Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Update on the Statement of Principles

By Jeff Savage and Adrian Larsen

Now that the Statement of Principles project has been going for almost a week, we wanted to give an update about how things are going.

At last count there are around 180 people participating in the forum, discussing the 22 principles that have been posted so far. Some of the principles were pretty polished when they were submitted, while others are going through a refining process. We’re encouraged to see people working together in kindness and respect. Though this is admittedly a challenging process that will require the best of each of us, we have faith that the Lord can and will guide us as we humbly seek to do His will together.


We’ve received some great suggestions for ways to improve the process, and we’ve implemented several changes, based on those suggestions, as follows:

  1. We added a section in the forum to discuss organization of the document--i.e. order, layout, etc. These are important elements if we want to end up with something other than a random list.
  2. We changed some wording on the site to be kinder and more inclusive when people pointed out that some of the wording could be construed as harsh.
  3. We added an appendix with every prior document ever proposed—to be used as source material and ideas for principles to submit. Please feel free to borrow from any of these documents that appeal to you. In the end, we hope the final product will be much like the many iterations of the principles that have been so carefully worked on already. There was much good in each of those documents, and we hope the final result will include the best from them, while letting go of the few items that might divide us.
  4. Next change: We propose lengthening the allotted time for the phases of this project to be completed. Great work is being done, but it’s clear people feel rushed. We know people desperately want this to be finished, but at the same time we don’t want timetable stress to cause unnecessary problems. Therefore, we propose adding an additional week each to both the time for submission of principles, and the time for discussion before final acceptance is offered.

The above changes came about from suggestions offered by others, and we’re truly grateful for the input that has been given to improve this process.

We’ve heard from those who wish they had been asked for input before the process got started. We recognize that concern and can only ask forgiveness for moving forward without seeking input from all. We did so with the realization that sometimes getting started is the hardest part, so we put forth a proposal as a starting point, fully expecting it would need to be adjusted and improved as we moved forward. Such has been the case, and we continue to seek ways to make this process better and improve the odds of success, while working within the framework set out by the Lord in the Answer. We hope people will continue to offer constructive input as we work together.

None of us knows exactly what the final form of this project’s results will be. However, when we study out the Answer, we come away convinced that the Lord desires us to be of one heart before we can become of one mind. Just as in 4th Nephi, where there are several degrees of “no contentions among them,” we believe that the same pattern holds with being of one heart and one mind. This light task invites us to come together—in heart and mind—as a beginning step towards Zion. Yes, we will need light before we proceed. Fortunately, the Lord begins the Answer by telling us how to obtain light:
I have always sought to reestablish people of covenant among the living, and therefore have desired that man should love one another, not begrudgingly, but as brothers and sisters indeed, that I may establish my covenant and provide them with light and truth. (emphasis ours)
We believe all of us want to succeed in doing what the Lord has asked. We’re grateful to work shoulder to shoulder with like-minded people who are working towards becoming of one heart and mind by fulfilling this labor.


One of the most frequent concerns we hear expressed is along the lines that “this project is bound to fail because one person can veto the whole thing.” or other, similar statements. And while that may be technically true, we think it is unlikely to happen, here’s why:

First, each principle submitted goes to a forum for discussion. In the forum, objections and improvements to the principle must be addressed as people work together to come to unity on that principle and how it’s expressed. There is ample opportunity for discussion and cooperation to craft language all can accept. Each principle must have unanimity in its forum to advance to the general statement.

Second, once the general statement is prepared and posted for acceptance, the process will consider each principle individually. Though a person may have an issue with a principle or two, it’s unlikely a single person would reject *every* *single* *principle* without an ulterior motive. We choose to believe—and hope—nobody has the motive and goal of destroying this process. Frankly, to reject every principle would entail rejecting what amounts to the gospel, the doctrine of Christ, and the Lord himself. We hope none among us intend to publicly deny the Christ.

Third, the acceptance process will not be anonymous. If someone has an objection to a listed principle, they will be asked to give their name and explain their objection so we can all understand, and if possible, work together to come to agreement. The idea is to keep working until there is mutuality on each principle, if possible. There need not be anonymity between brothers and sisters in the covenant. Asking people to own and present their concerns is the best way to help resolve them.

Another concern we’ve heard is that mutuality is impossible, except perhaps on the very barest of basics. In response, we would encourage faith and trusting one another. There is much more that unites us than divides us. Remember, all of us in the covenant mutually agreed to a number of important principles already, including what they imply. We really do all agree on a large number principles, or we wouldn’t have taken the covenant. If we focus on the truths we all believe, rather than on past issues, we really can come together.

In the end, this has nothing to do with who is right and who is wrong, or who wins and who loses. All the statements are remarkably similar. If we put together a mutually agreed statement, fulfill the Lords commandment together, and please Him with our efforts, there are no losers. We all win together.

What is Mutual?

We firmly believe this whole process is more about our hearts and our willingness to work together than it is about the final product we produce. That is the purpose of this covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34 LE).  This understanding informs our understanding of “mutual.” As some have suggested we’re misinterpreting the word “mutual,” and that it really doesn’t require each person to agree, we found that various dictionaries yield the following results (with each listing being the first definition of all that are offered):

  • possessed, experienced, performed, etc., by each of two or more with respect to the other; reciprocal:
  • (of a feeling or action) experienced or done by each of two or more parties toward the other or others.
  • directed by each toward the other or the others mutual affection
  • done, felt, etc. by each of two or more for or toward the other or others; reciprocal: mutual admiration
  • Directed and received by each toward the other; reciprocal: mutual respect.

The common word in all 5 of these definitions is “each.” Though we might wish the Lord would give us an easier standard, we believe He used that word intentionally, as a reflection of the degree to which he values every one of us, without exception. If we are to be His people we must each agree to what He asks. We don’t believe He left room for exception or arbitrarily lowering the standard He set.

Notice also that this entails a relationship “toward the other or others.” This reflects the Lord’s desire that we hold each other precious and learn to work together in love and kindness. This assignment is a schoolmaster to change our hearts, and it can succeed because the Lord knows how to do His work. He desires more than anything that we unite.

As was stated by the Scripture Committee report at the conference:
It is difficult for us recovering gentles to swallow the idea that revelation might come from any place, and not just from a sanctioned, government-stamped, central distribution hub. It’s messy, or appears to be. So what do we do? The scripture committee has completed its Guide and Standard, but others apparently also feel called to contribute theirs. 90% of the assembly accepted the scripture committee’s G&S, but is that good enough? 
The answer probably depends on how we define this term: mutual agreement. That term is, of course, the Lord’s and comes from the Answer to the Prayer for Covenant: “I require a statement of principles to be adopted by the mutual agreement of my people.” Let me say a word regarding the term mutual agreement. That word is “difficult.” “Unlikely,” “grueling,” and “essential” also come to mind. It has been pointed out that mutual agreement is more than a majority, more even than reluctant unanimity. It is an interlocking, polygonal, reciprocating latticework of agreement and understanding, where everyone is in agreement with everyone else. Boy-Howdy! How we gonna make that happen? 
How exactly this will be accomplished is unknown at this point. We are not saying that a new statement needs to be written, or that those now opposed will or should simply drop their opposition. We are just pointing out what the Lord has required. And, please believe me when I tell you that none of this has anything to do with acquiescing to a vocal minority, although I imagine that it might look that way to some. 
There are so few of us. We don’t want any to be lost. After a decade of hearing God’s word delivered by his messenger, look how few of us there are. How can we part without making every effort to reconcile opposing views and to come to mutual agreement? If the task requires us to get on our knees again, humble ourselves again, form a committee again (God forbid!), is that too high a price to remain the Lord’s people, and to retain our fellowship? How then do we proceed?
How then do we proceed? We hope this current effort, though imperfect, will prove to be an acceptable answer to that question, and will provide a way for us all to succeed together. May God bless us in this effort.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

A Light Thing

In the world tares are ripening. And so I ask you, What of the wheat? Let your pride, and your envy, and your fears depart from you. 
—Answer and Covenant

We need the Lord’s help for the Statement of Principles project. Some have proposed a day of fasting and prayer, today, Saturday September 23, 2017. I absolutely agree this is a wonderful idea, and I hope many of us will join in.

According to John Pratt, this happens to be the holiest day of the year on 11 sacred calendars. According to Joseph Smith’s translation of Revelation 12, the astronomical sign that appears in Virgo today represents the coming forth of the kingdom of God. This sign, and therefore this day, have existed in written prophecy for nearly 2000 years. This is a big deal, and may be a much bigger deal than we yet realize.

Though none of us may yet know the significance of the sign, and the Lord’s associated doings, we can at least recognize that prophecy is unfolding and the Lord is working and signifying his works with signs in the heavens and on the earth. Whatever happens in association with this sign has important implications for the coming forth of God’s kingdom.

As for the Statement of Principles project, we’re still in a tough place. Three attempts to accomplish the task have been classified by the Lord and David as failures, most likely meaning failures of our hearts, rather than failure of the often-inspired efforts of those who labored over the documents. The fourth attempt resulted in mutual agreement among a small subset of the body of believers, before there was yet a covenant. The vote among the wider body, again before the covenant, resulted in significant division and turmoil.

After the covenant, a new path forward has been proposed, with the goals of including all who care to participate, building on the foundation of the truths we all believe and have accepted by covenant, and overcoming past divisions to reach mutual agreement. Jeff Savage and I wrote at length about the need for, and thinking behind, such an effort—basing our reasoning on the Lord’s clear words in the requirement placed on us all. In so doing, we expressed the opinion that all the past efforts have been useful and helpful to get us to this point, but there yet remains work to be done.

Some are unwilling to give up the past, failed approach, insisting that we double down on that which has divided us. Others question the need for group participation at all, and want to transfer our group responsibility back to a single person. Yet others believe the Lord has asked the impossible and doesn’t actually expect us to be able to agree on anything (despite the fact that we ALL have agreed on a covenant and all it entails.) Numerous voices clamor for attention; some level accusations, others struggle in confusion. Some have changed their opinions multiple times, based on the last argument presented to them.

I don’t list the above as criticism. These are just the facts as they now stand, and they demonstrate our desperate need for the Lord’s guidance. As the Lord said in the Answer and Covenant, “if your hearts were right and you prepared yourselves you could have finished this work long ago.” The fact that it yet remains unfinished, and we can’t even agree on how to go about finishing it, indicates that our hearts are still not right. Not even close. We will know our hearts are right when it becomes a “light thing” for us to work together and come to agreement on truth.
If your hearts were right it was a light thing I have asked. 
Perhaps we shouldn’t assume “light” only means easy. The glory of God is intelligence, or in other words, light and truth. Perhaps, within the Lord’s choice of this word, exists the implication that our hearts must be filled with light in order to be right.

I’m reminded of Joseph Smith’s struggle with a difficult issue, and the approach that solved his dilemma:

While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 
Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.  
At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture. 
God is not the author of confusion. He gives liberally to those who ask. But He requires an eye single to His glory: 
And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things. (T&C 86:12, RE)
Part of having an eye single to God’s glory (and remember, glory=light and truth) involves casting aside previous ideas, preferences, desires, pride, envy, and all else that causes us to seek our preferred answer. We must have a singular focus on God’s light and truth, rather than our own desires.
And save they shall cast these things away and consider themselves fools before God and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them. (2 Nephi 6:11, RE)
Therefore, I intend to cast aside EVERY one of my own desires and preferences for this project, seeking instead to be filled with light and know God’s will for how to proceed. I’m willing to sacrifice my opinions, preferences, and cherished views of what I think is the right way forward, giving it all up in exchange for God’s wisdom. I invite you to join me. It’s been my experience that answers come not by how strenuously I ask, but by how thoroughly I set aside my own desires and open myself to His.

I invite ALL who desire to fulfill the Lord’s commandment in this thing to join in the effort to be filled with light. If this is meant to be a light thing, then let’s get some light! Let us all cast aside our differences and disputations, and come together for a day of fasting and prayer. I would submit this is not a day for discussion, but rather for private, internal reflection. Let it be a day of humility, repentance, forgiveness, and turning to the Lord with our whole hearts.

The God of heaven has promised us the following:
And I, the Lord your God, will be with you and will never forsake you and I will lead you in the path which will bring peace to you in the troubling season now fast approaching. (Answer and Covenant)
That is a promise He cannot, and will not, break. He absolutely will honor it if we will honor Him by humbling ourselves and seeking His wisdom with an eye single to His glory. He will lead us in the right path. Let’s claim that promise by coming together in fasting and prayer. 

And thus we see the great call of the diligence of men to labor in the vineyards of the Lord. And thus we see the great reason of sorrow, and also of rejoicing; sorrow because of death and destruction among men, and joy because of the light of Christ unto life.
—Alma 15:11, RE

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Statement of Principles Process is Live

The proposed process to create and mutually agree upon a statement of principles is now live on www.scriptures.info. All covenant holders are invited to participate.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Statements and Principles, Part 3: A Path Forward

By Jeff Savage and Adrian Larsen

Using the Lord’s words as our guide, and the parameters He has set as our outline, we believe it’s possible to achieve mutual agreement on the statement of principles the Lord has required. In this post, we’ll propose a procedure designed to accomplish this goal. 

This approach is quite different than what has already been tried, and we believe it helps avoid some of the difficulties this project has previously encountered, including inequality, differences of opinion, perceived leaders and followers, and misunderstood intent. It also benefits from inherent simplicity, making this a light thing to accomplish. We offer this proposal with no other desire than to assist in accomplishing the Lords will. We pray you’ll consider this approach with an open heart. 

Step One: Principles

Rather than starting with a finished document and going through an editing process, we propose instead starting with a list of a few, basic principles, individually stated, and posted online as a starting point for all to consider. For example, the beginning principles might include individual statements about faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, and so forth, using the words of Christ as the basis for each principle. 

With these statements listed as a starting point, all covenant holders will be invited to add any additional principles they feel are necessary (and meet the Lord’s parameters for the project.) Each statement should define the principle and explain how to apply or accomplish it in basic terms, adapted to the needs of the audience. We also recommend including scriptural references where more information can be found. 

Everyone will have a voice and all can contribute as equals. Let’s crowdsource the principles. The invitation to all will remain open for a set length of time—say, two weeks. If multiple people submit statements on the same principle, they will be invited to work together with one another to create a single, unified statement of that principle, so there is not duplication. 

Step Two: Agreement

At the end of the time for gathering principles, the online list will be open for evaluation. Each covenant holder will be invited to indicate online which individual principles they agree with. So, for example, if the final list has 20 statements, you are free to indicate individually which of the 20 you embrace as an expression of your faith, and which you do not. 

Those who disagree with a listed principle will be asked to state the reasons for their disagreement—preferably using the Lord’s words and teachings as the foundation for their reasoning. The purpose of asking for this reasoning is that a mere objection without reasoning doesn’t do anything to help us all understand one another, adapt if necessary, and come to mutual agreement on that principle (if possible.) The body of believers may benefit greatly by understanding the viewpoints of those who disagree with specific principles, and may opt to make adjustments, to gain agreement on that principle. Again, all will have a voice and all will be equal in evaluating which principles they accept and which they do not.

We expect this phase to be iterative and conducted by the Spirit for each principle. The Lord has asked us to “reason together and apply” what has been given, and in the case of a dispute, to come together meekly and ask for His part. 

We don’t expect to control this part of the process; rather, in the case of a disagreement, those who disagree and those who agree will be able to come together in person, by email or by video conference, to reason together or take their dispute to the Lord, if necessary. This can be a potentially messy process, so we hope that we will all be able to be “tender with one another,” regard each other with charity, and align our words with our hearts, as Wisdom dictates.  

At the end of this process, hopefully there will be some of the principles upon which all agree. Using the example above, with an original list of 20, perhaps 12 of them will gain mutual agreement and the others must be abandoned. 

At this point, we will have a list of principles upon which we mutually agree, as the Lord has required.

Step Three: Document

A list of principles is an excellent start. The next step will require turning that list into a “statement” as the Lord has required. 

Statement: (n) a communication or declaration in speech or writing, setting forth facts, particulars, etc.

As an act of kindness, to make the list of individual statements into a coherent and unified statement, we propose adding a short introduction and short conclusion at the beginning and end of the document, to help orient future readers to the nature and purpose of the document and what it intends to accomplish. We propose following a similar process as we did for agreeing upon the list of principles—posting a brief introduction and conclusion online, soliciting further input, and finally asking for agreement on the one hand, or reasoning for non-agreement on the other. If changes are needed, they will be made in an effort to obtain mutual agreement. 

When we have obtained mutual agreement on the introduction and conclusion, we will have a finished document that meets the Lord’s requirement for a statement of principles, mutually agreed upon by the His people. 

Step Four: Present it to the Lord*

*Note: The original suggestion that we ask Denver to present the finished document to the Lord may not be the correct way to proceed. Some have suggested alternative approaches, and our best recommendation is that we wait until we have a finished document and then decide if, how, and by whom it will be presented to the Lord. What follows is the original suggestion, preserved here in italics for reference.

We propose asking Denver to present the finished document to the Lord as the product of our labors in compliance with our Lord’s word. At that point we will be able to do so with full confidence that we have all, as one, met the Lord’s standards of mutual agreement, wisdom, kindness and purpose—due to the process we followed to create the document. 

If the Lord approves the document, it will be added to the canon of scripture. No further canonizing vote will be necessary because it will already be the product of mutual agreement of the Lord’s people, as the Lord asked. 

If the Lord doesn’t approve the document, or suggests changes, additions or deletions, we will, of course, do all we can as a unified people to make the document acceptable to Him. It is our firm hope that if we can please the Lord with this “light thing,” He will fulfil His part. Indeed, if we will come to Him, He promises: 
“I will lead all who come to me to the truth of all things. The fullness is to receive the truth of all things, and this too from me, in power, by my word and in very deed. For I will come to you if you will come unto me.” 
And how do we come to Him? He tells us in plain humility how to do so, and it is to unite with each other, and unite with Him:  
“Those who want to come where I am must be able to abide the conditions established for my Father’s Kingdom. I have given to you the means to understand the conditions you must abide. I came and lived in the world to be the light of the world. I have sent others who have testified of me and taught you. I have sent my light into the world. Let not your hearts remain divided from one another and divided from me.”
There are many who worry that the resulting product will be less than what we started out with back in March. It is a legitimate concern. While we believe that what was given originally was inspired of God, we also believe that the Dayspring from on high will accept this sacrifice of a “good” thing (see Moroni 7 RE), because we desire something greater; we desire the promised blessing of a city, long sought-for, “[where] God is not ashamed to be called [our] God.” (Hebrews 11 LE). We believe that our willingness to sacrifice everything is necessary for us as individuals and as a people to gain the faith that will save our souls. 


This approach offers several advantages over prior efforts. 

  • It eliminates the perception of “big” and “little” people, or voices that matter and voices that don’t. All are equal and have a voice. All are welcome to offer their input. As beautiful as a trumpet solo is, only an orchestra composed of many diverse voices can produce true harmony.  
  • It starts with basic principles and uses an additive process to reach the goal, rather than starting with a finished document and using a deductive or editorial process to re-work the document.
  • This approach helps us focus on individual principles and their application, and allows for granular agreement or disagreement, principle by principle. There is no “all or nothing.” Even if the list of mutually agreed principles is short, it will nevertheless be mutual. 
  • It helps us focus on the Lord’s parameters, with the intent of helping, in wisdom and kindness, those who will come after us.
  • It follows the method the Lord used in offering us a covenant. He proposed four, individual statements and asked us to accept them. We desire to follow the same pattern.
  • It is a simple process, easily accomplished through technology, and without the need for committees, lengthy meetings, travel, or any of the problems that have beset our prior efforts. Every covenant holder can participate from wherever they are in the world. 
  • It is a short process that can lead to success in weeks, not months. 
  • And finally, it focuses on that which unites us—that which we all have in common as believers in Jesus Christ and recipients of His covenant, united in His word. We can do this!

A New Understanding

As this project has progressed from the beginning, the Lord has gradually added more light and understanding. For example, at first, the primary assumption by many was that this document was for the purpose of governing our fellowships. But then the Lord added the further understanding that the audience is those of scattered Israel who will come after us, and that mutual agreement among us is required. As Denver said at the conference:
Accepting the covenant is not the final step. Our choices will determine whether we are bitter or natural fruit—that will decide our fate. Just as the ancient allegory foretold, the covenant makes us servants and laborers in the vineyard (v. 61). We are required to, this is from the covenant, “seek to recover the lost sheep remnant of this land and of Israel and no longer forsake them. Bring them to the Lord and teach them of his ways to walk in them.” If we fail to labor to recover them, we break the covenant. 
We have a new calling as laborers in the vineyard. This statement of principles is the beginning of our ministry to the lost sheep remnants. Did you catch that? If we do not fulfill this assignment, we break the covenant.

Moving Forward

We feel to note that this proposed procedure is offered by us and our wives alone; we are not acting under the auspices of the scripture committee, and we have not spoken with Denver about this effort, as the Lord has forbidden his participation. We have each spent a lot of time in prayer over the issue, and believe that this represents a fresh approach to fulfilling the Lord’s requirement. We do not want credit, notoriety, or our names on anything. This project belongs to all of us, and our fervent hope is that by following this proposed procedure, we can all come together and succeed in this task.

We have received permission to facilitate this process by using the scriptures.info website. We anticipate beginning the process and posting an initial “starting point” set of principles there shortly, together with instructions for submission of principles by any who care to do so. From there we propose following the steps outlined above, and pray this approach will succeed.

Hearts in Pain and Unity

We recognize and humbly repent of our errors and pray the Lord will honor our good intentions. We know there are many people on all sides of this issue who have had their hearts broken and their feelings hurt in this process. We realize many believed and hoped this process was finished with the last vote that took place, and find it jarring to consider a completely new approach. We pray the Lord will forgive us all and show us a better way—His way—to have our hearts healed and unified. If we can all receive that gift from Him, then every bit of this arduous process will have been worth it.

To those who may feel inclined to find fault with this proposed process, we would only ask that, if you have suggestions to help improve this proposal, please let us know. We welcome constructive input. If you only have complaints, please consider whether airing them publicly will help us all accomplish the Lord’s will together, as He has asked. 


The Lord has been extremely kind in giving us this opportunity. It is a miracle and a blessing, and we don’t deserve it. He said as much:
“For the sake of the promises to the Fathers will I labor with you as a people, and not because of you, for you have not yet become what you must be to live together in peace.” 
We’re living on the promises given to others. We’ve obtained what we’ve obtained, not because we deserve it, but because Abraham did. Think about that and let it sink in. It’s time to stop living on the promises made to others, and become what we need to become. It’s time to repent. 

When Denver interceded and begged forgiveness on our behalf for our failure, he said the following, regarding the statement of principles:
“We are mindful of the duties expected by you for any people who would claim to be yours, and ask that our weaknesses be forgiven and our own follies and errors be corrected and not condemned.” 
The Lord has promised that if we can take His Spirit upon us by loving each other and working together, then great things are in store: 
Do my works and you will know my doctrine; for you will uncover hidden mysteries by obedience to these things that can be uncovered in no other way. This is the way I will restore knowledge to my people.
The Lord has answered Denver’s prayer with miraculous correction in the Answer and Covenant. How merciful! How kind! How we ought to rejoice in our God! He has given us a beautiful opportunity in the statement of principles assignment; He has used very specific words and given us very specific instructions that, if followed, will change our very hearts. Let us humble ourselves, honor His word, and do as our Lord has asked. Let us repent. 

“We acknowledge that you have inspired and guided this work by your Spirit. We acknowledge we are imperfect and, despite your inspiration and assistance, we know there are faults and weaknesses with us and therefore we ask for your mercy to cover our weakness.”
—Prayer for Covenant

Monday, September 11, 2017

Statements and Principles, Part 2: The Lord’s Requirements

By Jeff Savage and Adrian Larsen

On May 4, 1834, Joseph Smith and approximately 200 volunteers departed Kirtland, Ohio on a mission that came to be called Zion’s Camp, with the stated intent of reclaiming Missouri lands that had been unlawfully taken from the Saints. As you know, the group marched 900 miles to Missouri, suffered greatly, avoided a battle, and failed to reclaim Zion. By all accounts Zion’s Camp was a failure. 

But the effort had exceptionally important consequences for those who participated. Some bickered, complained, rebelled and showed their true colors during the march. Others became committed loyalists to Joseph Smith and the gospel. Some died. Others left. But by facing this hardship, those who remained loyal learned valuable lessons that prepared them for future assignments. Upon returning to Kirtland, Joseph Smith organized the Quorum of the Twelve and the Quorum of the Seventy, primarily from those men who had proven faithful in Zion’s Camp.

Therefore, though the effort failed in its stated purpose, it did not fail in the Lord’s purpose, which was to prepare a core of believers for greater assignments that lay ahead.

Kirtland Now

Our current situation holds many parallels to the difficulties that faced the early LDS church. The trajectory of the Remnant Movement seems to closely track the early church, and most particularly the Kirtland days. The assignment to create a statement of principles is no exception. 

The assignment originally came to the scripture committee due to the proposed elimination of Section 20 of the LDS Doctrine and Covenants. Section 20, as you recall, contained not only a basic set of principles for the Lord’s church to follow, but also an org chart of offices and set up a hierarchical system that would be added to in several subsequent revelations. It was designed to control a formal organization with inequality. The assignment to replace it is important, not just for content, but for the abandonment of false traditions.

After coming to mutual agreement that section 20 should be removed due to its hierarchical nature, it was revealed to the scripture committee that a replacement should be written, and that assignment was delegated to one person, resulting in an inspired document. Some flatly denied that any statement of principles was needed in the scriptures, others found faults, offered suggestions, or produced different documents with the same goal of replacing Section 20. As you know, immense time and effort went into multiple meetings, attempts, and votes, all seeking to come to unity on a single document all could accept. 

Great lessons and tremendous blessings have resulted from all these efforts and meetings. Those in attendance testified of miraculous changes as disputes were resolved, hearts were united, and opponents became friends. Like Zion’s camp, though the stated goal has not yet been achieved, tremendous blessings have come from all the efforts thus far on the statement of principles project. These efforts are all good, noble, and undoubtedly part of the Lord’s plan to change our hearts and knock off our rough edges. All that has happened so far should be honored and celebrated.

Perhaps one lesson to take from these efforts is just how deeply rooted our gentile LDS traditions are, and how very difficult it can be for us to unite in following the Lord’s instructions, even in what should be a “light thing.” Undertaking this project has forced us to confront our collective weakness.

Other Works

The Lord gave us a clue about his underlying purposes in having us create this statement:
“I require a statement of principles to be adopted by the mutual agreement of my people, for if you cannot do so you will be unable to accomplish other works that I will require at your hands.”
The performance of this work isn’t just about the final product; it’s about preparing us for other works that yet lie ahead. Like Zion’s Camp, this effort has been arduous; and like Zion’s Camp, it has changed and improved those who participated. 

An Opportunity

As we attempt to march back to the original religion revealed to Adam, Abraham, and the Fathers, it appears we must overcome the stumbling blocks that hampered the progress of the children of Israel in Moses’s day, the Nephites, and the other lost sheep, not to mention the Former- and Latter-Day Saints. One of these is the incident of writing a preface to the Book of Commandments in November 1831. As we know, the saints refused to allow the committee to write the preface, instead requesting that Joseph receive the revelation, which became section 1 of the LDS D&C. With this assignment, the Lord, in His mercy, is allowing us to humbly revisit that scenario until we get it right so that we can gain the wisdom we need to grow into the body of Christ by working together in this assignment.

In the end, we really, only learn in two ways—either by precept or by experience. Learning by precept means we study the scriptures and live by their teachings—which is something the Lord says we haven’t done well at. So in this case, the Lord has given us an assignment to help us learn by experience. He desires a people who are prepared to carry his work forward and labor with Him in the vineyard. This assignment is part of our preparation, if we receive it humbly and complete it faithfully.

Regarding Failure

At Sunday’s conference, Denver Snuffer said the following:

I have been ashamed of us because of recent events. Subsequent to the Lord’s answer we have continued to be quarrelsome, bickering and unkind to one another to such a degree, we certainly must offend the Lord. I thought God would be so disappointed with us that it was wrong to proceed and therefore I prayed to call this off. To my surprise, the Lord did not expect us to do things right at first, He expects us to learn how to do things right. Failure is part of learning…God alone will establish Zion; his instructions are vital and necessary for us…But the path to Zion is to be found only by following God’s immediate commands to us. That is how He will bring it. He will lead us there. There is no magic, there is no sprinkling fairy dust that will take you to where God is. It does not, and cannot happen that way. He will lead us, teach us, command us, guide us, but we have to be the ones who become what He commands. We have to be the ones who do what he bids us do. 

Our efforts thus far have not resulted in the mutual agreement the Lord requires. We could regard this as a failure. But what’s most important is the learning. God did not expect us to get this right at first, but He does expect us to learn from the process. We must be willing to recognize our errors and do things differently--or in other words, repent. To that end, we propose deferring, as always, to Christ’s word. As we move forward in the recognition that the Lord requires this labor of us all, we propose to start with the Lord’s stated parameters for the assignment. 


We first note that the Lord does not give much instruction and correction to the content of prior efforts. Perhaps all versions were equally acceptable in His eyes. We cannot say. However, the Lord does call this assignment a “statement of principles,” which should inform us about what it should and shouldn’t contain. 

Principle: (n): a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning. 

Therefore, the statement needs to be confined to fundamental truths or propositions, and should avoid opinion or cultural interpretation. Though many true statements could be included, we must confine ourselves to that which is fundamental. 

Principles are unchanging, and therefore our statement shouldn’t include things that are true for only our place or time. Any statement that will need revision and change in the near future is not a statement of principles.


The Lord requires “mutual agreement.” Therefore, we must select principles upon which we all can mutually agree. Let’s look outside ourselves for an example:

Go to any Christian church and ask everyone you meet if Jesus is Lord. You’ll find not just unanimity, but also mutuality on that notion. Every person will be tied in bonds of love to every other person in that congregation by that single, joyful proposition alone.

They didn’t take a vote on that, and a majority decided Jesus is Lord, and forced the others to agree. No, they all, individually, personally, agree with their whole hearts. Whatever else may divide them, they are of one heart in that principle.

This is the standard the Lord has set. This is being of one heart! Do you see how much more He wants for us? How He wants to use this requirement to draw us closer to Him and closer to each other? How the humility to try again will bless us all with a much better view of ourselves in relation to God’s standard? 

The Lord wants to make our hearts right. And we can get there with true principles, simply stated. We can all unite around the principle that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. That is a light thing. 

We can easily unite around other principles as well. The Doctrine of Christ. The Lord’s Supper. Marriage. The Covenant. But it will take humility to lay aside that which divides us and instead focus on that which unites. This is the opposite approach to what has been attempted so far. But that’s OK, because what has been attempted so far has not yet succeeded. Therefore, a change of course is warranted and advisable. It is the best possible way to proceed.

All of us who are involved in this effort already agree on a body of fundamental truths, contained in the covenant we have accepted. Therefore, it ought to be a light thing to agree to a statement of those things we have already accepted by covenant.


This statement isn’t so much FOR us, as it is a reflection OF us. It is the common core of our shared belief, and is the seed the Lord has planted, which He expects to grow in our hearts until it becomes a mighty tree bearing the fruit of eternal life. Thus, the Lord has asked that our statement, once mutually agreed upon, be added as a guide and standard. 

When you have an agreed statement of principles I require it to also be added as a guide and standard for my people to follow. Remember there are others who know nothing, as yet, of my work now underway, and therefore the guide and standard is to bless, benefit and inform them—so I command you to be wise in word and kind in deed as you write what I require of you.”  

According to the Lord, this statement isn’t for us to use to govern ourselves or our fellowships! After all that work and love and compromise, we’re not writing something to guide ourselves! Did you get that? The Lord wants us to help others come to where we are. Obviously, we don’t need a guide to tell us how to do the sacrament, or to baptize, or to exercise faith. Hopefully we already know these things. So the Lord expects us to kindly, wisely, guide those who will follow in our footsteps. The purpose of this document is to bless, benefit and inform THEM.

“Seek to recover the lost sheep remnant of this land and of Israel and no longer forsake them. Bring them unto me and teach them of my ways, to walk in them.” 

If our mission is to gather the lost sheep remnants, our statement of principles must be designed around THEIR needs, and not our own. They will not benefit from our cultural blindness, our baggage of tradition, or our gentile notions about how to compete with one another. They will need pure principles, unencumbered with our opinions and biases. They will need truth. It is an act of love and service, not to mention wisdom and kindness, to put aside our own preferences, biases, opinions, desires, pride and envy, and instead focus on them and their needs. This statement is the first step in our ministry to the other lost sheep. 

Those who follow will likely have no understanding of the history and traditions of the gentiles through whom the Lord began this work. He therefore gives two requirements:

Wise in Word

The wisdom of man is foolishness, and truly wise words come from Christ. Therefore, the statement should be sourced from Christ’s words, and not from man’s opinions. 

Kind in Deed

If the goal is to “bless, benefit and inform” those who will come into this movement, we should be kind in considering their needs. Our statement needs to be simple, understandable, and applicable to all. Let’s use baptism as an example. There will most certainly be those who know nothing about baptism, who will need this document as a guide. It should therefore offer a basic statement of the need for baptism, as well as the proper way to perform the ordinance. This is a kindness to those who are trying to figure out what to do. Obviously, many other examples could be given as well. We must be kind so our statement will bless, benefit and inform those in need, without the burden of unnecessary complexity or excess minutiae.


  1. The Lord has laid this responsibility upon us all. Mutual agreement requires equality and voluntary acceptance. We can’t get there by delegating this effort to one person or even a committee. 
  2. The Lord has ensured, through the words given in Answer and Covenant, that we revisit this stone of stumbling until we can get it right. 
  3. This effort is to be undertaken by those the Lord calls His people by covenant. Therefore, those who have not accepted the covenant have no part in creating this statement. This is wisdom in the Lord.
  4. The prior documents and efforts have served valuable and wonderful purposes. We have all learned from this process. But we cannot expect to continue with the same approach and get different results than what we have already achieved. A new approach is required.
  5. In moving forward, we must focus on fundamental principles, simply stated, using Christ’s wise words, and kindly adapted to the needs of those who will come after us. 
  6. Because we have already accepted a number of principles by covenant, we have the advantage of a basic body of principles upon which we all fundamentally agree. 
  7. Mutual agreement, though a high standard, is achievable. If we can align our hearts and minds with God’s on these basic principles, then we will be one. We will then be His. We can do this!

In the final installment of this series, we will propose specific steps we can take as a united group to complete this assignment, reach mutual agreement, and please the Lord. 

Statements and Principles, Part 1: The Lord’s Words

By Jeff Savage and Adrian Larsen

The Answer and Covenant, as it’s currently called, is an astonishing revelation. It provides incredibly important direction to us, for us, in our time. Something this extensive, this important, and this lengthy has not been provided by the Lord in over 176 years. We rejoice in the Lord’s covenant and His direction.

Because this revelation is the most recent, and the only publicly available, statement by the Lord about the assignment to create a statement of principles, and because we have accepted these words by covenant, we feel they are the most relevant, and most useful way to come to understanding regarding this assignment and how to complete it. The Lord’s words, properly understood, can heal hearts, resolve disagreements, and bring unity and guide us to success.

This post, and the next two, will examine the Lord’s words concerning this assignment, then propose a pathway forward to completion. We have worked together and come to mutual agreement with each other concerning what we present here. The path forward, as we see it, will require obedience to God and a willingness to sacrifice everything, even our deeply cherished views. Before speaking of our collective vision, let us first understand what the Lord has asked of us:

“My People”

In Answer and Covenant, the Lord makes specific distinctions regarding groups of people. In some cases, he refers generally to “people” or “the people.” Here are some examples:
“I answer you on behalf of all the people…” 
“As people you lack the ability to respectfully disagree among one another.” 
“For the sake of the promises to the Fathers will I labor with you as a people, and not because of you, for you have not yet become what you must be to live together in peace.”  
“As a people you honor with your lips, but your hearts are corrupt, filled with envy and malice, returning evil for good, sparing none, even those with pure hearts among you, from your unjustified accusations and unkind backbiting.” 
We could add more, but these suffice to make the point: In each of these examples, the Lord refers to us in our current state, at the time the revelation was given. Just people. Nothing remarkable, and in fact, quite broken.

But the Lord also uses “my people” in some cases. For example: 
“I want my people to have understanding.” 
“…for recovering the scriptures does not conclude the work to be accomplished by those who will be my people: it is but a beginning.”  
“I will make you my people and my words will give you peace.”  
“Whenever I have people who are mine, I command them to build a house…” 
“…for there are many things yet to be restored unto my people.”  
“You shall be my people and I will be your God and the sword will not devour you.” 
Again, we could give many more examples. In every case, these references are to people whom the Lord claims as “His.” They are clearly distinct from the prior statements about “the people.” 

So what makes the difference? 

The Lord gives a very specific line of demarcation between “people” and “His people.” It is this:
“I will give to you words to speak to the people to accept my covenant, and you shall read those words to them. Read first to the people these words I now speak, and then read the words of the covenant, and the people who will receive and do my words and my covenant shall then stand and say, Yes.  
“Then by my law and my word they will be mine and I will be with and lead my people onward through the Spirit of Truth…”
Did you catch that? 

Those who have covenanted with the Lord, have become His people—not only by His word, but also by His law. This is a very serious, important, and frankly glorious distinction. It is not a light thing to have the Lord claim and take ownership of you. We ought to consider this very carefully. 

The Lord offers more. Those who have received the covenant “are now numbered with my people who are of the house of Israel.” Being claimed by the Lord changes your very identity, and gives you access to seven incredible statements of promise (see pages 11-12). It’s almost too much to take in! The promises to His people are glorious indeed! Likewise, the obligations placed upon His people are serious. 

Statement of Principles

In this Answer and Covenant document, the Lord addresses His requirement that we produce and adopt a statement of principles, as follows:
“You are not excused from writing a statement of principles that I have required at your hands…I require a statement of principles to be adopted by the mutual agreement of my people, for if you cannot do so you will be unable to accomplish other works that I will require at your hands. When you have an agreed statement of principles I require it to also be added as a guide and standard for my people to follow.” 
First, we should notice in particular whom the Lord addresses in this statement. “You are not excused…required at your hands.” Who is the “you” and the “your” the Lord is referring to?

The Lord answers that question in the very first sentence of the revelation:
“…I answer you on behalf of all the people, and not as to any individual.” 
“…since you seek to unite to become one people I answer you as one.” 
The assignment is given to us ALL, and not to any one of us. All of us are without excuse, and obligated to see this work through to completion. To us, this signifies a change from the original assignment, which came about after I (Jeff) asked the committee about removing section 20. What has since followed is not unlike Zion’s Camp. While arduous, the experience has proven our hearts and taught us wisdom. It has been worth the cost.  

Next, notice that it must be adopted by the mutual agreement of “my people.” Prior to the covenant, the Lord did not claim a people, and therefore the requirement to write and adopt a statement could not be fully met. Considering the Lord’s careful distinctions about who He regards as His, and His warning about invoking His name, it makes sense that we cannot claim to have completed this work before receiving the covenant. As was discussed at Saturday’s conference session, this work is not yet complete. Rather than be led by a man or a committee, it must be done by those He has called His own.

If your Hearts were Right…

Concerning the statement of principles, the Lord said the following:
“…if your hearts were right and you prepared yourselves you could have finished this work long ago.” 
This is interesting because it means two things. First, we could have done this already if our hearts had been right. And logically, what follows is that our hearts are not yet right. Therefore that ship sailed, and the Lord proposed a different solution. It is almost as if the Lord knew what would happen all along.

Because we have not yet succeeded in the previous approach(es), He has now required it to be done by the mutual agreement of His people. This means that, having accepted the covenant and become His people, only now can we attempt to come to mutual agreement on a statement of principles. Notice the very first promise the Lord lists for those who become His:
“Then by my law and my word they will be mine and I will be with and lead my people onward through the Spirit of Truth, the Comforter, the Record of Heaven, the peaceable things of immortal glory, even the Holy Ghost which will abide with them…”
The promised outpouring of the Holy Ghost will assist us to change our hearts and approach this assignment differently than we have before. The effort will require humility, obedience, and the Lord’s guidance, all to a greater degree than we’ve yet been able to muster. This is because the Lord has set the bar very high in the kind of agreement He requires.

Mutual Agreement

The Lord uses a specific word for the type of agreement required when we finally do adopt a statement of principles. It isn’t “majority” or “unanimity” or even “common consent” of my people, though he certainly could have used any of those terms. But he uses “mutual agreement.”
Mutual (adjective): experienced or done by each of two or more parties toward the other or others.
By choosing this word, the Lord demonstrates something very important about His people, and eventually His family. In a “mutual agreement,” each of the parties must agree with each of the other parties. This is not unanimity. It is exponentially more unified than that. If you have a mutual agreement, it means that you agree with every other covenant holder and that every other covenant holder agrees with you—and with all other covenant holders. In a mutual agreement, each person is in agreement with every other person. 

This is the highest form of agreement possible, and is much more than a majority vote. The following illustrations will help shed some light on the differences:

In a majority vote, there are winners and losers. The many rule over the few. If the many choose wrong, the few are forced to comply, or perhaps depart. Majority voting is not a reliable way to determine truth, as it is easily swayed by campaigning, popularity, false traditions and groupthink mentality. The minority are pressured to “get on board” by an argument based on nothing more than numbers. Ultimately, this approach allows the many to abuse the few, and if the few attempt to speak up or press their dissent, they are labeled as rebels, usurpers, or worse. Repression is the inevitable result. Rebellion and division follow. Though this is the world’s way, it is not the Lord’s.

In a unanimous vote, everybody agrees, at some level, with a central idea, which is far better than a majority. But the agreement may not be perfect; it can be coerced, or can be the result of compromise, or even surrender, but in the end the idea is carried and nobody has been disenfranchised. This is a higher level of agreement and unity than a majority, but it still doesn’t meet the standard for the Lord’s people. It tends to prevent rebellion, and is the choice of single-candidate dictatorships everywhere, who routinely win 100% of the vote because nobody dares raise any opposition. 

In a mutual agreement, everyone is united with everyone else—in an equal embracing and understanding of the central idea. Look again at the picture. Do you see the beauty and power of a mutual agreement? Every person’s heart is united with every other person’s heart. Nobody is coerced or marginalized. And there is no compromise—only whole-hearted embracing of the idea that unites all parties in bonds of love. This reflects the beauty, love, equality and unity that are hallmarks of God’s kingdom, and ultimately God’s family. This is how we become of one heart. 

The trouble is, our best, most exhaustive, efforts, have not yet gotten us to the mutual agreement the Lord requires for the statement of principles. Even after hundreds of person-hours and multiple all-day meetings with representatives from many fellowships, our best attempts have only produced a majority vote acceptance. If you look at the illustrations again, you’ll see that’s the lowest level, representing gentile competitiveness and repression of the minority. It is the expected result obtained among a people whose hearts are not right—and there’s no sense denying it—ours are not right. The Lord said so. 

Even this low level of buy-in was only achieved by compromise, surrender, and in a few cases, apathy. This is not what the Lord asked for. Words mean things, and He asked for a mutual agreement. Despite the exhaustive, inspired, and noble efforts of so many thus far, we need to have the humility to admit we have not yet met the Lord’s standard, and further work is required.

Is it Even Possible?

YES! “The Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” (1 Nephi 1:10, RE) There IS a path forward and the Lord HAS prepared a way. In fact, it’s all really amazing and miraculous when we get a clear view of how the Lord has been working with us through this process. 

Our purpose in writing this series of posts is to outline a path forward to mutual agreement. We believe this path avoids the pitfalls and problems that have beset this effort thus far, and offers an olive leaf of equality, understanding and love that will allow us all to come together and complete the work in the way the Lord has asked. In the next two posts we will describe our vision for how we can all accomplish this work together in an attempt to provide a result that is pleasing to the Lord. 

A Light Thing

The Lord said, “If your hearts were right it was a light thing I have asked.” We believe there is an approach that does indeed make this a light thing, easily accomplished. We have discussed it at length and come to mutual agreement between the two of us regarding this path forward. We realize we have no authority and command no allegiance. We recognize this assignment falls equally upon us all and not on any one of us. We only wish to offer these ideas in the spirit of humility, reconciliation, and love, joining with every other covenant holder in a fervent desire to accomplish the Lord’s task, in the way He has asked us to. 

In the next two posts, we’ll outline a framework to understand this assignment, and propose steps to accomplish it.