Navy boot camp was not an easy experience for me, nor for anyone who endured it. For the first three weeks I was convinced my life was in jeopardy. The navy wasn’t trying to train me; it was trying to kill me.
I shall ever remember when Sunday rolled around after the first week. We received welcome news from the chief petty officer. Standing at attention on the drill ground in a brisk California breeze, we heard his command: “Today everybody goes to church—everybody, that is, except for me. I am going to relax!” Then he shouted, “All of you Catholics, you meet in Camp Decatur—and don’t come back until three o’clock. Forward, march!” A rather sizeable contingent moved out. Then he barked out his next command: “Those of you who are Jewish, you meet in Camp Henry—and don’t come back until three o’clock. Forward, march!” A somewhat smaller contingent marched out. Then he said, “The rest of you Protestants, you meet in the theaters at Camp Farragut—and don’t come back until three o’clock. Forward, march!”
Instantly there flashed through my mind the thought, “Monson, you are not a Catholic; you are not a Jew; you are not a Protestant. You are a Mormon, so you just stand here!” I can assure you that I felt completely alone. Courageous and determined, yes—but alone.
And then I heard the sweetest words I ever heard that chief petty officer utter. He looked in my direction and asked, “And just what do you guys call yourselves?” Until that very moment I had not realized that anyone was standing beside me or behind me on the drill ground. Almost in unison, each of us replied, “Mormons!” It is difficult to describe the joy that filled my heart as I turned around and saw a handful of other sailors.
The chief petty officer scratched his head in an expression of puzzlement but finally said, “Well, you guys go find somewhere to meet. And don’t come back until three o’clock. Forward, march!”
As we marched away, I thought of the words of a rhyme I had learned in Primary years before:
Dare to be a Mormon;
Dare to stand alone.
Dare to have a purpose firm;
Dare to make it known.
These words were delivered by President Thomas S. Monson in the October 2011 General Conference. They were given as both a challenge and inspiration to stand strong in our beliefs no matter what adversity you may face.
As illustrated by his experience, standing for your beliefs can be a terrifying experience, especially when you are the only member in the room. Imagine how you would feel. You are sitting in a room surrounded by hundred of people who know you and you alone must stand for truth. Your heart starts to beat faster. The thoughts race through your mind. What will they think about me? What will my friends think? Am I just being a disruptor? Is it really that important to stand for truth? What repercussions will I face? Will I be punished? Your palms sweat. Your heart beat drowns out all other sounds in the room. The moment is here. All eyes are on you. Do you take a stand or decide that maybe you can stand for truth tomorrow?
In Mosaiah 18:9 we learn that it is our duty to stand for God all the time:
9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God[…]
Opportunities to stand for truth don’t happen just outside the walls of Church. Sometimes, we may even need to stand for truth at Church. This can often be more nerve wracking than standing for truth somewhere else. These are people you see every week. They are your neighbors and friends.
Have you ever been in a meeting where a member of the ward was sustained to a new calling? The vote is pretty much always in support of the person getting the calling. Usually the only time you see someone raising their hand to oppose is when it’s some little child who doesn’t know what they are doing, and then their mother quickly swats their hand down. I’ve been both the child and the parent in that scenario (at different times of course).
But did you know that opposing votes actually have a very important purpose in our Church?
Handbook 2 Section 19.3 actually tells us what the purpose of an opposing vote is:
“If a member in good standing gives a dissenting vote when someone is presented to be sustained, the presiding officer or another assigned priesthood officer confers with the dissenting member in private after the meeting. The officer determines whether the dissenting vote was based on knowledge that the person who was presented is guilty of conduct that should disqualify him or her from serving in the position.”
Also in the Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual “Section 26, The Law of Common Consent” teaches us a similar lesson:
D&C 26:2. When Should a Person Cast a Negative Vote?
“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.” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:124.)
What these things are teaching us is that the purpose of an opposing vote is to bring knowledge of any wrongdoing by the person who is being sustained, that would disqualify them from serving, to the attention of a Priesthood leader.
I think we can all agree that following the commandments and teachings of the God are essential for every member of the Church. Christ didn’t say, “If you love me keep my commandments, except for the Elders Quorum or Relief Society President, they’re exempt.” No. All members must keep God’s commandments.
This is why this next part is so hard for me. Because, I have knowledge that a fellow member of the Church is guilty of conduct that would disqualify them from serving in their calling. This is terrifying, because, when the time comes to sustain them, I will be the lone member of my ward to cast an opposing vote. Mentally I know that the purpose of casting an opposing vote isn’t to be disagreeable, it isn’t to be disruptive, it isn’t to speak evil about the person being sustained. It’s purpose is to make Priesthood leaders aware of issues.
But this knowledge doesn’t alleviate the fact that I must stand alone, when I raise my hand to oppose the calling. Chances are that I will be the first person anyone in my ward has ever seen cast an opposing vote. That is a huge weight on my shoulders. I’m terrified; even though I will be acting in complete compliance with Church teachings. Part of me wishes I could just sit quietly and do nothing. But I can’t. It wouldn’t be right. It wouldn’t be doing my duty as a member of the Church.
The reason why I find myself in this position originates in the scriptures. According to the Doctrine and Covenants and teachings of the Church, all things in the church must be done by common consent.
65 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; — Section 20:65
In the Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual in the chapter entitled “Section 26, The Law of Common Consent” it states:
Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained that “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. […] 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.)
These things teach us that no Church officers may be ordained or serve in their positions without the vote of the church to which their office pertains. This is the issue that brings me to my predicament. The reason why I need to cast an opposing vote, when it is time for sustainings in my ward, is that someone was given a calling and ordained without having this vote first. I know this for a fact because this member said it themselves. In fact they seemed like they were proud of the fact, like they either didn’t know the rules or didn’t care.
I wanted some further insight into this so I looked in the Handbook and in Handbook 2 Section 19.3 it says:
Members who are called to most Church positions should receive a sustaining vote before they begin serving. The Chart of Callings indicates whether a sustaining vote is needed and what congregation should give it.
This was insightful because it says that most Church positions should receive a sustaining vote before they begin serving. Then it gives a reference to know which of these callings are the exemptions to the “most” statement. I looked at the Chart of Callings and couldn’t find the calling to which this member had been called. Meaning that their calling was not one of the exceptions
Now, I know this may seem like a minor thing. But as I mentioned before, the commandments are for everyone. They are there for a reason. And if this rule isn’t important then why is it in our scriptures, teachings, and policies?
I know Church leaders at all levels, local and general, are doing their best to serve God. I support and encourage them to do good in leading the Church. We all acknowledge that Church members aren’t perfect, even ones with leadership callings. So if there was an error in the way this person was called then it should be corrected, right? After all, mistakes happen.
But the mistake made in the calling of this person is of particular significance and importance. On January 16, 2018, there was a broadcast held for members of the Church:
Todd Christofferson, conducting the event, stated:
“We are pleased to announce to you this morning that Russell M. Nelson was set apart as the seventeenth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on January 14, 2018. With President Dallin H. Oaks and First Councilor and President Henry B. Eyring as Second Councilor in the First presidency. President M. Russell Ballard was set apart as acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.”
Later Russell M. Nelson also spoke, stating:
“Two days ago, as Brother Christofferson has said, all of the living Apostles met in the upper room of the Salt Lake Temple. There, they made a unanimous decision first, to reorganize the First Presidency now, and second, that I serve as President of the Church. Words are inadequate to tell you what it felt like to have my brethren, brethren who hold all the priesthood keys restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith in this dispensation, place their hands upon my head to ordain and set me apart as President of the Church.”
These statements make it known that, two days earlier, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles ordained and set apart Russell M. Nelson as President of the Church, with Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring as his councilors. The was done BEFORE any sustaining vote by the church could have been done. Based on what we learned earlier this is a clear violation of the scriptures, teaching of the Church, and Church policies.
When I learned about this it was such a surprise. My initial reaction was to look up all the scriptures and policies about the subject to find out what the truth was. This lead me to all of the information I presented earlier in this article.
Interestingly in Doctrine and Covenants Second 20 it actually talks about ordaining the President of the Church:
67 Every president of the high priesthood (or presiding elder), bishop, high councilor, and high priest, is to be ordained by the direction of a high council or general conference.
At first glance this may seem like this gives the President a pass, but verse 65 is emphatic that where there is an organize division of the Church, no person is to be ordained to any office without first having received the vote of that church. So how are we to understand verse 67?
They key is in the wording, “ordained by the direction of.” Meaning that either a high council, or a General Conference may direct that a President be ordained. But they must still comply with verse 65 and get the vote of the church before that ordination can actually be done.
This may seem like I’m picking at straws. After all, if the Church members sustain Russell M. Nelson later, does it really matter that he was ordained before? Well, yes, it does matter. Because if it didn’t matter when the sustaining vote took place, then why would there be commandments about it? Since Russell, M. Nelson’s ordaining was illegitimate, then when Church members later vote to sustain that ordination, all they are saying is that they support an ordination that broke the commandments. Does God want us to support breaking the commandments, or would He prefer we point out errors so they can be fixed?
I know that there are some members of the Church who don’t care enough to worry about this. It’s much easier to maintain the status quo and keep your mouth shut. After all, why rock the boat? Why make waves? But for me I care too much about the Gospel to not act. I’m not a member who goes to Church for the social aspect. I believe in the Gospel and work to apply it in my life. I believe that the scriptures say what they mean, and mean what they say. Therefore this breach of the commandments will not be ignored by God. This is a point in time where we can vote to oppose error and thus stand with God and his commandments, or we can vote to sustain violations of God’s law.
That is why, in accordance with the teachings of the church, and out of no malice or ill-intent, I must dare to stand alone for truth and vote in opposition to the motions to sustain Russell M. Nelson Sr. as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; with Dallin H. Oaks as First Counselor in the First Presidency; and Henry B. Eyring as Second Counselor in the First Presidency; as well as M. Russell Ballard Jr. as Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
These men cannot legitimately serve in these callings, because their ordinations were done in transgression of the laws and teachings of the church. I will be casting my vote from a place of respect, and not out of criticism. I have observed a breach in the laws of the God and the church, and I must oppose that.
I do not oppose a properly organized First Presidency consisting of Russell M. Nelson, Dallin H. Oaks, Henry B. Eyring. Likewise, I do not oppose the sustaining of Russell M. Nelson, the counselors in the First Presidency, and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators; as I do support them in receiving these gifts.
I have a testimony that Jesus Christ is our Saviour, and that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God. I strive to live the Gospel of Christ the best I can. And it is from this very same desire to follow God’s commandments that I must cast my opposing vote. And if after reading this you choose to cast an opposing vote, know that you are not standing alone.