On Tuesday, a number of concerns were communicated to me from several sources about the ongoing vote for the proposed new Section of the T&C. The vote was temporarily suspended in order to fairly address the issues, and what is to happen will be explained in a moment.
The timing/rush of the vote was due to a misunderstanding of how long we have left before the final text of the scriptures has to be turned over to the printer for the leather scriptures. If the vote adopted the new Section, the formatting of the T&C would have to be changed in order to place that new Section in front of the final 3 existing sections so that it would be in chronological order like all of the other Sections. And with so little time available, it all had to take place within a few weeks. The primary concerns raised about how this was being handled were:
- Changing the arrangement of the Sections would mean that the paperback and hardbound books no longer matched the formatting of the leather scriptures, though we were told they would.
- This should have been handled during the conference a few weeks ago, not afterwards. Or it should wait until the next conference.
A post was prepared to address these and other concerns, but was not put up because a new factor was introduced that changed everything. Some thoughts shared with me from a conversation Denver had with one of the committee members indicated that the chronological order of that particular talk (OUR DIVINE PARENTS) is not critical. He suggested simply adding the new Section, if adopted, at the end of the T&C as Section 178. The effects of that observation are:
- This would not mess with the formatting of the paperback and hardbound T&C compared to the leather scriptures.
- Being added at the end could be done at any time, not necessarily immediately, meaning it doesn't have to be done online, but can wait until the next general conference.
The result is a simple change -- postponing a vote until next year.
Or so it would seem.
A few more issues and explanations need to be presented before continuing. First, here are some of the other concerns that were raised about the proposed new Section, given with responses so that everyone is aware of them and can discuss them as needed:
- There should always be an opportunity for people to discuss an issue before making a decision. If the vote didn't need such a rush, more time would definitely have been taken ahead of the vote.
- The substance of the proposed Section has been questioned: Is it a rehash that doesn't warrant special attention? Shouldn't the whole talk be adopted, rather than just a piece given without a lot of context? The determination was made early on in the scriptures project to try to avoid including any of Denver's talks or published works in the scriptures. He agreed that those should stand on their own. So including the whole talk, which was once proposed for inclusion, was determined inappropriate. Looking more closely at the small portion quoted in the proposal, the initial material is a restating of what can be found in Section 89. Had that been all that was said about it, this proposal never would have even been made. It was Denver's later return to the remarks, and his singling them out as unique and independent of the talk, that attracted attention: Those concluding references to the Word of Wisdom were themselves given as a reminder, by revelation, as something to be repeated here in the context of this talk [Our Divine Parents] to honor Her. Remarks given by revelation, with the intent to honor Heavenly Mother, fit the definition of scripture found in the Glossary better than some of the existing Sections in the T&C do. There is no other instance of singled out revealed remarks in all of Denver's writings. In the course of compiling material for the Glossary, I've listened to all of his talks and books many times and can attest to that.
- The scriptures committee has repeatedly stated that the project was done and the text was finished. People waited to purchase new copies of the scriptures until they felt confident that nothing major would change. That was assumed by the publishing of the new paperbacks and hardbound copies. The first inkling that there was something to address happened a week ago Wednesday, 3 days after the conference ended. This may look suspicious, until asking reveals that it was unexpected. We had no anticipation of anything further happening with the ongoing scriptures project other than minor typos being caught and addressed until we lock down the text and send it for printing. It came to light as a result of reviewing the talk OUR DIVINE PARENTS. Once a new Section was proposed, there was the concern for getting it into this first printing of the leather scriptures. If the proposed Section was adopted, it would have to be added to the T&C in front of the last 3 sections because of the chronological order of the Sections. This couldn't be done down the road as there may not be another printing of leather scriptures, and to insert a Section anywhere other than at the end of the line would be problematic at best. So to add it to the leather scriptures, it would have to be voted on quickly (so we assumed). Because there would not be a conference or group event allowing for a larger discussion and vote prior to the closing deadline of the text, the committee discussed whether the proposal was reasonable to make and execute online. There was good support for proposing it for a vote and the vote was set up.
- (Now that we understand the order of the Sections doesn't need to change, all arguments that the non-leather scriptures won't sync with the leather versions are no longer an issue.)
- Claims and concerns of betrayal, of lying, of trying to sneak something in, in a way no one could really prevent, have all been leveled. And they all require the assumption of intent to do so. This proposal wasn't anticipated, so it's hard to claim any ill intent. Because claims of nefarious intent have been leveled for 2 1/2 years and not a single one has proven true, this should add support to our claim that we're simply acting on something that seems reasonable to consider adding to the scriptures, and proposing it to the general assembly. That has been part of our assignment from the beginning. (A plea: We need to be careful not to move back into the contentious exchanges we've been reproved for in Sections 157 and 177.) This also speaks to the integrity claims -- that we aren't keeping our word. We intended the scripture text to be completed. We had no anticipation of any additions to happen within what we already have, only for new revelations to be added later. But some people have placed expectations upon the project that have never been promised. We're doing our best, and communicate as clearly and openly as we can. But we've all experienced making commitments and then having something arise that can't be ignored and that supersedes our original commitment. That doesn't make us liars, but instead, requires us to consider our higher priorities. For example, when the project was first announced in March of 2017, we stated that there would be a 6-9 month period of review and then the final scriptures would be published. That was 2 1/2 years ago. Many unanticipated things have come to light and required us to investigate and adapt. This was no exception.
Given all of the issues raised, even though there are reasonable responses to them all, we determined it would be best to temporarily suspend the ongoing vote, listen to and consider what people were saying, and address them. There was a post prepared for that purpose that would have gone up yesterday afternoon if Denver's thoughts hadn't changed our understanding. And to handle the additional issue that some pointed to -- that there are folks, for example, who have voted NO and who might have voted differently had they heard these explanations, but their votes have been cast and can't be changed -- we also determined to allow time for the post to be studied and discussed, then have the vote restarted from scratch (a do-over). This delay is possible because the deadline for getting the final text to the printer is farther out than we first realized. (It will take at least 45 days to produce the paper for the printing and the PDFs don't have to be to the printer before the paper is. The paper won't be ordered until after we place our order, which won't happen until the special-order window closes on October 15th.)
Now that you've been brought up to speed, there is another consideration to be made. A number of people, many of them women, have expressed excitement and satisfaction at the possibility of having a clear, present-day example of our Heavenly Mother speaking to us included in the scriptures. Having that Section published in this first edition of our leather scriptures adds a sense of validity that printing the Section and inserting it in the back of the T&C next year just couldn't achieve. But once the leather scriptures are printed, all new revelations will be handled as inserts until there is enough material to justify either printing a booklet-style addendum or reprinting the leather T&C.
There is always the possibility of new revelation, other than this proposed Section, being given to us prior to the locking down of the T&C text for printing in December. And it's likely many of us would want as much material as possible included in the first printing. Since we don't have a conference of any sort planned until next April, the only means of adding anything else between now and December is the online approach. It doesn't have to be rushed; time for discussion can be made. We currently do not have a formally accepted procedure for adopting new material as scripture. The Glossary explanation of SCRIPTURE includes: "To be acknowledged, a conference must adopt the writing as part of a canon." Up to now we've had new scripture added both by online voting and by voting in a conference. Because we have yet to formally agree as a people how we will continue to add new scripture, the possibility exists to still add scripture using the online approach (which could be ratified at a future conference). However, no person or group can decide that for the body as a whole. For that reason, the suspended voting will be replaced with a new vote that will address both questions facing this people:
- Should any new material that we want included as scripture in the first printing of the leather scriptures be allowed to be adopted using an online vote, or must it wait until a conference can be held?
- If an online approach is determined to be acceptable until the next conference, should the proposed new Section be adopted as scripture and added to the initial printing of the leather scriptures?
This approach accomplishes several things:
- The people as a whole, not a small group or individual, decides the method of adoption to be used until the next conference. The matter of agreeing on a procedure for adding scripture can be finalized and voted on at that time.
- The lack of a definitive approach gives those who are interested or passionate about the proposed example of the Mother's voice being included in the original printing of the leather scriptures the possibility to have that take place.
- In addressing both questions in a single voting session, if the determination is that an online approach is not acceptable, despite the special circumstance of trying to include the material in the new leather scriptures, the results of the second question can be ignored and a future vote can be taken at a conference instead. If, however, an online vote is deemed acceptable for the time being, then we will also have the voice of the people on the proposed Section and can act in time to include it in the first printing of the leather scriptures if it's adopted.
The new vote will begin a week from this Saturday, on October 12th, and run through Sunday October 20th. This will allow all of us enough time to consider all of the issues presented, any new ones, and discuss it all among ourselves before voting. Please pay attention to the announcement area at the top of the home page of scriptures.info for updates and other information.