Helping Others Become Anxiously Engaged

Principles of Leadership Teachers Manual Religion 180R, (2001), 71–77

“For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. “Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; “For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves” (D&C 58:26–28).

Principle of Leadership

Leaders may need to help those they serve become “anxiously engaged in a good cause.”

Lesson Concepts

  1. 1.

    Leaders may need to encourage those they serve to become more Christlike and to help build the kingdom of God.

Concept 1. Leaders May Need to Encourage Those They Serve to Become More Christlike and to Help Build the Kingdom of God.


The role of Church and family leaders is to help people become more like Jesus Christ and build the kingdom of God. Ideally everyone would be “anxiously engaged” in these activities, doing “many things of their own free will” (D&C 58:27). In practice leaders often must provide some motivation.

To motivate means to encourage, inspire, activate, influence, prompt, or rouse someone to good works. See Elder Dallin H. Oaks’s list of motives people have for serving (pp. 38–39). Church and family leaders might appeal to some of these motives as they help people become anxiously engaged in applying gospel principles.

Elder Gene R. Cook, a member of the Seventy, wrote: “Love is a divine motivation; it motivates the Lord and thus must also motivate us. Particularly is that so in dealing with our families” (Raising Up a Family to the Lord [1993], 176).

Leaders can often motivate those they lead simply by teaching them the truths of the gospel. Many of us are motivated to do good by our belief in Heavenly Father and His plan of salvation. Elder Marion G. Romney, who was then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, taught: “A Latter-day Saint’s belief that the second advent of Christ is imminent should motivate him to follow with increased diligence the Lord’s revealed plans for the abolition of war and the elimination of poverty and pollution. It should stimulate his desire for education, particularly for knowledge of God and eternal life” (in “Gospel Forum,” Ensign, Jan. 1971, 16).

In a similar vein, leaders can motivate by encouraging those they lead to study the scriptures and the words of modern prophets. Elder Parley P. Pratt, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, wrote:

“At the age of seven years my mother gave me lessons to read in the Scriptures; I read of Joseph in Egypt,—his dreams, his servitude, his temptation and exaltation; his kindness and affection for his father and brethren. All this inspired me with love, and with the noblest sentiments ever planted in the bosom of man.

“I read of David and Goliath; of Saul and Samuel; of Samson and the Philistines—all these inspired me with hatred to the deeds of evil doers and love for good men and their deeds.

“After this I read of Jesus and his Apostles; and O, how I loved them! How I longed to fall at the feet of Jesus; to worship him, or to offer my life for his.

“At about twelve years of age I read of the first resurrection, as described by John the Apostle, in the 20th chapter of his Revelation; how they, martyrs of Jesus, and those who kept His commandments would live and reign with Christ a thousand years, while the rest of the dead lived not again till the thousand years were ended. O, what an impression this made on my mind; I retired to rest after an evening spent in this way; but I could not sleep. I felt a longing desire and an inexpressible anxiety to secure to myself a part in a resurrection so glorious” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt [1985], 2).

Building on these experiences with the Bible, Elder Pratt grew to become one of the great Church leaders of this dispensation.

The Prophet Joseph Smith warned leaders against “unrighteous dominion” or the unrighteous use of authority (D&C 121:39). “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. …

“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;

“By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile” (vv. 37, 41–42).

Leaders can use external rewards to motivate but should do so cautiously. An external reward is one not directly related to what is being rewarded, for example giving a person money for reading the scriptures. Such rewards can bring results, but if used unwisely, they can be detrimental to a person’s spiritual maturity. Lavish praise can come across as insincere or manipulative. External rewards can also diminish a person’s internal motivation.

Leaders can motivate by sharing stories and teachings of Jesus Christ. President Harold B. Lee, who was then a Counselor in the First Presidency, listed the following ways Jesus exemplified principles of good teaching, and they apply to leadership as well:

  1. “1.

    The Master had a true love of God and God’s children.

  2. “2.

    He had a burning belief in his mission to serve and save mankind.

  3. “3.

    He had a clear and sympathetic understanding of human beings and their vital needs.

  4. “4.

    He was a constant, earnest student. He knew the ‘law and the prophets.’ He knew history and the social conditions of his time.

  5. “5.

    He could discern truth and was uncompromising in upholding it.

  6. “6.

    His simple language enabled him to reach and hold hearers from every class and condition.

  7. “7.

    His creative skill made the lessons live for all time.

  8. “8.

    He led people to hunger and thirst after righteousness.

  9. “9.

    He inspired active goodness—a desire to apply the gospel in uplifting service.

  10. “10.

    He demonstrated his faith by living it constantly and courageously” (“And Ye Shall Teach,” Ensign, Sept. 1971, 5).

Teaching Idea

Explain that leaders often need to help people mature in the gospel and learn to serve effectively in their callings. Discuss some of the motives we may have for serving, both as leaders and followers, and list them on the board. Invite students to rank them from least to most worthy, and discuss their reasons.

Discuss Doctrine and Covenants 121:34–46. Identify motives and behaviors in these verses that constitute unrighteous dominion, as well as those that characterize righteous leadership. Stress the importance of being in tune with the Holy Ghost.

Discuss some of the disadvantages of using external rewards to motivate people to live gospel principles.

List ways Jesus Christ showed perfect leadership. Invite students to apply the positive traits discussed in these lessons in their leadership roles.

Teaching Idea

Read or tell Elder Hugh B. Brown’s story of the currant bush from the Teacher Resources section below. Have students analyze the motives in Elder Brown’s life before and after this experience.

Teacher Resources

Hugh B. Brown