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 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