Today’s Talk: Family Councils by Elder M. Russell Ballard
“Okay everyone. Time to sit down. Ellie, can you sit right side up instead of upside down? Josh, please do not put Emma in a headlock anymore tonight. Abbie…Abbie…Okay, I guess that means you are not wanting to participate tonight, is that right?”
*Sigh* Does this sound like anyone else’s attempt at a family council as suggested by Elder Ballard in the last General Conference? I remember that day last April. I was sitting in my comfy chair, wrapped in a blanket, notebook in hand, and listening to Elder Ballard as he began to speak about having family councils. I could not write fast enough as he taught an amazing sermon on the importance of having family councils.
“…councils are the most effective way to get real results. Additionally, I know councils are the Lord’s way and that He created all things in the universe through a heavenly council…”
Of course! How many times have I been in a class or part of a discussion about the council that we had in heaven as we decided whose side we wanted to be on? It makes complete sense that having councils in our families is a perfect way for us to become closer to each other and our Father in Heaven. The tricky part is, how do I implement this council in a way that is good for my family? Well, with the Savior’s help, anything is possible…even successful family council meetings with bored and distracted children.
Elder Ballard instructed us in how to use 4 types of family council settings in our home. As I pondered this talk and what to write about it, I thought that I would include some examples from my own life that pertain to each type of family council.
- GENERAL FAMILY COUNCIL: This type of council consists of the entire family or extended family. One family council that we had sticks out in my mind very clearly even though we had it years before Elder Ballard gave this talk. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 our family went through a lot of changes very quickly. At first, there was not much to talk about as a family because I didn’t have a lot of answers. But as the test results trickled in and I met with doctor after doctor, I began to get a better picture of what the coming months would entail. Once we had a firm plan on how we were going to try and kill the cancer, we decided to have a family council to discuss this plan with the kids. It was a very emotional meeting together as I had to look my children in the eyes and tell them that I would have to have chemotherapy, surgeries, and radiation treatments in order to have a chance at beating the cancer. I remember their little faces, red and splotchy from the tears and full of sorrow and fear. It was not a fun family council, but it was necessary and provided us the opportunity to bond together and discuss what each of us would need to do in order to make it through that difficult time.
- EXECUTIVE FAMILY COUNCIL: This council is one that includes only the mother and the father talking together. I am very lucky to have a husband that works from home so we actually have a lot of time to have this type of family council. We discuss everything from the kids to the house to vacations to callings and more. Yes, I guess you could qualify most of the time as regular conversation, but I feel that whenever we are sorting out a problem or discussing an issue that is important to our family, that conversation can be considered a council. One thing I feel we need to improve in order to make these councils more effective is to begin our more in depth conversations with a prayer so that the spirit can guide our problem solving.
- LIMITED FAMILY COUNCIL: This is a council that includes both parents and only one child. The council that comes to my mind very quickly is one that my husband and I have had with our son who is a Senior in high school this year. He is involved in a lot of things and we have had to have a lot of discussions about how to prioritize things and budget your time. It is still a work in progress and I am sure that we will have to have a few more councils to make sure that we are all on the same page, but I am thankful for the conversations that we have been able to have.
- ONE-ON-ONE FAMILY COUNCIL: This is probably my favorite type of family council. This council includes only one parent and one child. I have the opportunity to do this a lot as I am transporting children from place to place. I am often alone with just one child and try to use each opportunity as a time to invest in each one of them. I ask them about things that have happened at school or with their friends. We talk about things they would like to do or share funny stories with each other. I try to follow the spirit and use those times to have conversations about gospel related topics as well. But mostly I just love being with them on an individual basis and feeling their spirit.
I think one of the most important things to remember about any family council is this advice given by Elder Ballard:
“A family council, when conducted with love and with Christlike attributes, will counter the impact of modern technology that often distracts us from spending quality time with each other and also tends to bring evil right into our homes.”
We live in a world of distractions and most of those distractions are right within the walls of our own home. It is so important now more than ever to utilize this advice from a living apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ and begin to have or continue having regular family councils.
“…there was a time when the walls of our homes provided all the defense we needed against outside intrusions and influences. We locked the doors, closed the windows; we shut the gates; and we felt safe, secure, and protected in our own little refuge from the outside world.
Those days are now gone. The physical walls, doors, fences, and gates of our homes cannot prevent unseen invasion from the Internet, the Wi-Fi, the mobile phones, the networks. They can penetrate our homes with just a few clicks and keystrokes.
Fortunately, the Lord has provided a way to counter the invasion of negative technology that can distract us from spending quality time with each other. He has done this by providing the council system to strengthen,protect, safeguard, and nurture our most precious relationships.”