We were already at a slight disadvantage coming to the meeting. Our governing principles were one of the last submissions, and did not have much of a chance for review by all. I wanted to summarize the meeting, so that all of you understand where the project currently stands. This is a Fellowship Governing Principles Report.
Q and I were already scheduled to speak at a youth conference at 10 am in Ogden and had to make last minute adjustments to split our time with the Governing Principles meeting. We rescheduled our talks to the afternoon to accommodate the meeting. That morning we delivered our kids and the audio system to record the speakers at the youth conference, and then drove quickly to get to the meeting in Sandy (about an hour away).
Upon arrival, the meeting began with an open floor, for anyone to express their opinions concerning the Governing Principles. It was an open-mic session, all could speak freely, and there was no shortage of soap-boxes. Aside from the personal comments, scripture quotes, and opinions, the major issues brought forward can be summed up as:
- The document of Governing Principles IS NOT REVELATION, but can be considered inspiration, and ought to be presented as such, rather than governing revelation
- The document of Governing Principles IS REVELATION
It was clear that the Governing Principles were going to stay. The title was tossed around a bit, but remained the same. The biggest concern was how it would be presented.
Comments made by Q and I were the following:
- (Q) The document of Governing Principles ought to be addressed in common plain-term language as it is a covenant of the land for all people, both inside and outside of the LDS community
- (Q) The document of Governing Principles ought to be equivalent to Captain Moroni’s Title of Liberty- affecting people’s desire to rent their garments in covenant, trusting in God to unify and protect them, in equality, and that if they break it, may they all be rent as their garments
- (Q) Truth ought to govern the Governing Principles document
- (R) Telestial, Terrestrial, and Celestial laws are given respectively as commandments, principles, and the heart and mind of God within you. This document will have a portion of both Telestial and Terrestrial, leading to Celestial law. Telestial, requires instruction, or commandment, in baptism, sacrament, priesthood ordinances, etc. Terrestrial is the main focus to inherit the land, respecting the independence of fellowships to govern themselves as they see fit. And as fellowships trust in the Spirit of Truth to lead them through their experiment, they will all converge into one heart and mind, in a Celestial fashion
- (R) Since the Governing Principles document is going into scripture, we ought to simply state the words necessary, relying on the Spirit of Truth to deliver it to those who read it, rather than name-dropping and quoting other scriptures
I know, I know, …I was surprised too that my wife said more than me. That was the first time ever that it was a ratio of 3:2, with Q making more comments than me. She seemed to be possessed of something greater than usual, and another woman recognized that spirit, and felt equally impressed to stand and bear testimony of Captain Moroni and the Title of Liberty.
Things became ruffled as people supporting that the document was REVELATORY questioned if everyone prayed asking God if it was REVELATION, …and then simultaneously asked for a show of hands of those who agreed that it was REVELATION. I quickly spoke up in opposition to a decisive vote, as we hadn’t even begun a discussion. We were already two hours into the event without any idea about the approach we were going to be taking.
After lunch we reconvened inside the house because the neighbor’s yard-work and an outdoor rock-band performance made it difficult to communicate. We were able to escape the outside noise, but being inside didn’t remove the noise between different opinions. What occurred inside was a dead-lock. People’s opinions, their documents, their expectations took priority over the truth. Instead of the mind and will of God leading out, it felt like a first-hand insight into the Nicean creed.
A vote was taken to use the original document as the base of our conversation. But, the vote was out of 16 people, when 38 were in attendance. It didn’t meet the criteria of a majority at all, but we continued the meeting as if that didn’t change the circumstances. After an additional 2.5 hours, we were unable to get past the first paragraph without confusion, disagreement, and passive accusation.
I proposed a question, asking, “Are we still going to use the original document, or is everything on the table? If we are just doing minor edits to the existing document, my wife and I need go to the youth conference. But if it’s all on the table, we will stay longer, so that we can look at it with fresh eyes.” Jeff and Emily Savage, the meeting moderators, assured us that it was all on the table, so we stuck around.
The discussion turned to our fellowship’s document submission of Governing Principles. Many had opinions both for and against what we submitted. Some felt that we shouldn’t oversimplify the Doctrine of Christ as “progression.” Others wanted to use it as a “federalist papers” project for research purposes, but not to be inserted into the scriptures. Some asked why our document was being considered and not the other submissions. It was clear to my wife and I that the conversation was aimless, and we expressed deep gratitude for the committee considering our truths, and excused ourselves from the meeting to travel back to Ogden to speak at the youth conference, after 5.5 hours of discussions.
We finally began heading home from the youth conference, with our kids and our sound equipment at 9 PM, and didn’t get home until 10:30 PM. The next morning, I called a few friends who remained after we left, and learned that they left a couple of hours after we did, and the meeting continued as it did when we were there. Nothing changed, and it was a dead-lock. I was surprised to get an email, telling all in attendance that the meeting ended late that evening, with everyone unified in one heart and one mind. It was a 12-hour meeting. We left just before midpoint, our friends left just past mid-point, and there was no sign of unity.
Looking over the resultant document, very little has changed, but the few who stayed the entire time signed their names and testified of oneness. Jeff reported to me that at about 5PM, those who remained began to magically flow together, to become one. I cannot see a claim of oneness, simply because those who were left, chose to agree. I would have called it “compromise.” Jeff reported that what happened after we left was those who stayed simply read the document, and things just flowed together. I told Jeff that my God doesn’t work that way. My God would extract and enlighten us with correct principles in wisdom, and that would produce oneness of heart and mind. Then the group could use common words to finalize a document.
I question “the approach” as being the problem, and not the people involved. It was doomed to fail before it even began, because “the approach” was not open to allow the truth to govern. If the truth were to govern, the mind and will of God would naturally be the result of the matter.
Having said that, I was asked, “If you think their approach was doomed to fail from the beginning, what would you do differently?” In response I suggest the following:
- I would: State the original objective of the document
- I would: Read the original document, explaining my reasons for each section, familiarizing people with what initially drove the original document. I would reduce my explanation to key-words, keeping them to a minimum
- I would: Open my reasons to questioning, asking for more input from the group, so that the main objective was accomplished
- I would: Toss the original document, and begin brainstorming and reconstructing a new document with everyone’s suggestions
- I would: Re-write the document, and submit it for group approval
- Finally, I would: Submit the document to the Lord for His approval
I would recommend that we take another stab at it, allowing the mind and will of God to govern through principles, rather than quickly moving towards making decision and producing a compromised document. How we produce the final document significantly matters more than just what we produce. The document will reflect the way it was approached, designed, and constructed. If we approach this work in compromise, our results we reflect compromise, and will ultimately fail. If it was done in unity, the document will be a modern title of liberty. How we produce the final results will impact future efforts.