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.