Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Governing through Councils

                “The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth” (Doctrine and Covenants 65:2).  The kingdom of God on earth is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is governed through priesthood and priesthood keys.

                The Lord governs His Church through various counsels, and He calls leaders to direct those councils for the benefit of individuals, families, and the Church.  Priesthood leaders seek input from all members the council as well as unity and guidance from the Holy Ghost in their efforts to build the kingdom of God.  Councils at all levels – presidencies, bishoprics, family, etc. – can learn how to be guided by revelation from God.

                President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, spoke about councils in an address to priesthood holders.  He and his family belonged to a tiny branch of the Church in New Jersey where President Eyring was the only deacon in the branch and his brother the only teacher.  While he was still a deacon, his family moved to Utah.  “There I found three wonderful things in place to speed my growth in the priesthood.  The first was a president who knew how to sit in council with the members of his quorum.  The second was great faith in Jesus Christ that led to the great love we have heard of – love for each other.  And the third was a shared conviction that our overarching priesthood purpose was to labor for the salvation of men.”

                President Eyring learned the importance of councils when he became a member of the “priests quorum, with the bishop as our president….
                “As near as I could tell, he treated the opinions of young priests as if we were the wisest men in the world.  He waited until all who would speak had spoken.  He listened.  And when he decided what should be done, it seemed to me that Spirit confirmed the decisions to us and to him.

                “I realize now I had felt what the scripture means when it says that the president is to sit in council with the members of his quorum.  And years later as I was a bishop with my priests quorum, both they and I were taught by what I had learned as a young priest.

                “Twenty years later as a bishop, I had the opportunity to see the effectiveness of a council, not just in the meetinghouse but also in the mountains.  During a Saturday activity, a member of our quorum had been lost in the forest overnight.  As far as we knew, he was alone and without warm clothes, food, or shelter.  We searched for him without success.

                “My memory is that we prayed together, the priests quorum and I, and I then asked each to speak.  I listened intently, and it seemed to me that they did too, to each other.  After a while, a feeling of peace settled on us.  I felt that our lost quorum member was safe and dry somewhere.

                “It became clear to me what the quorum was to do and not to do.  When the people who found him described the place in the woods where he had gone for safety, I felt that I recognized it.  But the larger miracle for me was to see a united priesthood council’s faith in Jesus Christ bringing revelation to the man with the priesthood keys.  We all grew that day in the power of the priesthood.”

                President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency, spoke about counsels in a worldwide leadership training meeting.  “We human beings have a strange tendency to complicate simple things.  We set up rules, laws, bylaws, processes, and subprocesses.  Eventually, we pile up load after load until we end up under a huge weight of expectations that are so complicated it is difficult to keep track of them, let alone meet them….

                “Too often, we complicate the beauty and simplicity of the gospel of Jesus Christ with endless lists of meticulous expectations.  However, when we focus on the `why’ of the gospel, much of the confusion fades away.  Why are we here?  Why are we asked to obey the commandments?  Why is the Atonement of Jesus Christ of such value to us?  The proper `why’ questions will lead us to the proper `who,’ `what,’ `when,’ `where,’ and `how’ decisions.

                “Elder Ballard and his group gave us a great example by asking, `Why do we meet in councils?  Is it to arrange and rearrange the war calendar?  to discuss staffing problems?  to schedule cleaning the building?’

                “Such issues may be urgent and necessary, but are they the most important?  There are many ways to enhance our precious council time, like always coming well prepared.  We could handle scheduling or other organizational matters by memo, phone, e-mail, or text.  When we allow organizational matters to dominate our efforts and time in our councils, we run the risk of missing the mark of why the Lord has called us to minister in His Church.

                “We meet in councils to seek the inspiration of the Spirit in building the kingdom of God.  We meet to seek the answers to two basic questions:  (1) How can we help our members better love the Lord our God with all their heart, soul, and mind?  (2) How can we help our members better love their neighbors as themselves?

                “Every other thing we discuss in our councils within our Church organizations should derive from these great commandments, for everything else hangs upon them.

                “Once we understand the `why’ behind our council meetings, it is easier for us to focus appropriately on how to accomplish it.  For example, as we consider ways to increase love for neighbor among our members, we might decide to plan a service activity in which we include our less-active members and our friends of other faiths.

                “All of our discussions concerning young and old, from welfare needs to missionary work, from gospel teaching to strengthening families, should be framed in this context.  By simplifying and strengthening the council process and by inviting the Spirit, we will find the life and fire of the Holy Spirit, who provides guidance and heavenly support for our efforts.”

                Men and women as well as young men and young women meet in council in their callings in the Church whether on a general, stake or ward level.  Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary presidencies are councils include only women; Young Women class presidencies are the same.  Priesthood quorums include only men.  Ward and Stake Councils as well as Welfare Councils include both men and women.  All are responsible to bring success to the “quorum” or class.  I enjoy the opportunity to meet in council and learn much from the discussions, whether it be about my own personal calling or the Church in general.  I especially appreciate family councils and a successful way to solve family problems.

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