Worldwide Leadership Training Highlights Path to Real Growth
By Heather Whittle Wrigley, Church News and Events
- During 2012’s Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf defined real growth as “growth in the number of active members.”
- Real growth occurs when personal, lifelong conversion to the gospel results in increased faithfulness in each individual and family, Elder M. Russell Ballard said.
- President Uchtdorf emphasized that real growth comes as we apply gospel principles in our daily lives.
“Too often we complicate the beauty and simplicity of the gospel of Jesus Christ with endless lists of meticulous expectations. However, when we focus on the ‘why’ of the gospel, much of the confusion fades away.” —Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency
Church leaders explained the significance of “real growth” and how to achieve it during the February 11, 2012, Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting. (Access the online archives of the 2012 Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting.)
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the Presidency of the Seventy, and Church auxiliary presidencies participated in the instruction to Church leaders around the world.
“In Church terms, growth could be defined as ‘new members.’ . . . Real growth, however, is defined as ‘growth in the number of active members,’“ President Uchtdorf explained.
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles added, “Growth occurs when personal, lifelong conversion to the gospel results in increased faithfulness in each individual and family.”
That increased faithfulness includes things that can’t be easily measured, such as daily prayer, scripture study, family home evening, love at home, and personal experiences with the Atonement, President Uchtdorf said.
“Too often, we complicate the beauty and simplicity of the gospel of Jesus Christ with endless lists of meticulous expectations,” he said. “However, when we focus on the ‘why’ of the gospel, much of the confusion fades away.”
Much of the broadcast focused on key doctrines and principles, which provide answers to “why” questions. During the second half of the training, Church leaders discussed leadership principles from Handbook 2: Administering the Church in a panel discussion.
“The proper ‘why’ questions will lead us to the proper ‘who,’ ‘what,’ ‘when,’ ‘where,’ ‘why,’ and ‘how,’ decisions,” President Uchtdorf said.
The Purpose of Mortality
Quoting President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008), President Uchtdorf said, “We are here to assist our Heavenly Father in His work and His glory, ‘to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man’ (Moses 1:39)” (“This Is the Work of the Master,” Ensign, May 1995, 71).
The Atonement provided immortality for all who would come to the earth and eternal life for all who would qualify, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said. To qualify we must develop faith, repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end, which includes receiving the sealing ordinances of the temple, he continued.
Elder Nelson added, “Three times in sacred scripture the warning is made that the whole earth would be utterly wasted at the Lord’s return if certain conditions were not in place. In each instance that warning relates to the condition of the human family without the sealing ordinances of the temple. Without these ordinances of exaltation, the glory of God would not be realized.”
Achieving that end goal—eternal life and exaltation for all of God’s children—requires that real growth occur in our homes, in wards and branches, and throughout the Church.
Marriage and Family in the Plan
“The Church is made up of families,” President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said. “When we talk of families, then we see the real growth in the Church.”
Elder Nelson stressed that husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, must build a relationship of love, repentance, and prayer to successfully strengthen and protect the family, which “is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children” (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2010, 129).
Priesthood Power in the Plan
Every husband and father should be an officer in the priesthood, presiding over his family in righteousness, said President Packer.
He clarified that although the offices within the priesthood vary, every worthy priesthood holder has just as much priesthood as the next.
One phrase in the Doctrine and Covenants changed the work of the Church forever, he said: “But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world’” (D&C 1:20).
The Role of Covenants
Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that the ultimate application of the gospel is making and keeping temple covenants.
Obedience to covenants, he said, can change the natural man to a Saint over time. “It produces faith in a person to know they have God’s personal promise to them, individually,” he said.
Temporal and Spiritual Rescue
Members are responsible individually and as a Church to reach out to rescue those in temporal and spiritual need, leaders said.
We should not hesitate to join hands with other faiths and service-oriented organizations to care for the poor and the needy, Elder Christofferson said. Priesthood leaders should lead out in these efforts, but members and missionaries should support that role as well.
Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Presidency of the Seventy said that every leader needs to be involved in bringing members back to full activity, and Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles emphasized that the youth need to be more involved in reactivating and strengthening other youth.
Strengthening Quorums and Members
During the second half of the training, a panel of Church leaders discussed how to implement the instructions received during the discussion portion by using leadership principles from Handbook 2: Administering the Church.
“Specifically, how do we minister to families, how do we strengthen Melchizedek Priesthood holders, and how do we help the youth reactivate and strengthen each other?” Elder Ballard asked.
Real growth, he continued, “is a constant effort, and it is a blessing that comes when we are able to save and help one another, particularly one by one.”
Ministering to Families
After viewing a short video that showed ward leaders working with their bishop to bring children and their parents to Church meetings, panel members discussed how ministering to families begins with loving and caring about every family member.
“In the handbook . . . it says the home is the basis of a righteous life, and no other instrumentality can take its place or fulfill its essential functions,” Elder Andersen said. “And these wise Primary leaders understood that to just grab the children was not the answer. They had to go into the family because that’s going to be the lasting place of righteousness and goodness.”
Elder Ballard pointed out the importance of bringing such issues before a council setting in the ward.
Strengthening Melchizedek Priesthood Holders
Members of the panel emphasized the effect leaders can have on less active members by reaching out and ministering.
Elder Andersen emphasized the importance of always keeping in mind the main purpose of the Church—“to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).
In other words, we aren’t just trying to bring people back to church, but we are aiming at covenants and bringing them to Christ through the ordinances of the temple, he explained.
Elder Rasband mentioned that new members and those returning to activity should be given a calling quickly, to allow them to progress more quickly.
Rosemary M. Wixom, Primary general president, commented on 3 Nephi 18:30, 32: “‘Nevertheless . . . continue to minister,’” she quoted, then added, “I think that’s the Lord’s way of saying, ‘Never give up.’ And when there is rejection, continue to love and to minister.”
Raising Future Leaders
The panel members discussed how powerful service among the youth of the Church is affecting not only those who are receiving the service, but also those who serve.
“This is something that we will see more and more in the years ahead—that young quorum presidents and young women take more responsibility for those their same age,” Elder Andersen predicted.
Elder Rasband said the future leaders of the Church are in “the deacons, teachers, and priests quorums throughout the whole Church. And they are all joined by wonderful young women . . . in every organization of the Young Women.”
“Some of those future leaders are in Primary,” Sister Wixom added.
“This is the Lord’s work, and it’s done one on one,” Elaine S. Dalton, Young Women general president said. “And so I don’t think that leaders should be overwhelmed. There are so many who need help, but what I felt and saw today was that we zeroed in. . . . And if everyone could just do that, everything would change.”
Achieving Real Growth
In closing, Elder Ballard urged leaders to watch the broadcast carefully, to review it and think about their own situations and their own circumstances, and determine how they can better lift, inspire, and bless Heavenly Father’s children throughout the world.
“Just think what would happen if every [auxiliary] was able to bring [in] just one or two [members] a year,” he said. “It’s not that hard when we . . . [reach] out to our Heavenly Father’s children that He loves and whom we have the responsibility for because we have the fulness of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Real growth comes as we apply gospel principles in our daily lives, President Uchtdorf emphasized.
“As you consider these topics, ask yourself about the ‘why’ of your service and ministry and the resulting ‘therefore, what’ in your responsibilities as individuals and as councils,” he said.
Individuals can watch, listen to, print, and download material from the broadcast in dozens of languages by going to lds.org/study/other-addresses and clicking on Worldwide Leadership Training.