Listening to the Most Important of All the Voices

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

One bishop told me of a time soon after his call to the bishopric when a new Young Women president was needed in his ward. “There was a clear impression in my mind who the new president should be,” the bishop said. “But when I spoke with my counselors about the call, they had another name in mind, and they made a good and compelling case for the second woman to serve in this important position.

“I was a brand-new bishop, and I had tremendous respect for these two good men who were serving as my counselors,” the bishop continued. “I guess I had more confidence in them than I did in my own spiritual sensitivity, because I chose to ignore what I was personally feeling and accept their recommendation as the decision of the council.”

The bishop was unable to issue the call before he had to leave town for an extended business trip, so he asked his first counselor to extend the call to the second woman. When he called a couple of days later to ask his counselor how things were going, he was told that there had been a problem. The woman, a faithful and devoted young sister, felt uncomfortable with the calling and asked for a day or two to reconcile her feelings.

“It just doesn’t feel right,” she said after a couple of prayerful days. “I’ve never declined a calling in my life, and I won’t decline this one. But I feel like I need to ask you to ask the bishop if he’s really sure that this is what the Lord wants for the young women of the ward right now. If it is, then I’ll assume that the problem here is mine and I’ll willingly accept the assignment.”

“Of course she feels uncomfortable,” the bishop said when his counselor explained the situation. “This isn’t what the Lord wants. He let me know who the new Young Women president is supposed to be, and I’ve been ignoring Him.”

The bishop instructed his counselor to let the sister know that there was nothing wrong with her spiritual sensitivity. Then he was to go ahead and extend the calling to the sister the bishop had been originally impressed to call.

Her response was validating: “I’ve had the impression for two weeks that this calling was coming.”

“The experience didn’t teach me to ignore my counselors,” the bishop said. “Their input was important—the woman they suggested was called to serve as a Young Women adviser, and she did a wonderful job there. But I did learn that of all the voices I was to listen to as bishop, the most important one was the voice of the Spirit as it guided my thoughts, my words, and my actions.”

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