Lord Pleased with Those Who Serve Quietly
Beautiful job, as always. We may need to keep the house lights up just a bit, because we’re going to do a little pair-and-share activity here. I was surprised to see a lot of the students raise their hands—you get no credit for being here today, in my class, so… But thank you, thank you all for being here. Appreciate my father being here, and my better half, Pam.
So, can we turn the house lights up just a bit? Is that possible? What I’d like you to do is just take about 60 seconds here, we’re going to turn to your neighbor, or two, and I want you to share with them a favorite leader of yours from the scriptures. It can be ancient scripture, modern-day scripture, but share a favorite leader of yours, and why they are a favorite of yours. Ready? Go.
Okay, how are we doing? Alright, that’s pretty good. Okay, let’s see what we have here. We have a couple of roving microphones. Andrew on this side, Jake on that side, but you can just start to share and then the mike will catch up with you. So who would like to go first? There in the back, Brother, stand up, yeah I’m pointing to you. Give us your name and favorite leader.
“My favorite leader is Teancum, because he was able to put his life basically at risk, he wanted so much for the victory, and prospering of his nation that he ended up giving his life for his men in the pursuit of freedom.”
Very good, thank you. That’s often one we may not hear from but great leader, warrior. Okay, Sam, go ahead. Stand up, Brother.
“Oh, great. I really like King Benjamin, because he was the king of his people, but also he served . . . with the people, his people. And he really showed love towards the people he served.”
He was a servant leader. Very good, King Benjamin. Let’s do one more from up here, and then I’m going to grab one of these guys from the back row who thinks they’re safe, okay? We need a sister, we’ve heard from the brethren. Let’s get a sister here. Ah, dare I? Laura Arnold. This is a risk.
“No, it’s not, you.”
I’m not in scripture, thank you.
“It was Captain Moroni, because he stood for the women and the children, protected them. And he inspired his leaders, the people, to follow him in that.”
Thank you. I was sharing with President Richards, and that’s who he mentioned as well. So, Brother Tracy Williams from the Institute. Hop up here, Brother.
“I’m not sure why they’re laughing. Mine’s Jesus Christ. And, I think the reason is obvious. His influence is caring for all the people he served and ministered to.”
Okay, well thanks for doing that. Now, let’s see if this works. Alright. How many of you, I want you to stand, if you, when you were sharing, you shared Nephi? Excellent. And why wouldn’t you? Thank you. I mean, Nephi epitomizes leadership, courage, faithful, committed, and as shown here, he could shake and quake his older brothers at a moment’s notice.
Now here’s another of Arnold Friberg’s muscular paintings (above). It’s Lehi using the Liahona. Now which one in this picture, in this painting, is Nephi? Well, I hope you say it’s the clean-shaven one, with his hand on Lehi’s back. Good. He was, without doubt, a noble and great one, that was chosen before the foundations of the world to be a leader here on earth.
When you were sharing, stand if your favorite leader was Nephi’s older brother, Sam. Come on. See? Isn’t that par for the course? Sam is one of my favorite leaders from the Book of Mormon. We don’t know much about him, except that he was Lehi’s third son, younger than Lemuel, older than Nephi. In fact, Sam’s name is mentioned only 10 times in the entire Book of Mormon. Compare that to the number of times his brother’s names are mentioned. So it’s no wonder we don’t really think of Sam as a great leader. But yet, I think he was critically important. Which one in this painting here is Sam? Oh, come on, it should be easy. Oops. Okay, yeah, there we are. I think that’s Sam, don’t you? [Pointer indicates the fourth person from the right.] When Arnold Friberg painted this, I think he was looking for, “Where can I put Sam?” And what better place than right behind Nephi, because didn’t Sam always have Nephi’s back?
And back to this picture, which one is Sam here? Is it the guys standing like this that look mean and angry? Who’s that? That’s Laman, I think. I think that’s Sam. Again, kind of in the shadows, in the background of his younger brother. Now Arnold Friberg the painter actually did, before he passed away, a sketch of Sam. I’m serious. There it is, right there.
These are some of the characters of the Book of Mormon. There’s Laman on the left, but that’s Sam. Is it what you expected him to look like?
I was asked to speak today about leadership; thank you, Brother Juchau. There are many examples of great leaders we could be talking about, some of you shared earlier. But the fact of the matter is, most of us in this life will not be required to be the Nephi’s or the Isaiah’s, or the Joan of Arc’s, or the Nephi’s, the Joseph Smith’s, the Abraham Lincoln’s, or the Mother Teresa’s, at least not in this life. We will instead be the Sam’s, in the eyes of the world. It’s not important to really know, I guess, what Sam looked like, but it’s more important to know what he did, and the legacy he left. So let’s talk about that for just a minute.
Nephi was a believer. We read early in the Book of Mormon about Lehi being warned to take his family into the wilderness. Laman and Lemuel are grumbling the entire way. Nephi wants to know the mysteries of God, and if what his father saw was true, so he prays. The Lord visits him and softens his heart, and he believes. And then Nephi writes this, “And I spake unto Sam, making known unto him the things which the Lord had manifested unto me by his Holy Spirit. And it came to pass that he believed in my words,” (1 Nephi 2:17). Now, don’t you think Nephi had to have a relationship with his older brother, such a nature that he could go and confide in him. And trust him, and that Sam would appreciate his spiritual experience.
We know that Sam was persecuted for righteousness’ sake. And Laban sent his servants to slay the four brothers, and the brothers fled and hid in a cave in the wilderness. There’s Laman nd Lemuel, or as President Richards refers to them, as ‘Dumb and Dumber’; they are angry about almost being murdered. And Nephi writes this, and Andrew, where are you? Would you read that scripture for us please?
“Sure. ‘Wherefore, Laman and Lemuel did speak many hard words unto us, their younger brothers, and they did smite us even with a rod. And it came to pass as they smote us with a rod, behold, an angel of the Lord came and stood before them, and he spake unto them, saying: Why do ye smite your younger brother with a rod? Know ye not that the Lord hath chosen him to be a ruler over you,” (1 Nephi 3: 28-29).
Thank you. It wasn’t just Nephi that was being smitten. Sam was too. We know that Sam was patient and long-suffering. Can you imagine being left in a cave with those two yahoo brothers, while Nephi went into the city to get the plates? We know that Sam was obedient and faithful, and that he was saved. In First Nephi chapter eight, we read of Lehi’s dream of the tree of life. Specifically, Lehi says that when he beckoned to Sam, Sam came and grabbed hold of the iron rod, and came to the fruit of the tree. We know that Sam was a just and holy man, and very much like his famous brother Nephi. As Lehi was dying, he blessed all of his sons. And, Sam was one of those. And Jake, you’ve got the mike, would you read this please?
“And after he made an end of speaking unto them, he spake unto Sam, saying: Blessed art thou, and thy seed; for thou shalt inherit the land like unto thy brother Nephi...and thou shalt be even like unto thy brother, and thy seed like unto his seed; and thou shalt be blessed in all thy days” (2 Nephi 4:11).
Okay. So, we knew that Sam would be even like unto his brother. And yet, we don’t know much about him. And finally we know that Sam was a humble man, and he made wise choices. He wisely chose to take his family and go with Nephi when they split with them from the Lamanites. And he was humble enough to take on his younger brother’s name from that point on. At least we don’t ever hear of Sam campaigning to call the people “Samites” instead of Nephites.
Brothers and sisters, how do we know that Sam was not a great leader in his own right? How do we know that he was not placed in the position in Lehi’s family to be older than Nephi, to be a source of great influence and example to his younger brother? Sam’s powerful example may indeed have set the stage of righteousness of Nephi during his formative years. So Sam’s role was basically one of support and assisting the more acclaimed younger brother. And he ultimately received all the blessings that were promised to Nephi. What I like about it is he overcame the tendency to follow in the footsteps of older siblings. Instead, Sam followed his family and his religion. And although he was passed over to be a leader of the Nephites in favor of his younger brother, he appears never to have complained or become jealous, unlike Laman and Lemuel.
So big brother Sam is almost an unknown, but he is obviously a leader in the pages of eternity. He will ever be an example to us that Heavenly Father honors not just the stars of his earthly kingdom but the best supporting actors and actresses as well, who work quietly but in the shadows.
I call this the “Sam Factor,” the willingness to lead from behind the scenes in support of other more high-profile leaders. I could call it the “Hyrum Factor” after Hyrum Smith, who was there every step of the way with his younger brother, Joseph. I could call it the “Aaron Factor,” after Moses’ older brother, who was actually the mouthpiece for his younger brother Moses. I could even call it the “Sam in the Lord of the Rings Factor,” but we won’t go there, so… I could call it after most people, because most of us are Sam's, aren’t we? Most of us will spend our days working in the low light of the world, rather than the limelight. We are the necessary ones who help constitute the countless faithful followers who quietly yet consistently go about leading our families in the path of righteousness. So I suppose my talk today could be more about "followship" than leadership.
We sang the hymn this morning, “Come Follow Me.” To truly be leaders in eternity and leaders of our families, we first need to pass the test of “followship,” of following the Master. But I suggest that our Father in Heaven is just as pleased and rejoices just as much in the quiet work we do in our own circle of influence than in the work of those who lead hundreds of thousands.
Let me ask you this, what would the world or the business environment or the college or the church or the kingdom of God be like without you and the rest of us Sam’s, who represent the Sam Factor? Many or most of us here might be like those students that I see who consistently come to class, but they sit near the back of the room, they never say too much. You may not aspire to be a leader or feel that you have natural leadership abilities. You may be more comfortable being like a Sam—being faithful and diligent but working without public notoriety. You may not like the spotlight or want attention drawn to you. You’re more at peace in a following role than in a leading role. But follow you do, you follow the instructions, you contribute in your group activities. And at the end of the day, I see it every semester, you bring the projects to a successful completion.
We honor Brigham Young, and those early pioneer greats who helped lead the trek west and build this magnificent city, this great building we’re in right here. The vast majority of those 70,000 pioneer saints who walked the plains were simply Sams. They weren’t in the lead wagons of the train, they were in the middle or back, maybe even the last wagon of the train, where the dust from those out front covered them from head to toe, and caused them to choke and cough. But there they were, supporting, following.
Think about Christ the Lord. Who did He choose as His initial followers? Learned men, scholars, popular leaders of the community? Did He choose Nephis, Moronis, or Brighams? He chose Sams. He chose fishermen. They didn’t know anything about the gospel, but they knew enough to hear the Spirit and to follow when He called.
[Brief video: https://www.lds.org/bible-videos/videos/follow-me-and-i-will-make-you-fishers-of-men?lang=eng.]
“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.”
I love that. If the Lord knew what He could make out of those fishermen, don’t you think He knows what He can make of us, if we but follow Him? He knows our potential, what we are capable of doing, even though the world may not. It will mostly not likely be our role to lead the overall Church. But God will give us the capability to lead in our homes, in the trenches, where the battle with the adversary is fought every day. We will lead in our roles in the Church, whether it be just a Primary teacher, or just a home or visiting teacher. We will serve in whatever capacity, and we will sustain and bear up the prophet to hasten the work in these latter days. Think of the Sam’s in your life, siblings, coaches, Young Women advisers, friends, parents. I can point to leaders in my life who have influenced and led my thinking through their conviction and example. But they had no grand leadership title, and they wouldn’t even consider themselves leaders.
I recently read a simple but profound definition of the word “leader.” It read, “A leader is someone who helps others lead.” My father’s here today; he and my mother were both schoolteachers. I watched them for years toil to teach in order that others may lead someday. They aren’t rich and famous; in fact, my dad told me once that if I ever became a teacher, he’d kill me, because of the poor pay and the perceived lowliness of that profession in the eyes of society. But I recall the many letters and phone calls that my parents received and still receive from students years later, who had gone on to become leaders in business and politics and music, or whatever, expressing heartfelt appreciation to my parents’ subtle but often life-changing influence.
We’re blessed to have President Richards at the helm of this college, and as he said he comes to my class from time to time, and a few weeks ago he came to my principles of management class, and shared a story about a Sam. He told about someone who was just playing a small, perhaps insignificant role, yet understood how he fit into the overall mission of his organization. [Chime sounds.] Okay, now the clicker has decided not to work. So, Cathy, can you…there you go.
Back in the ’60s there was a tour going through the NASA Space Center in Houston. And at one point, one of the members of the tour looked over and saw an elderly man in overalls mopping the floor. And though it was obvious what he was, the tour member went up to him and said, “What do you do?” thinking that the man would say, “Well, I’m just the janitor.” But the man responded, “I am helping to put a man on the moon.” I love the moral of that story because we cannot all be the astronauts. But we can help in our small way of putting the astronauts on the moon.
Speaking of janitors, may I share a personal experience from my work next door at the Salt Lake Temple. I’m an ordinance worker, and one Friday evening I was asked to assist temple patrons in the Creation Room. I recall being very nervous and anxious because I wanted the patrons to have a good experience. I knew there’d be maybe 200 people observing me, and one of the other ordinance workers saw me sweating over in the corner. He came up to me, and he put his hands on my shoulders. He looked me in the eye and he said, “Keep your eyes on the Master rather than be concerned about the eyes on you.” Now I had a calming feeling come over me immediately. Now that ordinance worker’s name was Jerry, and I found out later that he is a high school janitor by profession. But in his wisdom, Jerry understood that it’s not about how many people observe us or how many people we lead or if we lead anybody at all. It’s not about us, but it’s about us doing our Sam role every day, no matter how small or ordinary it may seem, and in following and serving others and serving Jesus, our perfect leader.
How do we know what we Sam’s were like in the pre-existence? Were we some of those noble and great ones that we read about in Abraham (Abraham 3:22)? But instead of playing roles of the Number Ones, like Nephi or Moroni, we were asked to play the Number Twos, or the Number Threes, or the Number Fours, or like Jerry, I think he was number 5,870,360,017, but he’ll be a Number One in my eyes for the influence he had on me.
It’s in the temple where we get a glimpse of ourselves through the eyes of Heavenly Father and learn of our great potential. Leaders of business, science, politics, armies, and nations all look the same in the temple. It doesn’t matter the earthly leadership title; that’s not important. For that period of time we’re in the temple, we are Sams, who willingly and quietly show our obedience, make covenants, serve others, and exercise true “followship.” Participating in temple ordinances teaches us to be good followers and hence good leaders. May I encourage each of you who hold a temple recommend to be obedient to the prophet’s voice and attend there often. And if you don’t hold a current recommend, I encourage you to feel of the Savior’s love for you and His desire to have you go back. And if you haven’t yet gone through the temple, may you stay the course, like Sam, even in the face of dumb older brothers who persecute you, and hold fast to the iron rod, because the endowment of power you will feel in the temple will bless your life forever. And heaven knows we need that endowment of power to fight the crafty ways of the evil one.
So here’s a challenge: don’t allow Satan do discourage you over the Sam Factor. He would have you believe that because you are not a Number One in the eyes of the masses, that you are something less. He would like you to believe that you are not good enough, that you don’t have the confidence, that it’s just not in you. That’s a lie, because it’s perfectly okay for you to be steady, unflashy, and a best supporting actor. Embrace your Sam, in other words. In fact, the eternal perspective, in the eternal perspective, you can, just like Sam, receive all the blessings that are promised to the Number Ones.
I’m going to close with a favorite parable of mine. Students have heard this in my class, so buck up. But there was once a king who built a highway. When the highway was done he decided to have a contest, and he invited all the people from the land. He wanted to see who would travel the highway best. And all day long the citizens from the country came, and some were in fine clothes, rode fine chariots, some were poor, some were on horseback, some walking, and all day long they travelled the highway. At the end of the highway the king awaited them. He greeted every citizen who finished the journey, and he asked how they enjoyed the new road. And everyone told the king how impressed they were. Except there was one spot, they said, where there was a big pile of rock and debris right in the middle of the road. And they had to swerve and go around it. Near the end of the day, a lone traveler, exhausted and dirty, approached the king. When he was asked how he liked the road, he like the others said you know, it’s a great road, except there was that one spot, I had to detour, you know, because of the big rock pile. The man told the king not to worry, “I stopped for two hours, and I cleared the pile of debris from the road. And under the pile I found this bag. And it’s a bag full of gold coins, and I brought it here to you, king, so you can get it back to its rightful owner.” And the king handed the bag back to him and said, “Good sir, this is yours, because you won my contest. You travelled the road best. He who travels the road best is he who makes it smoother for those who follow.”
Brothers and sisters, as we travel the road of life, no matter our position, our calling, our title, our natural leadership ability, may we lead out in making the road easier for those who come after us. May we, like Sam, make it easier by being there to support the Nephis, or like the Hyrums, to be a sustaining and defending voice to the Josephs. And above all, may we ourselves be faithful followers of the Master leader, even Jesus the Redeemer, whose infinite atonement makes our journey in this life not only smoother but possible in the first place. By so doing, as we toil in the shadows without fame or fanfare, our everyday obedience will someday lead ourselves and our posterity back in glory to Father’s presence. This I testify of in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.