Leadership and Councils

Principles of Leadership Teachers Manual Religion 180R, (2001), 84–92

“And the Gods took counsel among themselves and said: Let us go down and form man in our image, after our likeness” (Abraham 4:26).

Principle of Leadership

Leaders can be more effective when they use councils in the leadership process.

Lesson Concepts

  1. 1.

    Heavenly Father presides over the “great presiding council of the universe.”

  2. 2.

    The Church is governed by councils.

  3. 3.

    Family councils are the basic councils of the Church.

  4. 4.

    Certain principles allow leaders to have effective councils.

Concept 1. Heavenly Father Presides Over the “Great Presiding Council of the Universe.”


Heavenly Father used councils in planning and creating this and other worlds. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, who was then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, wrote that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost “constitute one Godhead or Supreme Council” (Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., 5 vols. [1957–66], 1:2). Elder L. Tom Perry of the Twelve referred to the Godhead as the “great presiding council of the universe” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1998, 28; or Ensign, May 1998, 23).

The scriptures say that “the Council of the Eternal God of all other gods” met “before this world was” and made plans regarding the operation of the universe (see D&C 121:31–32). Elder Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “In the grand council held in heaven, Jesus Christ voluntarily accepted the mission of Redeemer. … Adam was also chosen in this same council to fulfil his part as the progenitor of the human race” (Answers to Gospel Questions, 1:182).

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before this world was” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 365).

Teaching Idea

Have students quickly read Abraham 4–5 looking for who planned and created the earth. Invite them to share what they discovered (note words such as us, we, they, our, and the Gods).

Besides creating the earth, what else did the council of Gods do? (see the commentary).

Help students understand that Heavenly Father set the example for leaders when He used councils in planning and creating this and other worlds.

Concept 2. The Church Is Governed by Councils.


The Lord governs His earthly kingdom through councils. Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve pointed out that after the gospel was restored, “the Church was organized into quorums and councils, with various presidencies appointed ‘to administer in spiritual things’ (D&C 107:8)” (Counseling with Our Councils: Learning to Minister Together in the Church and in the Family [1997], 39). These councils “coordinate and schedule activities, gather information, plan future programs or events, and make decisions and resolve problems” (Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 5 vols. [1992], 3:1141; in Counseling with Our Councils, 5). The purpose of these councils is to help “God’s children enjoy the full blessings of the gospel” (Counseling with Our Councils, 10). Elder Ballard explained:

“Through the years, the forms and formats of Church governance and administration have been adjusted to meet changing needs and times. But they have always been characterized by reliance upon councils for ongoing solidarity and strength. …

“… The presiding council of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today is the First Presidency. It consists of the President of the Church and his two Counselors. …

“Next in Church authority to the First Presidency is the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles” (Counseling with Our Councils, 43–45).

Teaching Idea

Display pictures of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. Explain that these councils, with the help of the Seventy, lead the Church. Discuss what these councils do to direct the Church and bring us to Christ.

Discuss some of the councils that function in stakes and wards.

Concept 3. Family Councils Are the Basic Councils of the Church.


A family council occurs when parents and children meet to consider important family matters. Elder M. Russell Ballard wrote: “The basic council of the Church is the family council” (Counseling with Our Councils, 154). Family councils serve the same purpose as other Church councils (see the commentary for concept 2).

Elder Ballard wrote of “the potential power of the family council in strengthening family bonds, building family unity, and creating wonderful memories.

“Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that … in family councils, … mothers and fathers can provide training in such topics as ‘temple preparation, missionary preparation, home management, family finances, career development, education, community involvement, cultural improvement, acquisition and care of real and personal property, family planning calendars, use of leisure time, and work assignments.’ … ([in Conference Report, Oct. 1980, 9; or Ensign, Nov. 1980, 9]).

“… [The family council] can help bring order to the home, provide a forum for soothing hurt feelings, give parents an important tool with which to combat outside influences, and create an opportunity to teach profound gospel truths” (Counseling with Our Councils, 148–49).

Teaching Idea

Discuss why family councils are the basic councils of the Church. Discuss what family councils do (see the commentary).

Invite students to share experiences in which they participated in a family council to make an important decision or accomplish an important task.

Explain that Heavenly Father set the example of leadership by using councils. The Church is governed on every level by councils. Members of families can also join in council to accomplish the purposes of the family.

Concept 4. Certain Principles Allow Leaders to Have Effective Councils.


Elder M. Russell Ballard said, “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). Earlier Elder Ballard said family and Church leaders need “to harness and channel spiritual power through councils” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1994, 32; or Ensign, May 1994, 25).

Elder Ballard taught: “‘As members participate in councils, they learn about larger organizational issues. They see leadership in action, learning how to plan, analyze problems, make decisions, and coordinate across subunit boundaries. Participation in councils helps prepare members for future leadership responsibilities.’ (“Priesthood Councils,” in Ludlow, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 3:1141–42) …

“… When more people feel ownership of the problem, more people are willing to become part of the solution. …

“… One of the great strengths of the council system is the flexibility it provides to develop and implement local solutions to local problems” (Counseling with Our Councils, 6, 15).

Elder Ballard suggested several principles that are important to leading with councils:

  • Leaders should bring a sense of vision or purpose to the council.

  • Councils should provide time for discussing differing points of view.

  • Leaders should respect the agency of council members.

  • Leaders should give clear and precise instructions.

  • Leaders should delegate.

  • Leaders should set the example for members of their council.

  • Leaders should serve with love.

(See Counseling with Our Councils, 23–36.)

Elder Ballard also gave suggestions for how a council might work to solve a problem:

  • “The problem is clearly outlined and articulated, but the council isn’t allowed to dwell on negativity.”

  • “The council leader controls the flow of the discussion without dominating it. He asks questions and calls for opinions, and then he listens.”

  • “Council members speak from their own perspective as individuals and not just as representatives of their respective organizations.”

  • Council members first “identify [the] desired end result, and then determine how to achieve it.”

  • “In its deliberations, the council never strays far from the mission of the Church: bringing souls to Christ through proclaiming the gospel, perfecting the Saints, and redeeming the dead.”

  • “Council members aren’t allowed to forget the importance of their individual influence and example.”

  • “Input is solicited from everyone, but final decisions are left to the council leader, who relies upon inspiration more than personal opinion in guiding the decisions of the council.”

(Counseling with Our Councils, 165, 168.)

Teaching Idea

Ask students what synergism is. (Synergism is when the total effect is greater than the sum of the parts). Have a student read Elder M. Russell Ballard’s statement on spiritual synergism (see the commentary). Discuss why this principle is true of councils, and list examples on the board.

Discuss principles leaders should be aware of as they work with councils (see the commentary). Create a hypothetical leadership situation and discuss how these principles could be applied.

Review Elder M. Russell Ballard’s suggestions for councils, and encourage students to apply them in their councils.

Teacher Resources

M. Russell Ballard