A few years ago, I had the privilege of visiting with Elder M. Russell Ballard — my former mission president — in his office. We discussed a difficult situation occurring in another state where the Church had rallied with others to help. He reminisced about the many times the Church has been called on in times of emergency by civic leaders, other Christian churches and people of other faiths. These groups turn to the Church because they believe that the Church has “a great organization that can quickly mobilize people.” Elder Ballard then bore a powerful testimony of “the divine organization of the Savior’s Church.” In the foundation of that “divine organization” is the beautiful teaching of the importance of councils.
My wife, Kitt, and I believe that one of our best purposes on earth is learning to exercise our unique ingenuity and initiative. “For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things he that is compelled in all things is a slothful servant men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause and do many things of their own free will” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:26-27). We believe in planning, preparing and moving forward. When we meet in councils called by the Lord, He inspires our feelings and ideas, blessing us with initiative, motivation and course correction. He joins us. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there will I be in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).
One of the Lord’s names is Counselor. He counsels with us. When He restored His priesthood authority to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, He did not hand them detailed, prioritized, chronological to-do/how-to lists. Rather, His message was like the one He gave the brother of Jared, “What will ye that I should do that ye might have light in your vessels?” (Ether 2:23) or, “You have the priesthood keys, now figure it out, get started and I will ‘justify’ your work” (Doctrine and Covenants 132:59-60).
He promises, “If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me” (Moroni 7:33). My wife and I are impressed by the way Joseph moved forward, utilizing councils of faithful men and women to do the work of restoring “the divine organization of the Savior’s Church.” We can envision those faithful saints sitting in branch, ward, district and stake councils courageously, prayerfully figuring out how to prioritize their monumental tasks and accomplish the Lord’s work. “Then they that feared the Lord spake often to one another,” just as we do today.
“And the Lord hearkened, and heard it,” just as He does today (Malachi 3:16). This aptly describes my wife’s and my experiences serving in many ward, stake and mission councils through the years. Here are a few of our observations and lessons from these councils:
• Councils inspire leaders. There are many times when bishops, stake, mission, auxiliary presidents and other Church leaders struggle to get the answer to a problem or the person the Lord wants called to a certain position. They may spend hours pondering, praying, serving in the temple and fasting for that solution or name but can’t quite reach a decision. My wife and I have found ourselves in this position many times. But, fortunately, after our earnest efforts, when we sit with members of our council and listen to their thoughts and impressions, an idea begins to crystallize, a name is suggested, and the way is clarified. Then, the Spirit of God confirms to the leader the right answer, name or way to move forward. Council members should recognize that their input is necessary, valuable and appreciated, so that when they have a thought or impression, they feel confident about sharing with the council. This is how each member of the council blesses and helps the leader to make an inspired decision.
• Councils participate in miracles. Years ago, I had the privilege of serving in a ward council with a fantastic bishop. He mentioned some of the amazing people in our ward boundaries who were not of our faith. Over several weeks, he asked the council to pray, ponder and then suggest one or two people on whom we felt the Lord wanted us to focus our faith and prayers. The bishop decided on two individuals and the council sustained his decision. In every council meeting, we joined together in “mighty prayer” (Alma 6:6) on behalf of those neighbors. Within two years, they were both baptized and have brought remarkable strength to our ward and stake.
• Councils strengthen members’ faith and allow them to feel the Spirit. High councils and stake councils often cover a great deal of administration and stake business. But, after slogging through a number of calendar and administrative items, they enjoy the sweet blessing of hearing from recently returned missionaries. What a great spirit these men, women and couples bring to the councils as they describe their missions, what they’ve learned, share spiritual experiences and bear powerful testimonies. They are often the highlight of council meetings, and all are uplifted.
I have witnessed an effective way to begin council meetings is asking members to read a scripture they have recently thought deeply about and share its significance to them with the others. Remarkably, many of us have received answers, direction and renewed love for the scriptures from what a council member shared in that short, spontaneous time.
• Councils with family and private councils with the Lord bring untold rewards. In our home, these councils took place as part of family home evening, trips and in quiet, private moments with each other or one of our children. Like my wife and I, you may wonder if your family members are learning the gospel, or if they are getting anything good from what you try to teach and exemplify. Rest assured that they are and your efforts are supported, blessed and magnified by our Heavenly Father. We firmly believe that very few faithful Saints know how much good they do.
I was called to preside over the Washington Spokane Mission in 2003. As we began our mission, we asked our oldest child if she felt we had taught her the gospel. Her response may sound familiar: “I don’t necessarily remember specific lessons, but I remember the good feeling I had during family home evening.” Her most eye-opening statement was, “What had the biggest impact on me was observing you when you didn’t know I was there; like when you were kneeling in prayer or reading scriptures.” Counseling with your loved ones and with the Lord is bringing untold eternal blessings and miracles to your life and theirs. “Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good and if ye do ye shall be lifted up at the last day” (Alma 37:37).
As you serve in a council, please remember that your thoughts and impressions will inspire your leader. As you exercise your faith, you will participate in miracles and receive answers to your prayers and peace in your trials. Remember that our service in councils is essential to “the divine organization of the Savior’s Church.” He is the “Man of Counsel” and He will justify your efforts!
• Kevin L. Ludlow serves as first counselor in the Sandy Utah Willow Creek Stake.
• Kitt Ludlow is a Relief Society instructor and an assistant coordinator of ordinance workers and in the sealing office of the Draper Utah Temple.
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