I am a Non-Believer?

hiding-catOver the past many months, some members of the LDS Church have called me a non-believer.  Mostly it happens on social media or behind my back as gossip.  Not much opportunity to engage in a heart-to-heart as to what I believe.

Then, yesterday, I had a conversation with a very close friend who is also a member.  As we rambled, he casually referred to me as a non-believer.   It caught me off guard.  It took me aback.  I questioned myself, “I am a non-believer?  How can I possibly be viewed as a non-believer?”

After this friendly interchange, I got in my car to drive away.  I contemplated how others look at me.  Tears began welling.  How can it be that I have faith in Jesus Christ, but am considered a non-believer in the Church of Jesus Christ?  How has it come to this, that faith in Jesus is not enough?  How is it possible that good church members could make this kind of judgment?  It does not feel right.

Jesus Christ.  I believe in His gospel.  I absolutely adore his teachings and example.  They reach into the core of my heart.  So much so, that I’ve decided to place my faith in Him and only in Him.  His way is a true and wonderful way to live a good and fulfilling life.  My goal is to emulate the Savior in word and deed.  Not always an easy task.  ……..So, I am a Non-believer?

The Book of Mormon.  This is a tremendous book of scripture.  It contains teachings of Christ.  It elaborates and elucidates the doctrines of Christ.   It’s another witness of Christ.  It beckons me to follow Him.  The Book of Mormon has blessed my life, my family and the lives of many others.  ….So I’m really just a non-believer?

The Apostolic Leaders of the Church.   I recognize and sustain them as prophets, seers and revelators.  They are good men.  I listen and pay attention to their loving direction.  However, I view them as men, fallible men.  Modern day prophets and apostles can and have led us astray.  That does not invalidate their calling or station.  It validates that they are men.      ….Is it this that makes me a non-believer?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.    I have been a member all my life.  It has served me well.  I have served it diligently and for tens of thousands of hours.  My callings have been full of many treasured experiences.   The church was a vital part of the upbringing of my children.  I love the church.  I am happy that my children and grandchildren still embrace it.   …..Thus, I am a non-believer?

Isolation

Over the past year, I have become acquainted with many active Mormons whose faith has transitioned.  They presently serve in various ward and stake callings.  Yet, they are in hiding.  They suffer or stew in silence.  Some say they are “hanging on by their fingernails.”  Others express that they don’t know how much longer they can take it.  Some have decided to leave when a certain life event occurs.  Still others simply continue in support of a spouse or parent.

So, why don’t these good people broach their concerns and conclusions within their own wards among their own friends?  Why:   IT….IS….NOT….SAFE.

I have been very open about my faith and beliefs.  By many, I have been judged as a non-believer.   That does not make me feel safe.

Some of my active & secretive church friends only believe parts of the LDS gospel.  Some have moved all the way to being atheist.  I can only imagine how unsafe they must feel if someone like me is deemed a non-believer.

Why can’t we come out of isolation, hiding and hurt?  Why can’t we all just be members who are attempting to follow the teachings of Christ?  Without the constant, nagging worry that we will bear a judgmental blot of stigma for our beliefs?

Do YOU view me as a non-believer?  Feel free to comment with a yea or nay.

Do I Really EXPECT the Mormon Church to Change?

followjesus

Short Answer:  Absolutely YES!!!

If you have followed my blog at all, you know that I have started to live the Law of Common Consent.  The church as a whole has not.  At least not as it is mandated by Jesus is the D&C, or declared as doctrine on the LDS website, or witnessed by a prophet of God before the U.S. Congress.

Over the past 6 months, I have now heard similar discouraging statements from by both those who are true-blue-believing Mormons and by members who are disillusioned.  They go something like this:

    • The Church will never implement Common Consent (CC).
    • The Church is too big to use CC.
    • The leaders will not give up their power by implementing CC.
    • We are a worldwide church and CC is not feasible.
    • CC is antiquated.

Until recently, this is how my response normally went:

 “I don’t know if the church will ever embrace common consent.  If they ever do, it may not be in my lifetime.  What I do know is that by voting in disapproval, something beautiful has already happened.  MARGINALIZED MEMBERS have taken notice.  There are people in our pews struggling in silence.  Just the act of witnessing an opposing vote has brought them hope & encouragement.  They recognize that there are members who love and care about them. There are people willing to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.  Those who struggle in silence fit in several marginalized categories.  Certainly our LGBT children are at risk.  If one gay person postpones suicide, my vote will have accomplished more than I could have ever hoped for.”

Epiphany

This weekend, an epiphany struck me with encouraging enlightenment.  A local leader posed this question, “Sam, do you really expect the Mormon Church to change regarding Common Consent?   I proceeded to give my standard response.

But, as I drove home, his phrasing rattled around my brain, “Do You really expect?”  Expect???  Well….the expressions of my expectations have been pretty low.  Was I being cynical?  Was my approach hypocritical?  Cynic?  Hypocrite?  I don’t like or want either title.

Cynical?

Webster:  “Believing that people are generally selfish and dishonest.”

I have placed my faith in the teachings and example of Jesus.  Am I being cynical by assuming his commandments would not be followed in His own Church?  Am I being cynical by not giving the apostles the benefit of the doubt; that they would be honest in following Christ’s system of governance; that they would be unselfish in acquiescing to accountability?  My reasoned conclusion was ‘Yes,’ it IS cynical to put my faith in Christ, and then not trust His leaders to start leading with His Law of Common Consent.

Hypocritical?

Webster: “A person who claims to have certain beliefs about what is right but who behaves in a way that disagrees with those beliefs.”

Well, I’m certainly not acting hypocritically.  At least not by this definition.  I believe in Common Consent and behave in agreement with those beliefs.  But…I might be hypocritical to press forward, feasting on the word of Christ, yet having little confidence that the feast will be fulfilled.

A New Answer, A New Attitude

Do I really expect the church to change and live by Common Consent?

“ABSOLUTELY!!!  This is Christ’s church.  Of course, I expect HIS church to obey HIS law. Anything else would be cynical & hypocritical on my part.

This is Christ’s church.  Of course, I expect His laws to respected.

This is Christ’s church.  Of course, I expect its leaders to acquiesce to God’s law.  They are good men.  I trust that they WILL follow Jesus.”

No longer am I alone in my expectations.  There are now 311 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have decided to openly and actively live the divine law of church governance.  To all who have put their honor and good names on the line…THANK YOU!  What you are doing is not in vain.  You have already made a difference in the lives of many.  I fully EXPECT that your courage will bring the changes to the church which the Savior desires.

If you are a member. If you disapprove of policies, major decisions and other important matters that have never been ratified by the general membership, consider embracing the Law of Common Consent. Here’s a place to start:  The Common Consent Register.

Christ is the Way.  Consent…IS…His way.

We….CAN….Change….the Church. 

 

Other Resources:

  • Information on LDS.ORG regarding Common Consent, click HERE.  Please take note of this paragraph:  “Not only are Church officers sustained by common consent, but this same principle operates for policies, major decisions, acceptance of new scripture, and other things that affect the lives of the Saints.”
  • Scriptural information about Common Consent, click HERE.
  • Disturbing membership Trends, click HERE.
  • Do We Love Jesus Enough?, click HERE.
  • The Only True Hope for The Only True Church, click HERE.
  • My personal sadness over my friends and family leaving, click HERE
  • Common Consent Register—A Record of Those Who Disapprove click, HERE.

Marginalized Mormons in “Extreme Slavery”

slavery

At the age of 63, I have finally selected a path that is built on a rock solid foundation.  I’ve decided to place my faith in Jesus Christ, specifically in His teachings and example.  Furthermore, I have also chosen to follow Christ as a member of the Mormon Church.

The Least

One of His most beautiful instructions is that we are to be vitally concerned with “the least of these.”  The marginalized.  The vulnerable.  The undefended, the unguarded, and the unprotected.  Not just concerned.  Rather, Jesus made it clear that entry into heaven will ONLY be granted to those who actively take care of “the least.”

Frequently, we pass them by.  Often, we don’t even see them. Never-the-less, “the least of these” are all around us in society.  For the purpose of this article, they also surround us in our very own LDS Church.

 Who Are the Marginalized Mormons?

To follow Christ’s mandate, it’s certainly appropriate that we start with our own ‘fellow citizens in the household of God.’  We, as Saints, should minister to marginalized members.  Various categories of ‘the least’ are listed below.  Of course, this is not a comprehensive compilation.  It includes those who many of us are concerned about at present.

  1. Those in Extreme Slavery. Details below.
  1. Our LGBT brothers and sisters.
  1. Children of LGBT married couples.
  1. Families headed by single parents, especially by single mothers.
  1. Members with questions, doubts and transitioned faith.

Are LDS Men Marginalized?

Let me ask 2 questions.

Would you consider those in SLAVERY to be marginalized?

Would you consider those in EXTREME SLAVERY to be marginalized?

Hopefully, most would answer YES to both queries.

SLAVERY?  I don’t know anyone in this condition.  But, I would put them squarely in the category of “the least of these.”

SLAVERY in the EXTREME?  What is that?  Who are they?  It turns out that I know many, many men in this unfortunate state.  Today, I view them as marginalized in the EXTREME.

So, who among us are bound by the fetters of EXTREME SLAVERY?

Consider this citation from an early and official church publication—The Millennial Star.  Many ascribe this quote directly to Joseph Smith.

“We have heard men who hold the priesthood remark that they would do anything they were told to do by those who preside over them — even if they knew it was wrong.  But such obedience as this is worse than folly to us.  It is slavery in the extreme.  The man who would thus willingly degrade himself should not claim a rank among intelligent beings until he turns from his folly.  A man of God would despise this idea.”

Do you know anyone in Extreme Slavery?  Members who would do anything their leaders tell them to do—even if they knew it was wrong?

Early church doctrine designated such obedience as degrading.  IT IS!!!

“A man of God would despise this idea.”  I don’t qualify as a ‘man of God.’  But, I do despise the idea of doing anything I am told, even if it’s wrong.  Thus, I claim my rank among intelligent beings.

Based on this early church definition of “slavery in the extreme” there are myriad members who are marginalized by being in this ‘degraded’ condition.

Good Samaritan

Ministering to the Marginalized

The list of “the least of these” within the church continues to grow.  Many of us have been actively speaking and looking out for those in categories 2-5.  Now, I add category #1—those in EXTREME slavery.  Likely the biggest marginalized group that surrounds us at church.  One more parcel of people to stand up for with our votes of disapproval.

The Man Who Voted Opposed

general_conference_crowd_outside

General Conference

Every six months, the LDS (Mormon) Church holds a much anticipated General Conference.  All around the world, members tune in to watch and listen to the pronouncements of their highest leaders.  Tens of thousands travel to Salt Lake City to witness the proceedings in person.

The Conference is composed of 6 two-hour meetings.  A cherished part of the Saturday afternoon session is the Sustaining of Officers.  The names and positions of the General Authorities are presented to the membership.  An up or down vote is called for.  Members may sustain, abstain, or oppose.

Almost always, the voting appears unanimous.  However, this trend is changing.  At the October 2015 and April 2016 conferences, opposed votes were clearly registered in the confines of the Conference Center.  The numbers were few.  But the votes of disapproval were noted by the leadership and all who were viewing.

October 2016

This fall Conference was historic by modern standards.  The sustainings were conducted on Oct 1st. The tally:  sustain–almost all.  Opposed–267!!!   You can see their names HERE.  This is a huge number.  I and my wife were 2 of the 267.

Going against the consensus is NOT easy.  There are hundreds of thousands of members–including many less active members–who would like to vote opposed.  However, there is fear associated with negative voting.  Our current LDS culture stigmatizes honest and open disagreement, especially in a Conference setting.  This must change.  It was Jesus Himself who mandated that “ALL things MUST be done by common consent.”  It’s His church.  Eventually, the stigma against following His directives in His own church is going to disappear.

The Lone Man…Adam

Out of the intrepid 267, only one person actually cast his opposing vote in the Conference Center itself on October 1, 2016.  This article is written to tell his miraculous story.  For the time being, I’ll call him Adam.

Adam is a faithful, believing member.  He currently serves as a counselor in his bishopric.  Like many in the church, he has had concerns in recent years regarding the church’s treatment of LGBT people and its involvement in political contests regarding LGBT issues.  When the November 2015 anti-gay policy came to light, he was mortified.  Vehemently opposed, he discussed it with his Bishop and Stake President.  They counseled him to pray and “gain a testimony” of its divine origin as a revelation, despite the fact that it has never been presented to the membership for ratification as such.

By the time October Conference had arrived, Adam’s own conscience–as well as what he felt to be the promptings of the Holy Ghost–drove him to the decision to vote opposed in person.  He was unsuccessful in obtaining a ticket prior to leaving home.  Undaunted, he hugged and kissed his loving and supportive wife, jumped in his car and drove many hours, crossing multiple state lines to Salt Lake City.  No ticket.  Only hope and a prayer.  During his long drive, Adam prayed.  He asked Heavenly Father that if it were His will that he should follow his conscience and express an opposing vote in the Conference Center,  that an admission ticket would somehow be provided.

Outside the Conference Center, he observed many people asking others if they had spare tickets.  Adam even ventured a few inquiries.  It soon became evident that this method was doomed to failure.  He was directed to the standby line.  Hundreds were ahead of him.  He offered another prayer. “If it’s Thy will that I vote opposed, please provide a way in.”

Time was passing.  Hope was fading.  The long line discouraging.

The Miracle

Then it happened.  A young woman approached.  Hand extended, she asked, “Would you like a ticket?”  With hundreds waiting in hopes of getting in, the mystery matron picked Adam.  He counted it as an answer to prayer.  A sign that God was sustaining him and his un-sustaining vote.  A Miracle.

The Vote

Adam was seated.  The session was about to start.  This humble and considerate man gently tapped the person in front of him.  He quietly informed all seated around him of his plans to voice an opposing vote.  No one seemed alarmed.  Rather, the advance notice was received with appreciation and kindness.

President Eyring conducted the sustainings.  Adam voted disapproval 3 times:  to the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and to their being sustained as prophets, seers and revelators.  His was the lone voice that echoed throughout the Conference Center.   In front of 22,000 other attendees.  In front of millions, the world over.  As he did so, he felt come over him a great feeling of love for those 15 men and a great feeling of sorrow for the situation that had led to that heartbreaking circumstance.

But Adam was not really alone.  Remotely, 266 others joined him that day. Modern history was made.

Adam, my friend, my hat is off to you.  I commend you for your integrity and courage.

Opposed to What?

Adam–and most of those voting with him–are NOT opposed to the prophet and apostles, per se.  We understand that, just as in other types of elections, once the results are tabulated, every participant–the yeas and the nays–can and do sustain in good faith those who receive the sustaining vote of the people, according to the Law of Common Consent.

Adam is not opposed to the church.  He’s not opposed to the Restoration.  He’s not opposed to the leadership.  In fact, he loves the church with all his heart.  He loves and respects the leadership.  He made an exhausting, weekend-long drive with only a slim hope of being admitted to Conference.  A poignant demonstration of his love and commitment to the church, Jesus, and a marginalized community.

What he IS opposed to–vehemently so–is a policy.  The November 2015 policy labeling gay couples as apostates and excluding their children from Priesthood ordinances.

According to church doctrine and by divine mandate (D&C 28:13), “policies, major decisions and other things that affect the lives of the Saints” must be accepted by the Common Consent of the membership.

In today’s church, NO “policies, major decisions and other things that affect the lives of the Saints” are being presented to the church body for approval or disapproval.  For members committed to living by the Law of Common Consent, the only option appears to be voting opposed to those who control the voting practices.

Consequences

Adam has concerns that actions may be taken against him.  He’s concerned that he may be released from his calling.  It’s ludicrous that any punitive consequences could even be a consideration.  Jesus has commanded the apostles to ask the members for their opinion.  An honest answer deserves commendation not condemnation.  His local leaders’ responsibility is to listen and pass his concerns up the line.  Not to listen,  pass judgment and punish him back in line.

But, Mormon culture may not be there yet.  Our church needs more faithful, serving, believing Saints just like dear Adam.

Are You Opposed?

If you are a member of the LDS church.  If you are opposed to “policies, major decisions and other things that affect the lives of the Saints,” especially, policies that have never seen the light of Common Consent, then consider voting your true opinion and feelings.

Make next April another historic conference.  By then we WILL be more than 267.  Can we be….2,067?  Or….20,067?  Or….?

Common Consent is the Law of God and the Law of the Church. It’s up to you and me, the common members, to make Common Consent the common rule of Christ’s church.

You have a voice.  Please don’t leave without speaking up.  Stand up for what is right. Speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves.

Take the step of publicly registering your disapproval on the Register of Common Consent, HERE.

Other Resources

  • Information on LDS.ORG regarding Common Consent, click HERE.  Please take note of this paragraph:  “Not only are Church officers sustained by common consent, but this same principle operates for policies, major decisions, acceptance of new scripture, and other things that affect the lives of the Saints.”
  • Scriptural information about Common Consent, click HERE.
  • Disturbing membership Trends, click HERE.
  • Do We Love Jesus Enough?, click HERE.
  • The Only True Hope for The Only True Church, click HERE.
  • My personal sadness over my friends and family leaving, click HERE
  • Common Consent Register—A Record of Those Who Disapprove click, HERE.

Dear Bishop and Stake President…


imageFor those Voting Opposed In LDS General, Stake & Ward Conferences

Policies, major decisions, and other things that affect the lives of the Saints, are MANDATED to be presented for a vote at conferences.  Today, this law is not being followed.  As a result, I have decided to vote in disapproval (opposed) to the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles.  They are solely responsible, both for the church policies and for the mismanagement of not putting crucial matters up for a vote.

If you are disposed to vote disapproval, I recommend an email communication be sent to your local leaders informing them of your vote.  This should be sent around the time of the conference in question.  Personally, I think it’s best to vote with our HAND during the conference and then to send the email.  However, sending the letter without attending the session, is a perfectly fine and honorable choice.

I also recommend that you sign the Common Consent Register—A Record of Those Who Disapprove.

Email Examples

Following are examples of e-mail communications that can be sent to your local leaders.  Feel free to use for ideas, templates or outright copying.

Simple

Dear Bishop_____ & President_______,

At General Conference today, I voted opposed when the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles were presented.  I’m not necessarily opposed to these men serving in their respective callings.  However, they have introduced polices of which I  firmly disapprove.

I would be happy to discuss details of my concerns with you.

Please register my disapproving vote through whatever channel the church uses with respect to the law of common consent.

The church does much good.  I believe it can be much better.  Jesus has commanded the church leaders to ask for my opinion 4 times a year.  I have prayed, searched and pondered . . .  a lot!!  For many reasons, I believe and feel that it’s important to my Savior that I give a true and honest opinion when asked.

Thank you for your unselfish service to the Lord and the members in our area.  I know that you spend countless hours in your calling.

All My Best to You and Your Family,

Detailed

Dear Bishop_____ & President_______,

At General Conference today, I voted opposed when the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles were presented.  I’m not necessarily opposed to these men serving in their respective callings.  However, they have introduced polices of which firmly I disapprove.

In the recent past, a new policy was announced regarding children of married same-sex couples.  I disapprove of excluding these children from the blessings of the gospel.  Inside my heart, here’s how I’m feeling.  The policy damages families, traditional and non.  Families have been driven out of the church, both traditional and non.  Our gay children have been hurt.   There are now reports that the message this policy sends is so hurtful that suicides have resulted.  Jesus said that we will be judged on how we treat “the least of these.”  Punishing “the least of these” is wrong.  We are denying baby blessings, baptism, the Holy Ghost, the priesthood, and the temple to the “the least of these.”  That doesn’t square with the teachings and example of the Savior.  I don’t believe this is what Jesus would want done in His church.

I would be happy to discuss details of my concerns with you further, if you’d like.

Please register my disapproving vote through whatever channel the church uses with respect to the law of common consent.

Our church does much good.  I believe it can be much better.  Jesus has commanded the church leaders to ask for my opinion 4 times a year.  I have prayed, searched and pondered . . .  a lot!!  For many reasons, I believe and feel that it’s important to my Savior that I give a true and honest opinion when asked.

Thank you for your unselfish service to the Lord and the members in our area.  I know that you spend countless hours in your calling.

All My Best to You and Your Family,

Here’s The Letter I Sent

I didn’t go into detail of the policies I disapprove of, as we have already discussed them at length:

Hi _____ & ______,

Just wanted to let you know that I voted in disapproval during conference this weekend.

I am not actually opposed to the first presidency or the apostles. Since they are not putting up major policies for common consent, my opposition to those polices is expressed when sustaining those who control the process.

My two issues are common consent and the exclusion policy for children of gay couples.

I loved many of the messages at this conference. It’s the best that I can recall. President Monson may be frail, but what a powerful communication he delivered!

I haven’t made a tally, but it seemed like concern over people leaving the church was a common thread. I would prefer that this wasn’t happening. But, it gave me super validation for the path that I’m on.

The work I’m doing can be and frequently is misunderstood. Sharp criticism from both active members and those who have left the church. My entire objective is to help both those in and out.

To those in and are questioning or about to leave?  We explore options of finding ways to stay. The problem here is that most people that I talk to have already made the decision to leave. Somehow, we need to find a forum where members can discuss before they’ve already reached their conclusions.

To those who have left?  Well, here’s the problem.  We are creating an army or enemies. Enemies who know and exploit our many, and uneccessary, weaknesses. Those who have left should be our friends, not our enemies. They seek validation, connection, and healing. These are good people.

Today, there are 12.5 million inactive and former members. Our 5 million active members are vastly outnumbered. 70% of Mormons are either resigned or inactive. And…we keep creating more disaffected, disappointed and disillusioned people for the other side. Not to mention the anger that often accompanies faith transitions.

Yet, I have now witnessed these good, formerly active members respond to love, friendship and understanding. A few weeks ago, a Relief Society president and High Priest group secretary came to the Talkeria. They were looking for suggestions on how they could reach out to those who are questioning or have left. Wow! Also in attendance were 4 resigned or about to resign members. One of the “about to resigns” had been his ward’s HP group leader as recently as last March. Hidden history, doctrine, and current policies pushed him, his wife and his 4 children out. What an amazing discussion we had!!! Our “enemies” helping local leaders of the church in which they no longer believe.

Things have got to change. Our leaders in SLC know it. They are working on it. They’re in a really tough spot. Things actually boil down to what is being done in the trenches. I’m digging trenches as fast as I can.

Thanks for all that both of you are doing in service of the Savior and especially for my friends.

All My Best, Sam

Other Resources

The Only True Hope for the Only True Church

Jesus Pleads His Case for Common Consent

Do We Love Jesus Enough to…

A Resister for Disapproval (Opposition)

LDS Website on Common Consent

Final Note

I know this takes great courage.  Every step of the way can be scary.  Raising your hand alone, all by yourself?  I know it’s scary.  I’ve now done it at each conference level this year.  Big fat butterflies every time.

Sending an email to the stake president…yeah that can be real scary.  But, how scared do you think the gay children are who are still hiding in the pews?

Putting your name on a public register of disapproval…scary?   You bet.  It scared me, too, when I hit the submit button two days ago.

There are many in our midst who are at risk and cannot speak up.  We are standing up, voting out, putting our name on the line for those who cannot fight for themselves.

“May we maintain the courage to defy the consensus.  May we ever chose the harder right.”  And that’s just what we are doing here.  Standing up for the marginalized, for the “least of these,” IS a noble and just cause.

Godspeed. Godspeed.  Godspeed.

 

 

Do We Love Jesus Enough To…..

voting-opposedDo we love Jesus enough to…. stand up for what we believe is right?

Do we love Jesus enough to….stand up for the marginalized in our very midst?

Do we love Jesus enough to….stand up for those in our midst who are in danger?

Do we love Jesus enough to….be honest when Jesus asks for our opinion?

Do we love the church enough to….stand up and protect it as Jesus has designated?

Do we love the church enough to….participate in its governance as Jesus has designated?

Do we love the apostles enough to….be honest when they ask for our opinion?

Finally, do we love Jesus enough to….to follow Him?

General Conference

On Saturday October 1st, a very special event will occur.  At the general conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Law of Common Consent will be put into practice.  This is a sacred opportunity for all members of the church to express their “approval” or “disapproval.”  (D&C 124:144)

This divine system of governance in the kingdom of God was declared by the Savior Himself.  In Doctrine & Covenants 28:13, “For ALL things MUST be done in order, and by common consent in the church.”

Can a person hold an office in the church without the consent of the people?

Nope.  “No man can preside in this Church in any capacity without the consent of the people. The Lord has placed upon us the responsibility of sustaining by vote those who are called to various positions of responsibility. No man, should the people decide to the contrary, could preside over any body of Latter-day Saints in this Church.” –LDS Website

Who should nominate the officers of the church?

“It is not the right of the people to nominate, to choose, for that is the right of the priesthood.” –LDS Website

Does Common Consent apply to more than just church officers?

Oh yes, so much more!!!   “This same principle operates for policies, major decisions, acceptance of new scripture, and other things that affect the lives of the Saints. (see D&C 26:2) LDS Website

And, there is the sticking point.  Today, no policies, no major decisions, not anything that affects the lives of the Saints are being presented nor accepted by common consent.  If we are opposed to any of the above, the only real option seems to be voting opposed to the general leadership.  Someday that will change.  Eventually, the membership will no longer tolerate disobedience of this plain and precious law of God.

If You Support Everything The Church Is Doing…

Please, carefully consider your vote.  A vote to sustain the prophets and apostles is a great way to vote.  I commend & support your action.

If You Generally Support Everything, But Have Concerns…

Please, carefully consider your vote.  Whether you abstain or vote in approval, good for you.  Your opinion is important to the governance of Christ’s church.

If You Have Major Issues with Policies “That affect the Lives of the Saints

Please, carefully consider your vote.  The unanimous votes that are recorded at General, Stake and Ward Conferences are sending a clear signal to SLC and to the general membership that “all is well in Zion.”  However, many feel that all is NOT well in Zion.  That includes me.

Jesus’ system of church governance addresses practical concerns.  Common Consent helps prevent errors, correct errors, provide accountability and put a check on “Unrighteous Dominion.” (D&C 121:39)

Besides practicality there is another side of Common Consent.  To me, this law is one of the most beautiful in our entire canon.  Most commandments are like:  “Do this…Do that…Don’t do this…Don’t do that!”  Oh…but this law is more like:  “Sam, you are of great worth.  I value your opinion.  I value your critical thinking.  I have commanded the apostles, whom I have put in place, to ask for your input.  When they do, please be honest.  I’m trusting and relying on you, Sam.”  When I consider how the Lord Jesus has set up the governance of His church, a tear of joy graces my eye.  He loves, respects and values each of us and our opinions.

If You are Opposed, I Encourage you to Vote Your Opinion

First, I know that many are constrained by fear.  Fear of family, friends, or business repercussions.  Those are legitimate considerations.  It’s an unfortunate element of today’s LDS culture that prevents full participation in the Law of Common Consent.  Your silence is understandable and certainly an honorable path.

Now, to the group in which I find myself:  Those who oppose and are willing to fully engage in the divine process of church voting.

Please, carefully consider casting a vote.  This is general conference (GC) and is the easiest of all the conferences.  The voting session occurs Saturday afternoon.  Here’s how you can effectively vote.

  • Attend GC in Salt Lake City.
  • Watch GC in your stake center or local chapel, if conference is broadcast there.
  • Watch or listen to GC in your home.
  • MOST IMPORTANT:  After the Saturday voting session, send an email to your bishop and Stake President.

Questions and Concerns

Do I have to spend time composing an e-mail?  Not necessarily.  Click here for examples.  Take ideas from it.  Modify it.  Or flat out copy it.

How will anyone know that there are actually members opposing?  Great question.   A Common Consent Register has now been created.  In this document you can record your name as having voted OPPOSED or planning to vote OPPOSED.  For many it is a scary experience…putting their name in full view of the public.  Certainly, it is a worthwhile cause to stand up for what we believe and to speak out for those who can’t speak for themselves.

What are the risks?  There shouldn’t be any risks to obeying a commandment from Jesus Christ in the church of Jesus Christ.  But, the risk is real.  I’ll address that in a blog post coming in the next few days.

Will I be asked to meet with a church leader?  It’s likely that the stake president or bishop will want to discuss with you.  That should be a very good thing.  It gives you the opportunity to explain your position.  In an ideal church, your opinion would be forwarded up the chain.  If a significant number of members engage in common consent, vote tallies will be taken seriously.  In the ‘risks’ posting, I’ll give some ideas for the interview with church leaders.

My Hope & Prayer

I love my church.  The church of my child and adulthood.  The church of my forefathers, my parents, my children, my grandchildren.  It’s a good church.  It’s the church of Jesus Christ.

I pray that good men and women all over the world will raise their hands and express their sincere and true opinions.  Jesus is counting on us.

I wish you Godspeed in this vital voting opportunity.

Whizzing in the Wind

***Warning—Do not read if you are queasy about bodily fluid descriptions***

catamaran

Last week, I took my son-in-law and two young grandkids sailing.  The weather was picture perfect.  The sky was overcast, making for an uncommonly pleasant temperature.  Low humidity.  No rain.  Manageable wind speed…that wouldn’t frighten the little ones…or the big ones.

My son-in-law, Marshall, is determined to master the fine art of sailing.  Most of the day he was at the helm.  Did a great job.  As the captain, he managed everything.  The jib, the tiller, the mainsail, the commands….and even the capsizing.  That’s right, he tipped us over.  Of course, we blamed it on….Benson, our intrepid three year old passenger.  As we joked that it was all his fault, he quickly and proudly claimed the credit.  Tipping a catamaran over can be traumatic to kids with no sailing experience.  But, Benson was totally unfazed.  Bright-eyed and smiling wide, he played in the swells as Dad and Granddad worked to upright the boat.

At one point, we were about an hour away from the beach.  My little three year old grandson said to his dad, “I need to go potty.”  Dad calmly replied in almost a whisper, “Let’s use the stealth method.”  My six kids were all girls.  So, I wasn’t sure what the stealth method was.  I assumed it meant to go into the bushes.  Well, in the middle of Galveston Bay, there are no bushes.  Holding onto the windward shroud, little Benson stood up and started fumbling awkwardly with his clothes.

OK!  Now it was time for the experienced sailor to jump to the rescue.  From sad and comical experience, I know what happens when any fluid is flung into the wind.  Moving air is merciless.  It flings the fluid right back onto you and anyone else behind you.  Marshall and I were both downwind.

Before any unfortunate accident could occur, I moved the little one to the back of the trampoline on the leeward side.  Now, Benson could water the seawater without the captain and his coach being splattered.

Pissing Into the Wind

Yesterday, I met a good friend for lunch.  He’s a member of my ward (Congregation).  I really like this guy.  Have a great deal of respect for him.  He was my very first bishop  when I moved to Houston 40 years ago.

We got talking about the state of my faith and my current activities.  He was very complimentary about the Talkeria.  He feels it is a great example of following Christ’s commandments to reach out in a spirit of love and charity.  Coming from him, it meant the world to me.

But, he also had a caution.  He said this, “Sam, what you are doing, by voting opposed, is just PISSING INTO THE WIND.”  I’m not sure exactly what he meant.  But, I’m a sailor.  To me, “pissing into the wind,” brings a certain image to mind.  Not a pleasant image.  An image of bad stuff coming back at you.

Excommunication?

It turns out that this vision of “pissing into the wind” was pretty apt yesterday.  Two people, whom I love and know well, predicted that I’m going to be excommunicated.  I’d heard comments like this before, but not from anyone close.  It hit a little hard.

Now, I don’t think that I’m doing anything to warrant expulsion.  I love Jesus.  I love my church.  I have great respect for its leaders.  It saddens me that so many of my friends and family are leaving or have already left.

So, I may be “pissing into the wind.”  Unfortunate things might come back and bite me.  Never-the-less, my determination and commitment is to follow the teachings and example of Jesus Christ.  If I were be excommunicated for seeking to obey the Savior’s commandments and to keep my temple covenants…so be it.  After all, Jesus, Himself, was executed for his determination to follow the commandments of His father.

Pissing Into the Wind—The Next Steps

Saturday, October 1st, all members of the Church of Jesus Christ will have a sacred opportunity to serve the Lord and His church.  Once again, He will publicly exhibit His trust in the general church membership.  He has commanded the apostles to ask for our opinion….to ask for our approval or disapproval.  In preparation for that pivotal event, here are four steps I plan to take in the next few days.

  1. Post on my blog a call to seriously consider what each of us is going to do when this holy vote is called for.
  2. Compose an e-mail which will explain to my Stake President and Bishop why I voted the way I did.
  3. Post that e-mail here, so others can access, modify, and use, if they so desire.
  4. Compose a petition of sorts. Not actually a petition, but, more like a register.  If a person chooses to vote in disapproval, they could record it here.  It’s likely that only one name will be recorded on the register…mine.  And…that’s just peachy with me.