Monday, September 11, 2017

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.