PREFACE: I have a confession to make: In an earlier blog, I intentionally used harsher language than normal in describing wrongful acts by erstwhile LDS missionaries. The reasons are threefold:
1. I wanted to emphasize the serious damage done to LDS-Catholic relations, LDS missionary efforts in that area and as a whole, and to the reputation of the Church.
2. I wanted to spur discussion (as I do in my courses–usually successfully). I appear to have succeeded–perhaps in ways that I did not intend. I wanted to take the most rigorous position consistent with Gospel principles, that is the “Hammer them, then take them by the hand and help them back” approach. Obviously, I didn’t entirely succeed here–to miscalculations on my part. I repeat my apologies.
3. I wanted a lead-in for this Gospel-related entry. NoS was quite right in his comment that the essence of the Gospel was repentance and forgiveness. However, as he and others were a little slow on the uptake on my first reason for the harsh language (no doubt because of my miscalculations mentioned in the second reason–I’m sorry for this, NoS!), I didn’t want to give away the game before I had fully developed this entry (I’m sorry for this, too, NoS!).
Now, for the blog entry itself:
Recently, I’ve been asked many times about the LDS practice of the “sustaining vote” for people holding leadership positions. One question is: “Is it OK to vote not to sustain?” and “If so, what happens when somebody votes, ‘No’?” While I am definitely not one of the Brethren, I do have some thoughts, based on my reading of the Bible and the relevant parts of the Church Handbook of Instructions:
First of all, the sustaining vote is not about the person’s technical qualifications for the calling. Joseph Smith only had a third grade education–wholly inadequate for the calling to translate the modified Egyptian script that is the original Book of Mormon. I think of the cliche’, “Whom the Lord calls, He qualifies.” As Evengelical Pastor Charles Swindoll says (I wish I knew where! Can somebody help?), the “best qualified” of all of Jesus’ original Apostles was Judas Iscariot–and he was a traitor!
Second, the purpose of the sustaining vote is to find out if there is some disqualifying factor. As I said earlier, lack of technical qualification is not a disqualifying factor. What is disqualifying is a sin of moral turpitude. For example, we would not want to have a child molester as Nursery Leader, nor would we want an embezzler as Ward Finance Clerk.
Third, fully repented-of sin removes the person from the category of “sinner” [See The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 96].
Fourth, just because you think the leader made mistakes in applying his calling doesn’t necessarily mean that the person exercised “unrighteous dominion” (He may have, and he may not have.).
Finally, it is not a sin merely to vote not to sustain–especially if the you sustain him anyway. As I understand, you are merely voicing a factor that might disqualify one from a calling. When you vote not to sustain, that vote is tabulated, and you are contacted for the reason. If that reason is sufficient to disqualify for a calling, a release is issued; if not, then the sustaining goes forward and the called one is set apart.
Here are some scenarios that illustrate what I’m talking about. Comments are welcome.
1. Now that the legal troubles of the former missionaries in San Luis, Colorado appear to have have ended, let us assume that they are also returned to full fellowship, and one of them has been called as Bishop of your Ward. If I were in that Ward, I would wholeheartedly sustain him, because competent Church authorities have determined that his repentance is complete. Thus, there is nothing that would disqualify Bishop X.
2. I have been called as Bishop of your Ward, and, unlike NoS, you are not convinced that my earlier blog reveals a hatred so great that you must conclude that I am utterly devoid of the Spirit of Christ, and engaging in unrighteous dominion, to boot. Should you vote to sustain? My answer: Yes; personal failings are insufficient to disqualify for a calling.
4. I have been called as Bishop of your Ward, and, like NoS, you are convinced that my earlier blog reveals a hatred so great that you must conclude that I am utterly devoid of the Spirit of Christ, and engaging in unrighteous dominion, to boot. Should you vote to sustain? My answer: No, for the unrighteous dominion reason stated above, plus personal apostasy. However, if I am set apart anyway, you should heed my lawful counsel, and sustain me anyway.
I will need your prayers, at any rate!
4. You believe that a person called to be Bishop, an outspoken member of another political party, is an ignoramus who advocates policies that would be disastrous for the country. I maintain that you should sustain this person, because, even if your belief is wholly true, idiocy is not a disqualifying factor.
5. You believe that a person called to be Bishop, an outspoken member of another political party, is a racist, sexist, bigoted, warmonger, who is trying to slaughter poor people, and destroy the Constitution of the U.S. You should vote not to sustain; bigotry, warmongering, attempted murder, and undermining the Constitution are all serious violations of major commandments listed in the Scriptures.
6. Similarly, you should vote not to sustain a KKK member who is called to any position. Not only is this person a bigot, he is also a member of a terrorist group.
7. However, voting not to sustain a freemason is unwarranted, since the FAM is not a terrorist group–despite conspiracy theories!
8. How about a former KKK member? In my mind, a former Klansman who denounces Klan dogma is no longer a racist, and he has turned his back on terrorism. Sustain him as you would any other person who has fully repented.
9. However, I would not only not sustain a person on the sex offender list, even though he has fully paid his societal debt–even to the point of having his civil rights restored. Sadly, there are too many liability issues, and the law may prohibit him performing that calling.
What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Why not tell me why?