SA FHE: Leadership, Loneliness, and Sacrifice
(April 22nd, 2013)

(Here's my first Single Adult Family Home Evening Lesson, given on April 22nd, 2013.)

Consider, for a moment, a leader you admire and would choose to serve under, either alive today or from some point throughout history. Think about what this person did that makes you look up to them and trust their leadership. I would hazard a guess that each and every one of you could find an example of sacrifice in that person's life, and that example of sacrifice is probably central to your admiration for them.

During the Sacrament yesterday, I was pondering the integral connection between authority and the principal of sacrifice. We seem to instinctively gravitate toward a leader who is willing to sacrifice of themselves, even if it means enduring hardships for the sake of others, and we naturally want to defer to the authority of one who does such. Conversely, when we discover that a leader is selfishly using power entrusted to them, we instinctively recoil and no longer want to entrust power to them.

The US Declaration of Independence states that, "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed". The ultimate authoritative power men may hold in this world is the power of the priesthood, however, D&C 121:36-45 points out that, if we use that power selfishly, it will be taken from us. In fact, v36 states "That the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness". In the April 1992 General Conference, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve explained, “Sacrifice is a demonstration of pure love. The degree of our love for the Lord, for the gospel, and for our fellowmen can be measured by what we are willing to sacrifice for them.” Jesus taught, in Matthew 23:11, "He that is greatest among you shall be your servant."

In The Principals of Leadership Teacher's Manual Lesson 8, a lengthy quote is given from then-Elder Gordon B. Hinkley, who taught:
There is a loneliness in all aspects of leadership. ...
It was ever thus. The price of leadership is loneliness. The price of adherence to conscience is loneliness. The price of adherence to principle is loneliness. I think it is inescapable. The Savior of the world was a man who walked in loneliness. I do not know of any statement more underlined with the pathos of loneliness than his statement:
... The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. (Matthew 8:20.)
There is no lonelier picture in history than of the Savior upon the cross, alone, the Redeemer of mankind, the Savior of the world, bringing to pass the atonement, the Son of God suffering for the sins of mankind. As I think of that I reflect on a statement made by Channing Pollock.
Judas with his thirty pieces of silver was a failure. Christ on the cross was the greatest figure of time and eternity.

Joseph Smith likewise was a figure of loneliness. I have a great love for the boy who came out of the woods, who after that experience could never be the same again, who was berated and persecuted and looked down upon. Can you sense the pathos in these words of the boy Prophet?
... For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation. [JS—H 1:25.]
There are few more sorrowful pictures, not in our history anyway, than of the Prophet being rowed across the Mississippi River by Stephen Markham, knowing that his enemies were after his life, and then there came some of his own who accused him of running away. Hear his response:
If my life is of no value to my friends, it is of none to myself. ([History of the Church,] 6:549, June 1844.)

This has been the history of this Church, ...and I hope we will never forget it. It came as a result of the position of leadership which was imposed upon us by the God of Heaven who brought forth a restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And when the declaration was made concerning the only true and living Church upon the face of the earth, we were immediately put in a position of loneliness, the loneliness of leadership from which we cannot shrink nor run away and which we must face up to with boldness and courage and ability. Our history is one of being driven, of being winnowed and peeled, or being persecuted and hounded. ...
I go back to these words of Paul:
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; (2 Corinthians 4:8–9.)

... I have been thinking this morning of a friend of mine whom I knew when I was on a mission in London thirty-six years ago. I remember his coming to our apartment through the rain of the night. He knocked at the door and I invited him in.
He said, “I’ve got to talk with someone. I’m all alone. I’m undone.”
And I said, “What’s your problem?”
He said, “When I joined the Church a little less than a year ago, my father told me to get out of his home and never come back, and I’ve never been back.”
He continued, “A few months later the cricket club of which I was a member read me off its list, barred me from membership, the boys with whom I had grown up and with whom I had been so close and friendly.”
Then he said, “Last month my boss fired me because I was a member of this Church and I have been unable to get another job and I have had to go on the dole.
“And last night the girl with whom I have gone for a year and a half said she would never marry me because I’m a Mormon.”
I said, “If this has cost you so much, why don’t you leave the Church and go back to your father’s home, and to your cricket club, and to the job that meant so much to you, and to the girl you think you love?”
He said nothing for what seemed to be a long time. Then, putting his head down in his hands, he sobbed and sobbed. Finally he looked up through his tears and said, “I couldn’t do that. I know this is true, and if it were to cost me my life I could never give it up.” He picked up his wet cap and walked to the door and out into the rain, alone and trembling and fearful, but resolute. As I watched him, I thought of the loneliness of conscience, the loneliness of testimony, the loneliness of faith, and the strength and comfort of the Spirit of God.

I would like to conclude by saying to you here today, ...this is your lot. ...
It is not easy, for instance, to be virtuous when all about you there are those who scoff at virtue.
It is not easy to be honest when all about you there are those who are interested only in making “a fast buck.”
It is not always easy to be temperate when all about you there are those who scoff at sobriety.
It is not easy to be industrious when all about you there are those who do not believe in the value of work.
It is not easy to be a man of integrity when all about you there are those who will forsake principle for
(End of quote)

I think this is why Joseph Smith taught the following, in his Lectures on Faith (Link): “A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary [to lead] unto life and salvation... It was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God.”

In the Mormon Message entitled, "Dare to Stand Alone" (based on this Talk), President Monson says, "Do we have the moral courage to stand firm for our beliefs even if, by so doing, we must stand alone? ... May we ever be courageous and prepared to stand for what we believe, and, if we must stand alone in the process, may we do so, strengthened by the knowledge and reality that we are never alone when we stand with our Father in Heaven."

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


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