Saturday, June 09, 2018

June Week 2: Principles for Proper Leadership (Commentary on D&C 121:34-46)

34 Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?

we are all 'called' in some capacity or another.  we are called to be leaders or examples or other areas of service.  what does 'chosen' mean in this context?  to me, it is synonymous with "effective" or "ideal" or "good" or "proper".  therefore, to rephrase it, we all have work to do, but few are really good or effective at accomplishing the task at hand.

from here, we dig into why some people are good and effective at callings or leadership while others are not.

35 Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—

reason number one why some people aren't so effective: their hearts are not in the right place; their intentions are not good.  they want to lead in order to be popular or prestigious or to perhaps become wealthy from the position.

36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.

in a priesthood leadership context, some people want to be priesthood leaders to be popular; but they fail to understand that they must always be righteous and wise and just in order to be an effective and good leader.

37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.

leadership keys and priesthood authority may be granted us, but we lose that authority when we are prideful, vain or when we exercise control over people because of our position of authority.  many are aware of the catholic church priest scandals; but even the LDS church has its own issues and history.  as recent as this year, the news was filled with reports about a man named Joseph Bishop, who assaulted a sister missionary in the MTC of all places.  there are many other cases of heinous behavior of leaders abusing their position of authority (see wikipedia entry on mormon abuse case).

there are two key lessons here:
1. don't assume a bishop or stake president or mission president or general authority are good people.  reserve judgement and be mindful of never letting down your guard.  speak up for yourself; tell a trusted adult if you've been the victim of such heinous behavior.  DO NOT be silent about such matters; whether you've been the victim or if a friend or someone you know has suffered abuse.

2. if you are in a leadership position, you must set a higher standard for yourself.  don't ever let your actions betray the trust of others.

as youth, you should be aware of on-going efforts by a bishop who lives in houston, who has made it his mission to make bishop interviews less sexually explicit.  also, some people think it is a great idea to ensure there is more than one adult in the room when a leader interviews a child or young adult.  for more information about this effort, see:

38 Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God.

do you know what the term "kick against the pricks" means?

a prick or an ox goad was a stick with a pointed piece of iron on its tip used to prod the oxen when plowing. The farmer would prick the animal to steer it in the right direction. Sometimes the animal would rebel by kicking out at the prick, and this would result in the prick being driven even further into its flesh. In essence, the more an ox rebelled, the more it suffered.

maybe a more modern-day application would be "tire spikes."  maybe you've seen these in a parking lot, where you pay where you enter, but where you exit the parking lot, to prevent non-payers from entering, the lot has theses tire spikes.  if you roll over the spikes while exiting the lot, the spikes fold down.  but if you back up or go the wrong way over the spikes, it will pop your tires - a very costly mistake.

39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

according to D&C 121, most people are power hungry - in that when they get power and authority, the begin to abuse it.  this is a very stern warning for all of us - that we should be aware of our bias toward power.

40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen.

power hunger is the reason why so few are effective.

41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

no one can or should tell you what to do for the reason of: "because i said so; or i command you to ..."  this really only works in the military.  in normal day-to-day interactions, for anyone to be an effective leader, they must actually be good people.

up to this point in D&C 121, we've been talking about the traps of leadership.  now it gets into how to actually be a good and effective leader.

you can't just boss people around.

use persuasion, reason, logic.

long-suffering simply means being patient with people.

anger never really works; the other end of the spectrum from anger is gentleness.  how effective have your parents or leaders been when they get angry or upset?  are you more willing to do what someone tells you when they are freaking out or when they are gentle?

love unfeigned - what does 'feign' mean?  it means 'fake or false or to pretend'.  do you like it when people pretend to love you or when they actually love you?  it's an obvious answer.  so the lesson here is: don't be fake.  be genuine.

42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—

similar to gentleness is kindness.  again, think of when leaders have been kind to you.  are they more effective or less effective?

pure knowledge - is it better when a leader gives you good reasons for doing something?  or is it better when they just give opinions?  we are all biased in some way or another.  we assume we know, when in reality, we really don't know.  many of us don't admit we don't know.  it is always better to let data and sound knowledge guide us.  this is what pure knowledge is.

being lead by good information and knowledge will prevent leaders from being hypocrites and it will give them confidence in their decisions (confidence = enlarging the soul).

guile is simply deception.

43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;

followers will sometimes disobey a leader.  in those cases, the leader needs to provide feedback.  the old-school style would typically involve yelling and foaming at the mouth - which is, less effective.

a better way to provide feedback (which really is the essence of "reproving someone") is to ensure the feedback is given in a timely manner.  this is why your teachers assign homework and give quizzes in between tests.  if a lesson has been given, but the teacher doesn't know you've learned the lesson until the final exam, that is not very timely feedback.  even at work, all the employees are ranked once a year; but once a year feedback is not enough, therefore, we are coached frequently.  failure is bound to happen, but we lose opportunities to teach and learn if we don't actually think about and learn from our failures.

after you provide feedback, be sure to give encouragement and try to make the feedback experience positive.

this whole concept is easily apparent in dog-training.  you train your dog with positive reinforcement; not negative.

44 That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.

better to enjoy the kindness and confidence of a leader than the fear of hellfire damnation!

45 Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.

charity is the greatest of all.  see Moroni 7:45-48.

virtue (self-discipline, courage, justice, wisdom and the related virtues) should guide you in all your do as a person and as a leader.  at one point in time "garnish" actually meant , in part, "to warn or defend" (link).  If we apply this meaning in this context, we should let virtue guard our thoughts unceasingly or all the time - we should never let our guard down.  in today's terms, i often hear that we need to "be mindful."

if we can guard our thoughts with virtue all the time, then we will be confident relative to our position with God and with others.  we won't have anything to hide or feel guilt for.

pure doctrine - sound reason - real knowledge will seep (distil) into our minds like dew on grass.  have you ever notice your grass or a field at night - does it have dew on it?  no.  but in the morning, it does.  it's almost magic.  that process of distillation happens over hours.  if we practice virtue and learn right doctrine, then that knowledge will seep into our souls and minds.

46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.

wisdom will be our constant companion.  what else is the holy ghost but a means for teaching us what is right and wise and just?  we want to have those virtues to be with us all the time.

a scepter is a symbol of true power and authority.  kings and queens have scepters.  when you are an effective leader, your symbolic scepter will be righteousness and truth.

your domain or sphere of influence, will grow.  people will begin to seek you out; looking for your wisdom - all because you have take the time and effort to learn how to be an effective leader.