Originally from West Valley City, UT, Mike Brady currently resides in Chubbuck, ID, adjacent to where his amazing wife Chelsie grew up. Together they have five children and have heard every “Brady Bunch” joke in the book. Among other callings, Mike served as a full-time missionary (Japan Tokyo South), early morning seminary teacher, elders quorum president, ward mission leader, and multiple bishoprics despite his large, young family. His BA in International Studies doesn’t do much in the IT industry where he works as a software product manager for Salt Lake City-based Samaritan Technologies. His passions include dating his wife, playing with those five aforementioned children, NBA basketball, and writing long emails to his bishop.
“Remember that God’s work and glory is not simply to run an effective organization; it is ‘to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man’ . . .Our progress is His work!” –President Henry B. Eyring
The Problem: Discouragement in Leadership
Have you ever followed a spiritual prompting only to complete your God-given task and then observe that no tangible effect had taken place?
I have. Let me know if one of the following scenarios seems familiar to you.
While driving, you feel an increasingly urgent prompting to check in on a friend, so you pull over and send a text message asking how he and his family are doing, and get a response stating that everything is fine. Everything is fine? You’re glad to hear it, but why was that prompting so strong and distracting?
You are preparing a lesson on a certain topic and feel inspired to take the discussion in a specific direction. You spend a good amount of time planning things out and feel spiritually-assured in your preparations. Then during the class when you share that special experience from your life, you don’t feel the same “oomph” of spiritual power that you did during your preparation, and it falls flat.
You and your ward council (or presidency) receive clear inspiration regarding certain objectives you should work to accomplish; in this case let’s say it is organizing a large-scale activity that will require a massive effort.
At each step along the way as you pray and counsel, you consistently receive spiritual guidance, reinforcing in your mind that you are on the Lord’s errand. Your own spirit practically vibrates with confidence.
Then on the day of the big event your main helper falls ill, you experience hiccup after hiccup, and worst of all, hardly anybody shows up. All of that work seemingly for nothing!
If any of those (or comparable) situations have happened to you, and to this day remind you of the discouragement you continue to associate with what you perceive as a failed effort, consider one more scenario, this one from the scriptures.
You are called as a prophet to help bring others unto Christ, but you soon become targeted by the wicked king as a troublemaker, and he seeks to slay you. You make yourself scarce for a couple of years before the Lord reminds you of your sacred duty. So you sneak back into the land in order to deliver your message.
You are eventually bound and taken before the king and his wicked priests. They again seek your life, but you are protected and empowered by God long enough to deliver a very powerful sermon.
Just when the king seems convinced, his priests step in and sway him back the other way, and you, having delivered your message, become a martyr by being burned alive. This is the story of The Book of Mormon prophet Abinadi, as told in Mosiah 11-17.
The Principle: “My Ways are Higher Than Your Ways”
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. –-Isaiah 55:8-9
This scripture has become my “stalwart friend” as Elder Richard G. Scott has put it. But how is this principle applicable to the scenarios above? What can we unpack here not only to dispel the feelings of discouragement and failure, but help us experience an increase of faith so that we will continue to heed the promptings of the Spirit, especially when they call for massive effort or putting us out of our comfort zone?
Now we get to what I call “The Abinadi Effect”. So far as we read in the scriptures, Abinadi’s sermon directly affected only Alma, one wicked man of presumably dozens of other wicked people in King Noah’s court. If Abinadi died possibly feeling as though he had failed in his prophetic mission, I’d have him consider that the single convert in Alma went on to accomplish so much:
- Baptized hundreds of King Noah’s subjects (Mosiah 18) and founded the church among them (Mosiah 23:16)
- Ordained priests and teachers (Mosiah 23:17)
- Under King Mosiah’s authorization, organized and regulated the church among the much larger kingdom of the Mulekites and Nephites (Mosiah 26:34-39)
- Gave us such seminal stories and images as “the Waters of Mormon” (Mosiah 18:30) and “ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter” (Mosiah 24:13-14)
In short, he became a very powerful and influential prophet.
Of course Alma was father to Alma the Younger, another key prophet in The Book of Mormon, whose own significant accomplishments include:
- Appointed as chief judge and high priest (Mosiah 29:42)
- Led the Nephite Army (Alma 2:16)
- Baptized many (including former apostates) (Alma 15)
- Confounded Korihor the Antichrist (Alma 30)
- Provided sermon after sermon which have brought to us the clear doctrines now restored to the Church as part of The Book of Mormon
Without Abinadi’s powerful witness given in the unfavorable setting of Noah’s court, we would have no Alma, no Alma the Younger, and most of the content in the books of Mosiah and Alma would not exist. Without Abinadi, who knows how history would have changed among the Nephites? Who knows how my life–or your life–would be different?
The initial Abinadi Effect originated in the heart of Alma, one wicked man who felt the Spirit. From there we witness endless effects of strengthened faith, and families and individuals coming unto Christ–and all traced back to Abinadi.
Though the scriptures do not mention whether or not Abinadi experienced feelings of discouragement or failure, my personal journal records times when I did. Maybe yours does, too. The lesson can still be learned that when we follow Abinadi’s example and respond to the promptings of the Spirit, and put our heart and soul into being obedient to those promptings, whether we witness a tangible result or not, we must remember that the Abinadi Effect will be real in our lives, too. We will never fail when we follow the Spirit.
There are some pitfalls along the way that we must be aware of. The adversary would like us to feel discouraged when we don’t see the results we expect. He would like that discouragement to lead to us to ignore future spiritual promptings by adopting the mindset “I tried this before, and nothing came of it. I’m not going to make that mistake and waste my time in that way again.”
Satan would like us to believe that following the Spirit is a mistake!
Yet, while seeing results can bolster our faith, our future actions without knowing past results is evidence of the faith that is within us. It is evidence that we recognize the Spirit when he prompts us.
Considering the first scenario above where I received an undeniable and increasingly urgent prompting to check in on my friend, the immediate result was that he told me that everything is fine. I might be tempted to think that it wasn’t actually a prompting and begin to doubt my ability to feel divine guidance.
Just as I started to be perplexed in that situation, my friend (who is also my stake president) sent the following text, and wiped that doubt away: “Thanks for checking on me. Maybe it was Heavenly Father’s way of seeing if you would act on a prompting.”
I have given so much thought to that concept and taken it to heart. Even though his family was perfectly fine, in the future when I get a similar nudge to check in on a friend, I won’t ignore it. Just because you can’t see the effects of your efforts as a leader does not mean that you should retard those efforts, nor does it mean you should hesitate to follow future promptings, especially when they would require great effort and sacrifice on your part.
Like Abinadi, you may have an extremely far-reaching effect on somebody, maybe even just one person, yet never know about it.
To further illustrate this point, I’ll conclude by sharing one final personal experience through which you will read how I learned that my Christian efforts are never in vain.
Experience – The Family History Fair
Several years ago I was part of a ward council who, in November or so, was putting together a ward mission plan for the following year.
The revelatory experience of that day was amazing. During the conversation of that council, one idea led to another and to another, the plan took clear shape, and each one of us had received a strong personal witness that what we had decided upon was the mind and will of the Lord. It was truly awesome.
The main objective of our ward mission plan was to put on a family history fair in our ward building near the end of the following year. To gear up for it, we would call and (re)train family history workers, we would use them alongside ward and full-time missionaries and ourselves as ward council members, to distribute flyers, work with adjoining wards and stakes, maybe even the city, to invite, inform, and inspire. By the end of the meeting, we were all energized. With the inspiration we felt the entire meeting, we could not fail!
The first step was to ensure that we, as the ward council, were conversant in family history, so come January we had scheduled some training meetings for ourselves and the family history consultants to become familiar with the website www.familysearch.org. We all brought our devices to the church one night and spent 90 minutes in training.
Our Primary president, I’ll call her Sister Y., possibly the least technologically-literate sister in the ward was in attendance. What she lacked in technical literacy, she made up for with her many different Christlike attributes of love, patience, soft but strong–I could go on and on. My kids love her! And there she was, battling the laptop, learning about the impossible “double-click” and the confusing difference between “username” and “password”.
After a couple of these trainings, a few families moved out of our already small and understaffed ward. We scrambled to fill callings, train leaders, and as the priorities changed, mounted, then changed again, the family history fair became lost. A few months later we tried to address it again. We had lost precious time to ramp up, and needed to adjust our expectations and efforts. We did not want to drop this ball, considering the strong guidance we had received during its conception.
And then… more people moved out! We simply couldn’t keep up! Yet we knew what we had experienced through the Spirit those months earlier and felt guilty for not being able to follow through–but there was only so much we could do.
From time to time, Bishop and I would discuss it and wonder to each other why we had felt so strongly to focus on family history, and then not be supported by the Lord in our efforts (so it seemed). We were frustrated and very busy. More months passed.
Late in the year, the ward mission plan long-since deprioritized, we were in fast and testimony meeting, and up to the pulpit walked Sister Y. She always gave good testimonies and talks, so I settled in my pew to await her words, which I will do my best to paraphrase here:
“Brothers and sisters, as most of you know I am a convert to the church, and so I don’t have the luxury of having my genealogy or temple work done back to Adam, like some of you seem to. Converted in my teens and learning about genealogy over the years, I have had decades and decades to learn how to do it, and to take the names of my relatives and ancestors to the temple. I have heard countless talks, read countless Ensign articles, the same ones you’ve heard and read, and have felt over and over the pull to get started. But for decades and decades, I have flatly refused to begin. I have been so angry with my parents and grandparents for the abuse my siblings and I were subjected to, that I did not want them to be happy. I did not want them to receive the blessings of the gospel, and I certainly DID NOT want to be with them in eternity.”
This had become a very raw, vulnerable moment for all of us in attendance. The chapel was utterly silent as she continued:
“I have known all these years that I have this responsibility, and that I have been holding on to this anger and pain to my own detriment. I have known that I will be held accountable for not doing what I could for their salvation, but the scars have been deep and the anger has been strong. Then about a year ago in ward council as we discussed hosting a family history fair, all of us in that room felt a strong surge of spiritual guidance. As each of us committed to each other and to the Lord to learn how to do family history ourselves, I went home and prayed and prayed for the strength to overcome my anger. I did not want to be the Achan (the weak link and demise) of the plans of that inspired ward council. It was so hard, but I knew that it was time. So I became trained on the Family Search website and with reluctance more extreme than the technical learning curve, (deep breath) …I began working on my family tree. Then a strange thing happened. As time went by, the family history fair idea died on the vine, losing out to the other struggles of our ward. It would have been so easy for me to quit, to stop helping these people whom I didn’t want to help anyway. But by that time, a miracle had taken place. I realized that I did want to help them. I began feeling the Spirit of Elijah, and eventually… the spirit of forgiveness. The anger I have held inside for decades is now gone. The pain is gone, replaced with only love and forgiveness, and now my regret is that I did not do this sooner.”
She wept openly. So did I. Most were.
She went on to testify of how the Atonement of Christ can change our very natures. It was sweet and powerful. Sister Y was transformed by Christ.
From my seat in the congregation, through my tears I looked up and met eyes with an also-weeping bishop. We nodded at one another in acknowledgement as that humble sister closed her remarks and again took her seat.
Later that day I met up with the bishop. We discussed how the Lord ministers to the one and in this case, that “one” was our beloved Sister Y. We speculated that perhaps the Lord’s endgame was never the family history fair: it was her.
It was always her.
We remembered the overpowering spiritual feelings of our planning meetings, and recognized that the Lord was orchestrating the perfect situation to help this one daughter progress beyond the destructive feelings that were holding her back from happiness. I am humbled to have been an observer to that great miracle, and to know of her transformation. Simply knowing that my hero and friend experienced the peace and joy that comes with forgiveness, I would do it all again, despite the time and effort put into a family history fair that never happened.
If you feel discouraged due to experiences like the “meaningless” text or failed family history fair, I give you the experiences of Abinadi and Sister Y to look to. Abinadi started a movement that has changed the world. Sister Y has altered her own spiritual trajectory and is affecting those of her departed family.
The effects of your efforts as a leader cannot be measured or quantified. When you seek to know His thoughts and His ways, when you follow spiritual promptings, your efforts are never in vain.
I repeat: your efforts are never in vain.