Twelve kayaks bunched together on a smooth deep pool on the Green River so their occupants could hear the priests quorum advisor talking over the menacing sounds of roiling water coming from just ahead. “Our map shows a Class III rapid around this bend. Many accidents have occurred here. We need a plan to get us through safely. What are you seeing?”
As they studied the situation, they were grateful for the prayer offered that morning and some quietly prayed again. Someone pointed out an overlook on the outside bend of the river. Another discovered a trailhead emerging from a stretch of shoreline. They secured their vessels and hiked the path to the point above the cataract where they could discover its hidden perils of submerged boulders, eddies and overhangs. There, together, they plotted the safest way through.
This was not this group’s first experience “counseling together.” Over the previous year, there had been many successful councils now culminating in this one above the torrent they would soon enter. This high adventure activity was a product of their earlier councils to determine their needs and resources and to create a viable activities calendar. They then prayerfully met over ensuing months in regularly scheduled sub-councils planning and preparing for this activity and against this very hour when their best decision-making and the trust they had built in each other would be called to the fore.
The safe and successful outcome of this particular high-adventure challenge followed a pattern of seeking inspiration through councils upon which these young men and their leaders had come to rely.
The newly announced 14- to 18-year-old program succeeds under the guidance of adult leaders who effectively implement three key principles, and utilizing three implementation methods.
The leadership principles guide leaders to, “be with them, connect them with heaven and let them lead.”
The three implementation methods are to “counsel together, identify local needs and resources and plan and develop an annual activity calendar.” These methods are interdependent. The best programs emerge from using the council method to both identify local needs and resources, then build calendars around those needs and resources.
Engaging in inspired councils is the key.
The mandate to counsel together is not new. This doctrine is set forth in Section 107 of the Doctrine and Covenants where the organization of priesthood quorums was established. In rapid succession, verses 85, 86 and 87 charge the presidents of the deacons, teachers, and then the bishop who presides over the priests quorum to, “sit in council with them.”
Effective “counseling together” within quorums and auxiliaries of the Church instills invaluable leadership practices that forever blesses lives. When youth counsel together they learn to create an environment where inspiration can flow. This is best accomplished when: • Priesthood keys are respected. When adult leaders actually “let them lead,” the quorum leaders’ keys of presidency will bring promised inspiration into councils.
• Agendas are created and followed. Some of the best leadership training a quorum president can receive comes in brief sessions prior to a council where adult leaders can teach skills of setting priorities and desired outcomes. Agendas take pressure off of the young leader, guiding the flow and pace of the meeting, and liberating him to focus on impressions of the Spirit and engage the whole council. Young Corianton was admonished by his father, Alma, that because of his youth and inexperience, he should seek the council of his brethren. All quorum leaders need that kind of mentoring.
• Prior preparation is provided. If council members receive the agenda in advance, they will arrive prepared, having discussed ideas with others and pondered and prayed about them. Moroni 10 describes a pattern for receiving gifts of the Spirit through study, pondering and prayer that animates inspired councils.
• Inclusion is fostered. There is “wisdom in counsel” because many minds with many perspectives will find better answers. Inspiration flows best when everyone seeks it and finds their ideas are valued. Creating a safe environment for discussion requires leadership skills which improve through thoughtfully counselling together. This means the leader of the council must not constrain discussion by proffering opinions too early. As council members’ ideas are respected, they come to take ownership over the results, even if their specific comments do not find place in a final decision. Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles suggests that “people who feel ownership of a problem are more willing to help find a solution.”
An invaluable tool in the arsenal of Young Men adult and youth leaders is deployed when we counsel together. The new 14- to 18-year-old program requires a raising of the bar in planning youth activities. We will discover and build vibrant youth programs customized to each Church unit only as we heed the counsel of the prophets by engaging in the revelatory process of counselling together.