A Professor's Greatest Lesson

A Test of True Discipleship

“A group of religion instructors (were) taking a summer course on the life of the Savior and focusing particularly on the parables.

“When the final exam time came…the students arrived at the classroom to find a note that the exam would be given in another building across campus. Moreover, the note said, it must be finished within the two-hour time period that was starting almost at that moment.

“The students hurried across campus. On the way they passed a little girl crying over a flat tire on her new bike. An old man hobbled painfully toward the library with a cane in one hand, spilling books from a stack he was trying to manage with the other. On a bench by the union building sat a shabbily dressed, bearded man (in obvious distress).

“Rushing into the other classroom, the students were met by the professor, who announced they had all flunked the final exam.

“The only true test of whether they understood the Savior’s life and teaching, he said, was how they treated people in need.

“Their weeks of study at the feet of a capable professor had taught them a great deal of what Christ had said and done.”  (“Viewpoint: Too Hurried to Serve?”  LDS Church News, 1 Oct. 1988, l6)

“In their haste to finish the technicalities of the course, however, (the students) failed to recognize the application represented by the three scenes that had been deliberately staged. They learned the letter but not the spirit. Their neglect of the little girl and the two men showed that the profound message of the course had not entered into their inward parts.”   (President James E. Faust, 2nd Counselor in the First Presidency, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Search Me, O God, and Know My Heart,” Ensign, May 1998, 17)

Each day we see people in need—an accident victim, someone trying to move a heavy load, an elderly couple with an un-raked lawn or un-shoveled walk, a woman standing by a stranded car, a stranger seeking direction, or a person standing outside a facility that helps needy people.  Such needs are easy to recognize and draw our attention.
However, the unseen and often more urgent need is the one we are more likely to pass by.  We may not see, unless we are looking, the need of a husband whose care for an invalid wife makes it impossible to leave the house on routine errands unless someone comes in to sit with her. We may not see the loneliness of the once-vibrant elderly woman who is no longer able to attend church and enjoy the sociability she so much loved. We may not notice the quiet despair and need for loving support of the mother agonizing over a wayward child.

Jesus was quick to observe and meet the needs of others.  Serving others as He did is a sign that we love as He did.  For those who feel their lives are so full they have no room to help anyone else—remember the Innkeeper who made “no room…in the inn” for a young couple in need.  (Luke 2:7)  

Finally, service to others also blesses the giver.  David S. Baxter said, “Selfless service is a wonderful antidote to the ills that flow from the worldwide epidemic of self-indulgence.  Some grow bitter or anxious when it seems that not enough attention is being paid to them, when their lives would be so enriched if only they paid more attention to the needs of others…

“The answer lies in helping to solve the problems of those around us rather than worrying about our own, living to lift burdens even when we ourselves feel weighed down, putting our shoulder to the wheel instead of complaining that the wagons of life seem to be passing us by.

“Stretching our souls in service helps us to rise above our cares, concerns, and challenges. As we focus our energies on lifting the burdens of others, something miraculous happens. Our own burdens diminish. We become happier. There is more substance to our lives.”  David S. Baxter, LDS General Conference, October 2006

Through habits of service and thinking of others,
we develop qualities of sensitivity and generosity.

We become more aware of and grateful for our own blessings.
We become more filled with love and brotherhood.
We become more like Christ—
and that, ultimately, is what the
Final Exam is all about.