Frequently in Church meetings we raise our arms to sustain someone receiving a Church calling or ordination. This practice is referred to as the law of common consent. In Doctrine and Covenants 26, which was given during the same period as sections 24–25, the Lord commands that “all things shall be done by common consent in the church” (v. 2). Common consent had already been practiced when the Church was organized. Speaking of that first meeting, the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote:
“We proceeded, according to previous commandment, to call on our brethren to know whether they accepted us as their teachers in the things of the Kingdom of God, and whether they were satisfied that we should proceed and be organized as a Church according to said commandment which we had received. To these several propositions they consented by a unanimous vote” (History of the Church, 1:77; see also D&C 20:65).
Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For
Church History in the Fulness of Times: Religion 341–43, pp. 73–74.
Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: Religion 324–325, p. 54.
Suggestions for Teaching
Doctrine and Covenants 26. In the Church we vote to sustain those given Church callings, those receiving priesthood ordinations, and in some cases, Church policies.
Invite a student to come forward and hold some weights in the air as long as possible. While the student holds them, discuss with the class the meaning of the word sustain (you could use synonyms like support and uphold). Invite another student to help hold up the arms of the first. Ask the first student:
How difficult was it to hold up your arms?
How did it feel when you received the help or support of another person?
Have a student read Doctrine and Covenants 26:2 and ask: What do you think common consent means? Explain that in the Church we vote to sustain those given Church callings, those receiving priesthood ordinations, and in some cases, Church policies.
What blessings come to members of the Church who vote to sustain their leaders?
How are Church leaders blessed by the sustaining vote of Church members?
In addition to raising your arm, what else could you do to sustain your Church leaders?
How is sustaining a Church leader different from voting in a government election?
Explain that when we sustain Church leaders we are not choosing who we want to lead us. Leaders in the Church are called by God (see Articles of Faith 1:5). By raising our arms we show that we accept and sustain the leaders God has chosen. Have students read Doctrine and Covenants 26:1 and find the assignments the Lord gave Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and John Whitmer. Ask:
Why would it have been important for Church members to sustain these brethren as they followed this directive?
Read Doctrine and Covenants 1:37–38. What are some instructions that have been given to us by our Church leaders?
What can we do to show that we sustain these teachings?
Invite students to think about how well they sustain the prophet and other Church leaders. Read Doctrine and Covenants 21:1, 5–7 and share the following statements. President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
“The procedure of sustaining is much more than a ritualistic raising of the hand. It is a commitment to uphold, to support, to assist those who have been selected” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 70; or Ensign, May 1995, 51).
President Harold B. Lee, then a counselor in the First Presidency, said:
“When you vote affirmatively you make a solemn covenant with the Lord that you will sustain, that is, give your full loyalty and support, without equivocation or reservation, to the officer for whom you vote” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1970, 103).
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