An Effective Leader Encourages Free Expression

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(This is an excerpt from the book Counseling with Our Councils, Revised Edition by Elder M. Russell Ballard.)

Satan’s arguments for a modification of our Heavenly Father’s plan must have been persuasive; many of our spirit brothers and sisters chose to follow him. The fact that he was allowed to express such differences in the first place is a testament to the importance of open dialogue in a council meeting. Similarly, our councils should always allow time for discussion and consideration of differing points of view. We may not always agree with everything others say, but we will all grow from having the opportunity to express ourselves and to consider opinions or approaches to a problem that may vary greatly from our own.

One stake president of whom I am aware went to his stake ­council with a concern for enhancing spirituality among stake members. Specifically, he was anxious for the members of the stake to strengthen their personal testimonies of the Lord Jesus Christ. His vision was for some kind of stakewide effort to get people to think, study, and pray more, but he wasn’t sure of the specifics. So he asked council members to share their thoughts and insights.

Over the course of several weeks, council members considered various possibilities. Much thought, research, and prayer were devoted to the issue, and a wide range of ideas were presented. Eventually a plan began to take shape, the centerpiece of which was a full-scale production of the Church’s “Savior of the World” Christmas presentation.

“To be honest, I wasn’t even aware of ‘Savior of the World’ before it was recommended by a council member,” the stake president said. “It’s sort of outside the realm of my experience, so it isn’t something I would have come up with on my own. But lives were changed. Testimonies of the Savior were strengthened among those who participated and those who watched. I attribute this completely to the effective spiritual preparation of our stake council members.”

Such experiences, however, underscore the need for leaders to be prepared—mentally, emotionally, and spiritually—and to have carefully and prayerfully considered the matter at hand so they can establish the vision mentioned previously. A significant aspect of the mantle of leadership, particularly as it applies to the presiding authority, is the privilege and responsibility of marking the course for the larger group, of clearly indicating where the council needs to go, and then of having the spiritual sensitivity to recognize the endorsement of the Holy Spirit on the right thoughts and ideas when they are presented—regardless of who presents them.

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