"No obstacles are insurmountable when God commands and we obey"
- - Heber J. Grant
May 07, 2015
Volunteering an Opinion in Presidency Meeting
by Cyndie Swindlehurst


I’m in the Young Women presidency. When I go to presidency meetings, the Young Women president always has a list of extra things she wants us to do to support the Young Women: chaperoning this and that stake activity (even when we have no actual assignment), attending their concerts and recitals, organizing and running extra activities, making regular activities more elaborate than they need to be.

She has big plans and big expectations.

The problem is that I don’t have another evening each week or free time on Saturday to do more church work. I’m already in charge of classes every Sunday and Mutual. So when the president asks who can do these extra things, I rarely volunteer. I feel bad sticking the other presidency members with all the work, but I just don’t have the time.

How can I manage this situation?


Actually, I think you are managing the situation just fine. Callings take time, which we freely give. But in every calling there is a point beyond which each hour is increasingly difficult to give because that hour was needed for family, work and personal responsibilities that have now gone undone. Each person must learn how to magnify a calling without neglecting other essential duties.

In your case, you are spending all the time you have just to complete your calling’s essential tasks—Sunday lessons, Mutual and caring for the young women in your class. Therefore, it is not unreasonable for you to let someone else manage the extra activities. You are not shirking your duty or unfairly imposing burdens on others when you don’t volunteer for tasks you cannot do.

But beyond your lack of time, you seem to doubt the value of these extra activities. You seem to believe that although they are nice in theory, they are not worth the amount of extra time they require. If this is how you feel, then you need to bring up and explain your concerns in presidency meeting.

Presidency meetings are not a time where the president dictates her vision to her counselors and divvies up her to-do list. Presidency meetings are a time for the entire presidency to think together about what needs to be done and how to do it. (Also for reporting on what has been done, but that does not come into this question.)

When an idea is presented, it should be discussed. If someone has a concern about the idea, that person should speak up. A good president expects her counselors to weigh in — that is the whole point of having counselors.

In your case, therefore, when you disagree with one of your president’s ideas, do not wait for her to look at you and ask, “Sybil, what do you think?” Instead, here are five suggestions for how you might proceed in your next presidency meeting.

One, be positive. Express support and agreement with the president’s ideas and activities when you agree with them. “That’s a good idea,” “I think you’re right,” “I can do that,” and “I agree,” are sincere, positive statements, and you should use them liberally.

Your president seems to devote much time, thought and energy to her calling. You need to show consideration for her feelings, appreciation for her efforts and a degree of deference for the vision she has for your organization. Don’t shy away from her ideas just because they are new to you or seem difficult to carry out.

Also, build a relationship with her personally. It is easier to bring up difficult topics and disagreements with a person when you have a positive relationship with that person. So remember her birthday, wish her luck on her big project at work and engage her in conversation about non-Young Women topics.

Also, be absolutely loyal to her when speaking to the people in your ward and stake.

Two, ask questions. Before you question the value of a particular idea or activity, find out why your president wants to do it. Her reasons might be compelling, and you might decide that it is worth doing. Even if you are not persuaded, you will at least understand the problem she is trying to address.

For example, if the president proposes that one of you attend a stake youth activity, you could ask, “Has the stake asked us to attend?” If no, you could say, “Well, I don’t think we really need to be there. Is there a reason we need to attend?” Your tone should indicate that this is an actual question: You genuinely want to know what purpose your presence would serve.

There may be an actual reason, and a discussion of that reason will be informative to you. But perhaps it has simply never occurred to your president that your presence was not necessary. Perhaps she actively enjoys such activities and didn’t realize it would be a burden to ask you to go.

Three, state your concerns directly. Once you understand why the activity was proposed, you may still believe that your presidency’s participation is not necessary, that the idea is not feasible, or that the expected result does not outweigh the time and effort involved. If so, you should be specific about your concerns.

“I see what you’re saying,” you might start, “and I want the dance to look good. But setting up rose trellises around the entire gym will put us way over budget and will take all day. I know I won’t be able to come until 4 p.m., so I wouldn’t even be able to help. Is there another way we could get a similar look?”

As you state your opinion or concerns, remember that this is discussion, not advocacy: You and the other presidency members are not competing to win an argument. Instead, you are combining your information and impressions to arrive at the best decision you can. Still, it is perfectly appropriate for you to use phrases like, “I disagree,” “I don’t think so,” and “I think that’s the family’s prerogative.”

Four, propose an alternative. Every organization needs a party pooper to say things like, “That will cost one thousand dollars,” and “The beach is five hours away.” If you are that party pooper, so be it.

But it is helpful if you can propose an alternative to the idea you have quashed that achieves a similar purpose. For example, “I’d like to support Mia at her trumpet competition, but it’s three hours away. That’s too far to drive. How about we wish her luck in Sunday opening exercises? And I can remind the Beehives to text her on the day of the competition.”

Finally, you might also suggest that a new advisor be added to your Young Women organization who could specialize in whatever kind of outreach you are trying to achieve. Or who could take some of the responsibility for Mutual, leaving you and the other presidency members with more time for other tasks.

Do you have a quandary, conundrum, or sticky situation in your life? Click this button to drop Cyndie a line, and she’ll be happy to answer your question in a future column. Any topic is welcome!

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About Cyndie Swindlehurst

Cynthia Munk Swindlehurst spent her childhood in New Hampshire and her adolescence in San Diego. She served a mission in Manaus Brazil. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English and from Duke University with a law degree.

She practiced law until her first child was born. She enjoys reading, tap dancing, and discussing current events. She and her husband live in Greensboro, North Carolina with their two sons.

Cyndie serves as the Sunbeams teacher in her ward.

Visit Cyndie at Dear Cyndie
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