President's Pen 7-10-17 (Counseling in Councils)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and se God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya! The field is white already to harvest! Do you believe and trust this to be true? The Lord has sent you to a part of His vineyard where the gospel will be accepted and received by those He has prepared.  Our responsibility is to have the faith that we can find,  teach repentance and baptize converts in every area of our mission.  This is not a passive belief, it is an absolute trust in God that as you prepare yourself each day, have a mighty prayer, and then go to work, miracles can and will happen.  I know this to be true!

The Father and the Son have established the pattern for how we are to work together as we help them bring to pass their work and glory.  The pattern that has been established for us to do their work is in councils.  Consider the councils in the Church… The First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, presidents of the Seventy, stake presidencies, bishoprics, ward councils, auxiliary presidencies, YM/YW presidencies, the family, a husband and wife, and yes, your companionship are all forms of councils. 

Before you arrived on your mission, how many times had you attended a ward council?  I can probably quickly answer that question…  for most it would have been never, unless you served in a YSA ward.  When you arrive in the field you quickly discover that you not only attend church, but that you attend a number of other councils where you will provide an update on your efforts regarding the work of salvation including; your efforts to baptize, retain, and activate God’s children.

Each of these councils has a specific purpose, but if I were to give you a brief summary of what they hope to achieve it would be… to invite all (focused on individuals and families) to come unto Christ, to help them receive the restored gospel, to increase their faith in the Savior and His Atonement, to help them repent and change, to help them receive the next ordinance (baptism, gift of the Holy Ghost, the sacrament, the priesthood, the endowment and sealing blessings), and to endure to the end.  Sounds familiar doesn’t it?  Get used to it, it’s your purpose the rest of your life! The doctrine of Christ is the vision and purpose for all councils.  Why? Because it is the way and the only way we can be saved! (2 Ne 31:21)

We meet in councils to strengthen one another, share ideas, make better decisions, discuss individual needs, extend invitations, receive assignments, return and report, and then commit to go and do.  My purpose for choosing this subject is to review with you some basic principles and to help you prepare to better serve within the councils you are assigned, specifically the ward council.  During your mission you will experience both effective and ineffective council meetings, but what can always be true is your plan, preparation, and participation as you attend them.  Here are a few guidelines for you to follow…

·         Before the council… Ideally there is a missionary correlation meeting (council) that takes into account the missionary (baptism, retention, activation) efforts being made by ward/branch auxiliary leaders and full time missionaries.  This is a great opportunity for you to share the details of the progress record, your efforts, and where you need support.  If this meeting doesn’t take place, encourage your ward mission leader to hold it (even if it’s just with you) so they can have all the information they need for ward council.  At a minimum, share what he needs to know to represent your efforts in the ward council. 

·         Be prepared!... Make sure your progress record is complete and accurate.  Use full names, include ages, basic information about them and specific needs. The progress record should have enough detail that you don’t need to explain it all in person.  Many progress records lack detail and are of no help to the council nor do they know what you need.  Always prioritize the most important and progressing investigators at the top and then work down the list from there.  Where there is more than one companionship, work together to consolidate the report into one document.

·         At the council… You are invited guests and not members of the ward council.  Arrive on time, with enthusiasm, and with a desire to contribute as needed.  The ward mission leader has the responsibility to report on missionary efforts within the ward council and you are there to support.  The only way a ward mission leader can feel comfortable with this assignment is if you have given him the information he needs.  This includes the progress record and regular updates via phone calls and texts throughout the week to make sure he knows what is happening regarding your efforts.  If you don’t have a ward mission leader, or if he doesn’t fulfill his responsibility, don’t give up, be prepared to briefly share what you know and need during the council.  Always defer to the ward mission leader first, build his confidence and help him in his calling.  Be kind and patient in your efforts to help.

·         During the council… Be careful not to dominate the time by sharing too much detail when asked to participate.  Focus on names (full names).  Who needs adoption, who has a baptism date, who will be coming to church?  For each council, limit your discussion to two to three key updates (prioritized) and two or three needs/requests.  Only focus on those that are truly progressing or where you need help.  This may include investigators, recent converts, or less active members.  Keep in mind there are several topics to be discussed and the council has other important topics to address.  Depending on the ward, they may have you stay for the entire meeting or excuse you. 

·         Request and report on assignments!...  Before the end of each ward council make sure you have requested an assignment.  Always report on your previous assignments and express appreciation for their trust in you.  Take notes, listen, be attentive and care about the conversation.  Too many missionaries zone out do little to add value.  You are being watched and measured up in every meeting, what you do and don’t do speaks louder than words. 

·         Know all ward council members by name and by assignment…  These leaders are your best friends when it comes to doing the work.  They can help you get to know the members, part-members, less active, and find.  Be there to bless and help them and recognize they have very busy lives and challenges you are unaware of.  Be a blessing to the bishop/branch president.  Help them see you are there to help and serve them.

·         Ward Mission Plan… Many wards struggle with implementing a ward mission plan.  They know what they need to do, but often struggle in their execution.  When you hear the following things… discussion of a less active and how to help them, how to retain someone or help them get to the temple, discuss their effort to baptize… they are talking about the elements that make up a ward mission plan, even if it’s not directly mentioned.  Help them, don’t be critical, be grateful and supportive.  There are things you need to do as missionaries you also fall short in.  We continue to invite and help and then we all do the best we can.

Elders & Sisters, this is not a comprehensive guide to working within a ward council, but I’m hopeful it gives you some additional insight.  These are great experiences for you that will shape how you will lead in the Church someday.  Learn from what’s good, consider what you’ll do differently, and build your experience as you go.  I invite you this week to do the following… Watch District 1, “Working with the Ward Council & PEC”.  Please also watch “Working with the Ward Mission Leader”.  Takes notes as you watch both and adjust your approach as needed.  Additionally, please take the time to study chapter 13 of Preach My Gospel.  Continue to counsel with one another as you plan, hold companionship study and inventory.  A great way for you to prepare for even better councils coming your way! ;) We need to do the work in the Lord’s way, and His way is by counseling in councils.   Thanks for your great work.  Love ya!

President Hall