The term priesthood council is not unfamiliar to Latter-day Saints. Indeed, it is almost a sacred term. We hold in sanctity the reference to the Council of the Twelve Apostles and the Council of the First Presidency. We sustain councils at various levels of Church administration because we know they were authorized by God’s servants.
Even before we came to this earth we were familiar with priesthood councils. Then, here in mortality, we have had reintroduced to us the concept of Church government through councils at every level. We must ever keep before us the purpose of priesthood councils: to help lead the individual and the family back to our Heavenly Father.
Now, the Church has defined for us its broad areas of general emphasis, namely missionary work, genealogy, temporal welfare, and spiritual welfare. These four areas provide points of emphasis for individual and family exaltation. Through the use of councils we can help members of the Church to grow and develop in these areas. Let me give some examples of how this may be done.
At regular intervals, in First Quorum of the Seventy weekly meetings we ask a member of the quorum to give a ten-minute autobiographical sketch of his life. We learn many tender, spiritual, sweet, and moving details from the lives of our Brethren. Suppose General Authority Executive Administrators invited a Regional Representative to come to the next area council meeting prepared to share uplifting incidents from his life. And suppose you were that Regional Representative. As you prepared by recording these matters in writing, and then as you shared them with the other council members, would you not have created a brief personal history? Would it not be a wise use of part of the area council time to actually accomplish the task—in this case, writing personal histories—with council members rather than expending all the time creating programs to influence others? Perhaps we have looked beyond the mark. This is a small field to carefully cultivate as we keep before us larger fields.
Suppose this same procedure was in turn used in your regional council meeting until your stake presidents had all shared these intimate spiritual experiences. Wouldn’t that bind that council more closely together as well as accomplish the goal of emphasizing personal history? Do you think your stake presidents would catch the vision to duplicate this in their stake council meetings or when they meet with bishops? Would the bishops then in turn inspire their ward council members? Would the Relief Society president take this to her organization? Would not the elders president lead his quorum members to this same goal? And might not the home teachers catch the spirit of blessing those families and single members in their care by inviting them, through the father where applicable, to share in an organized way some of the sacred moments of heavenward movement in their lives?
President Kimball has asked that we prepare personal histories. Could priesthood councils help facilitate this task?
Consider other points of emphasis for us as priesthood leaders. In our missionary opportunities, suppose we shared in an area council meeting the name and a brief sketch of the family we are friendshipping. Suppose in council meetings we periodically asked stake presidents to share their families’ progress with fellowshipping. Could this same process be used in the ecclesiastical flow from the area council to the visit of the home teachers where they would learn of the prayer-inspired selection of a nonmember family?
What about the year’s supply? Could there be a logical plan adapted to the needs and abilities of that particular council? Perhaps council members could cooperate in adding a commodity to their individual storage on a regular basis until all am motivated to move forward in this area of individual emphasis.
Has your council accepted President Kimball’s encouragement that each family regularly help an inactive family or individual come into full activity? Could priesthood councils work in the way outlined above to stimulate priesthood quorums, home teachers, and Relief Society sisters to better train fathers and mothers in the activation of another family?
May we suggest that on your council agenda you give priority to items that report upon or train in missionary or genealogical work and temporal or spiritual welfare?
At the same time as we renew our effectiveness in Church councils, we should also seek to do better in family councils. Yes, brethren, we all need to put aside our ecclesiastical titles and remember our eternal callings as fathers. We should prayerfully examine the Church’s basic points of emphasis to see where we—father and mother—need to give attention, and in our own family councils, decide where to place our emphasis.
Do you see what is being suggested? It is called Church government by example. You know as I know that a stake presidency or bishopric will never inspire their stake or ward members to do something they are too busy to do themselves. I am impressed by the example offered by President Ezra Taft Benson who completed his family histories and four-generation program before he addressed the Church on this subject in October 1978. Church government by example!