After leading his family away from their home in Jerusalem, Lehi sent his four sons back on a dangerous mission. They knew it would be difficult, and more than one of them complained about the assignment. But Lehi handled the situation well:
- He provided context for the request. “I have dreamed a dream, in the which the Lord hath commanded me that thou and thy brethren shall return to Jerusalem” (1 Nephi 3:2).
- He clearly explained what he was asking them to do. “Go unto the house of Laban, and seek the records, and bring them down hither into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 3:4).
- He didn’t micromanage. His sons encountered numerous challenges along the way. He wasn’t there to help them overcome every challenge, but he trusted that the Lord would help them find a way to complete the assignment: “Go, my son, and thou shalt be favored of the Lord” (1 Nephi 3:6).
- While they were gone, he expressed confidence that they would complete the assignment successfully. “I know that the Lord will deliver my sons out of the hands of Laban, and bring them down again unto us in the wilderness” (1 Nephi 5:5).
In the end, his sons successfully completed the mission.
When Alma established a church at the waters of Mormon, he selected and ordained priests to help direct the church. Because of his experiences as a priest of King Noah, Alma was particularly attuned to the dangers of abuse of authority, particularly ecclesiastical authority. So his directions to the priests were largely about the limitations of their authority, including:
- Content – “He commanded them that they should teach nothing save it were the things which he had taught, and which had been spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets” (Mosiah 18:19).
- Compensation – “And the priests were not to depend upon the people for their support; but for their labor they were to receive the grace of God” (Mosiah 18:26).
- Choosing other priests – “None received authority to preach or to teach except it were by him from God. Therefore he consecrated all their priests and all their teachers; and none were consecrated except they were just men” (Mosiah 23:17).
In the middle of the longest war in the Book of Mormon, Captain Moroni, commander of the Nephite armies, sent an order to Teancum, a leader in the army. He ordered Teancum “to make an attack upon the city of Mulek, and retake it if it were possible” (Alma 52:16). Teancum began preparing for this attack, but during his preparations,
… he saw that it was impossible that he could overpower them while they were in their fortifications; therefore he abandoned his designs and returned again to the city Bountiful, to wait for the coming of Moroni (Alma 52:17).
When Moroni arrived, he didn’t chastise Teancum for failing to retake the city. Instead, he held a council with Teancum and his other leaders, to craft a plan which ultimately resulted in the retaking of the city.
I love the message of this story: Moroni trusted his leader on the ground to make the right judgment calls based on the information available to him. He made an assignment, but he accepted the feedback from his subordinate that the assignment was harder than expected and would require additional thought and planning to fulfill successfully.
Today, I will follow the examples of Lehi, Alma, and Captain Moroni as I make assignments and delegate responsibilities to other people. I will clearly explain the assignment, provide context, and express confidence in the people to whom I delegate. I will articulate the constraints of their authority—what they are not permitted to do—so that they are aware of their limitations. I will trust their judgment and allow them to make wise decisions about how to fulfill the assignment.