People frequently ask me to identify and share some of the important lessons I have learned during my years of service as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Because I am blessed to meet, serve with, and learn from faithful Church members all over the world, the lessons are many and wide-ranging. Over the years, however, the principle and spiritual pattern of one by one has blessed me and influenced my ministry in powerful ways.
I first became aware of and gained experience with the principle of one by one long before my call to serve as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. I recall with fondness the lessons I learned from my faithful mother. She was a model of ministering one by one. Aunts, uncles, and cousins selflessly served and were tremendous and tireless examples to me.
The devoted priesthood and auxiliary leaders, advisers, and teachers of my youth consistently reinforced the importance of helping and blessing individuals one by one. And opportunities to serve as a priesthood leader throughout my life enriched greatly my understanding of ministering one by one.
Examples of Serving One by One
The single greatest human exemplar of the principle of one by one with whom I am familiar is Susan Bednar, my wife. For many years, I have witnessed her individualized love and attention directed to me, to our children, to our growing family, to her parents and siblings, to the friends and associates of our children, to the sisters she serves as a visiting teacher, to the members of the wards we attend, to our neighbors, and to countless people around the world. Susan’s prayers provide a rich tutorial in the principle of one by one.
Since my call to the Twelve, however, a consistent pattern of simple and profound experiences has enriched my understanding of this principle and enables me to bear solemn and sure witness that the Lord knows us one by one. He knows each of us. He knows our names. He knows our concerns. He knows our apprehensions. He knows our potential and possibilities.
Significantly, the first word spoken by God the Eternal Father to man in the first vision in this latter-day dispensation was “Joseph.” The Father and the Son knew Joseph Smith as a one. Any call to serve the Savior in any capacity is an invitation to learn about the principle of one by one, because that was the pattern of His service. In a revelation given to Joseph Smith the Prophet, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer in June of 1829, the Savior identified the spiritual reason for the work of ministering to individuals:
Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God; And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father. And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me! (Doctrine and Covenants 18:10, 15–16, emphasis added).
More recently, President Gordon B. Hinckley admonished, “We must look after the individual. Christ always spoke of individuals. He healed the sick, individually. He spoke in His parables of individuals. This Church is concerned with individuals, notwithstanding our numbers. Whether they be 6 or 10 or 12 or 50 million, we must never lose sight of the fact that the individual is the important thing” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley , 298).
In this book, Elder David A. Bednar offers a compelling look at a pattern the Lord uses to bless His people: He works with us on an individual basis, one by one. Demonstrating that pattern as it occurs throughout the scriptures, in the lives of many Church leaders, and in his own ministry, Elder Bednar invites us to open our hearts to the Lord's love. He also teaches that by ministering as the Savior does, one by one, we can be more powerful instruments in His hands to accomplish His purposes.