To sign up for Meridian’s Free Newsletter, please CLICK HERE. Many years ago my wife and I decided to take a spontaneous October trip to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We love the magnificent colors of autumn in New England. So we flew to New York, rented a car, and headed north through Connecticut and Massachusetts. As we entered a little village in western Massachusetts we noticed a small sign at the side of the road. It read simply: “Please drive carefully. We have no children to spare.” At first, we chuckled. What a friendly safety reminder, we thought. Then it occurred to us that – though likely inadvertent – that message was pure gospel doctrine: Our Heavenly Father has no children to spare. He wants all of us to return home safely to Him. Our Father and our Savior have given us a glorious Plan of Salvation. It’s a simple Plan. Nothing complicated. No tricks or convoluted requirements. The purpose of the Plan is to enable us – Heavenly Father’s children – to make wise choices that help us navigate through the twists and turns of mortality. Today, our GPS devices are on the dashboard of our car and on the screens of our smartphones. With the Holy Ghost, each of us has the ultimate GPS. The Holy Ghost has his own way of urging us to “recalculate” our position and direction. The Holy Ghost’s primary purpose is to guide us along the challenging path of mortality. And of course the primary purpose of mortality is to refine us, to make us ready to return home to Father. The church organization itself provides the ideal environment for our spiritual growth and development. The Savior’s restored church provides heaven-ordained support for the human family. And because it is the Savior’s restored church, it’s organized exactly as originally established by the Savior himself. The church has no paid clergy. We don’t campaign for position. We don’t submit our resumés for selection by some hiring committee. As covenant-keepers, we simply make ourselves available to serve in whatever capacities the Lord invites us. Leaders in the church are deputized to help develop the faith and spiritual capacity of ourselves and others among Heavenly Father’s precious children. That stewardship implies both an awe-inspiring trust from the Lord and a humbling partnership with the Lord. Everything we do as leaders should have a clear purpose. Otherwise, it’s extraneous. It’s fluff. Great leaders know that time and influence are the primary currencies by which they bring about good. Great leaders also know the importance of focus. Can you imagine the spiritual leverage we could exert throughout the Church if every Latter-day Saint would genuinely focus on just one other person? A young father tells of a conversation he overhead between his 10-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter. The subject was colors. Sarah asked her big brother what you get when you mix blue with yellow. Ten-year-old Matthew said: “With blue and yellow you get green.” Then he decided to test his little sister by asking, “What do you get when you mix red with orange?” Without missing a beat, little Sarah replied, “You get a sunset!” That little girl is one of those blessed souls who understands linkages. Do we understand linkages?
- Do we understand the linkage between a strong and effective and involved Sunday School presidency – and bringing people to Christ?
- Do we understand the linkage between well-prepared Sunday School and priesthood and Primary and Relief Society lessons – and bringing people to Christ?
- Do we understand the linkage between home teaching and visiting teaching done the right way for the right reasons – and bringing people to Christ?
- Do we understand the linkage between carefully planned and executed social and cultural activities in our wards and branches – and bringing people to Christ?
- Do we understand the linkage between regular temple attendance – and bringing people to Christ?
- Do we understand the linkage between teaching simple gospel principles to Sunbeams, CTRs, and Valiants – and bringing people to Christ?
- Do we understand the linkage between effective Ward Councils – and bringing people to Christ?
- Do we understand the linkage between detailed and focused missionary correlation meetings – and bringing people to Christ?
- Do we understand the linkage between working with hard-to-handle teenagers – heirs to everything God has – and bringing people to Christ?
- Do we understand the linkage between rendering compassionate service – and bringing people to Christ?
- Do we understand the linkage between the timeless principle of “return and report” – and bringing people to Christ?
- Do we understand the linkage between personal obedience – and bringing people to Christ?
Our stewardship as leaders in the Church is to do the Lord’s work. In fact, the word “stewardship” itself means “job with a trust.” In every facet of our assignments we have the opportunity to help bring others – and ourselves – closer to the Savior. As Elder Marvin J. Ashton said, “No one ever lifted someone else without stepping toward higher ground.” Perhaps the best-known statement on effective leadership in the Church came from the Prophet Joseph himself: “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.” Contained here are at least three basic elements: (1) There are correct principles. (2) The leader is both teacher and servant. (3) People are capable of self-government. Faith in and love for the Lord Jesus Christ are the first and most important guiding principles. They are necessary ingredients in all practices and all programs pertaining to our stewardship. With faith and love come commitment. The Savior himself is our model. Everything He ever said and everything He has ever done modeled perfect leadership principles. His gospel is the foundation of every good thought we should have, every good motive we should act upon, and every good deed we should offer in the service of others. As we serve together in the kingdom, we should derive personal meaning from the Apostle Paul’s proclamation that “[we] are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” Regardless of our station in life, all of us are busy. I’m confident there’s not one of us who has not said “I wish I had more time” for this or that or the other thing. And yet because of a wide range of motivations – the most important of which would be our love for God and His only begotten Son – we make time to serve. And while we’re making the time to serve, we might honestly ask ourselves if we have the genuine, Christlike caring for one another that is embodied in the teachings of Jesus. Or do we get trapped in our own little cocoons, in the comfort of our own views, in the circle of our own easy acquaintances, and miss the chance to “love one another” as Jesus intended? I love the story told by my friend Ardeth Kapp. In 1979 she attended the cornerstone ceremony at the Jordan River Temple. She arrived a bit late and was unable to take the seat that had been saved for her near the front. So she stood back in the crowd. Most of the people around her were taller than she, so she could see little more than backs and elbows. But then she noticed something wonderful. Off to the side she could see some men in dark suits and white shirts and ties pouring sand and cement and water into a wheelbarrow and mixing up the mortar. Then, as the speakers finished their addresses and it was time to lay the cornerstone, the men quietly took the mortar over to the corner and the ceremony began. Ardeth realized she probably wouldn’t remember many of the things that were said that day, but she would always remember that the mortar that those men almost anonymously mixed would serve to hold that cornerstone in place through the eternities. When we have a choice, how often are we willing to mix the mortar? How often are we willing to serve anonymously to render quiet acts of love and service: The simple notes of gratitude and appreciation? The phone calls? The visits that are very low profile? These quiet acts of loving service are the mortar that can hold lives together. It’s often in the supporting roles that we can offer the most magnificent performances. Do we serve only by assignment, or do we serve by covenant? Sometimes we simply need more focus. Dag Hammarskjöld was a wonderful Swede, a truly Christian gentleman, who served as Secretary-General of the United Nations. In his personal journal he once wrote “It is more noble to give yourself completely to one individual than to labor diligently for the salvation of the masses.” Think about that. Embodied in that statement is unfiltered Christian doctrine, the pure love of Christ. As the Savior Himself taught, the key to the ninety-nine is the one. Many of us have church callings that are different from the ones we had a couple of years ago. And there are very few of us who can say with certainty in which callings we will be serving two years from now. But some things are certain:
- The gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth.
- The authentic priesthood of God enables modern prophets to lead this, the Savior’s restored church.
- Willing workers are blessed with the opportunity to step outside their convenience and comfort zones to serve and uplift and strengthen their brothers and sisters.
Regardless of our current role, our faithful, focused service is an integral part of God’s loving, eternal plan for His family. Why? Because our Heavenly Father has no children to spare. Rodger Dean Duncan is a bestselling author who lives in Liberty, Missouri. A descendant of 19th century Baptist circuit riders, he was baptized into the Church at the age of 18. He has served three times as bishop, as stake president, and as stake mission president. Under President Spencer W. Kimball, Brother Duncan served on the advisory council that first recommended the subtitle to the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. This article is adapted from a talk Brother Duncan recently gave at a LeaderSHOP for Saints in the Waco Texas Stake where he and his wife were serving as full-time missionaries.