Through using councils and committees in the Church Educational System, decisions and plans can be made to accomplish the objective of religious education throughout the world.
From the beginning, God established councils (see D&C 121:32) for the purpose of helping “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). The Lord has not revealed all the specifics about how these councils were conducted, but the scriptures do teach principles that apply to councils in the Church.
Councils are organized at every level in the Lord’s Church. President Stephen L. Richards said, “I don’t know that it is possible for any organization to succeed in the Church … without adopting the genius of our Church government … , [which] is government through councils” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1953, 86).
Within the Church Educational System, a council is a group of individuals organized under a leader who has decision-making authority. Councils typically have specific responsibilities, such as training personnel, providing programs, or giving direction to individuals. These types of councils perform an important role in CES administration.1
Similar to councils, committees are organized to make recommendations and provide input to help leaders make decisions. Committees can also be organized to carry out tasks and fulfill the work of leaders and councils.
Among other things, councils and committees carefully identify and prioritize needs, analyze current issues, suggest possible solutions, strategically plan programs or events, and coordinate and schedule activities.
Benefits of using councils and committees include the following:
Promoting wise decision-making by drawing upon the combined strength, wisdom, talent, and experience of all council members
Expanding vision and motivation
Promoting greater harmony and assistance in implementing decisions
Preparing individuals for future leadership responsibilities
Councils and committees help fulfill the divine instruction to solve problems and seek solutions in the Lord’s way (see Exodus 18:18–22).
The success of councils and committees is dependent upon leaders and members fulfilling their roles. Council and committee leaders must be willing to bring issues or questions to the group for help in determining resolutions. Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that “the best leaders are not those who work themselves to death trying to do everything single-handedly; the best leaders are those who follow God’s plan and counsel with their councils” (Counseling with Our Councils , 20).
As councils and committees meet, it is helpful for the leader to outline the objective, issue, or task at hand. Items to consider should be prioritized. Meeting agendas can also be helpful in avoiding the effect of poor time management. Problems may more easily be addressed if they are formed into questions that the council or committee seeks to answer.
Leaders should encourage a climate of openness in meetings by allowing everyone opportunity to raise questions, voice concerns, and offer suggestions. The leader should encourage reluctant members for such input. It is also important for the leader to make sure every opinion is valued and given due consideration. After sufficient discussion, a decision must be made by the leader. Typically, a council or committee leader asks for a vote of support or concurrence.
When selecting council or committee members, leaders will often benefit from seeking members with a diversity in age, experience, ability, and perspective. Diversity among council or committee members can promote a broader understanding of the matters at hand. As part of a council or committee, the leader and each member can prepare to address the matters at hand by pondering the scriptures and the words of the prophets, reflecting on related past experiences, and praying for guidance. Suggested solutions should be based on gospel principles. If members prepare properly, councils and committees can be settings where unity is established and where everyone participates in moving the work forward.
Council and committee members are expected to share their thoughts and feelings as well as listen to those of others (see D&C 88:122). In the initial stages of discussion it is not necessary for everyone to agree. Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said that the leaders of the Church “are not always in agreement, but they are always in harmony. … The leaders manage their differences of opinion in the Lord’s way, with mutual respect and without contention” (The Lord’s Way , 150).
Listening for understanding is important for councils and committees to function effectively. Members should usually listen at least as much as they speak. Elder M. Russell Ballard said, “This is the miracle of Church councils: listening to each other and listening to the Spirit!” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1994, 34; or Ensign, May 1994, 26).
The work among council and committee members should be characterized “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge” (D&C 121:41–42). Council members should remember that they are to serve and strengthen others.
Elder M. Russell Ballard taught, “When we act in a united effort, we create spiritual synergism, which is increased effectiveness or achievement as a result of combined action or cooperation, the result of which is greater than the sum of the individual parts” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1993, 103; or Ensign, Nov. 1993, 77). When principles of effective councils are followed, it becomes possible to move forward unitedly under the direction of the Spirit. Plans and decisions that have the support of the entire council or committee can more easily be accomplished (see D&C 107:27–31).
After council or committee members share thoughts and feelings and listen for understanding, a decision is made by the council or committee leader. Once a decision is made, every council or committee member should willingly sustain the decision in word and deed.