I have observed—particularly in international areas, although it often occurs domestically—that sisters do not participate openly in ward council meetings. This is most unfortunate, because they have perspectives and experiences that are of immense value. When they can be encouraged to take part freely in ward council meetings, their ideas are always helpful and inspirational.
This challenge can be resolved easily in the following way. As the ward council meeting unfolds and specific suggestions are made, the presiding officer can call on individual sisters present by name, asking them to express their feelings regarding the matter. They will always respond to such an invitation. As they gain more experience in the environment of the ward council, they will learn to participate actively without the need for such an invitation.
When decisions by the council need to be made, the presiding officer can often determine whether or not it appears that there is unanimity of feeling on the part of the members present. Where he senses such support, he should propose that the council support a specific decision and then vote to sustain it. If no such unanimity is sensed, then he can indicate that since all have had the opportunity to share their feelings he will make a decision and request that all present sustain it and implement it unitedly and wholeheartedly.
An important aspect of meeting as a ward council is to clarify with each present that items discussed and decisions made must be kept confidential.
I have practiced the foregoing suggestions in international areas of the world where it is not common for sisters to publicly express opinions. Where a presiding officer calls them by name and expresses gratitude for the specific recommendations they make, the sisters develop confidence in working in this manner with priesthood leaders. Over time, they are much more likely to participate in ward council meetings and to share their valuable suggestions without the need for the specific encouragement of being called on individually.
There is sometimes a complementary blessing that comes to the homes of priesthood leaders who observe the benefits that result from sister participation in ward council. These men can become more appreciative of the sacred role of their wives in their own home. This is particularly true where local cultures tend to minimize or ignore the contribution of women in the home.
I would like to conclude and use a word that we don’t frequently use among the Twelve, but it’s our official designation as Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, I bear my testimony that He lives, that He is our Savior, that His Atonement was wrought at a terrible cost but is completely effective and has made Father in Heaven’s plan of happiness active throughout the world. I love Him. I bear solemn witness that He lives. I know He lives because I know Him. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.