Being a newly called elders quorum president can be nerve-racking! So many things to organize and consider. Thankfully, Leading Saints is here to help. In this episode we have gathered experiences from current and former elders quorum presidents from around the world sharing what they wish they knew before they were called as elders quorum president. You will find their advice inspiring and practical.

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In an effort to help other elders quorum presidents to learn some quick leadership experience on day 1, we are organizing future podcast episodes that will feature many current and past elders quorum presidents sharing what they wish they knew before they were called as elders quorum president. You will only have 5 minutes to record so write some thoughts on a paper and then record!

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    • What do you wish you knew before you were elders quorum president?
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Episode Transcript

KURT: Hello and welcome to [00:00:30] the Leading Saints podcast. My name is Kurt Frankham. I’m the executive director of Leading Saints and also the host of the Leading Saints podcast. If you’re new to Leading Saints I welcome you. We produce a regular podcast where we discuss topics that will help lay leaders in the LDS Church enhance their leadership ability and capacity. And we do that through various methods. One of those being we interview really smart and intelligent people who have experience in leadership whether in or outside the church, and we talk about strong leadership principles in the context of the LDS church. We [00:01:00] also have a segment called “How I Lead” where we interview everyday leaders and ask them how they go about their day to day, week to week responsibilities as a lay leader in the church. And what you’re bound to hear is that we weak segment where we crowdsource the community of Leading Saints and ask them to finish the sentence, what I wish I knew when I was Elder’s quorum President, when I was Bishop, Relief Society President, Young Men’s President, Young Women’s President whatever it is and in this episode, we focus on what I wish I knew before I was Elders Quorum President. Each voice you’ll hear we’ve given them [00:01:30] five minutes or less to talk about what they wish they knew before they’re called as Elder’s quorum President. Thank you for all the support you show to Leading Saints. And now what I wish I knew before I was Elder’s quorum President. CALLER: My name is Adam Elsworth I’m currently an Elder’s quorum President. I have been for about two years now. What I wish I knew before I was called or when I was called as an elders quorum president. It’s a little bit of a challenging [00:02:00] question, so I feel like I had all the spiritual tools I needed to go to Heavenly Father and find out what my quorum needed and I already somehow, because I didn’t have them had a strong sense that I shouldn’t be having one on one interviews with my quorum members regularly. So we have done that and those have been very effective and very helpful for ministering in my quorum and to those we home teach. So I had those tools in place. But one thing that is maybe a little surprising or didn’t[00:02:30] suspect although it obvious  is that the more things that I can put on auto pilot, or better said the more things I can have pre scheduled that I don’t have to go through the process of scheduling each month, the more effective I’ve been. So for example with my first elder’s quorum presidency my two counselors moved away, but with those two we didn’t necessarily have a set time each month that we would have our presidency meeting. I think we had a goal and it changed pretty frequently [00:03:00] and as a result it was hard to schedule. As a result we had fewer elders quorum presidency meetings because they didn’t necessarily schedule a hard day each month that they were going to be available. And so by the time it came around that we asked, “Hey can we have an elder’s quorum presidency meeting this day,” now wife has an obligation or they had an obligation and it wouldn’t work out. Same thing held true for one to one interviews with quorum members. We didn’t have a Saturday [00:03:30] each month that we were going to try to do it. And so as each month came around, it felt like we were scrambling. And so with my second set of counselors, we’ve tried to be more diligent. The first day of the month we’re going to have these one to one interviews and so we’re able to get more people on that day. It’s just one thing we don’t have to think about and worry about and schedule. It’s already set. So we’re able to get more people that day and then we can do fewer follow up interviews. It takes a lot less work. With the [00:04:00] presidency meeting it’s the same way we have it on a certain day each month. Everyone can already clear their calendar for home teaching visits. If I have a set visit day with my home teaching family it’s a lot easier. I mean the scheduling is probably one of the main hindrances at least for active members to doing home teaching and one to one visits, etc. And so the more things that we can set on that autopilot or on the prescheduled, the more [00:04:30] time we’re able to devote to spiritual matters, and focusing on contemplating the needs of our quorum. So that’s something I think I’m learning and wish I knew when I started. And I guess wish I knew even better now. And I’m better now. CALLER: This is Arthur Boutin in Edmonton Alberta Canada. And this is a list of things that I wish I knew before I was an Elder’s quorum President. [00:05:00] Number one, at the start, make home visits for priority. Number two, meet as a presidency weekly. Number three, create a vision and set goals with your quorum. Number four, focus on having monthly home teaching interviews with each companionship. Number one, at the start of it make home visits a priority. When you first called as a presidency I would have tried to get into everyone’s home as quickly as possible. Try to get to know them, their wives, or children, what were they interested in. Find ways to connect and serve them.[00:05:30]I found this was an important preliminary step in gaining their trust and once I had done this I was better able to gain revelation on their behalf, and in regards to how to best position them for home teaching or how to serve them. Number two, meet as a presidency weekly. I’m not one to have a meeting just to meet, however I found when we met less, there was less things to meet about and I felt them more and more out of touch and my calling. When we met more we had more opportunities to counsel together and this gave the spirit an opportunity [00:06:00]to work on us and we moved the work ahead a little bit more each week. Of course if a meeting needs to be canceled, then it’s not a huge issue as you wouldn’t have met just recently. Stay engaged with weekly short presidency meetings. Number three, create a vision and set goals with your quorum. Use the first Sunday business meetings to conduct the business of your quorum. These should not be a lesson like the other Sundays of the month. Review and set and achieve the goals and vision of your quorum during these meetings. Come up with them in your quorum [00:06:30] business meetings and make sure that the quorum feels that they have ownership of these goals. Then go out together and accomplish them. Finally number four, focus on having monthly home teaching interviews with each companionship. I learned that when you stand up and remind people about their home teaching or pound the pulpit demanding better results, people would just turn off. Instead we made attendance at home teaching interviews our focus, and set a goal for 100 percent attendance at these meetings. We would ask the companionships about their family’s needs [00:07:00] and find out how they are being served. It’s had the best relate results in regards to improving home teaching in our quorum. Thank you for the opportunity and best of luck. CALLER: Things that I wish I would’ve known before I was called to be elders quorum president. I’m currently serving as an elders quorum president. I have been in this calling for the past three years. Prior to this calling I had had several different callings as Elders Quorum instructor, [00:07:30]as a Sunday school teacher, and even a primary teacher, but not anything to do with church leadership. So this is really kind of an eye opening calling for me. So before I was an Elder’s quorum President I wish I would have known that I need to do everything out of love. Love for the savior, love for the elders that I have stewardship over. By doing everything out of love helps to drive the decisions that I come to for individual elders I’m working with or even as the [00:08:00] elders quorum as a whole. We seek the spirit, do those things to have the spirit be with you daily. Know that you can’t do this alone, that you’re going to need inspiration and revelation from the Lord as you go about this calling. Bear your testimony often. Leave have no doubt in the minds of the elders what you believe. Bear your testimony in quorum meeting, in visits with them, and during your stewardship interviews. Just bear your testimony and promise them blessings. [00:08:30]  Know the blessings that you can promise them. Read the scriptures. Know the blessings you can promise them. Now a great scriptural reference on bearing your testimony is found in Alma Chapter 5 verse 43 to 48. “I lead by serving not served by Leading.” And what I mean by that is that the elders know that when there is assignment given either to the quorum or each individually if it’s a quorum thing, assignment, [00:09:00] they know that I will be there that I’m not just making an assignment and sending them off to do that I will be there to work shoulder to shoulder with them. If it’s an individual assignment they know that I will be there to support them and be a resource to them. Know that this is more than a Sunday only calling. Plan one or two extra days a week that you’ll be working on things for the elders and the elders quorum. Allow for failures or missed assignments. I get this from the Multipliers book by [00:09:30] Liz Wiseman where I learned that as I give assignments out to individuals, to the elders or even as a group assignment to that, that I need to allow them to own this assignment, to figure out what needs to be done to complete this assignment, and let them know that I’m a resource but they own assignment. And sometimes that means that the assignment gets finished and sometimes that means it gets done but not the way you think it should be done. Or maybe [00:10:00] even the assignment doesn’t get finished at all but allow for this. This is the way that the elders will be able to go over the individual you assign will be able to grow. Be consistent with everything. With your home teaching reporting or following up on challenges demands. Just be consistent. Be patient but persistent. Don’t be afraid to get commitments from members of the quorum to help further along their conversion process. Commandments such as [00:10:30] read a conference talk a day. Read the scriptures for five minutes a day, or say a meaningful prayer and then listen for an answer. Another resource that I’ve used that they go back to for inspiration is a conference talk by President Monson from the October 2012 priesthood session. And the title of the conference talk is “See Others as they may Become”. Great, great talk on how to see others as the Lord sees them, and how that helps [00:11:00] me to develop love for them as the Savior has love for them. Don’t just look at an elder as they are today but look at them how the Savior would see them. And one last resource that I use is out of Preach My Gospel, chapter 11 it’ss titled “How to help people make and keep commitments”. This is a great resource on just that. How to help make and keep commitments. CALLER: [00:11:30]Before I was an elders quorum president I wish I would have known just how much I would miss it after I was released. When I was released from being an elders quorum president, I cried on the way home. I was by myself, and I was filled with just an amazing amount of love from my brothers. The nature of my release was that I was being called into a high priest calling, and I knew that I would be leaving a very special kind of a [00:12:00] brotherhood that is the elders quorum. And there’s a lot of times that I miss it. I was woefully unprepared for and pleasantly surprised by the degree to which the Lord was willing to bless me with love and charity from my brothers. So if I had to distill it, it would be that on a more specific kind of brass tacks level, I wish that I had had a greater appreciation for the value of a quality quorum secretary. In my three years in the [00:12:30] elders quorum presidency, I had 17 brothers serve as my counselor at different times, and I had three secretaries. I would have traded in retrospect, any one of my best counselors to be a secretary during that period, to help me stay organized, to help drive the agenda, to help with the reporting and the feedback and follow up. I ended up doing my own secretarial tasks enough [00:13:00] that it would burn up a lot of the bandwidth that I had to give to my calling in any given week. And as a result I ended up probably under ministering in underutilizing my counselors. And a secretary is not third counselor. So anyway, and that’s probably what I think back most on is just how willing the Lord is to bless us with love for those over whom we preside and if we don’t feel that, we can ask for it and [00:13:30] receive it. And then administratively, I wish I had a better understanding of how to utilize a secretary in a quality way. You can work with a counselor or two who may be struggling or a little less valiant than you would wish, if you’ve got a quality secretary. CALLER: Before I was elders quorum president, I wish I knew that it’s so much more than being over home teaching. It’s about ministering to those we have stewardship over,[00:14:00] and Home Teaching is only one of the ways to minister. We need good lessons to build us up and allow us to learn. We need activities where we can feel the brotherhood of the quorum and a sense of belonging. We need outlets for service to help lift us up and grow those around us. We need direction on how to preside in our home and to help our families. And yes, we do need home teaching in order to visit each member and watch or the church. So as we to the spirit and look for balance in your quorum, then you can [00:14:30] help. But those are things that I wish I knew before I was called as Elder’s quorum President. CALLER: Before I was Elder’s quorum President I wish I would have known how much time is actually spent updating home teaching routes. I think if I knew how much time was spent on that I probably would have said no to the Stake President. But one thing I did learn from that is that if you can have a good system of organization, if you have a good secretary that helps keep you on track, then all that becomes a lot easier.[00:15:00] Having counselors who understand what the role and function is and actually do something, so it’s not just you as the president trying to carry the load but you actually have counselors that are supporting you, and you’re holding them accountable to that, you’re giving them the instruction they need so that they are also feeling the recall and they can magnify that and that delegation is taking place outside of that. What I would recommend is just don’t be afraid to try new things, do things different [00:15:30] kind of break up some of those traditions that we have in the church. The handbook is great. It gives you all those core principles and provides that outline for you to follow. But it doesn’t answer everything. Not all things are found in the handbook. So that’s when your personal experiences come in. The gifts and talents that you have come into play and how you can use those to help everyone out in the quorum and so just being yourself and approaching it and just don’t take it too seriously. [00:16:00] CALLER: Before I was Elder’s quorum President, I wish I knew how important it was to have elders quorum socials. This may seem like a small thing and I’m sure most of the other advice will be things like holding PPI’s or reaching out to the less active or visits. And all those are important, but I think you can accomplish all three of those things with socials. Much of what makes a PPI so effective is the relationship you build with the elders. You do the same thing at a social, which does not say you should replace PPI’s[00:16:30] with socials, but that they can help you reach the same goal. Socials are also great at reaching out to the less active. There are lots of people who won’t come to church but they will come to a barbecue. And finally visits. A social gives you an excuse for your visit. You’re not there to chastise them for not coming to church. You’re there to invite them to gather at someone’s house and watch a basketball game. And if in the course of that game they realize that you are all great guys, then so much the better. The power of Elders Quorum socials. That’s what [00:17:00] I wish I knew before I was called as an Elder’s quorum President. CALLER: Before I was Elders Quorum President, I wish I would have known that not every moment of a quorum meeting can be devoted to the actual lesson. What we’ve started doing the last few months is we have a little bit of a few minutes every week where we have what we call the question of the week. Someone comes up with the question, maybe it’s favorite cereal, favorite ice cream, favorite movie. [00:17:30] Whatever it might be, something to allow everyone to kind of share a little bit about themselves. We get to know each other a little better and we laugh. Sometimes it’s a humorous couple of minutes. But we let it go five, six, eight minutes however long we sort of need to settle in as a quorum, at which point our lessons have been a much more effective, much more discussion, more experiences being shared because we’ve taken that time at the beginning of the lesson to really kind of break that ice [00:18:00] and get people participating beforehand. I wish I would have known that the vision that I see and that I have for our quorum, what it could be, is not what others may see or will be able to see. And so to be patient with that, to continue to teach and to lead, understanding that others may not see the same thing that you see or recognize the same things that you recognize. I wish I would have known that I should teach [00:18:30] and that doctrines and principles should be taught and not applications and programs. And that seems simple enough but there’s things that they’re going to want to feel like you can change. Home teaching is obviously a big one how to make teaching better. And you’re going to have ideas that you think, man this is going to work this is going to be what does it. And that’s, it may or may not happen. But if your focus on teaching doctrines and principles and not applications or programs, that those changes will occur. I wish I would [00:19:00] have read initially and early on, President Eyring’s October 2002 conference talk called “Rise to your Call”. I keep this on a saved page on my phone, and I refer to it often. One of the biggest things in that talk that I wish I would have known, is that the concept that as we serve, that not only are our efforts multiplied by the Lord, but that the efforts of those around us and with whom we serve, are magnified as [00:19:30] well. And he talks about things being taken care of, issues being addressed before he could even get to them, that they’d already been taken care of and when tough days or weeks come, I have been able to pray to have my eyes open to the good work and things that are that the brethren of our quorum are doing, bless the lives of others. And I have always been blessed to see those things and those tough days become a little bit lighter. I wish I would have known that I should be listening more and talking less and [00:20:00] that includes teaching. I love to teach, and the first year or so I took a lot of opportunities to teach. I feel like I had a lot to offer, a lot to say, a lot that was on my mind, and I found that over time the more I taught the less effective I felt like our lessons were. That my voice was becoming a little bit stale. And so I have learned to pick my spots and pick and choose the times and places where I feel like I will be most effective [00:20:30] using the keys that I hold to teach. And when the spirit moves me when there’s something that’s on my mind that you know, really needs to be taught or a lesson that needs to be taught. But also with within our quorum meetings or even other meetings, or your Sunday school or sacrament meeting talks or home teaching appointments or in-home visits wherever that might be, to listen to the comments that brethren and or maybe their families are making. There’s a lot you can learn about a person and then their situation just by [00:21:00] observing and listening to them and listening to the spirit. KURT: Hey this is Kurt Frankhum again. I’m the host of the Leading Saints podcast and I actually had opportunity to be an Elder’s quorum President in the YSA ward where I met my wife over 10 years ago. And what I wish I would have known before I was an Elder’s quorum President comes down to three things. Number one, delegate every last administrative task of home teaching. When I was called as an Elder’s quorum President this was my first experience in a [00:21:30] leadership role. And I remember spending hours upon hours in the clerk’s office updating home teaching and sitting in front of the computer. But sitting in front of a computer will never be as valuable as sitting in front of the quorum member which leads me to my second point. Never underestimate the power of the PPI or stewardship interview, one on one interviews on a monthly basis. That’s right. On a monthly basis. This is something I did as a high priest group leader, later on that changed the dynamic of our group. And [00:22:00] if I could go back as an Elder’s quorum President I would do the same thing. Now, keep in mind I was in an Elder’s quorum President that was huge in a YSA ward we had over 96 elders even though Doctrine and Covenants says you can have no more than 96 elders in a quorum, we probably should have split it. Now I still would have met with every single elder every week and how would I have done that? Well if you meet for 5 minutes every week, maybe on a Saturday morning, you could get it done in two hours, every week. Sounds extreme but maybe that’s a good sign that you need to split [00:22:30] the quorum if you’re that big. But I’m serious. If you meet, you personally, not delegated to a counselor with every member of your quorum I’m willing to bet you could do it, especially when so many others quorum are smaller, maybe 30 40 people, right?. By doing this and getting really good at one to one interviews, you will connect on a deeper level compared to anything else you can do as an Elder’s quorum President. One to one consistent interviews. It will change everything. And lastly, it’s some of the best advice I got from a mentor long ago, is he [00:23:00] told me never let a quorum meeting turn into another Sunday school class. Sure we have our manuals we have a lesson that we are instructed to, you know, call a teacher and prepare. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done in 3 minutes in 5 minutes at the end. Take the quorum meeting and unify it around a vision, a purpose, and address that purpose every week. And if there’s something related to that purpose and that vision that needs be talked about, brainstorm. Engage the hearts and minds of those leaders in your quorum. Take the time in a quorum meaning act like a quorum and not just another Sunday school [00:23:30] class. That’s what I wish I knew before I was Elder’s quorum President.

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