Top Second Counselors in the General Sunday School Presidency…Ranked

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Like its local counterparts in wards all over the world, it’s one of the most crucial organizations in the operation of the Church: the General Sunday School Presidency. We tremble to think where we would be without this vital auxiliary organization. As Third in command over Sunday Schools, the Second Counselor in the General Sunday School Presidency wields unimaginable power and influence over the development of guidelines, policies, and materials that make weekly Sunday School classes the consistently informative and incredible experiences they are. Here’s our definitive ranking of the 7 best Second Counselors in the General Sunday School Presidency. Ever. 

7. James Morgan

James Morgan was one of the earliest leaders of the Sunday School, as well as a politician, general authority, and earliest-known practitioner of yoga in the Utah territories. Morgan introduced firearms and ballistics lessons into the children’s Sunday School curriculum (only to have them rescinded and replaced several years later with boxing by Joseph F. Smith). For his willingness to promote the Second Amendment through youth Sunday School lessons, James Morgan will always rank as one of the best Second Counselors in the Sunday School ever.

6. Kevin K. Christiansen

Elder Kevin K. Christiansen was a Second Counselor in the  in the mid 1970’s. An officer in the Air Force, he almost singlehandedly won the Korean War–until Chinese chess official Wang Yun-Lu ruled that his advanced pawn was moved illegally, giving the victory to his Pyongyang opponent Na-Ro Kim, and throwing the Korean conflict back into stalemate. However, as Second Counselor in the General Sunday School presidency, Elder Christiansen oversaw the implementation of verses from Habakkuk and Haggai into Sunday School curriculum for the first time. He’s famous for the inspirational saying, “I may be the Second Counselor in the General Sunday School Presidency, but this calling will never be more important than when I was second counselor in the Sunday School Presidency of my home ward.”

5. Herbert H. Mensl

Herbert H. Mensl served in the Sunday School General Presidency from 1943 to 1949. He was almost the most controversial and revolutionary Second Counselor in the General Sunday School Presidency ever, advocating that all people, regardless of color or sex, should hold the priesthood. However, it was soon discovered that he had confused priesthood with baptism. Instead, as Second Counselor he is probably most remembered for writing a Sunday School manual inspired by Marvel comics, called Captain Deseret, where the hero transforms himself into a godlike missionary able to teach all the principles of the Gospel in twelve easy chapters.

4. Albert D. Jensen

Though he eventually became the general superintendent of the Sunday School and edited several LDS periodicals, Albert D. Jensen will perhaps be best remembered as the person who introduced the Sunday School Bell into meetinghouses everywhere. How cool is that, right? That bell is pretty awesome, especially if you’re the Second Counselor in your Sunday School Presidency with the important assignment to ring it on time. Pretty much all Sunday School Presidencies agree that ringing the bell is the most important (and easily the raddest) task any member of the Sunday School Presidency can have. Heck, let’s be honest, it’s basically the main purpose of the Presidency when all is said and done. He would probably rank higher on this list, except that the Sunday School Bell is also really, really irritating.

3. Carl I. Redding

Carl I. Redding introduced the concept of Ritual Call and Response into Sunday School classes everywhere. Inspired by a visit to Nigeria, where he witnessed African tribes communicating by calling out common phrases that were in turn answered with common responses by another person, Redding returned to the United States determined to correlate and homogenize all possible questions and answers in any Sunday School class. Today we are blessed to travel anywhere in the world and hear the exact same questions and answers in every single Sunday School class, with answers outside the norm consistently ridiculed and shamed. Inspiring!

2. George Lyon Ballard

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Easily the hippest Second Counselor in the General Sunday School Presidency in history, George Lyon Ballard–or “The Crooning Counselor” as he was known in some circles–was a Sunday School legend. The youngest man called to be Second Counselor in the General Sunday School Presidency ever (at 28!) Ballard eventually became famous for taking his guitar (which he nicknamed “The Correlator”) with him to Sunday School training meetings all over the world. Eventually, he stopped talking completely and would only teach, converse, read the manuals, and answer questions through song. Once he held a multi-regional take training meeting utterly captive for 12 hours straight with show tunes and jazz numbers that mirrored the Sunday School theme that year. And who could forget his double album in which he sang the entire Sunday School curriculum with only a guitar, a kazoo, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as backup singers? Coolest. Second Counselor. Ever.

1. Henry Kimball Sterling

If you thought that George Lyon Ballard belonged in the number 1 spot for top Second Counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency, that’s probably because–incredibly–you haven’t heard of Henry Kimball Sterling. The Sunday School would not be what it is today without Sterling ceaselessly toiling away at the heavy workload that second counselors in Sunday School presidencies inevitably must shoulder. Sterling was a Sunday School workaholic; no other word could possible describe him. Arriving at the office as early as 4:00 a.m., he would work without eating and no breaks until no earlier than 10:00 p.m. (and often until well past midnight, frequently just sleeping in his office in 15 minute increments rather than waste time traveling home). Every day. For 38 years. From tinkering with Sunday School manuals, to experimenting with radical templates for class rolls, to designing the latest scriptural proof-texts for social issues of the day, Sterling never quit trying to improve the Sunday School, not even when the First Presidency released him after 8 years of service. That’s right, without even having to be officially called (and to the consternation of his replacements, Charles R. Boyle, and then Rodney O. Smith, and then Dwight B. Johnson, and then Joseph P. Sutherland) Sterling carried on for 30 more years in his Second Counselor in the General Sunday School post, though it cost him his marriage, his children ceased speaking to him and he was therefore never introduced to his grandchildren. In one famous incident of incredible Sunday School perseverance, Sterling kept on revising a Youth Manual even though his appendix had burst, he was being carried to the hospital against his will, and he had received his 5th Cease and Desist letter from the President of the Church himself. As a testament to his Sunday School devotion, he died of exhaustion at his desk doing what he loved most, improving his beloved Sunday School by creating a louder and more jarring Sunday School bell. Simply incredible.

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