May 21, 2010
Writer: Writer: Mark Beck

Clayton M. Christensen, Harvard Business School professor and Area Authority Seventy for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke at a university forum at Brigham Young University-Idaho yesterday, urging students to "ask the right questions."

"Once that's done, getting the right answer is really quite straightforward," Christensen said. "Unfortunately, many of us are so eager to debate and to get on with the right solution that we often forget even to think about where the right question has been asked."

Christensen gave examples where the right questions can lead to the right answers. He related an experience in which a Chinese economist emphasized the value of religion in democracy and capitalism. Many people, Christensen's friend told him, fail to ask themselves why such ideas flourish in some places and fail in others. The answer, Christensen said, is that religion gives people motivation to voluntarily keep their promises to one another.

He next told of some incidences in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where people have successfully asked the right questions. He recalled the story of a small congregation in Cambridge, Mass., whose numbers swelled after its leaders asked the right questions, "in order to get the answer that God want[ed them] to have." Instead of asking, "How many people are attending?" they asked, "Who didn't come today?"

Christensen related the principle to Latter-day Saint wards and branches whose attendance stagnates after significant growth. He pointed out that the key to continuing the growth of such congregations is to ask who can help and then continue to give leadership opportunities to people "that God wants to magnify," looking beyond "the same 10 people" for every calling.

Christensen told of a priesthood leader whose branch grew exponentially and remained active after he appointed members as "proselyting families," whose job it was to bring people to Church; these visitors would soon be baptized and become missionary families themselves. Christensen said, "The Savior helped us frame the right question when he said, ‘Whosoever shall save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it....'" The leader of the branch asked, "How can we help all these people continue to ‘lose their lives' for the Savior?" In that question lay his success.

Christensen closed by suggesting that there are many other ways to ask the right questions.

"We could stay here for a very long time considering other examples to further illustrate the value of answering the right questions before we dash off in pursuit of the answer," he said. "May God bless each of us as we participate as citizens ... and as we pursue our professional lives and work to build the kingdom to be able to ask the right questions in a way that enables to get the answer that God would want."