In the ongoing Guide and Standard effort, I realize people have been offended, disappointed, angered, and hurt, in some cases by me, though this has never been my intent. If you fall into this category, I acknowledge my contribution to your pain, even if unintended, and ask your forgiveness. I also pray you’ll indulge me a more personal story to begin today’s post:
To be honest, I never expected to get involved in the Guide and Standard issue at all. Though I observed everything that happened from the beginning, and heard many points of view, I avoided taking a side or expressing an opinion. When I inquired of the Lord, I obtained no answer, so I concluded I had no more obligation to act than anyone else.
That’s why I was so surprised, when the voting began, to hear the Lord request that I get more involved than merely casting my vote. So I wrote an explanatory statement regarding the importance of this effort, and encouraged all to vote. I cast my vote in the initial runoff and thought that was enough.
I found myself surprised again when the August vote came and the Lord again urged me to do more. I carefully studied the document then up for vote, formed an opinion about it, took it to the Lord, and with a great deal of trepidation, both voted against it and wrote a 6-page, 17-point statement of my concerns with it, which I submitted privately, and with great trepidation, to the scripture committee.
My trepidation came because I’m generally an advocate and promoter of all efforts to obey the Lord’s direction. I’ve publicly promoted a number of initiatives and groups on this blog, attempting to offer encouragement, support, and even defense. I was shocked and heartbroken to find myself now opposing what many hoped would be the conclusion of the G&S effort. I wanted to second guess my motives, to back down, or to at least remain silent, and I agonized over the direction the Lord gave me.
As I struggled with the situation, I studied the Answer and Covenant, looking for direction, or at least solace, in the Lord’s words. The more I read, the more disheartened I became, fearing that I had gotten it wrong, and had offended God, that I had become an accuser. I struggled continuously with anxiety about my own standing before Him, and the efforts I was then making to promote a different approach to the Guide and Standard.
In the midst of this very real anguish, I was led to ponder the phrasing from the Lord’s command:
“You are not excused from writing a statement of principles that I have required at your hands…But I require a statement of principles to be adopted by the mutual agreement of my people”
That specific wording, “mutual agreement” struck my interest, so I studied the definitions of these words, still quite doubtful that true mutual agreement would even be possible among so many independent personalities. I wore myself out in prayer, thought, study and anguished discussion with my wife. I asked the Lord to help me understand His requirement, while I felt truly lost and mostly hopeless as others began to attack me personally for my opinions.
That particular night, I lay in bed a long time, seeking sleep that refused to come. At some point in the early hours of the morning, I finally drifted off, and that was when the Lord spoke to me in a dream. I did not see Him, but rather heard Him. He spoke in a voice that pierced my very being, consuming and surmounting every part of my body and spirit, and the message He shared filled me with such indescribable comfort, that even now, months later, I can’t reflect upon it without weeping.
As He spoke, He showed me a picture I did not understand, and can only describe with difficulty. It involved geometric arrangements that moved, came together, and ultimately culminated, in part, with this:
Not long after this happened, I needed to explain my understating of mutual agreement, which task I didn’t find easy. As I prayed for the words to write, the pictures from the dream immediately came to mind, along with a flash of sudden, particular understanding of what they meant, and how to explain them.
I’ve written at length about mutual agreement, and that it involves every person being in agreement with every other person, and not merely rule by a majority. I stand by that definition; it is accurate, and it is a high standard indeed. More on that in a moment—after we talk about the Nephites.
When you study the period of Nephite peace that followed the Lord’s ministry, you encounter three statements regarding the level of unity among the people, as follows:
These statements represent three increasing levels of unity among the followers of Christ. In the first, they dropped their contentions and disputations—which is to say, having been converted to the Lord, they stopped trying to kill each other, both literally and figuratively. As followers of Christ, they dwelt in righteousness and took care of their poor.
- And it came to pass in the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them and every man did deal justly one with another and they had all things common among them. Therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free and partakers of the heavenly gift.
- And it came to pass that there was no contention among all the people in all the land, but there were mighty miracles wrought among the disciples of Jesus.
- And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people, and there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness, and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.
In the second, the level of unity among all the people was such that mighty miracles became possible as they received an increasing measure of faith and connection to the Holy Ghost. They became one in mind, connected to the mind of God.
In the third, the love of God knit their very hearts together, such that envying, strife, tumults, and all sin had no place among them. They became one in heart, filled with the pure love of Christ.
These three progressive levels of unity form a pathway—a ladder, if you will—to becoming Zion. It appears to have taken the people about two years after Christ’s ministry to reach the first level of unity—at which point they dropped their disputations.
Now consider this statement regarding Enoch’s Zion:
And the Lord called his people, Zion, because they were of one heart and of one mind, and dwelt in righteousness, and there were no poor among them. (Genesis 4:10 RE)There they are—all the elements, shown as a progression, but in reverse order, because the statement is retrospective, looking backward from the state of being Zion, along the path that led to that point. We see the same progression in this path:
- First, they dwelt in righteousness and took care of their poor.
- Second, they had one mind.
- Third, they had one heart.
In reflection, it seems much like three degrees of glory, doesn’t it? And the highest degree of unity—a Celestial unity—is required for Zion to exist:
But behold they have not learned to be obedient to the things which I require at their hands, but are full of all manner of evil and do not impart of their substance, as becometh saints, to the poor and afflicted among them, and are not united according to the union required by the law of the Celestial kingdom, and Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the Celestial kingdom, otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself. And my people must needs be chastened until they learn obedience, if it must needs be by the things which they suffer. (D&C 40:1 RE)As always, it begins with caring for the poor, and ultimately leads to a Celestial unity of hearts, minds, and righteousness.
Given these increasing levels of unity leading to Zion, let us now consider the issue of mutual agreement. Ideally, and in its fullest sense, at its highest, Celestial level, mutual agreement means we’re all of the same mind and heart in embracing the same truths. Being only of the same mind, without our hearts in it, is still a form of mutual agreement, though inferior to the highest. And at its lowest level, even in disagreement, when we make the choice not to dispute, we yet have a level of mutual agreement.
I’ve written in favor of the highest level. But it’s clear we’re not there yet. The Lord, in His wisdom and mercy, has offered to meet us where we currently are, by providing the level of mutual agreement He requires at this time:
“As between one another, you choose to not dispute.”
It appears this is the lowest standard He can offer His covenant people—with the expectation that we’ll yet improve and rise to higher levels of unity. On the other hand, if we can’t meet even this low standard, all that remains is for the Lord to take away the covenant and give us a lower law—as He did with ancient Israel, as He did with the saints of Joseph Smith’s day.
Hopefully, we can learn from the past, and choose not to dispute.
The Current Document
So, with that in mind, let’s discuss the current situation, starting with the document written by the seven chosen by lots. Among all the proposed documents, this one is unique in the following ways:
- The process to create it was established by the voice of the Lord’s covenant people, as the Lord required in the Answer and Covenant. He laid this responsibility on us all, and this effort started with the voice of the people.
- The entire process and the path to completion were explained PRIOR to ANY action being taken. The plan was presented to the covenant body as a complete beginning-to-end idea on how to move forward.
- The process was voted on and overwhelmingly accepted by the Lord’s covenant people, based on the presented plan
- The rules never changed, and the plan, as approved by the people, was followed exactly.
- ALL covenant holders were invited to contribute their names to be drawn
- ALL covenant holders were invited to submit documents and ideas for consideration, including the Aug 5 document, and any other documents anyone wished to submit.
- The Lot drawing was done publicly and in complete equality.
- The Lord’s hand was undeniably involved in the drawing process. Other signs followed as the process continued.
- The document consists ENTIRELY of the Lord’s words from scripture and His recognized servants, using the ideas submitted by the people as the foundational basis for the principles expressed. It demonstrates our understanding and acceptance of the Lord’s word as a covenant people.
- The document is free of doctrinal error.
- The document doesn’t contain opinion, advice, cultural overlay, or ambiguity. It teaches principles, as the Lord requires.
- Every statement is footnoted and traceable to scripture or direct revelation. This is a kindness to those who will follow later and seek deeper understanding.
- Every principle is rooted in the covenant we have already agreed to. We have mutual agreement by virtue of that fact alone. Every covenant holder agrees that the principles it teaches are true.
- The document was presented to the Lord on behalf of the people, by those the Lord selected and the people sustained.
- The document was approved by the Lord by direct revelation to the group.
- The Lord said “At this point, you have a unity with the body. They agree with these words, and this document will suffice.” He said this PRIOR TO THE VOTE OF THE PEOPLE. We agree with the words because they are HIS words.
- The document was presented to the covenant people for acceptance AFTER the Lord accepted it and said “It is enough”.
- The document received 93% approval initially, and has since received more as people have changed their “no” votes to “yes.”
- To fulfill their final obligation, the Lots committee presented the completed, written, accepted document to the scripture committee to format and publish, per the Lord’s instructions that this statement be added as a guide and standard.
That’s quite a list. I’m not aware of any other document or effort that rises to this level or that matches this rather impressive list of ways it complies with the requirements set by the Lord. In fact, to me the difference is quite stark. This is not to disparage other documents, all of which I believe were necessary precursors to this one; rather it is to point out exactly how strong a case can be made for this Guide and Standard. If this is not a strong enough case, I don’t know what is.
And yet, we’re not in the clear. We have not met the Lord’s standard, even though the document does. Disputes yet continue—and that’s what I’d like to address.
What Do You Dispute?
I realize people have strong opinions, hurt feelings, disappointment, even anger. I also realize people prefer other documents. Heck, to be honest, this document, as good as it is, wouldn’t have been my first choice either. I’ve heard the objections based on people, process, and prior efforts, and I honor the valid feelings people have about these things. I don’t feel to call anyone wrong, nor do I feel to criticize the very real struggles people have.
But I want to look at this from a slightly different perspective—by looking at the document itself.
If you object to this document being adopted as our guide and standard, I would simply ask the following, in all seriousness and humility, hoping to understand:
Please point to the part of the document you dispute.
Again, I realize people dispute the process, prior documents, the actions of other people, etc. I get that. But none of that has anything to do with the document in front of us. Regardless of what has already happened in the past, we have in front of us a document consisting of the Lord’s words, and blessed with the Lord’s approval. Regardless of how we ultimately got it, it is here, it is offered, and you either dispute it or you don’t.
Preferring another document does not mean you dispute this one. Preferring another process to get here does not mean you dispute the things written in this document. I hope we can all see that, regardless of circumstances, the Lord has asked us to adopt a statement. That means words on paper. So, if you dispute these words, please help us understand which ones are the problem.
If You Voted No
I invite anyone who voted against this document to carefully read through it again, and consider whether there is anything within the document itself you dispute. If so, please make your dispute known to the seven so they can consider your persuasion. You can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you don’t actually dispute anything in the document, even if you don’t like it, we still have at least the lowest level of mutual agreement—and the Lord has stated that’s good enough for now. But again, the seven need to know. So even if your vote remains “no,” but you choose not to dispute, I would invite you to make that known to the seven. Because in the end, if there’s nobody who chooses to dispute, we have mutual agreement, according to the Lord, and we can fulfill His commandment. Until the “no” votes are clarified, there’s no way to tell if such a vote only signifies disagreement, or stands for an actual dispute.
By the way, The Lord said we can respectfully disagree. We don’t all have to be on the same page yet. It’s OK to prefer another document or another approach. That’s all just fine, and doesn’t prevent mutual agreement. All that prevents mutual agreement is disputation.
Therefore, the real question only has to do with anyone who disputes this document. And you can’t dispute this document unless you can point to the words you dispute.
So, to the handful of “no” votes that remain, please know you are valued, loved, and important to the covenant body. Your insight and opinion are needed. If there is fault with the words in this statement, please make it known so it can be corrected. If you choose not to dispute, please also make that known. The Lord has laid this burden on us all—including you. Each one of us has just as much obligation as all others to come to mutual agreement. If you voted “no” please, please help your covenant brothers and sisters. We need you the most.
Do you still choose to dispute? If so, what would it take to solve your dispute? Please make it known. I believe the Lord is serious in His requirement that we eliminate disputations to have mutual agreement.
The Lord’s mercy in only requiring the lowest level of mutual agreement of us at this stage in our development, fills me with hope and gratitude. It provides me with another dimension of understanding for the images the Lord showed me in my hour of desperation. Though we may not precisely agree, such is not required. Let us choose not to dispute.