Nathan Waldron is an elder’s quorum president from Roy, Utah. He has a bachelors degree in Computer Information Systems, an MBA, and pursing a graduate degree in banking work as an analyst for Zions Bancorporation. He served his mission in Madrid Spain (Did I mention his wife and 3 kids?). I recently interviewed Nathan during the How I Lead segment on the Leading Saints podcast (listen HERE).
In the Church we do lots of things–we home/visit teach, hold family home evening, study the scriptures, attend church, attend other meetings, serve in various callings, attend the temple, do family history, the list can go on and on. All of these activities have a purpose and goal. For example, the purposes of home teaching, as illustrated by duties of the priesthood, are to “visit the house of each member, and exhort them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties” (D&C 20:47) and “watch over the church always, and be with and strengthen them; And see that there is no iniquity in the church, neither hardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking;” (D&C 20:53-54). There is no doubt in my mind these are worthwhile goals that can bring us closer to our Savior and Father in Heaven. And, the level at which we choose to participate in them is a reflection of the strength our testimonies. Let’s call these the “hows” of the gospel.
The “whats” of the Gospel are the results of the “hows.” If we read the scriptures, we are being obedient and our testimonies are strenghened. The “what” is a stronger testimony and the “hows” are scripture study, church and temple attendance, service, etc.
In his October, 2011 Conference talked titled Forget Me Not, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, said to the women of the church–and this is also very applicable to the men (emphasis added):
While understanding the “what” and the “how” of the gospel is necessary, the eternal fire and majesty of the gospel springs from the “why.” When we understand why our Heavenly Father has given us this pattern for living, when we remember why we committed to making it a foundational part of our lives, the gospel ceases to become a burden and, instead, becomes a joy and a delight. It becomes precious and sweet. Let us not walk the path of discipleship with our eyes on the ground, thinking only of the tasks and obligations before us. Let us not walk unaware of the beauty of the glorious earthly and spiritual landscapes that surround us. My dear sisters, seek out the majesty, the beauty, and the exhilarating joy of the “why” of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The “what” and “how” of obedience mark the way and keep us on the right path. The “why” of obedience sanctifies our actions, transforming the mundane into the majestic. It magnifies our small acts of obedience into holy acts of consecration.
How often do we keep our eyes on the ground, doing our duty, with no joy? How often do we fail to see the beauties of the world around us because we are too busy running from one meeting to another and from one service project to another? We have been asked to be disciples of Christ and the only way we are going to see those in need is to raise our eyes and look around.
Soon after being called to serve in an Elders Quorum Presidency I attended some training through work. After the first day, I knew I could apply the Influencer/Six-Source Model to home teaching. I worked feverishly for months and finally had a plan. I felt inspired as I worked through the process and knew this would make a difference in our quorum. The first month we implemented revised home teaching assignments we jumped from an average of 10-15% to over 40%! It worked! I was thrilled to see such an immediate (and lasting) change. But improvement from 40-50% was slow going.
Then I was called to be the president of the quorum. During Priesthood opening exercies each week, I would remind the brethren of the ward of the importance of home teaching. We would see minor peaks in the number of families visited and the lives touched but nothing lasting. Then I listened to a book and changed my focus.
I first came across Simon Sinek through a talk he gave at a TED Conference (TED’s purpose is to spread ideas and all talks, which are generally less than 20 minutes, are all available online at TED.com). Simon’s talk How Great Leaders Inspire Action touched me, but it was months before I realized why.
There is much to be said for the hows of the Gospel. We do a lot of things in order to achieve the whats–sacrament meeting attendance, youth serving missions, temple marriages, etc. The hows and whats often get our focus rather than the why. Simon’s book “Start with Why” illustrates that we, as consumers of products, will buy why a company does something and not necessarily the product itself. He uses Apple as an example. Apple’s products are fine but they are not always the best in the market and yet Apple has fans who will stand in line for hours to get the next device. Why? In Simon’s eyes it is simply because Apple challenges the status quo and that feeling resonates with consumers of their products. These people want to challenge the status quo and be different too.
After listening to “Start with Why” I came to the realization that I had been focused on a how–home teaching–in order to bring about whats–families visited, relationships built, etc. Where I should have been focused, though, is the why of the gospel. God declared, “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (emphasis added) (Moses 1:39). As I see it, this is the purpose of the gospel. But that is God’s purpose, not ours, right? Wrong! When we actively participate in the gospel, we are participants with God in bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
I recognize, though, that this is a lofty goal and hard for our finite minds to comprehend. So, I think something President David O. McKay said will bring this goal down to our level, “The purpose of the gospel is…to make bad men good and good men better, and to change human nature.” Bad men good. Good men better. Change human nature. Have you been made better through the gospel? Have you been changed through the gospel? I know I have!
This is where our focus, as individual members and, especially leaders, should be. Rather than focusing on the programs of the church we need to focus on the why of the gospel. How do we help bring about change? We point to the Savior and focus on building testimonies founded on the Atonement! Consistent focus on the why will lead to lasting change in the hearts of those we have been called to serve.
A quote from a recent Gospel Doctrine lesson caught my attention. President Ezra Taft Benson, “Often we spend great effort in trying to increase the activity levels in our stakes. We work diligently to raise the percentages of those attending sacrament meetings. We labor to get a higher percentage of our young men on missions. We strive to improve the numbers of those marrying in the temple. All of these are commendable efforts and important to the growth of the kingdom. But when individual members and families immerse themselves in the scriptures regularly and consistently, these other areas of activity will automatically come. Testimonies will increase. Commitment will be strengthened. Families will be fortified. Personal revelation will flow” (emphasis added, Lesson 27: The Influence of Wicked and Righteous Leaders). This is further testimony that the activities we perform are results of our testimonies, which will increase through regular and consistent scripture study.
I have seen the truthfulness of that in my life. When I haven’t been reading and studying the scriptures consistently my desire to perform my duties, as Elders Quorum president, home teacher, ward member, father, is diminished. As I return to the scriptures my desires to serve increase.
So, what does this mean for us in our respective leadership callings? First and foremost it means we must understand our own why. Why do we do what we do? Why do YOU do what YOU do? Study your actions and find your why. As you do so I know you will be blessed with a greater understanding of the power of having this foundation. I liken this to a corporate mission statement or vision. Your why can become your mission and the vision you have for yourself in your leadership calling. President Monson has said, “Vision without effort is daydreaming; effort without vision is drudgery; but vision, coupled with effort, will obtain the prize” (Finishers Wanted, June 1989 Ensign). Going through the effort without understanding why is drudgery. Find your why!
Next, determine the why for those you lead. After my call as Elders Quorum president my bishop suggested we establish a vision for the quorum, as a presidency we felt, “We are a quorum of brothers who consistently show our love for Christ and apply His Atonement” fit our quorum. I feel this is our why. Find the why for your organization. I believe this should be tied back to the mission our Father in Heaven established for Himself4–to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man–because that is our ultimate why. I am confident you will be guided by your loving Father as you do this. Then, focus on this why rather than the programs–home teaching and visiting teaching, ward activities, meetings, etc. This should be done one-on-one as often as possible so they know you care about them.