In Zenos’s Allegory of the Olive Tree, there is a scene in which one of the servants questions a decision made by the Lord of the Vineyard. “How comest thou hither to plant this tree, or this branch of the tree?” he asks. “For behold, it was the poorest spot in all the land of thy vineyard” (Jacob 5:21).
In response, the Lord of the Vineyard reminds the servant that He has the broader perspective and is making decisions within that perspective. “Counsel me not; I knew that it was a poor spot of ground; wherefore, I said unto thee, I have nourished it this long time, and thou beholdest that it hath brought forth much fruit” (Jacob 5:22).
Just before quoting that allegory, the prophet Jacob applied that principle to each of us:
Seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand. For behold, ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy, over all his works.Jacob 4:10
When Alma’s son Corianton made some poor decisions, Alma admonished him to not only accept counsel but to seek it out:
I command you to take it upon you to counsel with your elder brothers in your undertakings; for behold, thou art in thy youth, and ye stand in need to be nourished by your brothers. And give heed to their counsel.Alma 39:10
Several times in the Doctrine and Covenants, church members are encouraged to be open to advice from others:
- After calling John Whitmer to accompany Oliver Cowdery to Missouri, the Lord instructed John to “receive counsel and assistance from my servant Oliver Cowdery and others” (Doctrine and Covenants 69:4).
- When Lyman Sherman visited Joseph Smith seeking guidance for his calling, the Lord said, “Your sins are forgiven you, because you have obeyed my voice in coming up hither this morning to receive counsel of him whom I have appointed” (Doctrine and Covenants 108:1).
- In 1841, Joseph Smith received a long revelation containing instructions for many church leaders. Both John C. Bennett and Hyrum Smith are promised blessings if they are willing to receive counsel. Almon Babbitt is reproved for seeking “to establish his counsel instead of the counsel which I have ordained, even that of the Presidency of my Church.” And church members are collectively instructed to build the Nauvoo House, a boarding house where the “weary traveler” may “contemplate the glory of Zion” and “receive also the counsel from those whom I have set to be as plants of renown, and as watchmen upon her walls” (Doctrine and Covenants 124:16, 61, 84, 95).
It’s so much easier to give advice than to receive it. President Ezra Taft Benson observed, “The proud do not receive counsel or correction easily.” But he assured us that we can overcome this tendency:
We can choose to humble ourselves by receiving counsel and chastisement.
“Beware of Pride,” General Conference, April 1989
Today, I will choose to receive counsel. I will remember that my perspective is limited and that I can benefit from the wisdom and guidance of other people. In particular, I will strive to follow direction from church leaders, who have been called by God.