The pattern of creating and participating in councils is woven throughout the doctrine of the Plan of Salvation. The concept is ingrained in our DNA as Latter Day Saints. We fundamentally believe that in the pre-existence, we gathered as spirit children of our Father in Heaven to have a council. We heard a plan presented, we heard our brothers speak and then we discussed and made choices. Also in the Garden of Eden we have a pattern of a council. First, a plan was presented, Adam and Eve counseled with God and then made a choice. And throughout the scriptures we have examples of families and prophets holding council together.
The pattern of councils is used for many purposes. One such purpose is to strengthen our ward families. Many years ago as a young Primary president, I had a very large primary with many children dealing with autism, divorce and poverty. Our ward boundaries included hundreds of low income apartments and every 3-6 months, our ward congregation turned over 75%. The needs were tremendous and sometimes overwhelming. I am so grateful for the time I spent in ward council going over concerns, individual names and seeking greater guidance and inspiration in order to better serve those children.
Speaking of such organizational councils, Elder Ballard in a talk from 1993, quoted President Stephan L Richards as saying:
“The genius of our Church government is government through councils. I have had enough experience to know the value of councils. Hardly a day passes but that I see … God’s wisdom, in creating councils … to govern his Kingdom.
“… I have no hesitancy in giving you the assurance, if you will confer in council as you are expected to do, God will give you solutions to the problems that confront you.”
In my experience that assurance did come true in many instances for me and others ward members as we sought to help the primary kids over which we had stewardship.
Likewise, we can establish this pattern of council in our own homes with family councils. Elder Ballard offered a suggestion in a talk last year that caught my attention:
You may want to consider holding the general family council on Sunday, which is the first day of the week; families can review the past week and plan for the coming week. This may be exactly what your family needs to help make the Sabbath a delightful experience.
I admit, for me, sometimes Sundays are not a delight. In fact, they can be extremely long and tiresome! We are a family of 5 with the last one at the stage where we just wander the halls for 2 hours because he won’t sit still in any adult class and isn’t big enough for nursery yet. Instead of a delight, I feel like Sundays are a bit of a battle.
Don’t get me wrong, I want to delight in the Sabbath. It just hasn’t come naturally for me lately. So we have taken Elder Ballard’s challenge. We hold family council once a week. I bought the book “Our Family Council Journal” (to formalize the process, although a notebook would work just as well) and we gather every Sunday. We fill in the date and who is in attendance. We track who is the record keeper and what we are talking about that week. We discuss topics as a family, subjects in school, goals we want to make.
I love the unity this has brought into our home on Sundays. I love the way my young children 9 and 7 can participate and share. I love to watch us read from the notes of the last week and track our progress – or lack of it – and strive to make new goals. While I still struggle sometimes with Sundays being a delight, I will say having family council has become a bright spot of my Sabbath.
Again, Elder M Russell Ballard states:
Remember that a family council held regularly will help us spot family problems early and nip them in the bud; councils will give each family member a feeling of worth and importance; and most of all they will assist us to be more successful and happy in our precious relationships, within the walls of our homes. May our Heavenly Father bless all of our families as we counsel together.
I am so grateful for the pattern of councils in the Plan of Salvation. It is truly a loving pattern that whether in our wards or in our own families, we can gather, discuss, love and problem solve for the whole. If you are looking for a way to build unity in your home, find answers to questions or help create delight in the Sabbath, I encourage you to study the pattern of councils and incorporate them into your life.