Things That Keep Me Awake at Night
Forcing Mutual Agreement
The day after I was excommunicated for “apostasy” from the church I had belonged to my entire life, I attended my son’s arrow of light ceremony for cub scouts, hosted by the same organization that had just severed me from it. In the course of the ceremony, the seven rays of the sun depicted on the arrow of light symbol were explained. The second represented “courage”. The scout master gave this as the explanation: “to stand for what is right, even when no one else will.” Seemed ironic just then.
For many months I was in the same place as many of the majority in this G&S process. I was fine with the first document, the 2 or 3 revisions of the first document, and even the lots document, and didn’t see anything materially wrong with many of the other proposals. I was asleep, just wanting to be done, wondering why people didn’t just go with the majority and complete the assignment. (I am NOT implying anyone else is asleep :) )
I was ready to move on to “seeking to recover the lost sheep.” So, I prayed about how to do that. I was directed to speak with a few individuals that had direct connections to those other sheep.
In the process of seeking to understand someone else’s point of view (see Other Sheep Indeed) I was awakened to some issues regarding our principles and the precedent we are setting for “other works” the Lord will require of us, that we won’t be able to do if we can’t adopt a statement of principles by mutual agreement.
Since awaking, there have indeed been things that keep me awake at night. May I share some of the more “poignant” ones with you?
I believe that regardless of the statement we adopt, the first principle advanced is “how” we came to adopt that set of principles.
The meaning given by the Lord for “Mutual Agreement” is “as between one another, you choose not to dispute.” What exactly are we not to dispute? Does this mean we should not have concerns? Does this mean if we do have concerns we should not air them?
The upcoming vote reminds me of the process in one of the institutions many of us have fled, where to show “Common Consent” the people are expected to not raise a hand in opposition. If they do, they are taken aside and counseled until they either give their consent, or they are seen as “apostatizing” from the group.
What if “Mutual Agreement” was the same thing as “Common Consent”? The words used are synonymous, after all. We are told that the inhabitants of Zion will have “all things in common.” Does this included their consent as well?
In the blog post series entitled “All or Nothing”, Denver explains that “having all things in common” cannot be forced:
“Zion will have ‘all things in common’ but only as a by-product of a larger construct. Without the rest of the social structure, implementing ‘all things in common’ is only a curse, not a blessing.”
“When a society acts on the notion of having ‘all things in common’ as an end, rather than a by-product of a new society, then any project, just like the Nauvoo Temple, becomes almost impossible to complete successfully. This principle cannot be separated from a reordered society. This is why the Lord must bring Zion, because mankind cannot.”
So, if having “all things in common” cannot be the goal, could it be that having “mutual agreement” cannot be the goal? Could it be that having “mutual agreement” is “only a by-product of a larger construct”? Has this “project” not been “almost impossible to complete successfully”?
Many have pointed out that the Lord said, “This was a light thing.” I have heard many of us ask why people cannot “just not dispute” so we can “just be done.” In the A&C, the “larger construct” of this “light thing” is “if your hearts were right.” Is it possible that our hearts are still not right?
Many look at those they believe are “disputing” and say “their hearts are not right.” What if the majority also doesn’t have their hearts right? Are our hearts right if we wish those who have concerns would just go away - self select?
What if the majority were also “disputing”, not just the minority? One of the definitions of the word “dispute” is:
verb “compete for; strive to win”
“Zion, however, is without ambition, competition and aggression.” (DS blog, Pax Americana, 19 April 2010, my emphasis)
What if to “choose not to dispute” meant “choose to work together”, to “not compete” instead of working on competing documents that have to be voted on, or “disputed”?
Read the Lord’s definition again, “As between one another, you choose to not dispute.” Can this be put in other words - “You choose not to dispute between one another”, or further “you choose not to compete against each other”?
As I have discussed these ideas with some fellow covenant brothers and sisters, some have said “we already tried that, and at the end of the night we had ‘mutual agreement’, only to have someone come up with a dispute the next day.’” What if “mutual agreement” can’t be reached in a night? Or a week? If you look at the time we’ve spent laboring together to come up with a set of principles, and compare it to the time we’ve all disputed amongst ourselves, campaigning and voting, what kind of a picture does that present? We’ve probably spent a month total working on the documents, and about 10 more disputing, making up acceptance criteria, and trying to force mutual agreement. What if, instead, we were to meet in council with each other (all who have desires to serve, or feel “called” to this work, in person or via teleconference), and labored on a single document until we had mutual agreement?
My wife grew up in Phoenix, outside what some of the older generation of “Utah Mormons” calls “Zion.” She has always had to stand against the majority - stand up for her beliefs in front of her classes at school - stand alone - even in her own church trial. Now, with this “vote” in Phoenix (actually Gilbert, which does fit in the Mormon “Zion”) she feels sympathy for those who will stand in opposition to a perceived “mutual agreement”, and has considered standing with them in solidarity, regardless of whether she agrees with the content of a particular document.
Joseph Smith said in a letter, “It mattereth not whether the principle is popular or unpopular, I will always maintain a true principle, even if I stand alone in it.”
What if Adrian Larson was right in his comment last Fall? What if “majority rules” is not the way Zion conducts business? What if the example in the Book of Mormon IS illustrating how “majority rules” falls short of Zion? Mosiah said it would be “expedient” to have a king, rather than majority rule, if you could always have a just man to be your king. What if we chose Christ to be our king, and sought His part, His word?
About three and half years ago while at an incipient fellowship gathering, I heard a number floated by someone who would know, as to how many had been baptized into this movement within the first couple of months. It was around 2,000. It was just an estimate, and certainly there have been more added, and some have left the movement. What if that were an accurate number? In the initial votes regarding the G&S there were roughly 400 participants, and approximately 500 for the Lots vote. How many of those took the covenant? God knows. What if there isn’t truly a majority participating?
I have heard some say that those who voted in the Lots process represent “those who care enough” to vote. What if the other 1500 do care, a lot, but are demure because they were turned off by the boisterousness and the arguing of those who care enough to dispute on the websites? What if there are also those who may not be “internet savvy”, who rely on those who are more savvy to get information about the process and votes? What if we haven’t cared enough about them to find ways to involve them and get their input?
The examples given by those advocating a “majority rules” paradigm are the “Council in Heaven”, the children of Israel “voting” to accept Moses’ law, and the 1835 adoption of the D&C. However, each of these instances demonstrates an entirely different paradigm. In each case the decision was made by a higher source, and the people were just giving their “common consent”, or mutual agreement. No “vote” like we are proposing was taken.
Are we more willing to be “done” with this than to seriously consider what may be legitimate concerns by some of our brothers and sisters? Are we more afraid that our Lord is an austere and hard man that we want to hide our talent and be done with it, than to take it to the exchangers, and take time to work it out until we all reach mutual agreement? We’ve disputed, or competed, for nearly a year and are we any nearer to adding a statement of principles?
What if, instead of a vote at the conference we sat down together and began a new process - a new cooperative way of writing a statement of principles - and what if we labored on it, together, until we came to mutual agreement, even if it took a little time? What if, instead of forcing the minority to stand in front of the perceived majority we used the time to adopt a new plan to work on one united document and invite anyone to participate who felt called to participate, until completion?
That would be my vote.
What if a spirit of love and cooperation is what the Lord meant by having our hearts right? “And what is my spirit? It is to love one another.”
If we have a vote in Phoenix, should I vote with the majority in hopes of being “done with the assignment”? Or should I stand with the “minority” - not because I necessarily dispute the content of any document, but because I am not sure of setting a precedent of competition, the process of “dispute” that such a vote represents. I am not yet persuaded that “majority rules” in a society of equals like we are hoping to be. Nor do I dispute other’s revelations, but I have already posted my view on competing revelations.
Just before my wife’s and my church trials, the stake president met with us to give us one last chance to change our position. He went so far as to say we were right, but that we needed to stay with the “main stream”, with the “majority.” We needed to submit to the power structure and go along. He used some of the exact same arguments as I receive from friends in this movement as to why I should “vote” for this.
These are truly questions that keep me awake at night. I feel in large measure like Joseph Smith in 1820. How to act I do not know, and unless I get more knowledge than I now have I will never know. Are these valid questions, or am I just “up in the night”?
- Sam Vaughn, Sr