You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2016.

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 7.32.23 AM

While driving around LA the other day, I saw this Facebook post from Lana. I literally had just driven past the Getty. After commenting on having just passed her on the 405, Rob and I invited ourselves were asked to have dinner with the Utzingers on Sunday. What a treat! We love Rob and Lana and their family. Lana made a yummy dinner centered on my Rob’s request for Kauai Krunch Cake. Rob has a habit of making dessert requests of our hosts. It’s a good thing they like him…We also got to tour their cute home in the desert. It really is nice. Lana has created a library out of one of the rooms. It is the perfect room.

While we were visiting, Lana mentioned that Jenna and Clayton had incorporated regular family councils into their lives as a result of the family life education I had conducted with her. Jenna kindly agreed to be a participant in my student teaching requirements for my degree. I was so happy to hear that they had found family/couple councils to be helpful! I have had 2 or 3 classes that have taught the benefits of conducting family councils based on the council method employed by the Council of the Twelve Apostles. One of my classes suggested it as a means of conflict management. Another suggested it as a method to help families deal with stress. This is a Prezi presentation created by a BYU-I instructor that explains the use of councils to reach consensus as opposed to compromise. It includes a YouTube of Henry B. Eyring’s and Cleon Skousen’s first experiences with council deliberations. It is incredibly eye-opening. The guiding principles of council deliberations are love and selflessness. The Twelve open their meetings not with prayer first, but with expressions of love for one another. (Consider the instructions we are given before beginning a prayer circle in the temple.) During council discussions, all members speak frankly regarding the business at hand. One apostle described his first meeting with the Twelve this way:

…an apostle once shar[ed] with the faculty at BYU Idaho that when he attended his first meeting with the Twelve he was surprised at the forcefulness of the discussion. After he sat quietly for some time, another apostle passed him a note that read,

“Welcome to the Quorum of the Twelve. Here we play hardball.”

No one takes offense because all members are seeking to know the Lord’s will in the matter, and are not trying to persuade members to adopt their own position. That is key. When our council discussions become about asserting our will instead of ascertaining the Lord’s will, we have lost the influence of the Spirit and our deliberations become contentious rather than collaborative. David Pulsipher gave a really good talk about the difference between disagreement and contention that elaborates on learning to see disagreement as positive, provided it does not become contentious.

I wish I had learned of these methods when Rob and I were young and Rob and first married. I have heard of family councils for a long time now, but how to make them useful and meaningful was lost to me until this last semester. This is the agenda that the Twelve follow:


Before opening the meeting, express love, appreciation, and admiration for one another. Be genuine, but also be generous.

  1. Open with prayer, inviting the Spirit to assist in the decision process.
  2. Discuss the topic, making sure that each person has obvious opportunities to share her/his perspectives without interruption or dispute.
    • This will likely be unusual the first time, so it may need to be discussed in advance. It might be useful to explain what Elder Eyring and Cleon Skousen related (refer to the YouTube video embedded in the Presentation: Counseling with Our Councils). You may also show them the statements from Elder Ballard’s book, Counseling with Our Councils, beginning on page 47.
    • Don’t be surprised if participants get off track. Model the best behavior possible, and try to keep the meeting on task, not letting it deviate into complaining.
    • Seek to reach a consensus regarding how to respond to the need, challenge, or opportunity—even if the consensus is only to try a particular solution for two weeks and then revisit the issue again.
  1. Close with prayer, asking for Heavenly Father’s assistance in fulfilling what you have felt impressed to do (2 Nephi 32:8).
  2. End with some form of snack or refreshment.

And these are some “rules” to consider:

  • A meeting agenda distributed in advance of the meeting
  • Regular time and place to meet (the Twelve meet in the temple each Thursday morning)
  • A member invited to initiate discussion of the item by defining the problem and current status of decisions, etc.
  • Opening for orderly discussion (one at a time, “additive” rather than corrective comments from each member in turn, etc.)
  • On-going, focused discussion until consensus is reached, under the clear influence of the Spirit (as opposed to compromise)
  • Moving forward with unity in accordance with the decision reached
  • Follow-up discussions of results and progress toward determined outcome
  • Do not make the council a time for airing grievances – this is a spirit killer

I thought that ending with a refreshment was really interesting. They say the Twelve often end their meetings with pie or cookies. Picturing the Twelve eating in the temple is a little humorous. I know that Mormons are big on refreshments, but it seemed a little out-of-place for what is otherwise a business meeting. Then I had an experience. I am a Cubmaster and every month we have a pack committee meeting. A recent committee meeting focused on some boys in a den with severe behavior problems. It was a long and difficult discussion. One of our committee members, without being asked, made some monkey bread and brought it for us to share after our meeting. It was the perfect thing. After having such a hard and exhausting discussion, we were able to decompress and visit with one another while eating something yummy and comforting. It gave me an added appreciation for all the benefits of breaking bread with others.