I was reading Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith on charity. And I was just kind of inspired by the little things Joseph Smith and his wife Emma did to serve the Saints. I wanted to share those accounts.
Edwin Holden recalled: “In 1838, Joseph and some of the young men were playing various out-door games, among which was a game of ball. By and by they began to get weary. He saw it, and calling them together he said: ‘Let us build a log cabin.’ So off they went, Joseph and the young men, to build a log cabin for a widow woman. Such was Joseph’s way, always assisting in whatever he could.”
Seriously, how cool is that? Hang out with your friends and just decide to get them all go out and build a house for someone in need.
Lucy Mack Smith, the Prophet Joseph Smith’s mother, said of the time when the Saints were first settling in Commerce, Illinois, later called Nauvoo:“As the season advanced, the brethren who had settled here began to feel the effects of their hardships, which, joined to the unhealthiness of the climate, brought them down with agues and bilious fevers to such an extent that there were some whole families in which there was not one who was able to give another a drink of cold water or even to help themselves. Hyrum’s family were mostly sick. My youngest daughter, Lucy, was also very sick, and there were, in fact, but few of the inhabitants of the place who were well.
“Joseph and Emma had the sick brought to their house and took care of them there. And they continued to have them brought as fast as they were taken down until their house, which consisted of four rooms, was so crowded that they were under the necessity of spreading a tent in the yard for the reception of that part of the family who were still on their feet. Joseph and Emma devoted their whole time and attention to the care of the sick during this time of distress.”
And tell me, how many of us would do the same? I hope most of us. We should be willing to serve others like this. This is good and wholesome. It’s what Christ would want us to be doing. It would do more to help the poor, the sick, the afflicted then if we taxed everyone 100% of their money and just handed it out like crazy. Because this is true charity and service. Designed to uplift and bless others.
John L. Smith, the Prophet’s cousin, recalled the following incident that occurred in this same period of time: “The Prophet Joseph and cousin Hyrum, his brother, visited us. We were all sick but Mother with the fever and ague, and Father was out of his head the greatest part of the time. Joseph took the shoes from his feet when he saw our destitute condition and put them on Father’s feet, as he was barefoot, and rode home without any himself. He sent and took Father home to his house and saved his life and supplied us with many comforts so we recovered.”
How many of us would give someone the shoes off our feet or the shirt off our back? Isn’t this what we should all be doing? Cheerfully serving one another. Giving to those in need. Lifting them.
Elizabeth Ann Whitney recalled:“Early in the Spring of 1840 we went up to Commerce, as the upper portion of the city of Nauvoo continued to be called. We rented a house belonging to Hiram Kimball. … Here we were all sick with ague, chills and fever, and were only just barely able to crawl around and wait upon each other. Under these trying circumstances my ninth child was born. Joseph, upon visiting us and seeing our change of circumstances, urged us at once to come and share his accommodations. We felt the climate, the water, and the privations we were enduring could not much longer be borne; therefore we availed ourselves of this proposal and went to live in the Prophet Joseph’s yard in a small cottage; we soon recruited in health, and the children became more like themselves. My husband was employed in a store Joseph had built and fitted up with such goods as the people were in actual need of.
“One day while coming out of the house into the yard the remembrance of a prophecy Joseph Smith had made to me, while living in our house in Kirtland, flashed through my mind like an electric shock; it was this: that even as we had done by him, in opening our doors to him and his family when he was without a home; even so should we in the future be received by him into his house.”
A simple lesson here: We bless ourselves when we bless others. We get when we give.
Mosiah L. Hancock reported the following experience that occurred in Nauvoo while he was a youth: “This summer  I played my first game of ball with the Prophet. We took turns knocking and chasing the ball, and when the game was over the Prophet said, ‘Brethren, hitch up your teams,’ which we did, and we all drove to the woods. I drove our one-horse wagon standing on the front bolster, and Brother Joseph and father rode on the hounds behind [the bolster and houndsare structural parts of a wagon]. There were 39 teams in the group and we gathered wood until our wagons were loaded. When our wagon was loaded, Brother Joseph offered to pull sticks with anyone—and he pulled them all up one at a time—with anyone who wanted to compete with him.
“Afterwards, the Prophet sent the wagons out to different places of people who needed help; and he told them to cut the wood for the Saints who needed it. Everybody loved to do as the Prophet said, and even though we were sickly, and death was all around us, folks smiled and tried to cheer everyone up.”
Lesson: When our recreation time is over, it’s time to go serve others.
We need to be building communities where we serve on another like that. That is the attititude we should have as Saints. To quote the Prophet:
“I am your servant, and it is only through the Holy Ghost that I can do you good. … We do not present ourselves before you as anything but your humble servants, willing to spend and be spent in your service.”
And we should be humble servants who are willing to spend and be spent in your service and in Christ’s name.