I find myself repeatedly trying to form Mormon friendships based off of serving others – multiple rides per week, doing dishes, etc. Each time – my efforts fail when I fail to live up to the expectations of the other person. For example, car breaks down after 50+ rides, etc.
How come the bishop and his wife seem to be able to cultivate amazing connections with ward members through “service” while I seem to fail every time?
It sounds like you are lonely, and I am sorry about that. Being lonely is a very painful thing. I think though, that you are operating under some misconceptions that are hampering you from your goal of making friends. You are right that sometimes service (particularly Visiting and Home teaching) can help friendships develop. We are taught at church that “you love who you serve”. Unfortunately, as you have experienced, that love is not always returned. Remember when the Christ cleansed ten lepers, but only one took the time to thank him? People are like that sometimes.
Chelsea, you have no truer friend than the Savior. He literally gave His life for you. When you perform service, or do anything else in the church, like fulfill a calling, or pay tithing, you should do it with Christ in mind. Do it because of your love for Him and your gratitude for His incomparable gift. If you do that, you will be happier and you will grow closer to Him.
You mention the bishop and his wife making friends, but consider the last time your ward got a new bishop. From the moment the new Bishop is called he is held in higher esteem. Before he has lifted one finger in service, more people want to be his friend and have his approval. This is not because he has served. It’s because of the respect members have for the mantel of his calling. In time, his service, and the sacrifice of his wife and family, endear them even more to the ward, but service is really only a part of it. Keep in mind also, that the service he gives is helping people repent, giving inspired guidance to someone in a difficult time and things of this nature. Of course, people helped in this manner feel a gratitude toward him which is more than they might feel toward someone who gave them a ride.
So serve because you want to please the Lord. In order to make friends, I have found that a lot of people are lonely, but don’t know how to reach out to others. You have clearly been trying to reach out, and that is a good beginning. May I suggest you change your effort a bit? If you feel comfortable, invite a few friends to your home for dinner and a movie, or invite anyone who is interested to go to a restaurant and a movie. You could also look for a few walking partners, walking together gives a lot of opportunity for talking and building friendship. I promise you there are many other lonely people in your ward. You just need to find them.
Good luck, Chelsea.