Leaders and our Divine Potential

Principles of Leadership Teachers Manual Religion 180R, (2001), 1–6


“Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God” (D&C 18:10).

Principle of Leadership

An understanding of our divine potential helps leaders guide others to Jesus Christ.

Lesson Concepts

  1. 1.

    We have divine potential because we are children of Heavenly Father.

  2. 2.

    Jesus Christ is our Savior.

  3. 3.

    Leaders should follow the Golden Rule.

Concept 1. We Have Divine Potential Because We Are Children of Heavenly Father.

Commentary

The Psalmist asked, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:4). Some people believe that man is simply a rational animal motivated by subconscious drives, socioeconomic forces, or innate aggression. Some people believe that man’s behavior is controlled by promised rewards or threatened punishments. Some people hold that our existence is meaningless.

By contrast, Latter-day Saints understand that all people are children of Heavenly Father and have the potential to become like Him (see Acts 17:29; Ephesians 4:6; Hebrews 12:9). The Savior’s admonition to become perfect as He is perfect is an evidence of our divine potential.

We believe that all people have great worth (see D&C 18:10, 15), that they are able to discern right from wrong (see 2 Nephi 2:5), that because of Jesus Christ’s Atonement they are free to choose between good and evil (see vv. 26–27), and that they are therefore accountable for their choices (see v. 10). We hold that God’s purpose in establishing the plan of salvation is that we might have joy (see v. 25).

Teaching Idea

Draw a vertical line down the middle of the board. On the left side write the heading Some Secular Views of Human Nature. On the right side write the heading Latter-day Saint Beliefs about Human Nature. Discuss the commentary above, and write summaries of secular views and revealed insights regarding our nature and potential under the appropriate headings. Call students’ attention to our understanding as Latter-day Saints that we are children of Heavenly Father with the potential to become like Him.

Discuss how our knowledge of who we are and what we may become helps us be better leaders. Encourage students to cultivate a deeper understanding of human nature and the plan of salvation. Tell students that doing so will increase their desire and ability to bring people to Jesus Christ.

Discuss how our understanding of our divine nature can influence the planning of Church and family programs.

Have students read Moses 1:27–39. Discuss questions such as:

  • What do these verses tell us about who we are?

  • What do these verses tell us about our potential?

  • Do you think Moses was better able to lead his people after the vision described in these verses? Why?

  • What truths do you see in these verses that can help you be a better leader?

Divide the class into small groups. Tell each group to imagine that they have been called to plan a stake youth conference. Have them outline the conference and plan activities that will help the youth know that they are children of Heavenly Father and have divine potential. Invite the groups to consider how the conference plans might differ if they were made by a secular institution for a similar group of young people. Give them time to finish, and then have them report their findings to the class.

Concept 2. Jesus Christ Is Our Savior.

Commentary

Our view of human nature is affected by our understanding of the nature and mission of Jesus Christ. The gospel teaches that Jesus is the Messiah, our Savior, and the Divine Son of God the Father.

Nephi was told by the angel: “These last records [the Book of Mormon] … shall establish the truth of the first [the Bible] … and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved” (1 Nephi 13:40).

The Savior knew from childhood that His mission was part of His Heavenly Father’s plan. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve explained, “He knew so much, so young” (Men and Women of Christ [1991], 115). The Apostle John recorded that Jesus “received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness” (see D&C 93:13). As Christ’s ministry unfolded, He spoke to others of His identity and mission. “I and my Father are one,” He told His disciples (John 10:30). To the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well He revealed that He was the long-awaited Messiah (see John 4:19–26, 42). Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, summarized the Lord’s testimony of Himself at the pool of Bethesda: “He worked by the power of the Father; he would bring to pass the resurrection; he was to be honored along with the Father; he would judge all men; he would preach to the spirits in prison and open the graves of earth’s departed ones; he had life in himself, even as did the Father—all this and much, much more [see John 5]” (The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ [1978], 154).

Amulek explained to the Zoramites: “For it is expedient that an atonement should be made; for according to the great plan of the Eternal God there must be an atonement made, or else all mankind must unavoidably perish. …

“For it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; yea, not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl; for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice. …

“And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal” (Alma 34:9–10, 14).

Teaching Idea

Have students find scriptural passages that describe aspects of Jesus Christ’s divine personality or purpose. Invite some to read to the class a passage they found. Discuss what the scriptures and modern prophets teach about who Jesus Christ is and what He did for each of us through His atoning sacrifice.

Explain that the Atonement is the center of the plan of salvation. It makes possible our resurrection and return to our heavenly home. Discuss why it is important for family and Church leaders to understand Jesus Christ’s role in the plan.

Concept 3. Leaders Should Follow the Golden Rule.

Commentary

Leaders should treat people with kindness and respect. Each person is a child of Heavenly Father with divine potential for whom the Savior suffered and died. People are more likely to respond positively to leaders who show love and respect for them.

The Savior taught, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12). This teaching has come to be known as the Golden Rule.

Alma taught, “The Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have” (Alma 29:8). It should not surprise us when peoples to whom the gospel has not been revealed understand many gospel truths.

Many religions have precepts similar to this teaching of the Savior. The accompanying table lists several.

Judaism

“What is hateful to you, do not to your fellowmen. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary” (Talmud, Shabbat, 31a).

Buddhism

“Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful” (Udana-Varga, 5, 18).

Confucianism

“Surely it is the maxim of loving-kindness: Do not unto others that you would not have them do unto you” (Analects, 15, 23).

Islam

“No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself” (Sunnah).

Adapted from David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace, The People’s Almanac (1975), 1314–15.

Teaching Idea

Ask if someone in class can recite the Golden Rule. If no one responds, have students read Matthew 7:12, and explain that this teaching of the Savior is often called the Golden Rule. Remind students that the Lord inspires righteous teachers in every nation (see Alma 29:8), and explain that a version of this rule exists in many religions. President Ezra Taft Benson taught that the Golden Rule is “the formula for successful relationships with others” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [1988], 447).

Discuss with the class characteristics of leaders who live the Golden Rule, and list their findings on the board. The following examples might be helpful:

Leaders who live the Golden Rule:

  • See people and tasks in a larger context.

  • Are optimistic about the people they serve and the tasks they undertake.

  • Develop a greater ability and desire to serve others.

(See also the lists by Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone in the Teacher Resources section below.)

Read Luke 10:25–37 and discuss what this parable teaches about the Golden Rule. Consider questions such as:

  • What might it cost a person to be a “good Samaritan”? Is the cost ever too high for leaders to pay? Explain.

  • Should leaders live the Golden Rule even if they don’t expect others to treat them similarly? Why?

  • How do you think our country would change if leaders and citizens lived the Golden Rule?

Teacher Resources

Vaughn J. Featherstone