What it takes to be a disciple-leader, according to Elder Kim B. Clark

During these modern tumultuous times, President Russell M. Nelson has invited each person to “become more valiant disciples of the Lord, standing up for Him and speaking up for Him, wherever we are” (“Go Forward in Faith,” April 2020 general conference).

This is a call to become true disciples of Jesus Christ and leaders in families, the Church, at work and in the community, Elder Kim B. Clark said.

The emeritus General Authority Seventy and former president of BYU–Idaho spoke during an Ensign College devotional broadcast on Nov. 10. His remarks focused on what it means to be a disciple-leader.

Discipleship

“A disciple of Jesus Christ acts with faith in Him to repent of sin and to follow Him into the waters of baptism,” Elder Clark said.

The Savior used four images to teach about what it means to be a true disciple: A tree with a trunk, branches and fruit; a rock and a house; a yoke; and birth.

Like the deep, cellular connection a branch and trunk have, disciples of Christ abide in Christ, Elder Clark explained. “Their obedience to His commandments opens the spiritual channels through which His life-giving light, power and love flow into them. They grow and bear fruit.”

Disciples of Christ build their lives on a foundation of covenants and are anchored deep to the Savior and His gospel. The Lord and His disciples are yoked together in His work, “totally in sync with Him,” Elder Clark said. And, through Christ’s redeeming power, disciples become His spiritual sons and daughters.

Elder Kim B. Clark, emeritus General Authority Seventy, is introduced during the Ensign College devotional broadcast on Nov. 10, 2020.
Elder Kim B. Clark, emeritus General Authority Seventy, is introduced during the Ensign College devotional broadcast on Nov. 10, 2020. Credit: Screenshot ChurchofJesusChrist.org

“Brothers and sisters, the Lord Jesus Christ invites us to become His true disciples and more and more like Him,” he said. “He wants His gospel to go down deep into our hearts. He wants to change our very nature so that His power, light and love will be in us.”

Elder Clark spoke about how the Lord changed his own heart before he was called as president of BYU–Idaho. When Elder David A. Bednar was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Clark was dean of the Harvard Business School. 

A friend of his asked if he would be interested in filling the job of president of BYU–Idaho now that Elder Bednar was leaving the position. Elder Clark said he would if President Gordon B. Hinckley called him to do it, but it didn’t make any sense professionally. As soon as he said that, he got a sick feeling in his stomach, “and the Spirit whispered to me, ‘Wrong answer.’”

Over the next seven months, Elder Clark and his wife, Sister Sue Clark, learned more and more about BYU–Idaho and prayed for guidance and insight. “By the time President Hinckley called me to be the president of BYU–Idaho, I really wanted to go there,” he said.

Leadership

Elder Clark defined leadership as, “the work that mobilizes people in a process of action, learning and change to improve the long-term viability and vitality of the organization in three ways: purpose is realized more effectively, people experience increased personal growth, meaning and purpose in their work and lives, and productivity is strengthened.”

Leadership has significant moral consequences, he said, and it seeks to do good. “It seeks to mobilize people to take action to make things better, to create a flourishing, vibrant organization that meets deep, human needs. It seeks to lift and strengthen people and help them thrive.”

An essential part of leadership is to drive out darkness — such as arrogance, abuse, corruption, harassment and discrimination — and generate light — such as kindness, integrity, trust, love and high standards of excellence. An organization cannot flourish without leaders who make light a central part of their lives and identity.

Elder Kim B. Clark, emeritus General Authority Seventy, speaks during the Ensign College devotional broadcast on Nov. 10, 2020.
Elder Kim B. Clark, emeritus General Authority Seventy, speaks during the Ensign College devotional broadcast on Nov. 10, 2020. Credit: Screenshot ChurchofJesusChrist.org

Elder Clark gave three questions that define the objectives of leadership and the disciple-leader: What is my purpose? How can I lift and strengthen the people around me? How can I add value?

These questions should be asked always, whether at home, in the Church, at school or work, in the community or in whatever role a disciple-leader is asked to play. “And you should always take these questions to your Heavenly Father,” Elder Clark said. “I promise you, if you will ask Him in the name of His Son, and listen, you will get answers.”

Spiritual resources

Elder Clark highlighted four resources the Lord has provided for His disciples.

The first is identity. “You know that you are a spirit daughter or son of Heavenly Parents,” he said. “You are a child of God, and He will bless you.”

Second, truth. “You know the doctrine of Christ, the fullness of His gospel and His blessings of forgiveness, mercy and grace. … You know that when you act according to truth, power flows into your life.”

Third is eternal perspective. “You see yourself and the world around you through the lens of the Father’s plan of salvation. … With the eye of faith, you see the Lord Jesus Christ working in your life and in the lives of others, and you see His promises to you fulfilled.”

Elder Kim B. Clark, emeritus General Authority Seventy, speaks during the Ensign College devotional broadcast on Nov. 10, 2020.
Elder Kim B. Clark, emeritus General Authority Seventy, speaks during the Ensign College devotional broadcast on Nov. 10, 2020. Credit: Screenshot ChurchofJesusChrist.org

The fourth is spiritual power. The gift of the Holy Ghost teaches, comforts, guides, purifies one’s heart and gives spiritual gifts. Additionally, members of the Church have priesthood power and authority.

“If you are true and faithful to your covenants, these marvelous resources will be in your life, in your discipleship and in your leadership,” Elder Clark said.

In closing, he testified, “Through the love of our Heavenly Father and the grace and redeeming power of Jesus Christ, you will become His true disciples and leaders in your families, in the Kingdom of God, in your work and your communities.”