Topic Study: Counselor

(January 2003 TG Entry: Counselor.  Prepared for Woodridge II Ward, Ward Conference Talk)


Being a councilor can be difficult in some circumstances.  Why is that?  I would like to explain why I think that is.  But first, we must discuss the basic premise of the responsibilities of a councilor.

I             Basic Responsibilities

President Hinckley has summarized well the primary duties of a councilor.

Regardless of the organization, the assignment of president is a heavy and burdensome one. Even for the deacons quorum president, if he performs his duty well, there is much of responsibility, for he is accountable for the activity and well-being of the boys of his quorum.

As an assistant, the counselor is not the president. He does not assume responsibility and move out ahead of his president.

In presidency meetings, each counselor is free to speak his mind on all issues that come before the presidency. However, it is the prerogative of the president to make the decision, and it is the duty of the counselors to back him in that decision. His decision then becomes their decision, regardless of their previous ideas.  (Gordon B. Hinckley, “In … Counsellors There Is Safety,” Ensign, Nov. 1990, 49)

Now you might ask yourself what would be difficult about doing those things.  I am not sure that doing those primary responsibilities is that difficult.  But I believe that magnifying these callings is more difficult.

II            Magnifying Those Responsibilities

About a month after being called as a councilor in the bishopric, I wrote the following in my journal.

This morning, as I read the scriptures, I was a little bit down.  I thought about what I have accomplished over the last two months, and I wasn’t too happy with things….  I don’t know what the goal is as a councilor to the Bishop.  When am I successful?  What am I trying to build?  What can I do that is of real value?

I found it interesting that others have found the call of councilor to be challenging as well.

It may not be easy to be a counselor. President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., who, as a counselor, had responsibility for the operation of the Church while President Heber J. Grant was ill, said to me on one occasion, “It is difficult to have responsibility without authority.”

…I can assure you, my beloved brethren, that I never knowingly moved ahead of my file leader, that I never had any desire to move out ahead of him in Church policy or instruction. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “In … Counsellors There Is Safety,” Ensign, Nov. 1990, 50)

President Hinckley reminded us of the following:

The counselors are not the president. In certain circumstances, they may act in his behalf, but this is a delegated authority. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “In … Counsellors There Is Safety,” Ensign, Nov. 1990, 49)

Not being the President can be a blessing, when the weight of the world is on the president’s shoulders.  But it can be challenging as well, when the job may not be clearly defined.  Certainly no councilor would neglect a specific assignment from the president.  But how can a councilor magnify his or her calling?

In my duties as a councilor, I was one day thinking about this.  I said to myself, “What calling am I waiting for before acting?  I am a councilor.  I have been given the ability to act in the stead of my president/bishop when he is not there.  There are many times when he is not there, by my side.  Why can’t I survey the areas of his responsibility, chose one that I think I can make a difference about, and then act upon that?”

That insight made all the difference in the world.  When I did that, when I chose an area, and then suggested to the Bishop that I could assist by taking responsibility for that, I found that my effectiveness greatly increased.

Perhaps that is what President Hinckley was speaking of when he said:

The president, if he is wise, will assign to these chosen assistants particular duties and then leave them free to perform, requiring from them accountability for what happens. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “In … Counsellors There Is Safety,” Ensign, Nov. 1990, 49)

Other References

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