Working Together in Leadership

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

A call to serve in a bishopric or presidency is a call to serve in one of the most important councils in the Church. This is where the tone is set for the entire organization over which the council presides. When Christlike love is evident in bishoprics and presidencies, it has a captivating, engaging, healing effect on the entire organization. Almost without exception, bishoprics, stake presidencies, and auxiliary presidencies who clearly love and respect one another have an almost magnetic effect on those within their reach. Love is contagious; acceptance is balm to the soul. And when warmth and camaraderie are obvious among members of a bishopric or presidency, similar feelings typically ripple through the entire congregation. Similarly, when bishoprics and presidencies focus on moving forward the mission of the Church, other Church councils in the various organizations follow their lead in working to fulfill the mission of the Church.

Great things can happen when members of bishoprics and presidencies work together in a meaningful way. Not too long ago I heard about a Beehive class presidency in a small Midwestern ward that became discouraged and concerned because so many girls in their age group had moved away. With the help of their teacher and the encouragement of the second counselor in the bishopric, they decided to take action. They invited their class to devote their fast the next fast Sunday to asking the Lord to send new families with Beehive-age girls to their ward.

Everyone in the class participated. Just two weeks later, a girl who was soon to turn twelve moved into the ward. She had been apprehensive about finding new friends in the ward, and she was greatly relieved to find a group of girls who were ready to welcome her with open arms because they saw her coming as an answer to their prayers. A few weeks later, another girl of Beehive age moved in, and the following month, a third. At an early age these wonderful young women experienced the power that comes when both the leaders and the members of a Church organization focus their faith and prayers toward a common goal. And as this story demonstrates, it is the presidency of the organization that establishes the vision for others to follow.

To some, it may sound unusual or even incorrect to refer to a presidency or bishopric as a council. But that’s really what it is—or at least that’s what it ought to be. Although a stake president, an elders quorum president, or a bishop holds priesthood keys and is clearly identified as the person who should make the final decision in all matters, that doesn’t mean that he has to have all of the ideas. The same is true of auxiliary presidents, who don’t hold priesthood keys but who assume a similar responsibility of leadership within their respective organizations. Wise presidents or bishops will invite their counselors to participate and speak openly. Wise counselors will understand that there are times when they must speak and times when they must support the presidential mantle, which is distinct from any other.

Under the direction of the bishop or president, bishopric and presidency meetings (or, in the case of high priests groups, group leadership meetings) should be characterized by free and open discussion of important issues facing the organization. The input of counselors should also be solicited and should be carefully and prayerfully considered before final decisions are made.

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