Handbooks and Callings
4. Leadership in the Church of Jesus Christ

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“4. Leadership in the Church of Jesus Christ,” General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2020).

“4. Leadership in the Church of Jesus Christ,” General Handbook.

Ward Councils at Work


Leadership in the Church of Jesus Christ



You have been called by inspiration through the Savior’s authorized servants. As a leader in the Church, you have the privilege of assisting in Heavenly Father’s work of “bring[ing] to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). You do this by encouraging members to engage in the work of salvation and exaltation for themselves, their families, and others (see chapter 1). You will find joy as you serve God’s children.


The Purpose of Leadership in the Church

Leaders encourage members to engage in God’s work by becoming “true followers of … Jesus Christ” (Moroni 7:48). To do this, leaders first strive to be the Savior’s faithful disciples by following His teachings and example (see Luke 18:22). Then they can help others draw nearer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. In the process of helping others, they become better disciples (see Mosiah 18:26; Doctrine and Covenants 31:5).

Being a faithful disciple in order to help others become faithful disciples is the purpose behind every calling in the Church. Each calling includes opportunities to lead, serve, and strengthen others.


Principles of Leadership in the Church

During His earthly ministry, the Savior set the example of leadership for His Church. His central focus was on serving Heavenly Father and helping others understand and live His gospel (see John 5:30). He loved those He led and showed that love by serving them (see John 13:3–5).

The Savior built the capacity of others by giving them responsibility and opportunities to grow (see Matthew 10:5–8; John 14:12). He encouraged and corrected with clarity and love (see John 21:15–17).

The Lord said, “Let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence” (Doctrine and Covenants 107:99). These words apply to all who receive responsibility to serve and lead in the Savior’s Church.

Seek personal revelation to help you learn and fulfill the duties of your calling. As you study the scriptures, look for leadership principles the Savior demonstrated and taught. Applying the principles in this chapter will also help you lead more effectively in the Savior’s Church.


Prepare Spiritually

Jesus prepared Himself spiritually for His earthly mission (see Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 4:1–2, in Matthew 4:1, footnote b and Matthew 4:2, footnote c; see also Matthew 14:23). You likewise prepare spiritually by drawing close to Heavenly Father through prayer, scripture study, and obedience to His commandments. Following His prophets also helps you prepare spiritually (see Doctrine and Covenants 21:4–6).

Seek revelation to understand the needs of those you lead and how to fulfill the work God has called you to do. Through your efforts to draw close to the Lord, you can receive guidance in your personal life, family responsibilities, and Church calling.

The Lord has also promised to bestow spiritual gifts upon those who seek them (see Doctrine and Covenants 46:8). As you humbly call upon Heavenly Father to receive power and gifts from Him, He will increase your ability to lead and lift those you serve.


Minister to All of God’s Children

Jesus ministered personally to people, reaching out to lift and teach those who felt alone, hopeless, or lost. By His words and actions, He showed people that He loved them. He recognized the divine nature and eternal worth of each person.

Love the people you serve as Jesus did. Pray “with all the energy of heart” to be filled with His love (Moroni 7:48). Establish sincere friendships. Reach out to those who may be lonely, need comfort, or have other needs. Your love will bless their lives and help people desire to come unto Christ.

Help members strengthen their faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Help them prepare to make covenants as they receive their next ordinance. Warn against sin, and encourage members to keep their covenants and partake of the blessings of repentance. Help them know they can act to fulfill their divine potential regardless of the challenges they face.


Teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ

All leaders are teachers. Strive to follow the Savior’s example as a teacher (see chapter 17; Teaching in the Savior’s Way). Through your words and actions, teach the doctrine of Jesus Christ and the principles of His gospel (see 3 Nephi 11:32–33; Doctrine and Covenants 42:12–14). Effective teaching inspires people to strengthen their relationship with God and live the gospel, progressing toward eternal life.

Teach from the scriptures and the words of latter-day prophets (see Doctrine and Covenants 52:9). Remember that “the preaching of the word [has] more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than … anything else” (Alma 31:5).

Seek the influence of the Spirit as you prepare and teach. The Holy Ghost carries the truth unto the hearts and minds of those you teach (see 2 Nephi 33:1).

Teach members to devote themselves to studying the gospel both personally and with their families.

If you lead a Church unit, priesthood quorum, or other organization, ensure that the teaching is edifying and doctrinally correct.


Preside in Righteousness

Presiding in the Church includes the responsibility to help God’s children prepare to dwell in His presence. Those who preside serve and teach with gentleness, meekness, and pure love, following the example of Jesus Christ (see John 13:13–15).

The Lord revealed that “of necessity there are presidents, or presiding officers” in His Church (Doctrine and Covenants 107:21). Each unit, priesthood quorum, and other organization in the Church is led by a presiding officer. He or she is called and set apart by one who holds priesthood keys or someone he has authorized. Each presiding officer serves under the direction of a person who holds priesthood keys (see 3.4.1). This structure provides order and clear lines of responsibility and accountability in doing the Lord’s work.

A calling or assignment to preside does not make the person who receives it more important or valued than others.

If you have been called or assigned to preside, follow the Savior’s teaching that “whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant” (Matthew 20:27; see verses 26–28). Counsel with others and seek unity in accomplishing the Lord’s will (see 4.2.5).

Do not aspire to preside in any organization in the Lord’s Church (see Doctrine and Covenants 121:37). Rather, humbly and faithfully serve in the position to which you are called. Strive to accomplish the Lord’s work with an eye single to His glory (see Doctrine and Covenants 4:5).

Ward Councils


Counsel Together and Build Unity

The Lord directs the leaders of His Church to counsel together to receive knowledge from Him (see Doctrine and Covenants 107:27–31). He also emphasizes the need for unity (see John 17:6–11, 20–23; 3 Nephi 11:28–30). He said, “Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:27).

In councils, leaders meet under the direction of presiding officers to discuss ways to help individuals and families. They prayerfully seek to know God’s will (see Doctrine and Covenants 41:2–3). Guided by the Holy Ghost, they work together to determine effective ways to serve members of their organizations.

As a Church leader, seek to build unity among those you serve, helping them be “of one heart and one mind” (Moses 7:18). If you are part of a council or presidency, build unity by counseling together, sharing honest feelings and ideas, and listening (see Doctrine and Covenants 88:122; see also chapter 7 in this handbook).

If you are a council member, unite to support and sustain the decisions of the person who presides in the council.


Delegate Responsibility and Ensure Accountability

The Savior gave His disciples meaningful assignments and responsibilities. He also held them accountable by following up and asking them to report on the work they were assigned to do. (See Luke 10:1–17.)

As a leader, determine how to use your time most effectively. One aspect of managing your time is delegating assignments to others who can assist in the work.

Delegating will make your service more effective. If you try to do too much, you will “surely wear away” (Exodus 18:18). Seek the Spirit’s guidance about what to delegate so you can focus on your highest priorities.

Delegating also blesses others, helping them grow and receive the blessings that come from serving. Strive to engage all members in doing God’s work.

Delegating is more than giving an assignment. It also includes teaching and trusting another person to fulfill the assignment. It usually includes the following elements:

  • Meet with the person to explain the assignment and its purposes.

  • Discuss ways the assignment could be done, who else could be involved, and when it should be finished. Ensure that the person understands and willingly accepts the assignment. Express confidence in his or her abilities.

  • Trust the person to receive inspiration about how to develop plans and fulfill the assignment. Provide encouragement, direction, and support.

  • Meet as needed for the person to report on the assignment. Accept the person’s best efforts, and express appreciation for what he or she has done.


Prepare Others to Be Leaders and Teachers

The Savior prepared His Apostles to become leaders in His Church. You likewise help others prepare to be leaders and teachers.

When prayerfully considering who could serve in Church callings or assignments, remember that the Lord will qualify those He calls. What is most important is that they are willing to serve, will humbly seek the Lord’s help, and are striving to be worthy. Callings and assignments can help them grow by providing opportunities to exercise their faith, work hard, and feel God magnifying their efforts. Provide guidance and assistance to new members and others who may need extra support in fulfilling their callings.

Sometimes the same small group of people are called repeatedly to leadership positions. This can overburden them and their families and take opportunities away from others. Seek to give all members opportunities to serve and grow.

For guidelines on recommending members to serve in Church callings, see chapter 30.


Plan Meetings, Lessons, and Activities with Clear Purposes

Seek the Spirit’s guidance in planning meetings, lessons, and activities that have clear purposes. These purposes should strengthen individuals and families, bring them closer to Christ, and help accomplish God’s work of salvation and exaltation (see chapters 1 and 2). When planning, follow the principles in chapters 20 and 29.

Make long-term plans for your organization. Keep an annual calendar. Focus on encouraging members’ spiritual growth.


Evaluation of Progress

Your consecrated service requires a sacrifice of time, but do not neglect your own needs and the needs of your family. Seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost to help you maintain priorities (see Mosiah 4:27).

Regularly review your responsibilities and spiritual growth as a leader. Consider also the growth of those you lead. Unit, priesthood quorum, and other organization leaders can review the key indicators and the quarterly report to see where they show progress and where there is potential for growth.

Your success as a leader is measured primarily by your commitment to helping God’s children become faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. Because all people have agency, some may choose to depart from the covenant path. At times this may discourage you, but as you turn to the Lord, He will lift and comfort you (see Alma 26:27). You can know that the Lord is pleased with your efforts as you feel the Spirit working through you.