Monday, June 20, 2016

Exercising Righteous Authority in Our Callings and in Our Homes - Leadership and the Priesthood

Talks and Lessons October 2007-  William A. McIntyre

Throughout my life I have served in various leadership roles, both within and outside of the church. I have also been led by many different people. At work I often have the opportunity to teach other leaders or managers about how to be more effective leaders. Through my studies and experiences, I have concluded that there are two main types of leadership authority. They can be distinguished by the way the authority of the leader is obtained and maintained.

There are two main kinds of authority (I am going to focus on this word a lot) exercised in any form of leadership or leadership role. One might be called formal authority.

Formal authority is defined by the position one holds. It may be an elected position or an appointed position. It may also be a calling held such as a bishop or a quorum leader, a class president or even one’s role as a father. The point being that one is in charge or has authority by virtue of one’s title or position in society or within an organizational unit. Formal leadership is important. It is usually respected, and should be so.

The other kind of authority is what some might call moral authority. Moral authority may or may not be held or related to an official position, calling or rank. Those with moral authority have earned the respect, and in fact command it, by virtue of their character as reflected in their actions and the example they set.

Both are important. When both are possessed, a leader can positively influence the lives of those he leads. Men usually aspire for formal authority, often not understanding the importance of moral authority. Leadership, by virtue of formal authority alone, will be short lived and ultimately yield unfavorable results. And to be a great leader, sometimes formal authority is not even necessary.

Let’s take minute and reflect on some historic figures to better clarify the meaning and importance of these two kinds of authority. First, can you think of someone who had formal authority, but lacked moral authority? You might think of the various dictators who have altered our world’s history by unrighteous use of their formal authority and insufficient character to uphold moral truths and freedoms granted to man by God. The Nazi leader Adolf Hitler would fall into this category. On the contrary, the great Indian leader Gandhi, never held a political position, yet led a nation out of repression to freedom based on his character and moral leadership. Moral authority without formal authority can be very influential and powerful.

There are some historical figures that Americans would be familiar with that had both moral and formal authority. George Washington comes to mind. He helped give birth to a nation while he held several formal positions. He was loved by the people. He was a man of high character and integrity. He possessed both formal and moral authority.

Perhaps the best example is the Savior, Jesus Christ. While here on earth, he did not hold formal political position, but Christ’s authority, to those that believe on him represents both formal and moral authority. By his exemplary life he proved his perfect character and by virtue of his divine origin and mission he holds formal authority as the Savior, Creator and literal Son of God, our Priest and King.

For us members of the church and those called to serve as leaders in the church, and those of us who are fathers, there is some valuable doctrine here for us to understand.

When ordained to the priesthood, we are formally given the power and authority to act in God’s name here on earth, to conduct and administer sacred ordinances in the name of the Lord. In effect, we have been given formal authority. When a calling and/or keys are given to preside or act in a leadership calling within that priesthood, it is still the formal authority that is given to us to act or preside here on earth in the name of, or in behalf of, the Lord.

Our moral authority is earned over time as we prove ourselves worthy through our actions and behavior and honor that priesthood we have been given. Unlike leaders here on earth, the Lord has made it clear that when we act in a way inconsistent with the formal authority of the priesthood that has been given us, He will revoke that authority and power from us.

D&C 121
We read in verse 35, …because their hearts are set so much on the things of the world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson.
36. That the rights (authority) of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
37. They can be conferred upon us (formal authority), it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or gratify our pride, our vain ambition, OR to EXERCISE CONTROL or DOMINION or COMPULSION upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, amen to the priesthood or AUTHORITY of that man.

We honor our priesthood and strengthen our moral authority by striving to model the behavior of the Savior. In general, members of the church will initially give any leader the benefit of the doubt. Bishops are respected because of the office they hold. As are other leaders in the church. But the truly effective leader, one who can call upon the powers of heaven to bless the lives of those he or she serves, is one who works to earn moral authority by living a Christ like life.

The Lord further counsels us in D&C 121 on how to live so that we can maintain and magnify the power of the priesthood and increase the moral authority associated with the callings we have.
41. No power of influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood (the formal authority), only be persuasion, long suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and love unfeigned (Moral Authroity).
42. By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile
43. Reproving betimes with sharpness, WHEN MOVED UPON by the HOLY GHOST; (not when emotional and angry) and then showing forth afterwards an INCREASE of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy.
44. That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.
45. Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; THEN shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of GOD and the DOCTRINE of the priesthood shall distill upon thy soul (MORAL authority comes) as the dews from heaven.

Then with that moral and formal authority come the following blessing and promise. Verse 46.
The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter and unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.

Now lastly, I want to relate this to the most important leadership role we will ever have in time and eternity. That is our role as a parent and spouse. And I speak primarily to the husbands and fathers. Our role as priesthood holders extends to, and in fact defines, our role and responsibilities as a husband and father.

The Proclamation on the Family states:
By divine design, fathers are to preside over families (our formal role) in love and righteousness (moral leadership) and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children…Fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.

Satan desires to destroy our moral authority as it pertains to our role as fathers and husbands. The quickest way to destroy the family is for, by his actions, a father to lose the respect or CONFIDENCE of his wife and children. When our actions are not consistent with the example of the Savior and the teachings of the gospel, then amen to the priesthood and authority of that man.

As priesthood holders, men who love their children and wives, we must not give in to temptation and engage in unchaste activity. We must not be quick to react and lose our tempers in the home, lest our children and wives esteem us to be their enemies. We must never do anything to cause our children or wives to doubt our commitment to them and our commitment to the Lord. (See JACOB 2:35)

If we have fallen down, or when we do make a mistake, quick and complete repentance is necessary to ensure or restore the lost trust, authority and confidence of your loved ones.

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. (Ephesians 5:25)

May we all exercise righteous leadership in our callings and in our homes. And by doing so, bless the lives of those we lead and love by the power and the authority of the holy priesthood.

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