A Few Initial Words
I still remember the first time I visited The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was a sacrament meeting at the Engenho de Dentro Branch in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on the afternoon of Mother's Day, May 14, 1972. Perhaps because I was just a young man at that time I don't remember many details about that meeting. I can't remember who the speakers were or what they talked about, nor even what time the meeting started or ended.
One of the few things that I can remember well, though, is that there were three men sitting on the stand. Those three men, I soon learned, were the presidency of the church in that congregation. I said "presidency of the church" because in those days I had no idea of what a "branch presidency" was, and as far as I was concerned, those three men presided the church that I had come to know just a few days before through two missionaries. Because of that perception, my family and I immediately respected those men and paid attention to their actions, and to whatever they had to teach. A similar perception came to us in relation to the other men and women who were serving in positions of leadership in the church.
Sixteen years later, on Mothers' Day, May 8, 1988, in another neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, I myself was sitting on the stand of a beautiful chapel of the church with two other men as my counselors, and Mirian, my wife, was president of the ward's Relief Society. Then I realized that any investigators entering that chapel for the first time on that day might have feelings and perceptions in relation to me, my counselors, and other ward leaders similar to those that my family and I had had in the past.
Between those two events, I had the chance to observe literally hundreds of people--men and women--serving in positions of leadership in many parts of Brazil and in the United States. Most of those women and men have positively impacted the lives of those they presided over; but unfortunately, a few had a very negative impact. But all of them without exception were an influence in the lives of those they served. This text is the result of the insights I have been blessed with in many years of observation and research.
The Purpose of This Study
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a number of well-developed handbooks to guide those who are called to serve in any leadership capacity. In this study we will examine a few revealed doctrines and principles of the gospel that might help us increase the effectiveness of our service.
In some of the chapters I will focus the discussion on the exercise of presidency and not on the exercise of leadership in general because presidencies have an additional charge to train other church leaders. However, all topics discussed in the book can be applied in any office in the church, provided that those ideas and principles are adapted to one's sphere of influence.
I am confident that the discussions presented here will be useful even for those who have little or no previous experience in church leadership, including those who are preparing to serve missions, some of which may serve in leadership callings during their full-time missionary service. And even if they do not serve in leadership capacities, they will certainly will have countless opportunities to influence other members of the church, especially in places where the Church has large numbers of recent converts.
Some may find that I should have explained certain concepts either in a more exhaustive or in a more sophisticated manner. Since it is not my intention to "reinvent the wheel," I avoided detailed explanations on some topics--especially those that deal with basic doctrines of the gospel--because these details can be found in many other books like "Principles of the Gospel," or "A Marvelous Work and a Wonder," or "Articles of Faith."
Since I believe that nothing can substitute the actual one-on-one "relationship" between each one of us and the Spirit of the Lord through the scriptures, many times throughout this text you may feel that I stopped my discussions abruptly, or before the time. I did it on purpose. Another of my goals in this work is to show how much is yet to be learned through the Spirit of the Lord; and I don't feel that I should deprive you from that wonderful spiritual experience. Thus, I will "point the way," but the Lord himself will lead you along--if you allow Him to. I hope and pray that what I have wrote, although concise, will be enough to trigger new thoughts or insights in your mind, and that you will ponder and pray about these thoughts or insights.
I wrote the chapters in the form of personal essays, almost as if we were chatting in a chapel, but I avoided to cite examples that involved persons who are still living because a number of them would not feel comfortable with that. Stories would have enriched every topic of this book; however, I don’t like to make up fictitious events just to illustrate a point. Reality tends to be more complex and multifaceted than any fable. But I have quoted the words and the experiences of the ancient and modern-day prophets and proposed a few ideas based on my current understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Important to mention is the fact that the my personal opinions and interpretations proposed in this book must not be considered authorized official statements from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or from any of its general authorities. I am just sharing insights in which I believe according to the understanding that I have in at this point in time.
I want to express appreciation to those who supported me in this project: our Heavenly Father and my earthly parents, Helvécio and Rudá Martins; my wife, Mirian; our children: Flávio, Natália, and Felipe. Also the support of my in-laws, Manoel and Glória Barbosa. Thank you for bearing with and believing in me all these years. My thanks to Paul Allen and Daniel Taggart, for providing me with an early copy of the computer software Infobases. A very special "thank you" to M. Catherine Thomas, Sheri Dew, Eugene and Charlotte England, William Baker, and Garth Hanson, who have all been a great help in this project. There are still others to whom I am also indebted; they have been influences in various stages of my life and have helped me learn great lessons. I will not be able to mention all their names here, but they will always be in my memory.
Marcus Helvécio Tourinho de Assis Martins
Provo, Utah - June 1993