Category Archives: Serving/Teaching in the Church

President Hinckley on counselors

My friend and newly called counselor shared this talk from President Hinckley in 1990:


There are several cardinal principles with reference to counselors. In the first place, the presiding officer selects his own counselors. They are not chosen by others and forced upon him. However, it is necessary in most circumstances that his selections be approved by higher authority. For instance, in the organization of a stake, which occurs under direction of a General Authority, a president is carefully and prayerfully chosen. He is then asked to nominate men to serve as his counselors, and it is expected that the General Authority will approve the selection before the men are interviewed.

It is imperative that the president himself select his counselors because theirs must be a compatible relationship. He must have absolute confidence in them. They must have confidence in him. They must work together in a spirit of mutual trust and respect. The counselors are not the president. In certain circumstances, they may act in his behalf, but this is a delegated authority. What, then, are some of the duties of a counselor?

He is an assistant to his president. Regardless of the organization, the assignment of president is a heavy and burdensome one. Even for the deacons quorum president, if he performs his duty well, there is much of responsibility, for he is accountable for the activity and well-being of the boys of his quorum.

As an assistant, the counselor is not the president. He does not assume responsibility and move out ahead of his president.

In presidency meetings, each counselor is free to speak his mind on all issues that come before the presidency. However, it is the prerogative of the president to make the decision, and it is the duty of the counselors to back him in that decision. His decision then becomes their decision, regardless of their previous ideas.

The president, if he is wise, will assign to these chosen assistants particular duties and then leave them free to perform, requiring from them accountability for what happens.

A counselor is a partner. A presidency can be a wonderful relationship, a friendship where three brethren, working unitedly, have a close and satisfying fellowship. With delegation of responsibility, they move independently only to a limited degree. All three, unitedly, have responsibility for the work of the ward, the quorum, the stake, the auxiliary organization, or whatever.

Such a partnership provides a safety valve. The wise writer of Proverbs tells us that “in … counsellors there is safety.” (Prov. 11:14.) When problems arise, when difficult decisions face us, it is wonderful to have those with whom we can talk with confidence and trust.

I recall that as a boy we had our presidency meetings. Our president would present whatever business was before him. We would talk about it. And then we would go forward, having had our discussion, to work to bring about the desired result.

No president in any organization in the Church is likely to go ahead without the assurance that his counselors feel good about the proposed program. A man or woman thinking alone, working alone, arriving at his or her own conclusions, can take action which might prove to be wrong. But when three kneel together in prayer, discuss every aspect of the problem which is before them, and under the impressions of the Spirit reach a united conclusion, then we may have the assurance that the decision is in harmony with the will of the Lord.

I can assure all members of this church that in the First Presidency we follow such a procedure. Even the President of the Church, who is Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, and whose right and responsibility it is to make judgment and direct the course of the Church, invariably consults with his counselors to determine their feelings. If there is a lack of unity, there follows an absence of action. Two counselors, working with a president, preserve a wonderful system of checks and balances. They become a safeguard that is seldom, if ever, in error and affords great strength of leadership.

A counselor is a friend. Presidencies should do more than counsel together. Occasionally, but not to excess, they and their spouses should socialize together. They should be good friends, trusted friends, in a very real sense. The counselors should be concerned for the health and well-being of their president. He should feel free to discuss with them his personal problems, if he has any, with the full assurance that they will hold in the strictest confidence all that is told them.

A counselor is a judge. He is a lesser judge than the president, but he is nonetheless a judge.

In times of disciplinary councils, the three brethren of the bishopric, or the three brethren of the stake presidency, or the three brethren of the presidency of the Church, sit together, discuss matters together, pray together, in the process of reaching a decision. I wish to assure you, my brethren, that I think there is never a judgment rendered until after prayer has been had. Action against a member is too serious a matter to result from the judgment of men alone, and particularly of one man alone. There must be the guidance of the Spirit, earnestly sought for and then followed, if there is to be justice.

In some circumstances, a counselor may serve as a proxy for his president. The power of proxy must be granted by the president, and it must never be abused by the counselor. The work must go forward notwithstanding absences of the president for reasons of illness, employment, or other factors beyond his control. In these circumstances, and in the interest of the work, the president should give his counselors authority to act with full confidence, he having trained them as they have served together as a bishopric or presidency.

It may not be easy to be a counselor. President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., who, as a counselor, had responsibility for the operation of the Church while President Heber J. Grant was ill, said to me on one occasion, “It is difficult to have responsibility without authority.”

He was saying, in effect, that he had to move forward in handling those duties which ordinarily devolve upon the President, but while doing so, he did not have the authority of the President.

I came to understand that situation in a very real way. If I may share with you some personal feelings: During the time that President Kimball was ill, President Tanner’s health failed and he passed away. President Romney was called as First Counselor, and I as Second Counselor to President Kimball. Then President Romney became ill, thus leaving to me an almost overwhelming burden of responsibility. I counseled frequently with my Brethren of the Twelve, and I cannot say enough of appreciation to them for their understanding and for the wisdom of their judgment. In matters where there was a well-established policy, we moved forward. But no new policy was announced or implemented, and no significant practice was altered without sitting down with President Kimball and laying the matter before him and receiving his full consent and full approval.

In such circumstances when I would go to visit him, I always took a secretary who kept a detailed record of the conversation. I can assure you, my beloved brethren, that I never knowingly moved ahead of my file leader, that I never had any desire to move out ahead of him in Church policy or instruction. I knew that he was the appointed Prophet of the Lord in that day. Even though I, too, had been sustained as a prophet, seer, and revelator, along with my Brethren of the Twelve, I knew also that none of us was the President of the Church. I knew that the Lord prolonged the life of President Kimball for purposes known to the Lord, and I had perfect faith that this prolonging of life was for a reason under the wisdom of Him who has greater wisdom than any man.


Sunday work

On the fourth Sundays of next year, the topic for RS & Priesthood meetings will be given by the 1st Presidency/Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. I thought that this was going to mean a different topic each 4th Sunday, but instead, it means the same topic every 4th Sunday until the next General Conference! The topic in January-April will be The Sabbath Day.

I’ve been to several meetings over the past few years and/or heard several conference talks over the past few years that were dedicated to recommitting us to keep the Sabbath day holy. Apparently, we’re not catching on very well as a people! 🙂

I wonder how I am doing, and how our family is doing. I have already thought of one thing that I would like to change. Sometimes Sunday night we decide to have people from the ward over to have hot chocolate or other treat. I think that’s a great thing to do on a Sunday. But the house isn’t always cleaned-up and ready, so we spend some time cleaning. Like, more than we did on other days during the week. That doesn’t seem quite right, so yesterday morning I made it a goal to have the kitchen all cleaned up and ready as if someone was coming over. It was nice to get that done. I hope to make that a regular plan.

But other than that, I don’t have anything I’ve identified. I want to, though. I think the Sabbath could be a much more rich experience than it is currently. I also think there’s something about a community honoring the Sabbath day collectively that will bring other richness and blessings than can be felt by just one person keeping the Sabbath day holy. I suppose having a family collectively doing this would be one example of a community, but I’d also love to feel a larger group collectively growing and striving.

One odd or interesting thing, to add a the end here, is that on the Sabbath day I often find myself wanting to do work that I otherwise avoid or trudge through. I don’t like doing dishes that much, but on Sunday it almost sounds fun. I have been stressing about getting the remodeling details in order, but this morning it sounds like so much fun to sit and look at pictures of 1930’s bathrooms. Is there something about removing the need or obligation to work that allows the enjoyable side to shine through?



For our pioneer ancestors, independence and self-reliance were vital, but their sense of community was just as important. They worked together and helped one another overcome the physical and emotional challenges of their time. For the men, there was the priesthood quorum, and the women were served by the Relief Society. These outcomes have not changed in our day. (Elder Ballard)

The priesthood quorum is the Lord’s organization for men of the Church, just as the Relief Society is the Lord’s organization for women of the Church. Each has among its responsibilities, basic to its reason for being, the assisting of those in need….

It will be a marvelous day … when our priesthood quorums become an anchor of strength to every man belonging thereto, when each such man may appropriately be able to say, “I am a member of a priesthood quorum of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I stand ready to assist my brethren in all of their needs, as I am confident they stand ready to assist me in mine. Working together, we shall grow spiritually as covenant sons of God. Working together, we can stand, without embarrassment and without fear, against every wind of adversity that might blow, be it economic, social, or spiritual.” (President Hinckley)


Sister Beck’s story about educated women sitting in a park with children

Something in one of Sister Beck’s talks stuck me years ago, and I’m realizing I’m in a ward where it applies very well. She describes sitting in a park with some women who were very well educated, but who had also decided to become mothers. But these weren’t two separate parts of their lives: they were using their gifts and bright minds to think through mothering. She doesn’t say whether or not these women also worked for some portion of their time; that isn’t the point of her comment, I think. The point is that they saw that their work in the home deserved much thinking just as their advanced education did.

Here’s the part of the talk “A Mother Heart” that includes this story:

Female roles did not begin on earth, and they do not end here. A woman who treasures motherhood on earth will treasure motherhood in the world to come, and “where [her] treasure is, there will [her] heart be also” (Matt. 6:21). By developing a mother heart, each girl and woman prepares for her divine, eternal mission of motherhood. “Whatever principle of intelligence [she] attain[s] unto in this life, it will rise with [her] in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through [her] diligence and obedience than another, [she] will have so much the advantage in the world to come” (D&C 130:18–19).

I was recently at a park where I met a group of women with mother hearts. They were young, covenant-keeping women. They were bright and had obtained advanced degrees from respected universities. Now they were devoting their considerable gifts to planning dinner that evening and sharing housekeeping ideas. They were teaching two-year-olds to be kind to one another. They were soothing babies, kissing bruised knees, and wiping tears. I asked one of those mothers how it came about that she could transfer her talents so cheerfully into the role of motherhood. She replied, “I know who I am, and I know what I am supposed to do. The rest just follows.” That young mother will build faith and character in the next generation one family prayer at a time, one scripture study session, one book read aloud, one song, one family meal after another. She is involved in a great work. She knows that “children are an heritage of the Lord” and “happy is the [woman] that hath [a] quiver full of them” (Ps. 127:3, 5). She knows that the influence of righteous, conscientious, persistent, daily mothering is far more lasting, far more powerful, far more influential than any earthly position or institution invented by man. She has the vision that, if worthy, she has the potential to be blessed as Rebekah of old to be “the mother of thousands of millions” (Gen. 24:60).

Every girl and woman who makes and keeps sacred covenants can have a mother heart. There is no limit to what a woman with a mother heart can accomplish. Righteous women have changed the course of history and will continue to do so, and their influence will spread and grow exponentially throughout the eternities. How grateful I am to the Lord for trusting women with the divine mission of motherhood. Like Mother Eve I am “glad” (see Moses 5:11) to know these things. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Story from chapter 10 “It will be all right. The Mormon women are here.”

This, this is interesting:

It’s from chapter 10 of Daughters In My Kingdom, about a women who received service as a teenager and then looked to her time serving in a RS Presidency as her turn to give service just as she had received it. This story comes in a series of experiences she shared:

“A young mother in the ward, one of my friends, suddenly lost her only child, a beautiful three-year-old daughter, to an infection that took her life before the doctors were even aware of how serious her illness was. The other counselor and I went to the house as soon as we heard of little Robin’s death. As we approached the screened patio door, we heard the father (who was not a member of the Church) sobbing as he talked long distance to his mother. Looking up, he saw us and, still sobbing, spoke into the phone: ‘It will be all right, Mother. The Mormon women are here.’ My turn once more.”


Also from Chapter 10:

The charge to lead out in everything that is praiseworthy, Godlike, uplifting, and purifying is a demanding one. It always has been. But individual Relief Society sisters are not alone in accepting this charge. They are part of a great organization, founded by priesthood authority and strengthened by the teachings and declarations of prophets. They are beloved daughters of God with sacred responsibilities. They are covenant people of the Lamb, “armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.”15 As they unite with other faithful Saints and learn from the examples of those who have gone before, they can prevail over mortal challenges. They can help build the kingdom of God throughout the world and in their homes. They can say, “Now it is our turn—our turn to serve and write a chapter on the pages of Relief Society’s history.” With an assurance of Heavenly Father’s love for them and a testimony of the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, they can rise above ordinary thoughts and ambitions and be part of “something extraordinary.”16


Charity born of faith…

From Daughters In My Kingdom chapter 10:

President Henry B. Eyring, a counselor in the First Presidency, explained that this true charity is the legacy of Relief Society:

“I will speak to you … of the great legacy those who went before you in the Relief Society have passed on to you. The part … which seems to me most important and persistent is that charity is at the heart of the society and is to come into the heart, to be part of the very nature, of every member. Charity meant to them far more than a feeling of benevolence. Charity is born of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and is an effect of His Atonement working in the hearts of the members. …

“This society is composed of women whose feelings of charity spring from hearts changed by qualifying for and by keeping covenants offered only in the Lord’s true Church. Their feelings of charity come from Him through His Atonement. Their acts of charity are guided by His example—and come out of gratitude for His infinite gift of mercy—and by the Holy Spirit, which He sends to accompany His servants on their missions of mercy.”

This legacy of charity began with the sisters in Nauvoo, who engaged in organized charitable works and received temple covenants. It continued in Winter Quarters and along the arduous trail to the Salt Lake Valley. It sustained Latter-day Saint women as they settled frontier communities, endured political persecution and world wars, and maintained hope during economic depression. It has inspired loving-kindness at home and outreach efforts worldwide. It has motivated Relief Society sisters as they have served in hospitals and as they have helped with adoptions, wheat storage, humanitarian aid, and welfare. The pure love of Christ continues to motivate Relief Society sisters today as they gather to teach and serve one another and as they strengthen and watch over each other one by one.


A few thoughts on Relief Society & Priesthood (from Chapter 8)

President Spencer W. Kimball, the twelfth President of the Church, said, “There is a power in this organization [of Relief Society] that has not yet been fully exercised to strengthen the homes of Zion and build the Kingdom of God—nor will it until both the sisters and the priesthood catch the vision of Relief Society.”

Priesthood quorums organize men in a brotherhood to give service, to learn and carry out their duties, and to study the doctrines of the gospel. Relief Society accomplishes these same purposes for the women of the Church.

It hadn’t quite dawned on me to ask why priesthood-holding men were organized into groups; I just knew they were according to the scriptures. But yes, why? Well, to organize service, to teach each other, to study, to counsel. And yes, that is exactly what the Relief Society does as well. We are an organized, authorized, energized group of women ready to do the work of the gospel.