Monday, October 26, 2020

Gross or Net Tithing - Actually It's Neither

It is THE eternal debate in the church:

"Should we pay net or gross tithing?"

I can understand why people are so concerned about this very pressing issue. For most people, money is tight. The difference between gross and net tithing can mean the inclusion or exclusion of a variety of many things to an individual or family.

Let's turn to the scriptures, and see what they say, shall we?

D&C 119

On July 8, 1838, Joseph Smith requested of the Lord, "O Lord! Show unto thy servants how much thou requirest of the properties of thy people for a tithing." The result was D&C Section 119. In it, the Lord answered two primary questions: How much are Saints expected to pay in tithing, and what is the money to be used for?

The second answer was straightforward: Tithing money is to be used for (1) the building of a temple, (2) laying of the foundation of Zion and for the priesthood, and (3) the debts of the Church's Presidency.

Nowhere in D&C 119 is the church allowed to invest its funds. This would be in contradiction to the words of God, where we're instructed to "lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt." [1]

That's not all. D&C 119 makes no stipulations for the funding of:

  • Meetinghouses [2]
  • Humanitarian work [2]
  • Missionary efforts [2]
  • Broadcast facilities
  • Agricultural reserves
  • Real estate

Neither does it make provision for funding full-time salaries. It's perfectly natural that these are not funded, because Jesus' original apostles worked without purse nor scrip, yet still had living expenses and even taxes to pay (to Rome). Why are apostles today any different? Here is what the Lord said:

"Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD;

As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock;

Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD;

Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them." [3] 

But I digress. Perhaps a more thorough examination of these outlays may be appropriate in a subsequent post.

"GROSS OR NET?" THROUGHOUT HISTORY

The first response the Lord provided to Joseph addressed how much He expected the Saints to offer. The answer was also straightforward: (1) offer all their surplus property into the hands of the bishop of my church in Zion, and (2) "one-tenth of all their interest annually" thereafter. To ensure it stayed this way, He suffixed his command by saying, "and this shall be a standing law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord." [4]  

Elsewhere, the Lord defines "surplus" as the part of one's income that is "more than is necessary for their support." [5]

OK, fine. But what is one's "increase"?

The Lord's insistence that tithing be based on interest is consistent with what He told Abraham to do:

"Abram paid unto him [Melchizedek] tithes of all that he had, of all the riches which he possessed, which God had given him more than that which he had need." [6] 

So, did Abraham pay tithes based on his gross income? No. Did Abraham pay tithes based on his net income? No. He paid tithing on "more than that which he had need," which sounds a lot like "more than is necessary for their support." In other words, his surplus.

At the time D&C 119 was revealed, John Corrill was serving alongside Elias Higbee as Church Historian.[7]  This is how he described the implementation of tithing:

"If a man gives for the benefit of the Church, it is considered a voluntary offering.  Yet the law requires or enjoins a consecration of the overplus, after reserving for himself and family to carry on his business." [8]

"Overplus," which is defined as - you guessed it - "a surplus or excess."

In 1855, Brigham Young reminisced about how tithing was implemented "When the revelation which I have read was given in 1838, I was present, and recollect the feelings of the brethren. . . . The brethren wished me to go among the Churches, and find out what surplus property the people had, with which to forward the building of the Temple we were commencing at Far West. I accordingly went from place to place through the country. Before I started, I asked brother Joseph, 'Who shall be the judge of what is surplus property?' Said he, 'Let them be the judges themselves. . . .'"  [9]

There's that word "surplus" again!

A CHANGED "STANDING" LAW

The first liberalization of the 1838 tithing revelation was instituted by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in November, 1841. Then, the initial donation was reduced to only "one-tenth of all a man [possesses, and] 1/10 of increas[e] afterwards."  [10]

(You'll note the usage of the word "increase" instead of "interest," which are considered synonyms).

I've read no objections or commentary by Joseph Smith regarding this modification, so I would assume that it still didn't violate the Lord's standing law.

But two and a half years later, tragedy struck: Joseph Smith, Jr. was martyred on June 27, 1844.

And that's where the story gets interesting.

On August 15th, 1844, just six weeks of Joseph's martyrdom, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued an epistle, (signed by Brigham Young, President of the Twelve) which entirely did away with surplus-based tithing and replaced it with income-based tithing:

"Therefore, as soon as the Twelve have proceeded to a full and complete organization of the branches abroad, let every member proceed immediately to tithe himself or herself, a tenth of all their property and money, and pay it into the hands of the Twelve; or into the hands of such bishops as have been, or shall be appointed by them to receive the same, for the building of the Temple for the support of the priesthood according to the scriptures, and the revelations of God; and then let them continue to pay in a tenth of their income from that time forth, for this is a law unto this church as much binding on their conscience as any other law or ordinance. And let this law or ordinance be henceforth taught to all who present themselves for admission into this church, that they may know the sacrifice and tithing which the Lord requires, and perform it; or else not curse the church with a mock membership as many have done heretofore. This will furnish a steady public fund for all sacred purposes, and save the leaders from constant debt and embarrassment, and the members can then employ the remainder of their capital in every branch of enterprize, industry, and charity, as seemeth them good; only holding themselves in readiness to be advised in such manner as shall be for the good of themselves and the whole society; and thus all things can move in harmony, and for the general benefit and satisfaction of all concerned."  [11] 

Five months later, in January 1845, another Quorum of Twelve's epistle highlighted "the duty of all saints to tithe themselves one-tenth of all they possess when they enter into the new and everlasting covenant: and then one-tenth of their interest, or income, yearly afterwards."  [12]

Then, two weeks later, the Twelve voted to exempt themselves, the two general bishops (Newel K. Whitney and George Miller) and the Nauvoo Temple Committee from any obligation to pay tithing.  [13]

THE TWELVE

We are told that "The Twelve are a Traveling Presiding High Council, to officiate in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the Presidency of the Church, agreeable to the institution of heaven; to build up the church, and regulate all the affairs of the same in all nations, first unto the Gentiles and secondly unto the Jews.". [14] It is written: President [Joseph] Smith gave the following decision. They are the Twelve Apostles, who are called to the office of traveling high council, who are to preside over all the churches of the Saints among the Gentiles, where there is no presidency established, and they are to travel and preach among the Gentiles, until the Lord shall command them to go to the Jews. They are to hold the keys of this ministry, to unlock the door of the kingdom of heaven unto all nations, and to preach the Gospel to every creature. This is the power, authority and virtue of their apostleship." [15] 

To reinforce this fact, "The president then stated that the Twelve will have no right to go into Zion or any of its stakes and there undertake to regulate the affairs thereof where there is a standing High Council." [16]

Today, "In addition to their primary responsibility to be special witnesses of the name of Christ throughout the world, the apostles have heavy administrative responsibilities as they oversee the orderly progress and development of the global Church."  [17]


QUESTIONS

Based on the aforementioned facts, I have the following questions:

  • Joseph Smith told a gathering of the Twelve that they only had authority "where there is no presidency established,", and in fact were not even to go into any organized stakes where there is a standing High Council. But now they have administrative responsibilities over the entire global Church. Where is the revelation that supersedes Joseph Smith's instructions, and when was it presented for a vote to the church as a whole per the Law of Common Consent?
  • Tithing was pretty clearly defined in the scriptures and statements by Joseph Smith that it's based on one's surplus, not income. Where is the revelation (the basis for the 8/15/1844 epistle) that supersedes those scriptures (including the Lord's standing law to the church) and Joseph Smith's instructions, and when was it presented for a vote to the church as a whole per the Law of Common Consent?
  • What does "a standing law forever" mean to you?
  • Where is the revelation that exempts the Twelve and others from having to pay tithing? When was it presented for a vote to the church as a whole per the Law of Common Consent?
  • If we are to receive profound blessings for paying tithing, then aren't those blessings naturally withheld to the Twelve, who are not obligated to pay tithing?
  • If Joseph were asked if tithing should be based on gross or net income, what do you think he'd say (and what would be the factual basis for your answer)?

CHECK THE COMMENTS BY LATTER-DAY
TRUTHS BELOW FOR UPDATES TO THIS POST
 

 1.   3 Nephi 13:19-20; Helaman 8:2
 2.   "The vast majority of these funds are used immediately to meet the needs of the growing Church including more meetinghouses, temples, education, humanitarian work and missionary efforts throughout the world. All Church funds exist for no other reason than to support the Church's divinely appointed mission." (First Presidency statement, Dec. 17, 2019)
 3.   Ezekiel 34:7-10
 4.   D&C 119:4
 5.   D&C 42:33
 6.   JST Genesis 14:39
 7.   Scott G. Kenney. "John Corrill (1794-1840)". Saints Without Halos. Retrieved 2010-08-12; Susan Easton Black (1997). "Corrill, John". Who's Who in the Doctrine and Covenants. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft.
 8.   John Corrill, "A Brief History of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints", published in 1839.  Reprinted in its entirety in The Joseph Smith Papers, Volume 2-The Histories
 9.   Journal of Discourses 2:306; http://jod.mrm.org/2/298
10.   Meeting of seven members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles with English immigrant Joseph Fielding at Nauvoo, Illinois, 31 Nov. 1841, minutes, archives, Historical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City, Utah; Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom, 18, and Swainston, "Tithing" in Encyclopedia of Mormonism 4:1482 overlook this as a liberalization of the requirement in the 1838 revelation.
11.   Joseph Smith et al., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Period I: History of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, and. . . Period II: From the Manuscript History of Brigham Young and Other Original Documents, ed. B. H. Roberts, 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1902-32; 2d ed. rev. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1978]), 7:251; Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom, 18; http://www.boap.org/LDS/History/History_of_the_Church/Vol_VII; https://archive.org/stream/historyofchurcho03smitrich/historyofchurcho03smitrich_djvu.txt
12.   History of the Church, 7:358
13.   Heber C. Kimball diary, 29 Jan. 1845, in Stanley B. Kimball, ed., On the Potter's Wheel: The Diaries of Heber C. Kimball (Salt Lake City: Signature Books/Smith Research Associates, 1987), 94; Nauvoo Trustee-in-Trust Tithing and Donation Record, 220-222 (29 Jan. 1845), LDS archives. For the term general bishop and its meaning in early LDS history, see Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. (Liverpool and London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-86), 22: 34 (O. Pratt/1880); D. Michael Quinn, 'Evolution of the Presiding Quorums of the LDS Church,' Journal of Mormon History 1 (1974): 34; Dale Beecher, 'The Office of Bishop,' Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 15 (Winter 1982): 103; Quinn, Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, 69-71
14.   D&C 107:33
15.   "Minutes and Discourses, 27 February 1835, as Reported by Oliver Cowdery," in Minute Book 1, 88, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/minute-book-1/92 ; as quoted in https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/history/topics/quorum-of-the-twelve
16.   Minute Book 1,p. 187, May 2, 1835; https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/minute-book-1/191#source-note 
17.   Church news release, "Russell M. Nelson: New President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles", July 15, 2015, https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/russell-m-nelson-new-president-of-the-quorum-of-the-twelve-apostles 

Sunday, October 18, 2020

An Illegitimate Scripture or an Illegitimate Church President -- Pick One

Imagine your bishop moving from your ward. A day or two after he's gone, the ward council gets together and installs a new bishop - without your sustaining vote.

Imagine the same thing happening with an Elders, Teachers or Deacons Quorum President or any local ward auxiliary president. All these leaders sustained…and you had absolutely no say about it whatsoever.

You and I both know that that's not the Lord's way. That's because we, as church members, believe in the Law of Common Consent, which means that all members have a say in who assumes an office in this church.

Even though Pres. Nelson once said that "You and I do not "vote" on Church leaders at any level," [1] others have said otherwise: 

  • Elder Mark E. Peterson said, "Neither does the Lord allow for any secret ordinations in his work. To be valid, everything is done publicly and by the vote of the people." [2]   
  • Elder Marion G. Romney said, "In the body of the Church there lies great power. No man can preside over any organized division of the Church without the consent of those over whom he is to preside. That is a power which God has vested in the membership of this Church. The power of approval resides in the membership of the Church." [3]
  • Pres. Joseph Fielding Smith: "No man can preside in this Church in any capacity without the consent of the people. The Lord has placed upon us the responsibility of sustaining by vote those who are called to various positions of responsibility. 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." [4]
  • Church D&C Students Manual: "Accordingly, church officers are selected by the spirit of revelation in those appointed to choose them, but before the officers may serve in their positions, they must receive a formal sustaining vote of the people over whom they are to preside. (D. & C. 20:60-67; 26:2; 28; 38:34-35; 41:9-11; 42:11; 102:9; 124:124-145.)" (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 149-50)" [5]
  • All these statements align with what the Lord also said: "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." [6]

NOMINATIONS AND SUSTAININGS: NOT NECESSARILY A SURE THING

Despite what we may see these days, nominations and sustainings to church offices are not necessarily a sure thing. 

The best example of this can be find in October, 1843, where a special conference was called to consider "the case and standing of Elder Sidney Rigdon." Joseph Smith had "stated his dissatisfaction" with Sidney Rigdon. Charges were leveled that Rigdon had correspondence "of a treacherous nature" with John C. Bennett, former Governor Carlin, and "the Missourians." Rigdon was also accused of "leaguing with dishonest persons in endeavoring to defraud the innocent." Smith told the conference that, in light of the charges, he was requesting Rigdon's removal as First Counselor. [7]

The Times and Seasons and the History of the Church both record that Rigdon addressed the conference, denied the charges and made a "moving appeal". They record "the sympathies of the congregation were highly excited." A vote was called and the congregation held that Rigdon would be permitted to retain his position.

The History of the Church records that Smith replied to the vote by saying, "I have thrown him off my shoulders, and you have again put him on me. You may carry him, but I will not." [8]

Source: Joseph Smith Papers (here)


PROPHETIC ORDINATION

In fact, not only sustainings, but ordinations are also deferred until the membership can have a say. Elder Erastus Snow said, "And therefore, where there is a regularly organized branch of the church, ordinations to the priesthood shall not be made without a vote of approval of said church." [9]  Referring to his stay in the Whitmer Home in 1829, Joseph Smith said, 

". . . the word of the Lord came unto us in the chamber, commanding us that I should ordain Oliver Cowdery to be an elder in the Church of Jesus Christ; and that he also should ordain me to the same office and then to ordain others, as it should be made known unto us from time to time. We were, however, commanded to defer this our ordination until such times as it should be practicable to have our brethren, who had been and who should be baptized, assembled together, when we must have their sanction to our thus proceeding to ordain each other, and have them decide by vote whether they were willing to accept us as spiritual teachers or not." [10]

A PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION

  • January 2, 2018: Pres. Thomas S Monson, the 16th President of the Church, died. He was 90.  [11]
  • January 3, 2018: The Church announces that a public viewing would be held on January 11, in the church's Conference Center. Funeral services are scheduled the following day, also in the Conference Center.
  • January 9, 2018: President Russell M. Nelson, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, signs 1,150 letters destined for newly called full-time missionaries. The letters were printed on the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles letterhead. [12]
  • January 11, 2018: Public viewing is held. [13]
  • January 12, 2018: Funeral services are held, and Monson's body is buried.
  • January 14, 2018: The quorum of the Twelve Apostles meets in the Salt Lake Temple's Upper Room. They vote unanimously to [A] reconstitute the First Presidency (which, by tradition, had dissolved automatically upon Monson's death) and [B] nominate Nelson to serve as Church President. He is ordained and set apart as such that day. [14]  (N. Eldon Tanner described the inside process of nominating, sustaining and ordaining Pres. Spencer W Kimball here). [15]
  • January 16, 2018: Nelson is introduced to church members and the media, along with Dallin H. Oaks as his First Counselor and Henry B. Eyring as Second Counselor. [16] 
  • March 31, 2018: Church members sustain Nelson as President, and Oaks and Eyring as counselors, as the Church's new First Presidency. [17]

TO SUMMARIZE

  1. 88 days elapsed between when Pres. Monson passed away and church members sustained Pres. Nelson as church president. [18] 
  2. Yet Pres. Nelson assumed the office of president 12 days after Pres. Monson passed away.

Those nominated or chosen by the Quorum of the Twelve to be President ought to be presented to the body of the Church before he may be ordained to, and serve in, his capacity as President. This ensures adherence to the scriptural requirements of D&C 20:65 and gives the general membership an opportunity to either sustain or deny the nomination, as they feel so inclined to do.

Of all the people in the church, our leaders should be the ones spearheading and championing adherence to the scriptures. Yet in this case, and many others, they have flagrantly opposed God's revealed directive.

We members are supposed to be an integral part, a crucial component, in the approval process of our leaders. As Elder Romney elaborated, in this church, you can't preside over any organized division of the Church without the consent of its members. Makes sense to me.

Not only are sustainings and ordinations, but everything else - "all things" [19] -- in the church require members' votes: "Not only are Church officers sustained by common consent, but this same principle operates for policies, major decisions, acceptance of new scripture, and other things that affect the lives of the Saints." 5

So which one is legitimate - the scriptures, Joseph Smith and the church's own D&C student manual (which say a person must be sustained by the members over whom they preside prior to assuming office), or today's Brethren (who ignore that procedure, without scriptural justification)?

"Thus, none shall be exempted from the justice and the laws of God,
that all things may be done in order and in solemnity before him,
according to truth and righteousness." [20] 




QUESTIONS

Based on the aforementioned facts, I have the following questions:

  • Do you believe the scriptures to be the words of God (as far as they are translated correctly)?
  • Do you seek to obey the words of God?
  • Should our church leaders be expected to obey the words of God?
  • Should our church leaders be expected to champion the words of God?
  • Why aren't the Law of Common Consent and D&C 20:65 obeyed and championed?
  • Do you think the Lord intended the Law of Common Consent to be a superficial formality?
  • What difficulty would there be in proclaiming someone as an "Acting President" until the members could formally sustain the nomination in the next General Conference, or at a Special Conference (as was held for Sidney Rigdon)?

CHECK THE COMMENTS BY LATTER-DAY
TRUTHS BELOW FOR UPDATES TO THIS POST
 

 1.   https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2014/10/sustaining-the-prophets?lang=eng
 2.   April 1974 General Conference
 3.   October 1947 General Conference
 4.   Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1954, 3:123
 5.   https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/manual/doctrine-and-covenants-student-manual/section-26-the-law-of-common-consent
 6.   D&C 20:65
 7.   https://web.archive.org/web/20141021203304/http://restorationisten.fairmormon.org/Times_and_Seasons/4/21#330
 8.   History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 49
 9.   April 1879 General Conference
10.   Documentary History of the Church, vol. 1, p. 60-61
11.   https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/president-thomas-monson-passes-away
12.   https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/president-nelson-signs-calls-new-missionaries
13.   https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/president-monson-funeral-arrangements-announced
14.   https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2018/04/as-we-go-forward-together?lang=eng
15.   https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/liahona/1978/09/administration-of-the-restored-church?lang=eng
16.   https://www.deseret.com/2018/1/16/20638916/president-russell-m-nelson-introduced-as-17th-lds-president-vows-to-serve-discusses-diversity
17.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAVXK30qZYI&ab_channel=ChurchNewsroom
18.   https://www.timeanddate.com/date/durationresult.html?m1=01&d1=02&y1=2018&m2=03&d2=31&y2=2018
19.   D&C 26:2
20.   D&C 107:84

Sunday, October 11, 2020

When the Church Breaks One of its Own Laws

I believe almost all people know Murphy's Law ("If anything can go wrong, it will"). This is actually known as Murphy's Law #1. 

What most people don't know is that there are more laws than that. [1]  Here are a few you may not be aware of:

Murphy's Law #4: If you perceive that there are four possible ways in which something can go wrong, and circumvent these, then a fifth way, unprepared for, will promptly develop.

Murphy's Law #6: If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.

Forsyth's Second Corollary to Murphy's Laws: Just when you see the light at the end of the tunnel, the roof caves in.

The 50-50-90 rule: Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there's a 90% probability you'll get it wrong.

Everyone has a photographic memory. Some just don't have any film.

He who laughs last, thinks slowest.

Those who live by the sword get shot by those who don't.

Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

The church has several laws in it as well. We have the Law of Chastity, the Law of Tithing, the Law of Consecration, the Law of Obedience, the Law of Adoption, the Law of the Harvest, the Law of the Gospel and the Law of the Fast. Even the Word of Wisdom has been described as the Lord's Law of Health [2].  In the case of Chastity, Tithing and Health, these are pretty strictly enforced by the church.

However, there is one law that is not strictly enforced. What makes this more ironic is that it's mentioned in the scriptures several times. It is the word of God, it is the will of God, it is a commandment of God. Yet it is a neglected law of God.

THE LAW OF COMMON CONSENT

According to Elder Bruce R. McConkie, the doctrine of common consent is actually a law: 

"Administrative affairs of the Church are handled in accordance with the law of common consent. This law is that in God's earthly kingdom, the King counsels what should be done, but then he allows his subjects to accept or reject his proposals. Unless the principle of free agency is operated in righteousness men do not progress to ultimate salvation in the heavenly kingdom hereafter. Accordingly, church officers are selected by the spirit of revelation in those appointed to choose them, but before the officers may serve in their positions, they must receive a formal sustaining vote of the people over whom they are to preside." [3]

Sure enough, the law of common consent "has been operative in every dispensation." [4]   For example, it was active (in one form or another) during the lifetimes of Moses [5], Joshua [6], Samuel [7], Mosiah [8]  and Peter [9].

As part of the restoration, the Prophet Joseph Smith received a revelation in April 1830 regarding Church organization and government "which not only gave us much information, but also pointed out to us the precise day upon which, according to His will and commandment, we should proceed to organize His Church once more here upon the earth." [10]    In that revelation - now known as D&C Section 20 - we learn that:

"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." [11]

Three months later, in July 1830, the Lord specified that the vote of the church encompasses more than just the approval of its leaders: 

"all things shall be done by common consent in the church, by much prayer and faith, for all things you shall receive by faith." [12] 

(Note: that's "all things." Church officer sustainings? Yes. Policies? Yes. Major decisions? Yes. Acceptance of new scripture? Yes. Other things that affect the lives of the Saints? Yes. How our tithing dollars are used? Yes.)

"Not only are Church officers sustained by common consent, but this same principle operates for policies, major decisions, acceptance of new scripture, and other things that affect the lives of the Saints." [13]

In September, 1830 (two months later), the Lord reinforced this command when Hiram Page attempted to receive revelations for the church:

"For all things must be done in order, and by common consent in the church, by the prayer of faith." [14]

(See those words "shall" and, two months later, "must"? That's tantamount to the Lord saying that common consent IS a law which the church should not break).

These revelations became a foundation to the government of the Lord's kingdom and defined the order of proper Church procedure.

The Doctrine and Covenants is filled with more arrows pointing to the law of common consent. Some examples include:

  • The role of revelation and common consent, which was revealed in September 1830. [15]
  • Members who were appointed to service to give relief to the poor and needy or to leadership positions within the Church organization were appointed by "the voice of the church". [16] 
  • The disposition of tithes and offerings ("And there shall not any part of it be used, or taken out of the treasury, only by the voice and common consent of the order"). [17] 
  • Church callings. [18]

Two other latter-day historical events highlight the importance of the law of common consent and how it interrelates with the doctrines preached, taught and perpetuated among church members:

  • The Discontinuation of Plural Marriage: With the unanimous approval of Official Declaration #1, church members declared their intention to submit to laws enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages.  As President Lorenzo Snow stated:

"I move that, recognizing Wilford Woodruff as the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the only man on the earth at the present time who holds the keys of the sealing ordinances, we consider him fully authorized by virtue of his position to issue the Manifesto which has been read in our hearing, and which is dated September 24th, 1890, and that as a Church in General Conference assembled, we accept his declaration concerning plural marriages as authoritative and binding.

The vote to sustain the foregoing motion was unanimous." [19]

  • Extending the priesthood to all worthy male members: This significant change in priesthood membership and administration was effectuated by the approval, by the body of the church, of Official Declaration #2.  President N. Eldon Tanner, First Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church, presented the Declaration to the body of the church for ratification.  He stated:

"Recognizing Spencer W. Kimball as the prophet, seer, and revelator, and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it is proposed that we as a constituent assembly accept this revelation as the word and will of the Lord. All in favor please signify by raising your right hand. Any opposed by the same sign.

The vote to sustain the foregoing motion was unanimous in the affirmative." [20]

In both cases, an historical precedence was firmly established: changes to existing doctrines (which presumably include anything categorized as a scripturally-based "standing law" unto the church) require the sustaining of the church's members.

A LAW IGNORED OUT OF EXISTENCE

When we examine the history of the church, we begin to see that in implementing the law of common consent, a preliminary decision was made (for example, a person was proposed for a calling, or a tentative budget was presented). Then members were given the opportunity to accept or reject the proposal. [21]  If a proposal was rejected, it was back to the drawing board. To avoid exercising control, dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, no consequences or retribution was given the member for an opposing view. [21]

That's pretty much a thing of the past now. Opposing views precipitate an immediate meeting in the stake president's office, and those meetings aren't particularly warm and fuzzy. 

Yet another a trend has also surfaced: the law of common consent is rarely mentioned and adhered to in the first place. 

By my (admittedly very inadequate) historical research skills, it all began in 1844, less than a month after Brother Joseph's death. The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued an official proclamation for members to immediately pay "a tenth of all their property and money…and then let them continue to pay a tenth of their income from that time forth." 

This was a monumental deviation from Law of Tithing which was revealed six years earlier, in which the Lord gave a "standing law" that the saints should be "tithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually." [22]

In instituting this new doctrine, the twelve never once produced a revelation from God for the members to review and prayerfully contemplate. To date, no one has seen the actual revelation which reversed the Lord's "standing revelation," and no one has ever been asked to offer a sustaining vote changing that scripture.

Since then, the Law of Common Consent has kind of conveniently become forgotten and ignored. And to most members, that's OK, because we have our leaders, making the church the "church of the latter-day leaders" instead of the "church of the latter-day saints." Here's what two members said online:

"Common consent in the Church is not a grassroots kind of principle."

"There are just too many daily happenings within the Church that can not be voted on. This is, IMHO, the reason the Lord has chosen good men to be our leaders. As a whole, although some may err, I believe they are doing the Lord's work on the earth today. And isn't that what common consent is….the majority. I doubt that they all agree on every proposal brought before the 15, however, I believe that when they walk out of a meeting, they are in agreement that this is what the Lord wants done at that time. I don't have to agree ( as you have chosen not to do), but I can still sustain them in their callings because I know the Lord has guided them in those decisions."

And sure enough, that's the unwritten order of things today. Here's former Seventy (and now mission president) Matthew O. Richardson:

"This privilege of voting is more an act of ratifying leadership callings and decisions rather than actually making those decisions. Such decisions are left to the Lord and His anointed servants." [23] 

I believe Brother Richardson is telling the truth. We members are no longer involved in having a say in the church's "administrative affairs".  The application of the law of common consent to "all things" by members is no longer applicable. We have no explanation as to why the law of common consent has been non-existent for a long time in the church. 

If it was in play/practice, would we have a multi-billion dollar mall in downtown Salt Lake City? Or plush million-dollar condos? Or hunting preserves in Nevada where rich men can pay big money to hunt big game for sport? Or 3% of the land mass in Florida?

A DOSE OF REALITY

You'd be hard pressed to say this is what church members have been wanting. 

Nowhere do I find in the scriptures that its OK for members to abrogate their responsibilities as members to their leaders. If you can find the scripture, please send it to me. If you can find the revelation, please send it to me.

Moroni reminded us (four times) that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He does not change His mind on eternal truths, just to tease or test us.

As far as I can tell, the Lord never said, "And all things shall be done by common consent by the church's leaders." He said, "And all things shall be done by common consent in the church." He wants church members to participate in the decision-making process, because it gives them ownership of the doctrine, policy or sustained leader - and for all the good or bad that brings with said decision:

"If the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time the judgements of God will come upon you." [24]

Over time, we've seen a lot of other doctrines and laws evaporate away. Are these "things that affect the lives of the Saints"? Definitely.

Were they subject to approval or disapproval via the Law of Common Consent? Definitely not.

Will I be addressing each one of these doctrines and laws in future posts? You better believe it.

"If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,

And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;
Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.
And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the Lord thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee." [25]

"Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.
Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken.
Therefore hear, ye nations, and know, O congregation, what is among them.
Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it."  [26]

QUESTIONS

Based on the aforementioned facts, I have the following questions:

  • How is the church’s ongoing neglect of the Law of Common Consent NOT making this the church of the “latter-day administrative leaders” instead of the church of the “latter-day saints”?
  • When and how did the Lord declare that it was OK for the saints not to directly have a say in “all things” regarding his church?

CHECK THE COMMENTS BY LATTER-DAY
TRUTHS BELOW FOR UPDATES TO THIS POST
 

1  http://www.murphys-laws.com/murphy/murphy-miscellaneous.html
2  http://kutv.com/news/local/lds-church-clarifies-word-of-wisdom-on-vaping-green-tea-coffee-marijuana-opioids
3   Mormon Doctrine, p. 149-50
4  Bruce R. McConkie, Common Consent (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, n.d.), p. 4.
5  Exodus 24:3
6   Numbers 27:19-22
7  1 Samuel 8:7
8  Mosiah 29:25-26
9  Acts 1:26
10  History of the Church 1:64
11  D&C 20:65
12  D&C 26:2; emphasis mine
13  https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/manual/doctrine-and-covenants-student-manual/section-26-the-law-of-common-consent
14  D&C 28:13
15  D&C 20:63, 65, 66.
16  D&C 38:34-35; 41:9-10; 51:4, 12.
17  D&C 104:64, 71-77.
18  D&C 42:11; 102:9; 124:124-44.
19  D&C Official Declaration #1.
20  D&C Official Declaration #2.
21  D&C 121:37
22  D&C 119:4.
23  "The Law of Common Consent (D&C 26)", https://rsc.byu.edu/sperry-symposium-classics-doctrine-covenants/law-common-consent-dc-26-0
24  Mosiah 29:27
25  Deuteronomy 13:1-5
26  Jeremiah 6:16-19