John the Beloved recorded the events of what is now called the Last Supper – “So after Jesus had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:12-15)
Then Jesus said: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:34-35)
Elder Stephen F. Owen, former Young Men General President posed this question: “If I were to ask you, “Who is the greatest leader who ever lived?”—what would you say? The answer, of course, is Jesus Christ. He sets the perfect example of every imaginable leadership quality.”
“But what if I were to ask you, “Who is the greatest follower who ever lived?”—wouldn’t the answer again be Jesus Christ? He is the greatest leader because He is the greatest follower—He follows His Father perfectly, in all things.” (General Conference, April 2016)
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has taught: “In God’s kingdom, greatness and leadership means seeing others as they truly are—as God sees them—and then reaching out and ministering to them… The Savior loves all of God’s children regardless of their socioeconomic circumstance, race, religion, language, political orientation, nationality, [or tribe] or any other grouping. And so should we!”
Elder Uchtdorf continued, “If we approach our callings as opportunities to serve God and minister to others with faith and humility, every act of service will be a step on the path of discipleship. In this way, God not only builds up His Church but also builds up His servants. The Church is designed to help us become true and faithful disciples of Christ, good and noble sons and daughters of God. This happens not just when we go to meetings and listen to talks but also when we get outside ourselves and serve. This is how we become “great” in the kingdom of God.” (General Conference, April 2017)
We might not need to wash the feet of everyone around us, but how often do we look at others and see what the Lord sees? Do we see each other as sons and daughters of a King, brothers and sisters of our Heavenly Parents, endowed with infinite worth and eternal potential? How would that change how we treat each other, how we communicate, how we resolve problems together, how we become united in the work of the Lord?
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Elder Quentin L. Cook, now members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, served as companions when they were young missionaries in England. It is difficult to imagine Elder Cook and Elder Holland arguing about whose turn it was to do the dishes, or whether it was time for companion study or following mission rules, or how to treat each other with patience, kindness, and mutual respect.
In Adjusting to Missionary Life there are suggestions for strengthening our relationships. These can be useful with our missionary companion (or our eternal companion,) with all the missionaries in our apartment (or our family members,) or in our district or zone (in our ward, our stake, and in our neighborhood.) How can we apply those suggestions in our own lives and circumstances?
- Listen first, during conversations, find out how he or she sees things;
- Resolve problems without becoming critical or angry. Don’t attack the person, attack the problem.
- Respectfully explain what is bothering you. Example: “I feel frustrated always having to do the dishes. What can we do differently? What will work best for both of us? What does the Lord want us to do?
- Be straightforward and kind.
- Don’t take offense. Take suggestions, even if rudely given, with as much grace and humor as you can muster.
- Compliment others often. Thank them sincerely for things you appreciate.
- If you are really brave and courageous, ask others, especially your eternal companion or missionary companion, for suggestions on how you can improve. If you ask with a sincere heart and real intent, then follow through and make the changes to strengthen the relationship.
As we strive to follow the greatest follower, as we strive to serve like the greatest servant, may we truly become His disciples and be willing to wash feet wherever and however we can.
[Note: The ideas and suggestions contained in these articles are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a qualified mental health professional. In addition, if you are experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please seek medical or mental health assistance immediately. In the U.S., call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Or use the Lifeline Chat at 988lifeline.org/chat/. Services are free and confidential.]