Learning to Lead With Charity

Principles of Leadership Teachers Manual Religion 180R, (2001), 38–43

“But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him. “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ” (Moroni 7:47–48).

Principle of Leadership

Christ-like leadership is motivated by charity.

Lesson Concepts

  1. 1.

    Charity is the highest motive for service as a leader.

  2. 2.

    We can grow in our capacity to lead with charity.

Concept 1. Charity Is the Highest Motive for Service as a Leader.


Charity is “the highest, noblest, strongest kind of love, not merely affection; the pure love of Christ. It is never used [in the scriptures] to denote alms or deeds or benevolence” (Bible Dictionary, “charity,” 632).

The Apostle Paul taught that charity is greater than any overt act of service or any other spiritual gift: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

“And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. …

“Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

“For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

“But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. …

“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” 1 Corinthians 13:1–3, 8–10, 13).

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, taught: “We must not only do what is right. We must act for the right reasons. The modern term is good motive. The scriptures often signify this appropriate mental attitude with the words full purpose of heart or real intent. …

“… If we do not act for the right reasons, our acts will not be counted for righteousness. …

“There are no blessings in supposedly good acts that are performed for the wrong reasons” (Pure in Heart [1988], 15, 33; see also Moroni 7:6–11).

On another occasion, Elder Oaks suggested six reasons people have for serving:

  1. 1.

    “For the sake of riches or honor.”

  2. 2.

    “To obtain good companionship.”

  3. 3.

    “Out of fear of punishment.”

  4. 4.

    “Out of a sense of duty or out of loyalty.”

  5. 5.

    “The hope of an eternal reward.”

  6. 6.

    “For the love of God and the love of fellowmen.”

This last reason, charity, Elder Oaks calls “the highest reason of all. … It is what the scriptures call ‘a more excellent way’ (1 Corinthians 12:31)” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1984, 14–16; or Ensign, Nov. 1984, 13–14).

Leaders in the Church and family need the guidance, vision, and strength that only the Spirit of the Lord can impart, and this Spirit is hampered when our motives for serving are not pure. Leaders should serve out of charity rather than less worthy motives.

Teaching Idea

Ask students whether motives, acts, or results are more important, and discuss their responses. Explain that people tend to evaluate the goodness of their actions in terms of the result (for example: How much money did you make? How many people did you baptize?). But the Lord looks upon the heart, or the motive for our actions (see D&C 137:9). Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve explained: “Everything depends—initially and finally—on our desires. These shape our thought patterns. Our desires thus precede our deeds and lie at the very cores of our souls” (in Conference Report, Sept.–Oct. 1995, 28; or Ensign, Nov. 1995, 23).

Define charity and explain that it is the highest motive for service as a leader (see the commentary). Discuss questions like the following as a class or in small groups:

  • What are some of the reasons we might serve as Church or family leaders? Are all of them equally valid?

  • What should I do if my motives for serving as a leader are less than charitable?

  • How can I learn to love the people I serve?

Concept 2. We Can Grow In Our Capacity to Lead With Charity.


Elder Dallin H. Oaks wrote: “The requirement that our good acts must be accompanied by good motives is subtle and difficult in practice. …

“To become pure in heart—to achieve exaltation—we must alter our attitudes and priorities to a condition of spirituality, we must control our thoughts, we must reform our motives, and we must perfect our desires. How can this be done?

“The first step in the alteration of our attitudes and our priorities is to face up to our own imperfections and the need to change. …

“We begin by questioning ourselves. Stripping away our pretenses and our false fronts, probing honestly and deeply within our inner selves, we should seek to identify our true attitudes and priorities. …

“We seek spirituality through faith, repentance, and baptism; through forgiveness of one another; through fasting and prayer; through righteous desires and pure thoughts and actions. We seek spirituality through service to our fellowmen; through worship; through feasting on the word of God, in the scriptures and in the teachings of the living prophets. We attain spirituality through making and keeping covenants with the Lord, through conscientiously trying to keep all the commandments of God. Spirituality is not acquired suddenly. It is the consequence of a succession of right choices. It is the harvest of a righteous life. …

“To achieve spirituality and to reform our motives and perfect our desires we must learn to control our thoughts. The prophet Alma taught his faithful son Helaman: ‘Let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever’ (Alma 37:36). …

“The ultimate good motive for any act is charity—the pure love of Christ. We acquire that motive in two ways: (1) by praying for love, and (2) by practicing service.

“We can affect our motives by prayer. …

“In order to learn to serve for the pure love of Christ, we must practice serving God and our fellowmen” (Pure in Heart, 18, 140–41, 144–45, 148).

Teaching Idea

Discuss with students how we can develop purity of heart and charity in order to be better leaders. List your conclusions on the board. (These might include changing our attitudes, controlling our thoughts, and admitting our imperfections. See the commentary.)

Consider inviting students to organize a service project for someone at school or in the neighborhood, keeping in mind the importance of charity in such an endeavor.

Teacher Resources

Stephen D. Nadauld