A 'sacred calling'

The council session had been long and arduous. A difficult matter affecting the membership of an individual and the need to discipline him had been considered at length. After a careful hearing of all facts in the matter the stake presidency had determined by inspiration the action to be taken. The members of the high council who sat as a disciplinary council had sustained the decision of the presidency and the member involved was then informed by the stake president. In loving terms the president told the weeping brother that this was not the end, but the beginning of his way back to fellowship and brotherhood through the blessed principle of repentance.

At the end of the formal proceedings, the stake president asked the members of the high council to remain for a moment longer.With an emotion-filled voice, the president thanked the brethren of the council for their service and devotion. It had been a long evening, and all were tired, but as the high councilors listened to their president express his love and gratitude for them the weariness departed and the Spirit of their callings filled and warmed them.

"I don't know what I would do without you brethren," the president said. "You are my arms and legs in carrying out the work of the Lord in this stake. I regard each of you with the same esteem I hold for my two counselors in the presidency."

What an honor those brethren felt to be part of the stake high council. They were important to and needed by the stake president, who loved them and cared deeply for their well-being.

High councils in the Church are an important part of priesthood government, and have been for 160 years since the organization of the first such council on Feb. 17, 1834.

On that date the Prophet Joseph Smith and his counselors, Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams, at a conference in Kirtland, Ohio, organized the first standing stake high council composed of 12 high priests. The minutes of that organizational session are recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants as Section 102.

As the Church had grown since its formal organization on April 6, 1830, the First Presidency - organized in 1832 - could no longer handle all organizational and disciplinary matters. As that first council came together the Prophet Joseph Smith told the brethren that he was prepared to organize them in a council after the order of councils in ancient days that had been shown to him by vision.

When the Quorum of the Twelve was organized in 1835 that council held Church-wide authority and the high councils were given authority within the stakes of Zion and were presided over by the stake presidency.

In an article on the Melchizedek Priesthood in the February 1954 Improvement Era, we read of high councils:

"High councilors play a vital role in the administration of the stake. Figuratively speaking, they constitute the right arm of the stake presidency. The degree to which they are faithful, efficient, and willing to work, determines their value to the stake presidency. . . .

"The duties and assignments of high councilors are very extensive and varied. Such assignments absorb much time in stakes where the stake presidencies fully utilize their high councilors in carrying forward the Church program. Experience has shown that it is wisdom for stake presidencies to make very extensive use of their high councilors, because the progress of the work of the Lord within a stake and the efficiency with which it is carried forward will be determined to a large extent by the use made of high councilors by the stake presidency."

High councils function only under the direction of the stake presidency. They do not hold any meetings in the absence of members of the stake presidency. High councilors also represent the stake presidency in periodic visits to the wards where sermons are given in sacrament meetings. Ward members should look forward to these visits as important messages are delivered in behalf of the presidency and the council. Certainly these high council visits bolster the purpose of the Church in striving to perfect the saints.

At its first meeting 160 years ago, the high councilors were admonished by the Prophet Joseph to be very prayerful. As he emphasized the necessity of prayer in all their labors, he said such divine supplication was necessary ". . . that the Spirit might be given, that the things of the Spirit might be judged thereby, because the carnal mind cannot discern the things of God." (History of the Church 2:31.)

We encourage members of the Church everywhere to express gratitude to their own stake high councilors and offer sustaining and loving support to them in their sacred callings.

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