Alma 37:37 says: “Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good.”
I have thought a lot about those words, and what it means to “counsel” with the Lord. A conversation with me about this would only really make sense if the other person had read Elder Ballard’s book Counseling with our Councils. In summary, at least, a council is made up of a president, who is responsible in the end for the decision, and counselors, who give the president counsel about particular issues and questions. But a council can only function properly if president and counselors are praying for the Spirit, and, if everyone understands their roles. The counselors need to counsel. They need to share their thoughts, feelings, concerns, ideas, etc. with the president. The president needs to listen to all of those concerns, ask specific questions, etc., and feel where the Spirit is guiding. The president has the granted rights to receive revelation for the council, but the counselors need to realize that their counsel is also given via the Holy Ghost. (And all of this of course pertains whether the counselors or the president is female or male.)
It’s a bit like the body. The brain makes decisions on how to use the body. But the brain can’t tell the hand to move away from the hot stove unless the hand feels the heat and sends the message up to the brain that there is pain! Then the brain can quickly tell the hand to move away from the stove. Etc. Everyplace in our body there are nerves sending messages up to our brain. That information is then used to make a decision.
It’s of course different when we are talking about a group of people instead of a group of organs, appendages, etc. But the imagery helps me to think about councils, as they are supposed to work.
When Alma says we are to counsel with the Lord, what does he mean, exactly? Are we the president or the counselor in this situation? Do we “counsel with,” in that we ask God for His input? And then He will “direct us” for good, meaning, He will give you really good counsel? Or are we the counselor, and God is the president? If that is the case, I see that we would go to God with all of our thoughts, feelings, concerns, and ideas. Then we would trust God to take those into consideration and return with a decision or direction for us to go. Councils are meant to bring everyone to unity (but not because it’s democratic or not because they all discuss until everyone thinks the same). Councils allow everyone to share all that they feel is important or concerning, but then after that they can trust that their president will receive the necessary spiritual guidance to know what to do next. When that trust is there, the whole council can get behind the direction and move forward in unity. But, as I understand Elder Ballard, the words of the counselors – according to their full honesty of what they think they need to say – is necessary in order for the president to really receive revelation on how to proceed.
If we apply that to us and God, what exactly are we saying here? Are we saying that in order for God to direct us, He first wants us to share all of our thoughts, feelings, concerns, and ideas? I think so, actually! I think when I am honest to share all that feels important to me, it is much much easier to feel God directing me on what to do next. And we read of God having a council in heaven, right? Perhaps God will always be wanting us to share with Him our thoughts and ideas, and then giving us direction on how to proceed in the salvation of others.
Counsel with the Lord – it’s not totally up to you to make all decisions, nor is it appropriate to wait all the time for God to command in all things. You counsel together. Work, study, research, think, be concerned, etc. Then tell God all about it and allow Him to “direct thee for good.” A pattern – I think – that works forever.
Note: I also find that working, studying, etc. and then sharing it with God is also what I understand consecration to be. I work and then give up that work to God, who then decides what to do with it and how to direct me next (what stewardship to give to me). When I do this and trust Him, I know that if it is important God will give me that direction, and when it comes it feels like a true gift from Him to me. (Yay! Grace and Consecration!)