President Dieter F. Uchtdorf reflected during his priesthood session address on two priesthood callings he has received that illustrate his topic, "the why of priesthood service."
One was his calling in his youth as deacons quorum president in Frankfurt, Germany. His branch president was careful in extending the call to carefully explain what the Lord would expect of him and how he could receive help.
"A sacred, divine spirit filled my heart as he spoke," reflected President Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency.
"I realize now that the branch president could have merely gone through the motions when he called me to this position. ...Instead, he spent time with me and helped me understand not only the what of my assignment but, more importantly, the why."
President Uchtdorf reflected, "We need to be constantly reminded of the eternal reasons behind the things we are commanded to do. The basic gospel principles need to be part of our life's fabric, even if it means learning them over and over again. That doesn't mean that this process should be rote or boring. Rather, when we teach the foundational principles in our homes or in Church, let the flame of enthusiasm for the gospel and the fire of testimony bring light, warmth and joy to the hearts of those we teach."
He explained that it is important to learn and attend to what one must do in priesthood callings, "but it is in the why of priesthood service that we discover the fire, passion and power of the priesthood."
"The what of priesthood service teaches us what to do," he said. "The why inspires our soul. The what informs, but the why transforms."
The other priesthood calling President Uchtdorf recalled came years later, also in Frankfurt, after he had just received a promotion at work that would require much of his time and attention. The calling was to serve as stake president.
During the call from Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve, President Uchtdorf wondered fleetingly if he would be able to accept it, but quickly realized the call was from God.
"There are times when we have to step into the darkness in faith, confident that God will place solid ground beneath our feet once we do," he said. "And so I accepted gladly, knowing that God would provide."
He spoke of being trained by some of the greatest teachers and leaders in the Church, such as Elder Russell M. Nelson and President Thomas S. Monson. "Their teaching was like the dew from heaven and an inspiration for us," he said. "I still have the notes I took during those training sessions. These Brethren gave us the vision of what it meant to establish the kingdom of God by building personal testimonies and strengthening families. They helped us see how to apply gospel truth and principles to our specific circumstances, and for our specific time. To put it another way, inspired leaders helped us see the why of the gospel, and we had to roll up our sleeves and go to work."
President Uchtdorf said he and his counselors in the stake presidency learned an important lesson, that the fact that something is good is not always reason to expend time and resources on it.
"Our activities, initiatives, and plans should be inspired by and grounded upon the why of our priesthood service and not by any flashy trend or interest of the moment," he said. "Otherwise, they can distract our efforts, dilute our energy and get us caught up in our own hobbies, spiritual or temporal, that are not at the center of discipleship."
President Uchtdorf posed the question: "So how do we know what to select?" Answering it, he said, "We each have the responsibility to determine this for ourselves. However, we are commanded to diligently study the scriptures, heed the words of the prophets and make it a matter of faith-filled, serious, dedicated prayer."
He assured his listeners that they will not be left alone if their hearts are pure and they seek the glory of God.
"My dear brethren, divine blessings for priesthood service are activated by our diligent efforts, our willingness to sacrifice, and our desire to do what is right," President Uchtdorf said. "Let us be the ones to act and not be acted upon. Preaching is fine, but sermons that do not lead to action are like fires without heat or water that cannot quench thirst."
He added, "It is in the application of doctrine that the purifying flame of the gospel grows and the power of the priesthood ignites our souls."
He invited priesthood holders to consider the words spoken by the servants of God at the conference, then pray to God for guidance and not to delay in following the promptings of the Spirit.
"Guided by the Holy Spirit, we will learn from our mistakes," he said. "If we stumble, we will rise. If we falter, we will go on. We will never waver; we will never give up."