The Freedom to Disagree
In the many genuine efforts by the body to move forward with the instruction to write a statement of principles to be adopted by the mutual agreement of the Lord’s people, and then to be added as a guide and standard for His people to follow, there is a common theme. The common theme, or understanding, is that we need to reach agreement to complete the task. We have discussed this “agreement” in terms of either a majority agreeing, or in some cases complete unanimity of the covenant body. This suggests all or a majority need to agree on a specific statement for it to be added to the scriptures. Without agreement, we cannot move forward, a statement cannot be included in the scriptures, and our efforts seem frustrated. We believe until we can convince those responsible for the scriptures being published to include a statement in the publishing process, or convince those dissenting from a statement to agree with the prevailing statement of choice by the body, completion of this task seems unreachable at present. Why is this happening? What are we to understand by this process? Have you noticed that it seems to be in the apparent contradictions we face that the Lord can provide greater understanding?
What if we as a people cannot see what the Lord’s definition of “mutual agreement” is really about? Is it possible we don’t understand or know how to apply it? Possibly because there is nothing to compare it to here. What if His definition of mutual agreement has nothing to do with agreement at all? What if it has to do with the freedom to disagree, and yet remain together as His people, as brothers and sisters in deed? We should reconsider our definition of mutual agreement and replace it with His words. If we did, we may realize something. The Lord has given us His meaning of the term:
“As between one another, you choose to not dispute.”
Where is the word “agree” in the above definition? There is no agreement found there, because it’s not required. Why do we think agreement is required? Where does the idea come from? Which being wants to force, or require others to agree? What if it has nothing to do with agreement, and everything to do with the freedom of choice? The freedom to choose for ourselves. What if it simply is describing a choice made by the individual, that they choose to not dispute. According to recent teachings and light provided to us, it takes strength of character to make this personal choice. It takes the strength that is reflected in our Mother. It required great strength of character for Christ, being in possession of the truth, to make this personal choice during His mortal life—to not dispute, although He was right all along.
Given this idea, why couldn’t we disagree respectfully about a statement of principles and yet have the Lord’s definition of mutual agreement with one another? We do not need to agree. The Lord has provided the freedom for everyone to disagree respectfully, by maintaining our unique views and understanding. Perhaps over time, individuals can be persuaded one way or another. Persuading others to our view is not required to obtain mutual agreement. All that’s required is for a certain number of individuals to make the choice to not dispute concerning their disagreements. At that point, for those individuals, they’ll have mutual agreement with everyone that they’ve chosen not to dispute with. As others make this choice, they’ll also have mutual agreement with everyone else. No percentage or vote of agreement is needed for that group of individuals, large or small, to take action based on their belief and faith. Disagreement is ok, it’s good to have and maintain the freedom to disagree respectfully about many things, including a statement of principles. It’s our right and freedom to have independent thought. That comes from God. Our uniqueness comes from Them. If others believe a certain statement of principles has been accepted by God, even though you may disagree with it, as long as you have made the choice that it’s not worth disputing over, then you have met the Lord’s definition of mutual agreement with them. Everyone will have the freedom to continue to persuade each other while having respectful disagreement. The Lord’s “mutual agreement” protects respectful disagreement, it allows for the freedom to disagree. We believe respectful disagreement can go all the way into heaven.
There is a second theme within the effort to write and add the statement of principles to our scriptures. It is not as prevalent as the idea that we must agree in order to move forward, but it’s just as powerful in sowing fear. That theme is that if you disagree, or even dispute a statement of principles that is acceptable to the majority, then you are not abiding in the covenant and risk being excommunicated from the covenant body. At times this theme has not been stated directly, although it has been implied. It’s a powerfully false idea in our view. It suggests that, even as a body of equals, some have power over others. If this idea is true, then we ask: who has the authority to excommunicate another covenant brother or sister with who they are equal? What organization will they be tossed out of? Which permission slip granting access to a place of worship, signed by a presiding brother, will they be stripped of? There is none.
In our current state of blindness and ignorance, we’re not convinced we even have the ability to judge one another as to whether we are abiding in the covenant. Only God knows that. Only He has the authority to enforce the covenant. This was to be a “light thing” for us; it certainly should not be worth separating ourselves from the body over, nor should anyone suggest another be cast aside for not coming on board. Our commitment was that we would assist all others taking the covenant to accept the scriptures as the standard to guide their lives, and to lighten their burdens. We are to assist each other to abide in it, not cast each other out. Many of us have passed through the humiliation of being thrown out of our former religious organizations, for simply disagreeing. There was no freedom to disagree in those former institutions. Let’s not bring those false ideas with us. Joseph Smith, Jr., was right when he described the freedom to disagree, “I want the liberty of believing as I please, it feels so good not to be trammeled.”
If you are convinced that these two ideas should be discarded--forced agreement in order to move forward and the threat of being cast out of the body if you disagree, or even dispute a statement--and replaced with the idea that mutual agreement allows for freedom to disagree respectfully and even disputing a statement’s inclusion may have no consequence to someone’s covenant status, then we would like to extend the following invitation.
First, we would like to express our view about one of the statements that have been written. It’s not necessary that you be persuaded by it, this is simply one couple’s view. We would have accepted many of the documents that were written from the start of this assignment. One of us was at the meeting on August 5th, and we accepted that document. It’s our opinion that had the August 5th document or other previous documents been taken to the Lord, He would have also accepted them. He is easy to be entreated. None of those previous documents were taken to Him at the time for various reasons.
On November 21st, 2017, the Lots Group did take their statement to the Lord to seek His word. It’s our belief that He responded to their prayer through Shalyce, the only women in their group, with the following revelation:
“Shalyce, I am here. And I can hear you. I know you’re scared, and it’s ok. But I love you, and I’m grateful for your effort. I am grateful for all of your effort. What I ask of you is not always easy, and sometimes it’s quite a sacrifice. But I will labor with you through all of it, so long as you come unto me, and listen for my words. This document that you’ve presented is sufficient for my needs. You have filled the measure in which I have called you. Your work has been valiant. You are correct in saying that there are many ways in which it could have come about, and there are many ways that it did come about. And I am grateful for all of them. At this point, you have a unity with the body. They agree with these words, and this document will suffice. Heed the words contained in them, heed the words contained and referenced in the footnotes. All of those words were mine. I want you to come to me. I will come to you, and we together can be one.”We believe and recognize these words as coming from our Lord in response to the prayer of faith by the Lots Group and covenant people. In it, the Lord states that the statement of principles written by the Lots Group is sufficient for [His] needs. It’s not necessary that you agree with this belief. We have the freedom to disagree about this. We can continue to try and persuade each other. For now, we are persuaded this came from Him to the point that we feel impressed to take action to further demonstrate faith—in the belief that He will respond to our attempt in spite of our weakness.
This prayer has been provided online, together with the Lots Group’s statement of principles titled Revised Guide and Standard, for several months now. The latest version of the Restoration Edition (RE) of the scriptures has also been provided for purchase since March 2018. We believe it is wisdom in the Lord to provide the means for this statement to be “added” to the scriptures by any individual that so chooses. No one would have to wait before proceeding. The power is within each person to take the individual step. This has already been done by some and suggested by the scripture committee. It can be accomplished by simply printing out the Lots Group statement and adding it to your physical set of the RE scriptures.
We believe it is important to take the physical step of adding the statement to your set of scriptures in order to be obedient to His requirement. It’s a small thing, it would be done by very small means. The heavy lifting has already been done by those you produced the RE scriptures and the many individuals that contributed to the effort to produce a statement of principles—about which the Lord said He was grateful.
To those who are persuaded to choose to not dispute this statement, whether you agree or disagree with the statement, we invite you to join together with others in approaching our Lord in prayer and fasting on April 14th, 2018 to seek His word in determining if He accepts this step as fulfilling His requirements. To those who choose to dispute this invitation, we only ask that you also add your faith in prayer to ours that day, that our Lord will provide us with more light, or correction, to better understand His will for us. If we are wrong, perhaps approaching the Lord together in humility, as a covenant body, will persuade Him to tell us His part. It is our belief and hope that He will respond.
Russ & Teryn Ellersick