Monday, September 21, 2015

"Teach correct principles and give encouragement"

By Rodger Dean Duncan

"Leadership" has multitudes of definitions. The one I prefer is "Leadership is mindful influence." And to paraphrase Joseph Smith, the responsibility of the effective leader is to "teach correct principles and give encouragement."

Much of our mission has involved teaching and coaching. In addition to teaching missionary lessons to investigators (people exploring our faith), we've been called upon to help train bishoprics, Relief Society leaders, Ward Councils, priesthood quorum leaders and others.

And we continue to provide leadership training for people in the Waco community. Last week I did a three-hour mini workshop for another group of leaders from various organizations. The session was held at the Waco Chamber of Commerce building where I've attended several meetings with community leaders focused on addressing poverty issues.

Principles and Practices

Although my professional credentials help open doors for such dialogue with people in this area, it's always crystal clear that I'm serving in my capacity as a missionary. And I take every opportunity to bear testimony of principles and practices that bless people's lives.

One story that I frequently tell involves Latter-day Saint Clayton Christensen. Clay is a world renowned professor at the Harvard Business School and author of numerous bestselling books. In one notable interview with Charlie Rose, Clay bore his testimony (on national television) about his decision as a young boy that he would never play sports on the sabbath. He noted that in revisiting that early decision years later, he realized that mortality is a series of "extenuating circumstances" that may tempt us to stray from a principle that we profess to embrace. But, as he told Charlie Rose, he's discovered that it's easier to stay faithful to a principle 100% of the time than it is to stay faithful 99% of the time. Why? Because if you accept anything less than 100% faithfulness for yourself, you'll always wonder if the current situation is an "extenuating circumstance" that merits an exception to the principle. (Click here to see a video of Clay talking about "How I became an everyday missionary.")

Our new friend Officer McKnight

Last week a couple of the young sister missionaries in our zone we involved in a minor traffic accident. Fortunately, nobody was injured. But the missionaries' car had to be towed for repair. (They will be walking and biking for a while.)

Under the "It's a Small World" heading (or tender mercy?), the police officer responding to the incident is a Latter-day Saint. We were called to the scene to drive the missionaries to their apartment. We enjoyed a nice chat with Officer McKnight. (He was very friendly. For the photo he put on his serious face.)

Prior to his service on the Waco Police force, Officer McKnight served in military intelligence in Iraq and Afghanistan. He speaks German and Arabic. He also speaks "Mormonese." Upon arriving at the accident scene he asked the sisters if they needed to call their bishop or mission president.

Dinner Party, Fireside

On Friday we enjoyed a six-hour Zone Conference. Then on Saturday evening we had a Mission President's Fireside at the Waco stake center. Although President Ames does a fireside each month in the northern part of the mission, this is the first fireside he's done in the Waco area. Saturday's fireside filled the chapel, and we expect future events of this nature will draw even larger crowds.

Prior to the fireside we hosted an early dinner party at our apartment for President and Sister Ames (the Texas Fort Worth Mission) and for President and Sister Price of the Waco Stake. We catered the meal (Olive Garden) to simplify our already-busy day. The Prices brought a beautiful plant that perfectly accentuates our apartment's color scheme. Until dessert time we didn't tell anyone that Saturday was Rean's birthday, but the wonderful gathering of treasured friends turned out to be the perfect celebration.


  1. I read your weekly blog every week. I look forward to it as much as the weekly letter from my Dad.
    Happy birthday to Rean. Hope all is well for you both.

  2. Nice post. Thanks for sharing.