President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, urged priesthood holders to have their hearts in the right place at the priesthood session of general gonference on Saturday, April 4.
President Uchtdorf began explaining the definition of the phrase “Potemkin Village.” Governor Gregory Potemkin, of 18th-century southern Russia, prepared a way to impress Catherine the Great as she toured the southern part of her empire. As Catherine floated down the Dnieper River, Potemkin’s men set up artificial villages along the way to make the illusion of a prosperous society.
“There is nothing wrong with shining our shoes, smelling our best or even hiding dirty dishes before the home teachers arrive,” President Uchtdorf said. “However, when taken to the extremes, this desire to impress can shift from useful to deceitful.”
President Uchtdorf warned against becoming like the Pharisees and Sadducees, whom the Savior rebuked for appearing righteous only to win praise. He said modern-day scripture warns priesthood holders just as strongly to not exercise unrighteous dominion or hide their sins. “We come not to church to hide our problems, but to heal them.”
President Uchtdorf asked priesthood holders to remember what their ministry is. He told about a stake where leaders had set lofty goals and made impressive declarations centered on numbers and percentages. The stake president paused to wonder if these goals would benefit the widows and their young children or those whose marriages were falling apart. The stake president returned to his councils, and together they shifted their focus to remember the hungry, needy, naked, sick and afflicted.
“If Jesus Christ were to sit down with us and ask for an accounting of our stewardship, I am not sure he would focus much on programs and statistics,” President Uchtdorf said. “What the Savior would want to know is the condition of our heart.”
President Uchtdorf invited listeners to ask themselves why they attended the conference or why they fulfill any of their responsibilities. President Uchtdorf said, for himself, he didn’t speak at conference because the church president asked him to or because his wife expected him to.
“I am here because I desire with all my heart to follow my Master, Jesus Christ,” he said. “In short, I am here because I love my Heavenly Father and his son, Jesus Christ.”
President Uchtdorf told listeners that whether their testimonies were thriving or “Potemkin Villages,” they have the opportunity to build on their strength. “With patience and persistence, even the smallest act of discipleship or the tiniest ember of belief can become a blazing bonfire of a consecrated life,” he said.