We would like to answer a few questions and hopefully settle a few matters. Let’s get started:
What is the meaning of the term “Mutual Agreement?”
There have been many prayers asking about this subject, as well as a lot of heartache as people have disputed the definition of this term. In response to prayers and pleadings, the Lord answered with a definition to Denver. He defines mutual agreement, as used in the Answer to Prayer for Covenant, this way: “As between one another, you choose to not dispute.” Simply put, even if we disagree, if we choose not to dispute, we have mutual agreement. For example, if someone insists that they will not accept any G&S other than their chosen version, those who do not dispute with them still have mutual agreement.
That definition fits well into the text of the Answer, which reads (in part), that we should: “Pray together in humility and together meekly present your dispute to me, and if you are contrite before me, I will tell you my part.” It appears that sometimes it takes a while for a group to become sufficiently contrite. This definition also will hopefully allow for us to reach a conclusion on this effort sometime in the near future. We will post an update on next steps for the inclusion of a final G&S once the current effort to gauge the body’s reaction is completed.
August 5th Document: Why was it not taken to the Lord for His approval after the majority vote?
A couple reasons, but primarily because we felt He approved it at our meeting. Everyone who stayed through the prayer at the end felt that way. This meeting was miraculous in many ways, as we were joined by a host of people who wanted to get involved but who had not been involved before and yet able to come to agreement on the document.
However, there were some people who strongly expressed their disagreement with the document. We thought about the parable of the pass, and we did not want to rush and force something through in the current state of affairs. Ultimately, after we were given the Lord’s Answer, we wanted to wait and see how taking the covenant would change people. The Lord said that, “if [our] hearts were right…[we] could have finished this work long ago.” A light thing indeed, to get our hearts in order. ;) We believed—perhaps a little naively—that people would have a change of heart after taking the Covenant in Boise and would accept what was already put forward. That didn’t happen, so we decided to wait and see. The committee in general, and Jeff in particular, resolved to try and support any public effort to write a G&S (please read his recent post to see how that has gone for him). This process has been good for all of us. The Lord’s words to not return to Him void, and this assignment has done a lot of good for our hearts.
There is a rumor, spread by those who claim to be “in the know,” that the reason the August 5th document was not taken to the Lord was because “the scripture committee realized that the Guide & Standard was supposed to go in the scriptures, and because Jeff wasn’t a prophet he couldn’t write something that would go in the scriptures.” That is, simply put, false. If you want to know our thoughts on the matter, please see the Preview edition of the scriptures. :)
Now, if your question is “Why did Denver not take it to the Lord for His approval?”, then that’s a separate issue. We didn’t do that because, A) that is not listed as a requirement in the Answer, B) we did not believe that we had ‘mutual agreement,’ which was a requirement before the document was added to the scriptures, and C) we weren’t sure if this would qualify as Denver “participating”, and we didn’t want to invite him to be disobedient. We are trying to avoid the inevitable “darkening of the mind” that comes with too much reliance upon one man.
Is the Guide & Standard to be considered scripture? Will it be a part of the Covenant (Question 2)?
The Question in question reads: “Do you have faith in these things and receive the scriptures approved by the Lord as a standard to govern you in your daily walk in life, to accept the obligations established by the Book of Mormon as a covenant and to use the scriptures to correct yourselves and to guide your words, thoughts and deeds?”
No; the Guide and Standard (whichever one is ultimately adopted) will be placed in an appendix at the end of the Teachings and Commandments. While in the scriptures, it need not be viewed as scripture and “binding” (whatever that means). That was a big revelation to us. We learned that for the first time in mid-August, which we thought we had clarified…we dropped the ball on that one. This new understanding was a major factor in our decision not to include the G&S as a part of the vote we took on Saturday to approve the Old and New Covenants, along with the Teachings and Commandments, as our scriptures. We find it interesting that the Lord would declare that “The records you have gathered as scriptures yet lack many of my words, have errors throughout, and contain things that are not of me,” and yet the Lord would ask us to “receive” them as a “standard to govern [us] in [our] daily walk in life,” and “the use the scriptures to … guide [our] words, thoughts and deeds.” That sounds familiar. Is He hinting that even an imperfect statement of principles would be sufficient? If it is NOT a part of the covenant, and not a requirement for future covenant holders to accept, that suggests to us that this really is a light thing.
What is to be done?
We are not in control of that. It is interesting to note that those who claimed we would be rejecting God’s words if we rejected the Original (or other, more recent documents) are now on the other side of the debate. Now, those who feel like they cannot support the products of the “Lotsters” are told that they are rejecting God’s words. We don’t feel like either is necessarily the case. Did God call the 7 on the scripture committee? Probably. There is evidence to support that. Did he call the 7 Lotsters? Probably. There is evidence to support that. But does that mean you must accept the Original or be damned? (Though an argument could be made that our progress has stalled…) No. What about this recent Guide & Standard? No.
God’s ways aren’t necessarily our ways, and we on the committee were unwilling to force others to make the choice to accept one version or be cast out from the people. We are still unwilling to consider that. We don’t feel like rejecting any of the offerings constitutes rejecting Christ or His words. Whether you can or cannot support any of the documents, we hope you will still continue to fellowship with us. We draw no lines in the sand.
Revelation should not be used as a trump card. We still need to learn how to respectfully disagree. It appears that we haven’t learned that yet, so the scripture committee is playing the same role we played before. We are waiting on the Lord for further light and knowledge, and for our hearts to get right, before we finalize anything. In the meantime, this process has led to many more broken, softer hearts, than we had eight months ago. We consider that a victory. While we are still in limbo, it is worth considering that persuasion does not consist of saying, “God told me X is true.” Quite the opposite, in fact, as God appears to answer us according to our desires. In the past we have received many messages saying “God told me X,” when we had been told the opposite. The Lord speaks to this issue in the Answer. We invite all to go and study that amazing revelation.
While we are on this topic…what is light? A wave? A particle? Life-giving substance? Disinfectant? Collection of smaller rays, strings, etc.? Or is it knowledge? Intelligence? Christ’s life-sustaining influence that allows us to think and move and breathe? Is it love or happiness? It does reduce depression… Is it merely something to see by, or a source of warmth?
As demonstrated by this exercise, the meaning of light depends on what kind of being you are (animal or plant), what kind of instrument you are using, and the current state of your environment. Yet…are they not all light? If something so fundamental to life can be so different depending on the person and situation, can we not all agree that any one (or all) of the G&S assignments may be very difficult for someone to swallow? Let’s figure out how to respectfully disagree.
Hey! Why was the Original ever removed?
To be brief, it was first removed from the website because there was a meeting held with a small group of people and a few members of the committee, where worries were expressed that A) there should not be a proposed statement of governing principles, B) who the hell were Jeff Savage and Michael Hamill, and C) other complaints. At the end, the two committee members present decided to remove the GP from the website scriptures to maintain the peace. More discussions, online and over the phone, continued, and a couple alternate versions were submitted to the scripture committee. At one point, Jeff was told that many people would refuse to take the covenant in September if the GP were included in the project. After much prayer, he felt to call a meeting similar to the constitutional convention, with representatives from each fellowship invited to come and help draft a version of the GP. The three versions were submitted to the group of representatives, and all were invited to pray and decided which version they would use as a base text (following the Constitutional Convention as a guide, where the Madison’s Virginia Plan was first voted on as their base text before they discussed, edited, and voted on the various elements before satisfying the people). All of those who voted, prior to the meeting, voted for the Original as the base text. However, there were many (almost half) who had either not seen the emails, or had asked to join the meeting late, and were not a part of that vote. At least one fellowship wrote in that they did not believe a statement of principles was God’s will. That meeting was long, and many people had to leave early. All of those that stayed, however, felt that God approved of their efforts. We believed that we were done…until vocal opposition arose.
About a month later, another meeting was held to try and resolve the issues with the entire group of representatives. We didn’t fully finish the task during the meeting, and it was very difficult to try and resolve the issues over email. Thus, another meeting was held in Sandy on August 5th, where any and all were invited to attend. Online and in person, there were between 50 and 70 people in attendance, many of whom had never sat in a representative meeting. At the end of that meeting, all were asked if they opposed. None spoke. Then a prayer was offered, and those involved felt that it was sufficient, meaning we were done with the assignment. Again, there was vocal opposition. While discussions were going on about what to do, the Answer to Prayer for Covenant & Covenant were revealed, and suddenly the issue of whether this was even needed was put to rest, as we had a direct command to write a statement of guiding principles. With the additional knowledge that the G&S was not a part of the covenant, we decided, as a committee, to leave the matter until after Boise so that other ideas might flower or we might change as a people. That is where we left it, though we have endeavored to assist every other effort that has come out of the body.
Also, the criteria for an acceptable statement of principles changed when the Lord gave us the Answer: the statement of principles must be written by "you", meaning all of us. Any document not open to contribution by the entire body does not meet this requirement. The original version was written by Jeff Savage and edited by the committee, so it fails that requirement and cannot be considered as an acceptable version by the Lord.
(Oh, and for the technically-savvy, an iOS app will soon be released. Because we are not fully finished editing the Bible text, it should have the finalized version of the Book of Mormon for the time being.)