True Religion is ....
You were probably expecting me to say something else. After all James tells us that 'pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep himself unspotted from the word' (James 1:27)
He doesn't say pure religion or true religion is ... Jeff.
Let me tell you about Jeff and why I feel this way about him.
Jeff is our neighbor. He is a member of our ward. He is 52 years old and married to Julie who is 48. They have 4 beautiful children. A daughter (18/19) she is at school so I don't know her name. Another daughter, Alexa (16/17), a son Landon (14/15) and another son Keaton (9/10). A dog named Lady and a love of Christ's Atonement.
Jeff also has Lou Gehrig's disease ... and are you familiar with Benjamin Button? Yeah, he's got that too.
Jeff is unable to work. He needs help getting dressed and needs help feeding himself. He is unable to speak other than in simple phrases that sometimes don't connect his thought properly. Yet every week in Sunday School he raises his hand to participate. Inevitably he says, 'That thing Christ did, the Atonement. That was pretty great.'
When you talk with him one on one. He seems fixated with what could be considered gossip, but in Jeff's case, I don't think it is. "Sally left John, she left the church, WHY?" "That's crazy." I never really know who he is talking about ... sometimes it's a relative or sometimes it's a friend of his. The point is, what he focuses on says a lot about who he is. He loves the atonement, he loves the Savior, he can't fathom anyone breaking their covenants or wanting to leave the church. Why would anyone do that? Why would anyone throw something so valuable away?
Jeff is losing his ability to use his muscle's properly. He can't lift his arms. Soon he won't be able to walk. He has trouble swallowing and has lost 17 pounds in the last four months. Priesthood members have been asked to come to his house and have lunch with him. Dad had that opportunity yesterday. He went to Jeff's home, put him in the car and took Jeff to his favorite place to eat. Arctic Circle. Dad carefully cut Jeff's hamburger up to bite size pieces and fed Jeff his lunch. They then went to get the car washed and just spent time together and visited.
Dad came home uplifted ... a better person.
When I see Jeff's oldest son help his father stand up from the pew in Sacrament Meeting, put his arm around his father's shoulders and walk Jeff to Sunday School, I am touched by the simple act of service this young boy instinctively offers.
President Howard W. Hunter taught:
James tells us that true religion is a devotion to God, demonstrated by love and compassion for fellow men, coupled with unworldliness. Such a statement seems too simple to be sufficient, but in simplicity it speaks an important truth. Restated it may be said that true religion consists not only in refraining from evil (that is, remaining unspotted), but in deliberately and purposefully doing acts of kindness and service to others.
Jeff offers those in our neighborhood/ward (yeah, they are one and the same) the opportunity to be of service and to offer acts of kindness. He allows us to experience true religion. It is wonderful. He is a blessing to us.
It's not always easy to be of service, it is never convenient, but if you will strive to look for ways to offer up simple acts of kindness, make service a part of your lives, you will feel yourself become more like the Savior. You will be happier than you are now. You will be blessed.
I love you.