holland, and especially Elder Holland’s ability to give great talks, is definitely worthy of praise. However, there is one phrase in the Book of Mormon that clearly illustrates a potential error in this way of thinking.
We’re all familiar with Alma 48:17, where the Book of Mormon hero Captain Moroni is paid the ultimate compliment of saying he could make hell shake forever if all men could just be as amazing as him. It’s no wonder so many answer the question “Who is your favorite BOM character?” with a nod to this man. However, in verse 19 we find a phrase that should have us all second-guessing how we choose our heroes.
Now behold, Helaman and his brethren were no less serviceable unto the people than was Moroni.
Really?! You just said cloning Moroni could put an end to evil indefinitely and then you go on to say these other guys we don’t read as much about were just as valuable?!
If you think about it, there are many other examples of “no less serviceable” people in both church and world history (and fiction and sports). Some of my favorites are Hyrum Smith, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, every wife of every prophet in the scriptures, Nephi’s brother Sam, Samwise Gamgee, and Scottie Pippen. =)
I bring up Joseph B. Wirthlin, because to me, he represents the perfect contrast to Elder Holland. Where Elder Holland’s presentations are engaging, witty, and easy to listen to, I always thought Elder Wirthlin’s voice was a little odd and tended to fall asleep during his talks. Then one day a neighbor of a different faith died, and my mom took the widow Elder Wirthlin’s talk “Sunday Will Come” and she was very grateful. I gave the talk a closer look and was amazed at the depth of truth and value for me and all of us in that message. Maybe I had been wrong to mentally check out when he spoke!
None of us can forget one of Elder Wirthlin’s final talks when halfway through his body began to shake vigorously and he looked as if he were about to fall over. However, he would not stop delivering his message! Finally Elder Nelson stood up to stand behind him. Elder Wirthlin spoke for five more minutes, and I don’t know if I’ve ever felt so inspired. Elder Wirthlin was no less serviceable to me in that moment, and many others.
Who do you know in your life who is “no less serviceable”? Someone who does not often get the spotlight or the praise; someone whose skills and talents are not flashy and often go beneath the radar, but, nonetheless, does just as much good for the world, if not more, than those whose offerings are more noticeable.
I know who mine is.
All of my siblings are very outspoken and do not shy away from the spotlight. However, I do have one brother who would often feel like his talents didn’t match up. When we had family talent shows, etc., he felt like he didn’t have anything worthwhile to share. I always felt like he was just as talented as the rest of us, but never knew how to verbalize it. Fast forward to today. I’ve noticed that my family talks differently about Jesus than some people. We try to talk about Him as a real, living, breathing, being who plays an active role in our lives. Who do I trace that back to? The same brother who thought he didn’t have talents. I realized I learned to talk about Jesus that way from him. He has a gift, among many others, of testifying of Christ and speaking of him, not as a storybook character, but as our constant companion and friend. It’s hard for me to even call my brother “no less serviceable.” To me, he is “much more serviceable.”
It would do us all well to look at the people around us with new lenses. If we unlearned what we have learned (thanks Yoda) about what makes one valuable, we might be able to begin to see the many “no less serviceable” people around us. Actually, it’s much more likely that we’ll begin to see it in ourselves. The day-to-day, seemingly mundane tasks that are the lot of most of us in this life are not mundane to the Lord.
Howard W. Hunter wrote an Ensign article in 1992 on this topic, in which he said,
Not all of us are going to be like Moroni, catching the acclaim of our colleagues all day every day. Most of us will be quiet, relatively unknown folks who come and go and do our work without fanfare. To those of you who may find that lonely or frightening or just unspectacular, I say, you are “no less serviceable” than the most spectacular of your associates.
I take great comfort in an idea recorded in C.S. Lewis’ book “The Great Divorce” where a “visitor” to heaven is asking an old friend if he has met many of the famous people of the world. When the resident of heaven responds that he’s not sure if they are there. This conversation ensures:
‘But surely in the case of distinguished people, you’d hear?
‘But they aren’t distinguished—no more than anyone else. Don’t you understand? The Glory flows into everyone, and back from everyone: like light and mirrors. But the light’s the thing.’
‘Do you mean there are no famous men?
‘They are all famous. They are all known, remembered, recognized by the only Mind that can give a perfect judgment.”
The measurements of value and worth will be so different that everyone’s talents and accomplishments will be seen for what they are. Those who valiantly shoulder whatever burdens befall them, even if they receive very little credit for them in this life, will be famous in the life to come. The single moms, the school teachers, all the millions of 9-5 parents who dutifully sit at a desk every day to provide for their families. They will be famous, because in God’s eyes, they are no less serviceable.