By M. Russell Ballard.
In this significant new volume, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles discusses how members of ward and stake councils, as well as parents presiding over family councils, can better make use of the opportunity to counsel together to find solutions to the problems confronting families and individuals today. "No longer," writes Elder Ballard, "can any one leader, either man or woman — or for that matter, any parent — attempt to provide what is so desperately needed in the lives of our families and Church members. If we are to succeed in leading our Heavenly Father's children toward eternal life, we must counsel together and help each other."
Excerpts from Counseling with Our Councils: Learning to Minister Together in the Church and in the Family
One of my main purposes in writing this book is to encourage priesthood leaders to invite the sisters to more fully participate in developing solutions to the difficult problems confronting members of the Church.
Too often family councils are held only when the parents feel there are problems — and when parents think they have all the answers. . . . Family rules and procedures are more likely to be accepted and followed if all family members have been given the opportunity to participate in the discussions and agree to the rules.
When ward leaders fully utilize the inspired council system and focus the efforts of the quorums and auxiliaries on improving the spiritual and temporal well-being of ward members, miracles happen in the lives of families and individuals.
I believe that the day has come when we cannot hope to build the Church and to bring the hearts and souls of our members to Christ without using every resource the Lord has given us to help us take advantage of our opportunities and address the obstacles standing in our way. For example, leaders throughout the Church are greatly concerned about the spiritual maturity of many members. We worry about the inactivity of so many new members of the Church. I believe that the answer to these concerns lies in the proper understanding and use of our councils, particularly the ward council.
In view of the accelerating growth of the Church and the ever-faster unraveling of society's moral and spiritual fabric throughout the world, it is increasingly imperative to empower leaders of stakes, wards, and homes to do whatever it takes, in harmony with gospel principles, to bring people to Christ. Every person and situation is unique in some way. While principles are universally applicable, practices are not. As every parent knows who has tried to rear the second child exactly like the first, what works in one situation may fail in another. The central activity of leadership is teaching-first by example, second by precept. After that, leaders become a source of help as their empowered stewards assume the responsibility and exercise the initiative to do whatever is necessary, consistent with the principles taught, to fulfill the shared vision.
The most advanced, universal, and practical leadership philosophy ever put forth was given in this simple statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith: 'I teach the people correct principles and they govern themselves' (quoted by John Taylor, in Journal of Discourses, 10:57-58). Area presidencies are to teach stake presidencies the overall vision, direction, purpose, and correct principles of the Church, and then they are to let stake presidencies govern or manage their stakes. A similar pattern applies to bishops and their wards and to parents and their families. 'Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence' (D&C 107:99).
This empowerment process requires leaders to exercise great patience while modeling Christlike behavior; building caring, trusting relationships; setting up clear role and goal expectations; identifying sources of help; and requiring accountability. Generally, Church leaders teach principles, not practices. Inspired stake, ward, and family council members learn to convert principles into appropriate practices through the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. For example, after teaching the principle of daily family prayer, a father may ask, 'How and when should our family hold family prayer?' The family may determine to hold family prayer just before the children go to school. This may become a family practice for many years. Later, the family may find it more practical to hold family prayer in conjunction with the evening meal or at bedtime. Practices may change, but fundamental principles and purposes do not change.
As leaders work with their councils, careful attention should be given to this admonition from the Lord: 'For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; for the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves' (D&C 58:26-28). When so empowered, council members will become amazingly creative and willing to take the initiative in doing whatever is necessary to accomplish worthy purposes within the guidelines of well-understood principles.
In addition to teaching purposes and principles, it is important that leaders explicitly teach what not to do, as the Lord did in several of the Ten Commandments. This leaves open every appropriate path to the creativeness of the council so that they can feel responsible and successfully achieve results rather than thinking, "Well, we did what we were told to do and it didn't work. Now what do they want us to do?"
Paperback Published: March 2003