When I was 12 years old, my father took me hunting in the mountains. We woke up at 3:00 in the morning, saddled our horses, and set out up the forested mountainside in total darkness. As much as I loved hunting with my dad, at that moment I felt a little nervous. I had never been in these mountains before, and I couldn’t see the trail—or much of anything else, for that matter! The only thing I could see was the small flashlight my dad was carrying as it cast a faint light on the pine trees ahead of us. What if my horse slipped and fell—could he even see where he was going? But this thought comforted me: “Dad knows where he’s going. If I follow him, everything will be OK.”
And everything was OK. Eventually the sun came out, and we had a wonderful day together. As we started toward home, my dad pointed to a majestic, sloping peak that stood out among the others. “That’s Windy Ridge,” he said. “That’s where the good hunting is.” Instantly, I knew that I wanted to come back and climb to Windy Ridge someday.
In the years that followed, I would often hear my father talk about Windy Ridge, but we never went back—until one day, 20 years later, I called my dad and said, “Let’s go to Windy.” Once again we saddled our horses and started up the mountainside. I was now an experienced rider in my 30s, yet I was surprised to feel the same nervousness I had felt as a 12-year-old boy. But my dad knew the way, and I followed him.
Finally we made it to the top of Windy. The view was exhilarating, and the overwhelming feeling I had was that I wanted to come back—not for me this time but for my wife and my children. I wanted them to experience what I had experienced.
Over the years, I’ve had many opportunities to lead my sons and other young men to mountaintops, just as my father led me. These experiences have prompted me to ponder what it means to lead—and what it means to follow.
Jesus Christ, the Greatest Leader and the Greatest Follower
If I were to ask you, “Who is the greatest leader who ever lived?”—what would you say? The answer, of course, is Jesus Christ. He sets the perfect example of every imaginable leadership quality.
But what if I were to ask you, “Who is the greatest follower who ever lived?”—wouldn’t the answer again be Jesus Christ? He is the greatest leader because He is the greatest follower—He follows His Father perfectly, in all things.
The world teaches that leaders must be mighty; the Lord teaches that they must be meek. Worldly leaders gain power and influence through their talent, skill, and wealth. Christlike leaders gain power and influence “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.”1
In God’s eyes, the greatest leaders have always been the greatest followers.
We Are All Leaders
There will be times in your life when you are called upon to lead. At other times, you will be expected to follow. But my message to you today is that regardless of your calling, you are always a leader, and you are always a follower. Leadership is an expression of discipleship—it is simply a matter of helping others come unto Christ, which is what true disciples do. If you are striving to be a follower of Christ, then you can help others follow Him and you can be a leader.
Your ability to lead does not come from an outgoing personality, motivational skills, or even a talent for public speaking. It comes from your commitment to follow Jesus Christ. It comes from your desire to be, in Abraham’s words, “a greater follower of righteousness.”2 If you can do that—even if you aren’t perfect at it, but you’re trying—then you are a leader.
Whether we realize it or not, people are looking up to us—family members, friends, even strangers. It is not enough for us as priesthood holders just to come unto Christ; our duty now is to “invite all to come unto Christ.”3 We cannot be satisfied receiving spiritual blessings for ourselves; we must lead the people we love to those same blessings—and as disciples of Jesus Christ, we must love everyone. The Savior’s charge to Peter is also a charge to us: “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”4
Follow the Man of Galilee
There will be times when the path ahead seems dark, but keep following the Savior. He knows the way; in fact, He is the way.5 The more earnestly you come unto Christ, the more deeply you will desire to help others experience what you have experienced. Another word for this feeling is charity, “which [the Father] hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ.”6 Then you will find that in the very act of following Christ, you are also leading others to Him, for in the words of President Thomas S. Monson, “As we follow that Man of Galilee—even the Lord Jesus Christ—our personal influence will be felt for good wherever we are, whatever our callings.”7
I bear witness that this is Christ’s true Church. We are led by a prophet of God, President Monson—a great leader who is also a true follower of the Savior. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
- Doctrine and Covenants 121:41.
- Abraham 1:2.
- Doctrine and Covenants 20:59; emphasis added.
- Luke 22:32.
- See John 14:6.
- Moroni 7:48.
- Thomas S. Monson, “Your Personal Influence,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004, 20.