"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
March 19, 2014
Three D's of Discipleship
by Marian Stoddard

Our stake president once gave a talk on what he termed the three levels of service in our membership in the Church. He called them the three “D’s”: drudgery, duty, and devotion.

At the first level, drudgery — the work that must be done to keep things rolling — we might see only as what must be endured. A person seeing service in these terms knows it’s necessary but certainly won’t see it as enjoyable.

Moroni, recording the teachings of his father Mormon, said in Moroni 7:8:

For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly: wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift: wherefore he is counted evil before God.

I think that it’s possible to not be an evil person, to be a reasonably good person, but to give what is asked, or what is needed from us, without generosity. Seeing service in the Church at the level of drudgery means that we do show up, at least most of the time, and we do something that needs to be done.

It’s probably the bare minimum and it’s probably with a grumble or two, a groan, or at best a resigned sigh. (Those might be silent or all too audible.)

Now, if the chairs need to be set up in the overflow before Sunday, and the assigned persons do show up and set them up, the members coming to their meetings will be glad of it; they won’t know the difference, because the job got done.

But the opportunity to do that simple but important task won’t bring any joy to the person who does it feeling it to be only a hassle and an interruption to his Saturday, and so the effect on him is about zilch. It does as much good in his heart as if he hadn’t done it at all. He misses out on the blessings. Maybe it’s “counted unto him for righteousness” — just barely.

The second level of service is duty. This is seeing the process of participation in the kingdom much more positively than the first. Duty incorporates the principles of honoring our responsibilities and taking care of what’s needed.

Duty might be patient and dependable, and accomplish the things that are needed for others. It acknowledges obligation. There is satisfaction in that. But if we never see beyond the level of duty, we still gain only a portion of the blessings of service.

The purpose of our service is not just to get the work done that needs doing, but to give us a portion of our Redeemer’s selflessness. It offers a process of sanctification. The highest level of service is devotion: when we do what we do because we love the Lord and we want to do his work.

When we can pass from the perspective of duty to devotion, we look for chances to do something worthwhile, to help someone who needs it. We become open to the quietest nudges of the Spirit, sensitive to needs and feelings that might not be openly shared.

With devotion rather than just duty, we don’t care much about notice or credit, just about the tender feelings that may come from touching someone else’s life in a way that matters to them. We will also be cognizant and grateful for the moments where others touch and bless our own course.

Devotion connects faith and action, and expresses our testimony in our service, with genuine love. It’s our hearts opened to light and spiritual sight. It’s the level where we begin to love as Christ loves. He, after all, gave everything, infinitely, for us. It’s where we are naturally and purely drawn to do the same.

Moroni continues:

But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually: wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.” Moroni 7:13.

There are always tasks that need to be done, which aren’t particularly fun or exciting. If the pot of chili boiled over for the Relief Society lunch, for example, it’s not a very appealing prospect to have to clean it up, but even a drudge-type job can be done with a willing heart.

It could be started with a sense of duty — after all, you can’t just let the crud dry up and petrify while you ignore it and leave it for someone else — but no matter what needs doing, it can be done with a glad heart. My experience is that if you do whatever you’re dealing with a prayer, your outlook will brighten, your mood will lift, and the moment will be blessed.

We do a lot of things because we know they need to be done. Not all of them are exciting; they may even be invisible to most others. But when those acts of service, whether in our formal callings or not, are done with prayer, hope, faithfulness and love, we become true disciples. We desire to see the Lord’s blessings in the lives of others, because we are coming to love them and see them as He does.

When we come to serve with devotion, our service truly becomes a gift, not just for those who receive it, but for ourselves. It brings us nearer to being what we hope to become.

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About Marian Stoddard

Marian J. Stoddard was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in its Maryland suburbs. Her father grew up in Carson City, Nevada, and her mother in Salt Lake City, so she was always partly a Westerner at heart, and she ended up raising her family in Washington State. Her family took road trips all over the United States and Canada, so there were lots of adventures.

The adventures of music, literature, and art were also valued and pursued. Playing tourist always included the local museums as well as historical sites and places of natural beauty. Discussions at home, around the dinner table or working in the kitchen, could cover politics, philosophy, or poetry, with the perspective of the gospel underlying all. Words and ideas, and testimony and service, were the family currency.

Marian graduated from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland, and attended the University of Utah as the recipient of the Ralph Hardy Memorial Scholarship, where she was graduated with honors, receiving a B.A. in English. She also met the love of her life, a law student, three weeks after her arrival; she jokes that she had to marry him because her mother always wanted a tenor in the family. (She sings second soprano.) They were married two years later and have six children and six grandchildren (so far). She treasures her family, her friends, and her opportunities to serve.

Visit Marian at her blog, greaterthansparrows.  You can contact her at bloggermarian@gmail.com. 

Marian and her husband live in Tacoma, Washington. Together they teach those who are preparing to go to the temple for the first time, and she also teaches a Stake Relief Society Institute class.

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