Well, we’re two weeks into this grand experiment and it’s time for another update. Here are a few items we’d like to share:
- As we mentioned in our last update, some folks reported feeling rushed to get their submissions in. So, it seemed appropriate to add an additional week to the submission period and to the refining period. The new dates are listed in the timeline portion here.
- There are nearly 250 people registered in the ComeServe forum, working on 37 submitted principles. Dialogue has been respectful and productive. Some very good work is being accomplished in the spirit of meekly laboring together to please the Lord.
- We’re looking forward to the next steps in the process—as well as some changes to our original proposal. We’ll explain more below.
We Already Have Mutual Agreement
As we’ve sought to move forward with the Lord’s requirement that we write a statement of principles to be adopted by mutual agreement, we’ve encountered a number of widely varied opinions about how to proceed. Though the various ideas do not all agree with each other and take many, separate approaches, they all have one item in common. Each presumes a certain end point at which they will be done. And the end points are widely varied as well.
In other words, it seems we have yet to agree on what the goal is.
The Lord, as we know, expressed it this way:
But 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.This idea of adopting by mutual agreement has proved challenging. Various proposed definitions of “mutual agreement” have been offered. Some feel the notion that we can ALL agree is too challenging, or perhaps even impossible. Other end points have been proposed.
And mutual agreement of us all is a daunting challenge, to be sure. But the good news is that the Lord isn’t asking anything of us we can’t do. Fact is, we’ve already done it.
Each of us who accepted the covenant, stood and said Yes before God and angels, signifying our acceptance—our mutual acceptance—of the principles outlined in the covenant. It was a light thing, really. All of us read, believed, and accepted the Lord’s words, and did so willingly and joyfully, without murmuring.
That success paves the way for us to complete our first homework assignment as new covenant holders. The Lord has asked us to demonstrate our understanding of the covenant we have all accepted by enumerating and writing the principles it contains. It’s sort of a “now that you’ve accepted the covenant, please explain to me, and to future believers, exactly what you have accepted.”
That’s it. Easy-peasy! We’ve already accepted the principles, and all that remains is that someone write them up faithfully, we look them over and agree they match the covenant, and we add them to our scriptures as sort of a cliff-notes guide for ourselves and future believers.
This doesn’t need to be a hard thing. In fact, it’s the sort of thing that we could accomplish in a few days if we all decided to do so.
And this brings us to the real issue. Our hearts.
The disagreements really aren’t about the principles themselves. We all pretty much agree on them, and the various proposed documents all have much in common. Sure, we all may word them a little bit differently, but the foundation is the same for us all.
No, the differences center on everything else BUT the principles—questions of process, procedures, people, past efforts and proposals. And many good points are being made. In the end, it seems the principles aren’t the issue; we’re hung up on process.
If our hearts are right, then a variety of processes could succeed. Whether the document is written by one person, a committee, all of us, or in some other way, if we focus on the principles rather than the process, we will be much closer to reaching agreement.
The more we can focus on what unites us, rather than on what divides us, the easier it will be to come together. Chances are that any one of us pretty much agrees with any other one of us on the items included in the covenant, stated in clear, basic language. Discussing and expressing those things helps identify the common ground upon which we can all stand together.
A Hard Thing
One of the oft-repeated arguments against what we’ve proposed is that mutual agreement is too hard, too lofty a goal, and not realistic for a hardened and fallen people like us, still attempting to come out of Babylon. And it IS a lofty goal, to be sure.
But the Lord is known for requiring hard things. Recall this “impossible” task assigned in the Book of Mormon:
Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me that thou and thy brothers should go unto the house of Laban, and seek the records, and bring them down hither into the wilderness. And now, behold thy brothers murmur, saying it is a hard thing which I have required of them; but behold I have not required it of them, but it is a commandment of the Lord.Laman and Lemuel murmured and claimed the task was impossible. They spoke out of fear—justified fear, to be sure—but fear nonetheless. Nephi, on the other hand, did not murmur, and acted in faith:
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that 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)The Lord would not ask for mutual agreement if it were not possible. He surely has prepared a way for us to accomplish this thing which He has commanded. Let us act in faith, trusting the Lord. Whether it’s getting the plates, building a ship, or entering and possessing the promised land of Canaan, scripture demonstrates the futility in murmuring and the necessity of acting in faith to accomplish the Lord’s assignment.
When you stop and think about it, these mighty accomplishments were much more difficult than the task we now face, for two reasons. First, they were not “light things” by any stretch of the imagination. And second, they were things the people had never done before.
And that’s where we have the advantage. The Lord has been exceedingly kind and merciful with us, because He has given us an assignment we HAVE already accomplished before. Fact is, we ALREADY HAVE mutual agreement. We simply need to recognize it and go with it.
Verily I say, Men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness, for the power is in them wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good, they shall in no way lose their reward, but he that does not anything until he is commanded, and receives a commandment with a doubtful heart, and keeps it with slothfullness, the same is damned. (D&C 44:6, RE)Have we received this commandment with doubtful hearts? Have we kept it with slothfulness? Are we damned (halted in our progress) because our hearts insist on holding onto every possible objection to performing this simple task? The issue really isn’t about what process to use. The issue is our hearts. Until our hearts become right, changing the process won’t get us any closer to completion.
Have we not all agreed already? Have we not already partaken of the same fruit from the same tree, and so we are friends and neighbors? Can we not drop our arguments and agree on the covenant? Food for thought (pun intended).
Changes in the Process
Based on the above thoughts, and encouraged by the good work being done in the forum, we’d like to offer a couple of suggestions, as follows:
- Connect to the Covenant: It may be very helpful to tie each principle to the covenant in a logical, easily explained way—thus connecting it to the one thing upon which we all agree. If we can do that, the product will be an embodiment of the covenant principles, and will be much more likely to be widely accepted. If the principle doesn’t tie in to the covenant in a reasonably explained way, it may be more difficult to get wide acceptance of that principle.
- Non-Binding Vote: When we reach the end of this current process and put the principles up for acceptance, we propose this will NOT be the end of the process. Rather, it will be a wonderful, informative way to “take the temperature” and see where we all stand. It will help us see which principles are widely accepted and well expressed, and which have issues. It will also help identify what those issues are, so the principles can be further refined or dropped, as is appropriate. Clearly, there will not be mutual agreement in one step.
- Final Acceptance: At this point, we will have to decide as a body of believers what the next step is. We have heard about several proposed processes to help us (the body) finish our assignment, which will be available soon on guideandstandard.blogspot.com. After an initial vote, do we make adjustments and vote again to see if a wider acceptance can be achieved? Do we stop and consider our position—and our failure to yet reach mutual agreement? Will it be a time for personal introspection and prayer? Will we go to the Lord as a group, acknowledging the work is yet unfinished and, and seek His help? Will we redouble our efforts to come together? It is not our place to make this decision, but we wanted to get the word out that there are several groups thinking deeply about this topic.
More is Coming
In the Answer and Covenant, the Lord has made incredible promises to us about things to come, including the following:
…recovering the scriptures does not conclude the work to be accomplished by those who will be my people: it is but a beginning.
When the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon is brought forth, then will you know and understand how great things were lost to you.
There will yet be records restored from all the tribes that will be gathered again into one…
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.
In me you will find peace and through me will come Zion, a place of peace and safety.
I will visit my house, which the remnant of my people shall build, and I will dwell therein, to be among you, and no one will need to say, Know ye the Lord, for you all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
We hope for, and expect, great things to come, including more scripture, a temple, a holy city, and the Lord’s presence. But these greater things depend on our completion of this first assignment the Lord has given us as His covenant people.
But 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.There remains great work yet to be done.
As important discussions continue about process and procedure, we hope these thoughts will provide some encouragement and confidence that we can all, as a body of believers, come together as one in our covenant beliefs. We believe this first group effort will inform the process and provide important insight to help in future decisions about how to proceed. And we believe the Lord will guide us as we acknowledge His requirement and our need.