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The work of the Church is moving forward under the Lord's direction through His prophet, President Ezra Taft Benson, said President Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency.

President Hinckley commented in the Saturday evening priesthood session that despite the infirmities of the prophet, the counselors in the First Presidency act under his approval as they fulfill their duties."Do not fear, brethren, there is a presidency over this Church. . . . It has been put in place by the Lord. We are not here of our own choosing.

"We have no other desire than the desire to do His will concerning His kingdom and His people."

In his address, President Hinckley spoke on the role of counselors. In a previous priesthood meeting address, he spoke about the duty of bishops.

President Hinckley noted that he has served as counselor to two Church presidents, but began his experience in Church leadership as a counselor in a deacons quorum presidency. "I think this call . . . was of as much concern to me, in terms of my age and experience, as is my present responsibility in terms of my age and experience," he reflected.

Counselors in the Church are selected by the president and approved by higher authority. The president selects his counselors because "they must work together in a spirit of mutual trust and respect."

President Hinckley then outlined some of the duties of a counselor:

- He is an assistant to his president.

Each counselor is free to speak his or her mind on all issues, but it is the prerogative of the president to make the decision, and it is the duty of the counselors to back him in that decision. The president's decision becomes their decision, President Hinckley explained.

- A counselor is a partner.

Because the counselors and president work as a team, they pray and work under the guidance of the Spirit for a united conclusion, explained President Hinckley. "We may have the assurance that the decision is in harmony with the will of the Lord. Two counselors, working with a president, preserve a wonderful system of checks and balances. They become a safeguard that is seldom, if ever, in error and affords great strength of leadership."

- A counselor is a friend.

Presidencies should do more than counsel together. They should be good friends, trusted friends, in a very real sense, he said.

- A counselor is a judge.

"He is a lesser judge than the president, but he is nonetheless a judge."

- A counselor may serve as a proxy for his president.

"The power of proxy must be granted by the president, and it must never be abused by the counselors. The work must go forward notwithstanding absences of the president for reasons of illness, employment, or other factors beyond his control. In these circumstances, and in the interest of the work, the president should give his counselors authority to act with full confidence. . . ," said President Hinckley.