Lesson 1: To Lead Is to Teach

"Lesson 1: To Lead Is to Teach," Part E: Teaching in Leadership Settings, ()


At a Church youth conference, an adult member of the Church witnessed an inspiring example of the influence that leaders can have when they teach true principles. He reported:

“At the end of the conference a dance was held. The dance band showed up without wearing shirts. As the adults watched, a group of youth approached the bandstand and made some sort of suggestion to the band, to which the band members were protesting. Soon some youth brought in shirts, and very reluctantly the band members put them on.

“When the music started, it was loud, and it kept getting louder. Just at the point where the adults were becoming concerned, a group of young people gathered in the middle of the floor and then approached the bandstand together. They asked for the music to be quieter. The band resisted, but the young people insisted, and so the band turned down the music. When the music again got louder, the youth gathered and confronted the band again. The same cycle repeated itself a third time. Finally the group came to the stake president. They said, ‘We think this music is not appropriate. Rather than continuing to dance, those of us who care to would like to go to another building and have a fireside. We can do it ourselves, but if you adults want to come, that’s fine.’ The dance ended, and the young men and women met in another building.

“Afterward I asked the stake president how this had happened. He said that about five years before, one of the members of the high council had said, ‘If we want to teach standards to the young people, we have to know clearly what they should be. The first step is for the stake presidency to tell us.’ It took some time for the stake presidency to gain a clear understanding of the standards and how they should be applied in their stake. Even more time was required to help the high council understand and become committed to these standards, and more time still to bring the bishops on board. Up until that time the parents and the youth had been receiving conflicting signals, but now, for the first time, the leaders were ready to teach the standards.

“And then they taught them, year after year, on every level throughout the entire stake. The result was what I witnessed that night at the youth conference dance.

“I learned that the influence of leaders can be very great when they conscientiously set out to fulfill their responsibility to teach the Saints. I learned also that a mixed message is no message at all, and that time spent becoming solidly rooted in what ought to be taught pays off. Finally, I saw for myself the maturity and wisdom and moral courage of youth who have been properly taught.”

Your Responsibility as a Leader to Teach the Gospel

One of the most important ways you fulfill your responsibilities as a leader in the Church is through teaching (see Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2: Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders [1998], 305–7). Elder Gordon B. Hinckley taught, “Effective teaching is the very essence of leadership in the Church” (“How to Be a Teacher When Your Role as a Leader Requires You to Teach,” General Authority Priesthood Board Meeting, 5 Feb. 1969; quoted by Jeffrey R. Holland in Conference Report, Apr. 1998, 31; or Ensign, May 1998, 26).

The Lord is the preeminent example of a leader serving as a teacher: “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 9:35). Elder Boyd K. Packer emphasized: “The Lord is our example. It would be hard to describe the Lord as an executive. Let me repeat that. It would be hard to describe the Lord as an executive. He was a teacher! That is the ideal, the pattern” (regional representatives’ seminar, 6 Apr. 1984).

The scriptures contain numerous accounts of other leaders serving as teachers of the gospel. Adam and many of his descendants were “preachers of righteousness [who] spake and prophesied, and called upon all men, everywhere, to repent.” Through their preaching, “faith was taught unto the children of men” (Moses 6:23). The early Apostles served “daily in the temple, and in every house, [and] they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:42). King Mosiah testified, “And even I myself have labored with all the power and faculties which I have possessed, to teach you the commandments of God, and to establish peace throughout the land” (Mosiah 29:14).

Some Ways in Which You Teach as a Leader

Setting a Righteous Example

As a leader, you teach the gospel through the way you live. You are expected to keep the commandments, be kind, and be a faithful servant of the Lord and of those you lead. By setting a righteous example, you strengthen others in their resolve to live the gospel.

Following Church Policies and Procedures

As you faithfully follow the established patterns of Church government, you teach all who work with you. You help others see how to fulfill their duties. For example, Melchizedek Priesthood leaders who regularly hold home teaching interviews demonstrate how this is to be done.

Speaking Directly about Gospel Principles

Leaders have many regular opportunities to teach the gospel. These opportunities include leadership meetings (see page 152) and interviews (see page 153). You will see that other opportunities come spontaneously in the normal course of leading and interacting with others.

As a young bishop and a printer, Thomas S. Monson frequently worked with President J. Reuben Clark Jr., then a member of the First Presidency. As they worked together, President Clark often took advantage of opportunities to teach the gospel. Years later, President Monson told of one such occasion that had a great effect on him:

“[President Clark asked] me to read aloud the account found in Luke concerning the man filled with leprosy. Then he asked that I continue reading from Luke concerning the man afflicted with palsy and the enterprising manner in which he was presented to the attention of the Lord, who healed him. President Clark removed from his pocket a handkerchief and wiped the tears from his eyes. He commented, ‘As we grow older, tears come more frequently.’ After a few words of good-bye, I departed from his office, leaving him alone with his thoughts and his tears.

“Late one evening I delivered some press proofs to his office in his home in Salt Lake City. President Clark was reading from Ecclesiastes, and he was in a quiet and reflective mood. He sat back from his large desk, which was stacked with books and papers. He held the scriptures in his hand, lifted his eyes from the printed page, and read aloud to me: ‘Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man’ (Ecclesiastes 12:13.) He exclaimed, ‘A treasured truth! A profound philosophy!’

“What a blessing was mine to learn daily at the feet of such a master teacher. … Knowing that I was a newly appointed bishop presiding over a challenging ward, he emphasized the need for me to know my people, to understand their circumstances, and to minister to their needs.

“One day he recounted the Savior’s raising from the dead the son of the widow of Nain, as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. When President Clark closed the Bible, I noticed that he was weeping. In a quiet voice, he said, ‘Tom, be kind to the widow and look after the poor’” (Inspiring Experiences that Build Faith [1994], 233–34).

To lead in the Church is to teach, and to improve as a leader is to learn to teach more effectively—from the pulpit, in leadership meetings, and in one-on-one situations.