On the night of May 22, 2011, amid the sound of blaring sirens, a massive tornado touched down in the heart of Joplin, Missouri, USA, destroying homes and lives. The Joplin First Ward was hit hard by the twister, but right away Bishop Chris Hoffman and the ward council started accounting for ward members.
“We had a response plan in place because we had talked about these preparations in ward council before they happened,” he said. “We also relied on the Spirit to know what to do. Power lines were down. Cell phones didn’t work. We prayed and listened for answers, and they came—they always came. It was gratifying for me as a bishop to hear members say, ‘This is what I’ve done,’ instead of, ‘What do you want me to do?’”
The response in Joplin shows the power of a united ward council. “The ward council meeting is one of the most important meetings in the Church,” wrote Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “because priesthood quorum and auxiliary leaders can discuss and plan with the bishopric. … Of all the councils and committees in the Church, I believe the ward council can have the greatest impact in helping our Father’s children.”1
In Puerto Francisco de Orellana, an isolated village in the jungles of Ecuador, members have a strong bond of love and faith. The monthly branch council reflects their caring. They focus on individuals and families first, then how programs can help. Inspiration follows.
Many members need help finding work. The branch council finds that the members’ challenges can often be solved at the local level. As the council discussed the needs of a single mother with a young daughter who has health problems, the Relief Society president knew of a job where the mother could work and still be near her daughter.
The branch council also draws on Church resources, such as the LDS Employment Services career workshop materials.2 They established a class taught by a branch member, which helped another branch member find a better job.
Ramiro Reyes, first counselor in the branch presidency, says of the branch council: “We are instruments in the hand of the Lord. He will achieve His goals through our works.”
In Liverpool, New York, USA, as Primary president Melissa Fisk attended ward council meeting, she gained insight into its power. When she reached inside her bag for a notebook, she came across a picture of 28 Primary children on the steps of the Palmyra New York Temple. All were covered with wasp stings. For a moment, the picture pulled her attention away from the meeting, and she focused briefly on the day the ward Primary had gone to Palmyra to enjoy the sacred feeling of the temple grounds. Unfortunately, when the children spread out their blankets, they had accidentally upset a wasps’ nest.
After everyone had been cared for, the leaders invited the children to touch the temple. The children refused because they were afraid that there might be more wasps. So parents and leaders stood in a line and created a path to the temple. This gave the children courage to move forward.
As Melissa turned her attention back to the ward council meeting, she thought, “If only everyone could be surrounded by such loving friends and leaders as they progress toward the temple.”
Her thoughts were interrupted as she heard the Relief Society president comment on a sister in need: “She wasn’t at church last Sunday. I’ll make sure her visiting teachers let her know about the upcoming temple trip.”
“They’ve got some hard things going on right now,” added the elders quorum president. “I’ll follow up with their home teachers and see if there’s anything we can do.”
“The young women could help with babysitting,” said the Young Women president.
As Melissa looked at the faces of the members of the ward council, she saw genuine affection and concern. A smile spread across her face. “The Lord has prepared ways for His children to be protected and loved,” she thought. “The ward council!”
Just as in Joplin, Puerto Francisco de Orellana, and Liverpool, Church leaders worldwide continue to discover the blessings of ward and branch councils. As they do, they will harness the extraordinary power of these councils to help the Lord bless His children and accomplish His work.