We hear much in the church about the importance of leadership, but less about what Roger Merrill calls followership. There is no point in having leaders if there is no one to follow, and followership is an excellent place for new members to provide service in the church. When we learn to effectively and humbly follow our leaders, we show respect for the Lord’s choices for leadership. Since we are all asked to follow the Savior, learning to follow righteous earthly leaders is good training for this.
Brother Merrill advises:
“A good follower asks what to do and is willing to receive and listen to counsel and advice from his leaders. The brother of Jared was advised by Jared and the Lord, and the sons of Mosiah were advised by their father, and by Alma, and they followed this advice.
A good follower must be willing to accept responsibility and to make recommendations that will be accepted by the leader. This means that a follower must try to learn about his leader’s ways. He should try to anticipate the leader’s needs in a creative way and seek constantly to do the things that the leader needs to have done. A follower needs to act on his own and to bring to pass much righteousness of his own free will. This implies that the follower must understand true principles so that the things he does will bring to pass righteousness and not wickedness. Many young people in the Church have great leadership potential, but in many cases, it will not be realized because they will not first learn to follow. A great leader is first a great follower. Become a great follower. Do what you are told. Ask what to do and listen to counsel. Accept responsibility; make recommendations, carry them out, and bring to pass righteousness because of your own free will. There are no shortcuts to confidence or righteousness. We must be willing to take them a step at a time and walk before we run. We must follow before we lead.”
Although this quote refers to people in callings, it is also good advice for those of us who don’t have callings, but are active members in a ward. Nearly every week our leaders give us counsel and advice, and we can accept responsibility for carrying them out. Has a leader asked that members sign up for building cleanup or participate in a community service project? Has he asked us to work harder on reverence in a meeting? Whenever a leader makes a righteous request, we’re expected to act on those requests. This allows us to learn to follow righteous counsel, and prepares us for future leadership opportunities.
When we remember that each leader is called of God, it becomes easier to follow our leaders and to show them respect. This builds our testimony, our humility, and our ability to live the gospel.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.