“Fellow-Servants” (Alma 17:29)

What inspires you to serve?

For me, it is often seeing other people serve.

Several years ago, I met a young couple in Chennai, India. They were running a school for young children who lived in a leprosy colony. After talking with them for a short time, I was struck by how happy they were. I wanted to be as happy as they were, and I recognized that I needed to serve others more.

When Ammon arrived in the land of Ishmael, he volunteered to be a servant to the king (Alma 17:25). Ammon was the son of a king himself, but his father and grandfather had set a good example for him, laboring with their own hands to minimize their burden on the people (Mosiah 2:14, Mosiah 6:7). Ammon’s grandfather, King Benjamin, had pointed to his own service as an example for his people: “If I, whom ye call your king, do labor to serve you, then ought not ye to labor to serve one another?” (Mosiah 2:18).

So now, as Ammon watched the king’s flocks, he referred to the others who were with him as his “fellow-servants” (Alma 17:29). After participating in a miracle which left the king speechless, Ammon reaffirmed his status: “Behold, I am a man, and am thy servant” (Alma 18:17).

Many years later, on the isle of Patmos, John the Beloved experienced a supernal vision. When he tried to worship the angel who showed him these marvelous scenes, the angel forbade him: “See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). (See also Revelation 22:9.)

On May 15, 1829, John the Baptist appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the woods near Harmony, Pennsylvania. Laying his hands on their heads, he conferred the priesthood on them, beginning with the words, “Upon you my fellow servants…” (Joseph Smith—History 1:69, Doctrine and Covenants 13:1).

The word “fellow-servant” has multiple meanings for me. It conveys a kind of egalitarianism, which is probably why it put Oliver Cowdery at ease. He wrote that the words “‘I am thy fellow-servant,’ dispelled every fear” (Joseph Smith—History, endnote).

But the word has another connotation as well. Like King Benjamin, like the couple I met in India, and like the Savior himself, an example of righteous service inspires us to serve. The word “fellow-servant” is itself an invitation, to join a person we respect and admire in the actions which make them admirable.

Today, I will follow the examples of people I have known who have served others. I will choose to be their “fellow-servant.”

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