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TOM - After what happened on Saturday at conference with the "Anyopposed" group, I'm curious about the law of common consent as stated in Section 26. I understand how sustainings work today I'm just having trouble reconciling what we do today to what was done in the prophet Joseph's day.
For example, after Sydney and Joseph had their falling-out, Joseph desired for Sydney to be released from his calling as 1st counselor. However, the body of the church disagreed and wanted Sydney to remain in his calling. Joseph went along and Sydney was allowed to keep his calling and position in the leadership of the church.
From this, it seems like the members back then were able to vote someone into a calling. Why didn't the Lord get involved with the Sydney Rigdon ordeal? Why could the voice of the people over power the desire of the prophet Joseph. If the Lord guides the church why do we ask for an opposing vote if their are any? What are your thoughts on this whole "Anyopposed" thing...?
Any insight into this would be awesome!
JOEL - The revelation on LDS Church government, received when it was organized in April 1830, states: "No person is to be ordained to any office in this church, where there is a regularly organized branch of the same, without the vote of that church" (D&C 20:65)
However, the Church is not a democracy. When people "vote" it is of course not the same as voting in an election to decide who will lead or if a
law will be put into practice. In the Church procedure, people are signifying as to whether or not they are willing to sustain and support the
choices that have already been made.
When members raise their hands (or voices) in a dissenting vote it almost never changes the choices that have already been made, unless the member can bring forth sufficient evidence that the person in question should not be allowed to serve in the position. This is why they give the
dissenters the opportunity to speak with their local leaders to hear their "evidence" for dissenting. If the stake president agrees that they have
a valid objection it can be passed on up the line to the higher leadership for evaluation. The instructions would be the same even for anyone
sitting at home watching conference on TV who might dissent (How could President Uchtdorf know if anyone not in the Conference center dissented?).
The law of common consent provides the body of the church membership with a protection from false claims of authority and revelation by ensuring that there can be neither secret ordinations performed nor secret doctrines taught by a select few within the Church.
Those who have been selected are publicly presented to the membership of the Church for approval as a way of acknowledging the Lord's selection, formally accepting it, and making it a matter of official record. The public witness and approval of these transactions safeguards the unity and integrity of the Church and ratifies the authority and inspiration of those who are called.
The opportunity for a dissenting vote is more relevant at the local level where it is possible that one or more members might know something about a member that the local leaders might not be aware of that would make him unworthy to serve.
A rejection or vote of disapproval does not necessarily mean that the call was uninspired or that the person would not or could not fulfill and
magnify the calling. It means, however, that the people themselves have voluntarily chosen not to sustain the action and that they desire something different from what has been presented by those in authority. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith wrote. "No man, should the people decide to the contrary, could preside over any body of Latter-day Saints in this Church, and yet it is not the right of the people to nominate, to choose, for that is the right of the priesthood." (Doctrines of Salvation 3:123.)
Those without proper cause who choose to vote against someone are rejecting the Lord and authority of those whose right it is to call and set apart leaders. Even so, the Lord still recognizes our agency. If the people are unwilling to sustain those whom he has called to lead, the Lord may then grant them their desire and someone else may be chosen that the people will sustain, though it may well be to their detriment, or at least of lesser advantage. I believe this was the case with regards to Sydney Rigdon. Because most of the members did not consent to the action that was proposed, God allowed them to make the choice. I think sometimes God lets the members do this if He either wants to teach them a lesson or He thinks what they decide won't do any dammage.
The application of the law of consent has evolved somewhat over the years since the early days of the church. At Joseph Smith's time the church was young and needed to learn how to be an organized body of members who could work together. Their lack of experience in the gospel and church government led to differences of opinion on how things should be done and who should do them, resulting in more instances of common consent dissentions. In the Church today we have a well established system of church government and experienced church leaders who have had to prove themselves over an entire lifetime of church service, which tends to instill confidence in the members about their ability and worthiness and therefore less reason to cast a dissenting vote.
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith stated:
"The priesthood selects, under the inspiration of our Father in heaven, and then it is the duty of the Latter-day Saints, as they are assembled in
conference, or other capacity, by the uplifted hand, to sustain or to reject; and I take it that no man has the right to raise his hand in
opposition, or with contrary vote, unless he has a reason for doing so that would be valid if presented before those who stand at the head. In
other words, I have no right to raise my hand in opposition to a man who is appointed to any position in this Church, simply because I may not like him, or because of some personal disagreement or feeling I may have, but only on the grounds that he is guilty of wrong doing, of transgression of the laws of the Church which would disqualify him for the position which he is called to hold." (Doctrines of Salvation 3:123-24.)
This last quote I think applies the 4 or 5 dissenters who wrongly decided thay needed to make a scene by their dissenting vote. They really had no valid reason for dissenting. They had no personal information that the church leaders they were asked to sustain were unfit or unworthy to lead. It was only because of their personal disagreement with longstanding church policies and doctrine; not to mention the media attention they obviously wanted to bring to their cause. They had their three seconds of fame, which will amount to nothing in the eyes of the rest of the church membership, or even to outsiders looking in.