The Lord in his infinite mercy for his children has always provided various ways to assist in leading them to exaltation and eternal life. One such help has come in the form of councils. In speaking to Enoch the Lord says, “Behold, I am God; Man of Holiness is my name; Man of Counsel is my name; and Endless and Eternal is my name, also.”1 The Lord set the pattern for councils when he invited all his children for the great and the grand council in heaven.2 We all were part of that council and chose to keep our first estate. Today The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is governed by this god-given gift of council. The Church is organized in councils from the First Presidency to the ward, quorum, auxiliary, and family. These councils are fundamental to the order of the Church.3
President Stephen L Richards said, “The genius of our Church government is government through councils. I have had enough experience to know the value of councils. Hardly a day passes but that I see … God’s wisdom, in creating councils … to govern his Kingdom. … I have no hesitancy in giving you the assurance, if you will confer in council as you are expected to do, God will give you solutions to the problems that confront you” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1953, p. 86).
The ward council functions on the principles of love, unity and respect to all members of the council. They recognize that they not only represent their organization, but also, as a council member, to help leadership address concerns in the ward and find solutions. The objective of the council is to help strengthen individuals and families.
The sisters in the council play a very important role, not only with their own auxiliary responsibility but with their input to the other organizations, as well as to help the Bishop in finding solutions. Their input adds essential perspective to understanding and responding to members’ needs.4
Elder Ballard shared this experience, “In a recent council meeting with the presidencies of the women’s auxiliaries, the sisters told me that very few women in the Church express any interest in wanting to hold the priesthood. But they do want to be heard and valued and want to make meaningful contributions to the stake or ward and its members that will serve the Lord and help accomplish the mission of the Church. For example, not long ago we were talking about the worthiness of youth to serve missions. President Elaine Jack said, ‘You know, Elder Ballard, the sisters of the Church may have some good suggestions on how to better prepare the youth for missions if they were just asked. After all, you know, we are their mothers!’ The sisters’ suggestions can help equally regarding temple attendance and a host of other matters with which priesthood leaders may be struggling. Brethren, please be sure you are seeking the vital input of the sisters in your council meetings.” 5
The other aspect of the council is to understand, support and sustain the presiding leader. The council members are encouraged to speak up and honestly give their opinion and viewpoints. These may be different from others, and a wise leader will allow the spirit to work through them until all the council members are unified thereby the decisions of these councils are made according to the pattern the Lord has revealed. The Lord has said “The decisions of these quorums, or either of them, are to be made in all righteousness, in holiness, and lowliness of heart, meekness and long-suffering, and in faith, and virtue, and knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity.”6 After carefully considering the inputs and counsels from each leader the presiding authority may make a decision that may not be what we expressed. When such a situation happens we need to immediately support the decision of the leader in the spirit of unity and harmony.
The Savior introduced the sacrament during the last supper. Knowing that his final hour is near, he invited his apostles to dine with him one last time. He took that opportunity to bless and break the bread and said “This is my body which is given for you; this do in remembrance of me”.7 Then He took the cup, said a blessing of thanks, and passed it to those gathered saying “This cup is the new testament in my blood,”8 … “which is shed… for the remission of sins.”9 In this manner the Savior instituted the sacrament.
When the Savior visited the Nephites in the American continent, he instituted the sacrament. He commanded his disciples to go and get some bread and wine. “And when the disciples had come with bread and wine, he took of the bread and brake and blessed it; and he gave unto the disciples and commanded that they should eat.” 10 He then commanded them that they should give it to the multitude. After the multitude ate, he looked at his apostles and said, “And this shall ye do in remembrance of my body, which I have shown unto you. And it shall be a testimony unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.” 11 Similarly he commanded his disciples to take the cup of wine and drink of it and also give it to the multitude. He said “… ye shall do it in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you, that ye may witness unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.” 12
The sacrament meeting should be a spiritual experience for us. As we partake of the sacrament we remember the body and blood of the Son. We witness unto God that we are willing to take upon ourselves the name of His Son and always remember Him. We are also committing to keep His commandments. The sacrament meeting should inspire us to remember Him, keep His commandments so that we can always have His spirit to be with us.13
Leaders of the Church have asked us to better observe the Sabbath day at church and at home. Elder Whitney L. Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy stated, “One aspect of the focus on better observing the Sabbath day at church is that bishoprics, who are responsible for planning sacrament meetings are being asked to counsel with ward councils about their proposed plans for future sacrament meetings.”14 This god-given gift of council is utilized to insure that the most important meeting of our Sabbath day worship is affording all members the best opportunity to remember the atonement of the Savior and to partake the emblems of his body and blood. It provides us a time to reflect on our own lives and to make the desired changes. It allows the young men of the Aaronic priesthood to exercise their priesthood as they prepare, bless and pass the sacrament. Children sit quietly and reverently as taught by their parents. It is a time for us to listen to messages of inspiration and counsel. It is a time to ponder the doctrines that Christ has taught us.
May we counsel together to improve our Sabbath day observance. May we remember the sacred atonement of the Savior as we partake of the bread and water. May we listen to the sacrament prayers and be willing to take upon ourselves the name of the Son and always remember Him and keep His commandments. May we do so and always have His spirit to be with us is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. ■
Caption: Elder Robert K. William
- Moses 7:35, italic emphasis added.
- See Abraham 4:26.
- See Hand book 2, 4.1
- See Hand book 2, 4.6.1
- See M. Russell Ballard, “Strength in Counsel,” M. Russell Ballard, General Conference, October 1993 (http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1993/10/strength-in-counsel).
- D&C 107:30.
- See Luke 22:19.
- See Luke 22:20.
- See Mathew 26:28.
- 3 Nephi 18: 3.
- 3 Nephi 18: 7.
- See 3 Nephi 18:11.
- General Authority Training, April 2015.