In the Book of Mormon, there is a stark contrast between the wicked Lamanite King Amalickiah and the righteous commander of the Nephite armies, Captain Moroni, of whom Mormon writes: “If all men had been and were and ever would be like unto Moroni, the powers of hell would be shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men” (Alma 48:17).
Alma 48 recounts in detail how the traitorous Nephite Amalickiah gains power through cunning, deception and murder to become the king of the Lamanites, ultimately to lead them to try to enslave the Nephites.
Moroni, on the other hand, despite his success as a mighty military leader, “did not delight in bloodshed” but his soul “did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren from bondage and slavery.” The scriptures describe him as a “strong and a mighty man,” who did labor for the welfare of his people. He was “a man whose heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God” and “who was firm in the faith of Christ” (see Alma 48:11-18).
Moroni said of himself, “Behold, I am Moroni, your chief captain. I seek not for power, but to pull it down. I seek not for honor of the world, but for the glory of my God, and the freedom and welfare of my country” (Alma 60:36).
Although we may not be called upon to lead a successful military campaign, each of us is presented with opportunities every day — whether it be in our homes or families, Church callings, professions, schools, communities and elsewhere — to lead and influence those around us. Can we, like Captain Moroni, say that we “seek not for power” or that we “seek not for honor of the world” but for the glory of our God?
In his address during the priesthood session of general conference last April, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, related the example of James and John — the Sons of Thunder — who asked Jesus, “Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.” To which Jesus responded, “But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared” (see Mark 10:35-40).
“Sometimes, like the Sons of Thunder, we desire positions of prominence,” President Uchtdorf explained. “We strive for recognition. We seek to lead and to make a memorable contribution.
“There is nothing wrong with wanting to serve the Lord, but when we seek to gain influence in the Church for our own sake — in order to receive the praise and admiration of men — we have our reward. When we ‘inhale’ the praise of others, that praise will be our compensation” (“The Greatest among You,” April 2017 general conference).
President Uchtdorf then shared the counsel of the Apostle Paul to the Philippians, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Philippians 2:3).
President Spencer W. Kimball taught: “[The Savior] put Himself and His own needs second and ministered to others beyond the call of duty, tirelessly, lovingly, effectively. So many of the problems in the world today spring from selfishness and self-centeredness in which too many make harsh demands of life and others in order to meet their demands. This is a direct reversal of the principles and practices pursued so perfectly by that perfect example of leadership, Jesus of Nazareth.
“Jesus’ leadership emphasized the importance of being discerning with regard to others, without seeking to control them. He cared about the freedom of His followers to choose. Even He, in those moments that mattered so much, had to choose voluntarily to go through Gethsemane and to hang on the cross at Calvary. He taught us that there can be no growth without real freedom. One of the problems with manipulative leadership is that it does not spring from a love of others but from a need to use them. Such leaders focus on their own needs and desires and not on the needs of others” (“Jesus: The Perfect Leader,” Ensign, August 1979).
Christlike leadership, however, flows from a wellspring of love. Because of His love for others, Christ invested in individuals and was willing to include them in His work and, when needed, offer reproof. One of the greatest lessons of leadership, President Kimball said, is to not brush other people aside in order to see a task is done more quickly and effectively. “The task may get done all right, but without the growth and development in followers that is so important. Because Jesus knows that this life is purposeful and that we have been placed on this planet in order to perform and grow, growth then becomes one of the great ends of life as well as a means. We can give corrective feedback to others in a loving and helpful way when mistakes are made.”
Yet Christ’s leadership was not condescending or soft. “Jesus believed in his followers, not alone for what they were, but for what they had the possibilities to become. While others would have seen Peter as a fisherman, Jesus could see him as a powerful religious leader — courageous, strong — who would leave his mark upon much of mankind. In loving others, we can help them to grow by making reasonable but real demands of them.”
As we think about the responsibilities in our lives, may we strive to emulate the selfless, loving but empowering example of our Savior Jesus Christ.