As discussions about the Statement of Principles project continue, I thought it important to highlight a couple of items, particularly in light of Denver Snuffer’s recent podcast, “Dances with Wolves.”
When I first heard the podcast, I thought it was a very interesting way to make group decisions, by appointing one to act as “chief,” hear all sides, listen to counsel, and make the decision on behalf of the group. I realize people may see such an approach as a method for making a decision regarding the Statement of Principles as well, and I wanted to share a couple of viewpoints from others on this topic.
First, there’s a new post from Chris Hamill over at the Scriptures Project blog. It’s brief, so I’m quoting the relevant part here:
I received an email from someone who was present when the Dancing with Wolves podcast was recorded and they asked for clarification from Denver on how the decision-making example applied. They said this was Denver's response, “The answer about problem solving was independently asked and answered and involved how a group of people, like a fellowship, could avoid conflict while attempting to reach a decision. It was in that context that the question was asked and answered. I'm not sure that it could be possible to have a group of hundreds, or over a thousand, to have any meaningful use of that method. Too many voices would be involved.”I did some calculations regarding the time and logistics of attempting the method with a large group of, say 50, and found the process would be very lengthy. Likely 6-8 hours if it runs efficiently (because meetings always run efficiently, right?) If you increase that number to a couple hundred, the entire process becomes, for all intents and purposes, impossible. It is simply not possible to hear from that many people, weigh that many viewpoints, and make an informed decision in any kind of reasonable time frame, if at all. I heartily agree that the “Dances with Wolves” (DWW) method is best suited to a small group of intimates.
The Spirit of the Approach
A better thinker than me has looked at the process through a different set of lenses and written a very insightful series of comments on the One Year blog post, detailing how the spirit of the DWW method has already been followed, and all that remains is for the decision to be made. I reproduce this person’s anonymous comments here, with my comments inserted in blue.
It is interesting how we all see the same thing differently. Last November, after months of dialogue, we were at an impasse on the GS issue, and a solution was put forth to cast lots to allow a group to be chosen by God, and without bias, to resolve the matter. The solution they came to garnered 90+% support in both a November vote and a Phoenix Conference vote. (I’ll here clarify that both the process, and the product received overwhelming support in open voting. This means before the task was undertaken, nearly 90% of the people who cared to vote agreed to choose representatives by lots to complete the work. Then when the product was finished, about 93% voted in favor of adopting it.) Yet because "some people refuse to lay down for the heart of the community, their own heart," the vote to sustain was delayed and printing never happened.
Ten months later, we have now heard a podcast that may have been directed at the GS issue, or may have been merely directed toward fellowships making decisions; and the concept is put forth to cast lots using colored stones. Now people are excited about the solution and its prospects of success, while they ignore that such a method has already been used, and reject the result that came from it. I guess the assumption is that since Denver made the suggestion, and not just ordinary covenant body members, it is now a whole different ball-game. Now it will actually work.
Someone pointed out to me today some interesting parallels between what happened with the November Lots, and the model that was proposed in the podcast. Here are a few parallels:
Parallel #1 - An impasse is reached in making a decision.
November 2017: The covenant body wrestled over what exact wording was to be used for the GS document. And they wrestled over "who" would be able to write it. Many felt they had been "called" and many had written what they believed to be inspired documents already. There was no apparent way to resolve the debate. A clear impasse existed.
Denver's Podcast: “The Book of Mormon says , It’s not often that the voice of the people are going choose error. Well the voice of the people in the context of making a decision--- If a decision can be made in no other way (an impasse), should be heard in this kind of a cooperative, enlightened outpouring of viewpoints however diverse they may be, however difficult to reconcile they may be....I think it is ONE model that can be experimented with..."
[When an impasse comes, it didn't say this model is THE only way that this concept can be done---rather “one model,”---leaving open something akin to it.]
Parallel #2 - Those that feel inspired are able to contribute/give counsel.
November 2017: The Lots invited EVERYONE who had felt inspired to write a GS document, to share their inspired input---what they felt God had told them in answer to their prayers and personal communication with God---as a means to draw insight and counsel from in making the decision on what to include in the final GS version written. [The white stones] (I’ll add that a great many documents were shared with the lots group, providing inspired input and counsel to their labors.)
Denver's Podcast: "Everyone acknowledging that if you've gotten a prayerful answer it is important for you to come and to voice that prayerful answer in order for the decision that gets made...to have some enlightenment." [The white stones]
Parallel #3 - Lots are drawn in both models to choose roles.
November 2017: Seven lots were drawn to decide who would take on the responsibility of writing the final GS for the entire body. In this scenario, this would be like having 7 people holding the black stone together. After studying the inspired documents [hearing from the white stone holders], these will be the ones making the final decision. (In this process, which was completely public and transparent, the Lord demonstrated his ability to cause astronomically unlikely things to happen, like a husband and wife both being consecutively drawn from hundreds. He also demonstrated afterwards, His ability to remove one from the committee. Thus, by showing His power to control the exact makeup of the committee, he demonstrated His involvement with abundant clarity. Signs follow those that believe, we exercised our faith, and signs followed.)
Denver's Podcast: Stones were drawn to choose who would be chief, spiritual advisor, and voice input. The chief listened to everyone, but made the final decision.
Parallel #4 - One voice comes prayerfully prepared in the role of wisdom.
November 2017: When the time to approach the Lord arrived to see if He had accepted the final Lots GS; the only woman among them was chosen to give voice to the prayer and received the communication from the Lord that conveyed His acceptance. The spirit manifested to each of them, that the words she shared were of God.
Denver's Podcast: "If you are the medicine man come prayerfully. Prayerfully participate. Advise based upon the wisdom of God." He quipped that eventually maybe the role of the spiritual advisor should always be a woman.
Parallel #5 - The drawing of lots to make decisions eliminates an hierarchy and allows for equality.
November 2017: Every covenant holder was invited to participate, had an equal chance for selection, was invited to contribute their wisdom through submission of documents and analyze and give input into the rough draft version [another chance at holding the white stone]. Upon completion of the task, the Lots counsel disbanded. They were temporary; for a "one time" assignment and decision making role. (I’ll add that since the Phoenix conference, the Lots committee has since done nothing to campaign, promote, or compel adoption of their document. They did the work assigned and disbanded. This demonstrates meekness and fidelity to their assignment.)
Denver's Podcast: "Within community, no one gets to control. Authority is equally distributed." "We do something like that [the model he gave] which is transitory and temporary."
Notice, his point is not that we must do exactly this process, but something like it---something that keeps the decision making power temporary.
Parallel #6 - Success depends upon the hearts of the people being able to compromise.
November 2017: Many soft hearts were exhibited with a willingness to accept and support a scripturally based process, founded in equality, that allowed a small group to be chosen to listen to the voice and input of the people as expressed after 9 months of discussion and through their contributed documents. Though an imperfect document was produced, the vast majority were able to set aside personal preferences, or opinions, and see that the effort satisfied the Lord's instructions and requirements. A small number felt that to agree with something different than how God had answered them, would be to compromise the truth as they saw it.
Denver's Podcast: "...we don't get there [being able to make a decision by the voice of the people] by having forceful and intransigent minds, insisting that when they see a truth, it is all the truth, it is the only truth, and it can never be compromised, modified, or altered in any particular because it is their truth." "Some people refuse to lay down for the heart of the community, their own heart."
Could it be possible that the very ideas shared in the podcast were not meant for us to start the GS all over and follow as an exact model; but rather given as a general concept---that can be used, or something "like that" in a myriad of decision making challenges? And is it possible that in regards to the GS matter, we actually already have followed something very “like that” model---but we've been so blinded with our own insistence that the truth be as we see it, that we failed to see the beauty of exactly what was accomplished?
If our hearts are intransigent (unwilling to compromise or moderate a position; unreasonable), then it won't matter if we sit in a circle with white, black and blue stones and create another variation of what was already done with the Lots back in November. Someone may still say the outcome doesn’t reflect their vision and find fault yet again. Maybe it isn't that we were being told we need to try something that we haven't tried; but rather that we were so blinded that we failed to see the beauty of what happened all those months ago.
That concludes the anonymous comment. I’ll add a concluding thought or two.
Prior to the Phoenix conference, a three-step process was proposed to determine the voice of the people regarding this assignment. Step one involved a runoff of available documents, and the lots document rose to the top with a clear majority. Step two involved asking who would support it (regardless of how they voted in the first step) and who would not, followed by hearing the objections of those who would not, in a face-to-face setting, together with attempts at persuasion.
Both of those steps were completed, and both gave overwhelmingly strong preference to the Lots document, according to the voice of the people. Those two steps chose the document and attempted to persuade. The Lots document has clearly been chosen by the voice of the people on two separate occasions: the initial vote conducted via the internet in November receiving 93%, followed a conference vote held with all qualifying documents, where it had 90-95% approval of those in attendance.
Step 3 required a sustaining vote to canonize the document, once chosen. That step was never completed because the conference organizers didn’t want to further damage the spirit of the conference with continued contention on Sunday. That step is the only one remaining to be completed.
There have now been two separate, organic processes, by two separate groups, that have come together to bring the process this far (the Lots group efforts, and the efforts prior to and at the last conference). Both achieved the same result: approval in the mid-90% range. Both involved legitimate, open votes, followed by a lengthy process of outreach to hear opposing viewpoints. We not only have the voice of the people, but we actually now have two witnesses, satisfying both the law of common consent and the law of witnesses. This is extremely significant.
Are there other documents that meet the Lord’s requirements? Absolutely! Are some better written or more beautiful in expression? Possibly so. (Some say Paul’s document is, for instance—and it well may be added to the appendix as a useful missionary tract.) But the people have spoken, the Lord’s hand was manifest by signs, His approval was granted, the applicable laws have been satisfied, and the process of producing and selecting a document is complete. All that remains is to canonize the statement, with a simple sustaining vote, as the Lord has required.
I realize some may yet choose to dispute. I empathize with those who so desperately desire to become one in heart prior to writing a statement, though I see things differently than they do. I believe we are already one in heart, at least in the basic principles, by virtue of the fact that we all agreed to the covenant. Are not our hearts one in those principles it espouses? And so, can we not state them with one heart? Obviously, we will not become Zion in one step. This assignment is one small step towards becoming more fully what the Lord wants us to be.
I have spent a great deal of time over the last year listening to other viewpoints, hearing objections, and seeking common ground. But I have yet to hear any dispute based on the actual content of the document. I do not know of ANYONE who disputes the principles written in the Lots document. Every dispute I have heard has to do with a side issue, but not the document itself. The document teaches true principles, will bless, benefit, and inform those who know nothing of the Lord’s work now underway, and is the de facto guide and standard to which we ALREADY AGREE.
Therefore, shall we not add it to our scriptures and complete the Lord’s command? A sustaining vote is all that remains, and it will be published. The assignment will be complete, and we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief, give each other a hug, and prepare for the next assignment the Lord will give us. This thought fills me with such incredible hope.
As you contemplate how close we truly are to completion of the Lord's assignment, and how much we all truly agree on the foundation principles that unite us, please take some time to read the following important resources:
1. Statement from Chris Hamill on the Scriptures Project blog. If sustained, the lots document will be added.
2. Letter from the Seven chosen by lots regarding their efforts.
3. The Lots document (with minimal formatting for ease in reading)
4. The Lots document (same content, but formatted for appearance, if you prefer)