I Have a Question

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    Questions of general gospel interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy.

    Should I vote to sustain someone to an office in the Church if I think, for one reason or another, that he would not make a good leader? What will happen if I don’t sustain him?

    H. Dean Garrett, director, Holbrook LDS Institute of Religion, Holbrook, Arizona In a revelation given to Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and John Whitmer in July 1830, the Lord gave the following instructions: “And all things shall be done by common consent in the church, by much prayer and faith, for all things you shall receive by faith.” (D&C 26:2.)

    In a previous revelation on Church government and organization given in April 1830 the Lord indicated 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.” (D&C 20:65.)

    Elder Joseph Fielding Smith explained the implications of these revelations by stating: “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.” (Doctrines of Salvation, Bookcraft, 1956, 3:123.)

    The procedure of formally sustaining people in office is followed every week throughout the Church. Yet, there could be a time when a person might have questions concerning the person presented to hold office. Should a person raise his hand to sustain someone he feels does not have the ability or would not make a good officer or leader in that position? Should he sustain someone he feels is not worthy of that position?

    Elder Joseph Fielding Smith indicated that a person should be very careful in casting a negative vote, that such a vote should never be made for personal reasons. He stated, “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 wrongdoing, of transgressing the laws of the Church which would disqualify him for the position which he is called to hold.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:124.)

    Even with this in mind, however, the Lord has given to each individual the right and responsibility to vote his conscience. If and when he determines he should cast a negative vote, then he should also realize that he will have the responsibility of privately explaining to the presiding officer his reason for that negative vote. This procedure is necessary to help the presiding officer know whether the objection is valid, and whether the person called is worthy to serve. If the reason is not valid, the person called will serve in that office.

    We must remember that under proper circumstances it is the Lord who inspires the calling of a person to service in the Church; the presiding officer acts as the Lord’s agent in making the call. Therefore, careful, prayerful thought should take place before a person decides to cast a negative vote. It is the right of every member, however, to know for himself by inspiration and revelation that the dealings of the presiding officer are in tune with the designs and counsel of the Lord. Every member of the Church can have that assurance.

    There may be a time when a person would have doubts concerning the ability or qualification of someone being called to a position in the Church. One brother in my acquaintance once learned a great lesson in this regard. Years ago, as a ward teacher supervisor, he had a problem motivating a particular ward teacher to perform his duties. The supervisor found it necessary to do this man’s ward teaching for six consecutive months. One night in a sacrament meeting, my friend was called upon to sustain this man to be a member of the bishopric. He struggled within himself to know whether he should sustain a man who had not performed his duties as a ward teacher and whom he felt did not have the qualities necessary to be a good member of the bishopric. Reluctantly, he finally voted in the affirmative. In the ensuing months the slothful ward teacher took hold of his position in the bishopric and moved the work of the Lord forward. He served successfully as a member of the bishopric and later as a bishop, a high councilor, and eventually as a counselor in a stake presidency.

    The act of sustaining a person is a sacred responsibility that allows the members of the Church to publicly indicate their support of the person being called to a position. As President Harold B. Lee stated, “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.” (Conference Reports, April 1970, p. 103.) This places the responsibility upon us.

    Elder Loren C. Dunn, of the First Quorum of the Seventy, stated it this way: “When we sustain officers, we are given the opportunity of sustaining those whom the Lord has already called by revelation. … The Lord, then, gives us the opportunity to sustain the action of a divine calling and in effect express ourselves if for any reason we may feel otherwise. To sustain is to make the action binding on ourselves and to commit ourselves to support those people whom we have sustained. When a person goes through the sacred act of raising his arm to the square, he should remember, with soberness, that which he has done and commence to act in harmony with his sustaining vote both in public and in private.” (Conference Reports, April 1972, p. 19.)

    The Lord has commanded us: “Therefore, strengthen your brethren in all your conversation, in all your prayers, in all your exhortations, and in all your doings.” (D&C 108:7.)

    The practice of the law of common consent allows us, as members of the Church, to evaluate our position and to bring our thinking and commitment in tune with that of the Lord. President Charles W. Penrose beautifully stated it this way: “It was designed by the Almighty in the organization of this Church, that the voice of the people should respond to the voice of the Lord. It is the voice of the Lord and the voice of the people together in this Church that sanctions all things therein.” (Journal of Discourses, 21:45.)

    Every time my wife and I try to have a discussion, we end up quarreling. Neither of us likes this, but it continues to happen. We have tried to improve our communication skills, but it hasn’t diminished our quarrels. We don’t quite know what to do to change. What could be the problem?

    G. Hugh Allred, professor of marriage and family counseling, Brigham Young University Everybody needs to feel worthwhile and important. Where we differ is in the way we try to get that feeling. And if we use the wrong way, we end up quarreling.

    In a healthy family everyone feels love and respect for each other. All the children feel that their parents love them equally and that they should be respectful and cooperative in return. Because of this strong feeling of being important and worthwhile at home, children from such families usually feel confident outside the home—and so they’re cooperative and respectful in their daily lives.

    However, in an unhealthy family everyone seems to be competing. Of course not all competition is unhealthy. But when children, unsure of their parents’ love, compete with each other or even with a parent, trying to get the top position, it is a sign that something is wrong. Often the only way family members can find to make themselves look good is to make someone else look bad. They come to believe that the only way they can be important and worthwhile is to always be right and to have everyone who disagrees with them be wrong. This makes it very hard for them to give in or to admit they’re wrong. They’re afraid that if they lose an argument they will not be loved and respected as much.

    When such a person has a disagreement with his or her spouse in marriage, an argument is almost always the result.

    Once a couple came to me because the husband always quarreled with his wife. He couldn’t stop doing it until he finally recognized his “faulty beliefs”—his beliefs that he had to win in order to be worthwhile and that he couldn’t win unless his wife lost. Ironically, he felt that he couldn’t be a worthwhile husband unless he acted this way, even though acting this way actually made the marriage unhappy for both of them.

    The husband was only dimly aware of his problem, like most people who have faulty beliefs. But he gained more self-control as he began to see how his faulty beliefs had come to him in his childhood. He remembered how he had always made fun of and cut down his brothers and sisters in order to make them look wrong and make himself look right in his parents’ eyes. This had become a habit—which carried over into his marriage and was wrecking it.

    He made several important steps to whip this problem. First, he became aware of his faulty beliefs. Knowing about them helped him notice when he was trying to prove someone else wrong for no real reason. Then he practiced talking differently to himself. He would tell himself, “I’m fooling myself when I think I have to be right to be important,” or “I’m a better husband when I don’t make my wife look wrong.” Saying these things helped him come to really believe them.

    He also tried, whenever a problem came up, to put his mind to finding a solution rather than wasting his time proving that he was right and his wife was wrong.

    He practiced treating his wife with respect, and he cooperated with her. He began to use “qualifiers” when he talked to his wife, like “I may change my mind, but right now I think …” and “I could be wrong, but it seems to me. …” More importantly, he began to believe it. He really could be wrong, and yet his wife and family (and everyone else) loved him and respected him just the same—if not more.

    He had to use a lot of courage and self-discipline to keep trying to change until the old habits were broken and good new habits were set. It would have been easy to slip back into the old way of doing things by telling himself, “This time she really is wrong,” or “I can only be pushed so far.” His wife also encouraged and helped him by sincerely telling him things like, “I feel a lot closer to you when you don’t try to make me look wrong,” or “Thank you for being willing to see my side of things.”

    Some individuals and couples need help from other people in order to see their problems clearly and get rid of their faulty beliefs. If you feel like you need help or advice, talk to the Lord in prayer and talk to your bishop or to a marriage counselor. Of course, neither your Father in heaven nor your fellowmen can help you unless you have a strong commitment to improve and the self-discipline to keep trying no matter how hard it gets. But as you do break down barriers of bad habits, you will find that the Spirit of the Lord can more easily enter into your home and make your marriage a happy, harmonious one.

    Eternal exaltation seems hopelessly beyond me. How is it humanly possible to achieve perfection or even keep on top of the daily duties?

    Carma Cutler, Beehive advisor, Twenty-third Ward, Boise West Stake I have a lot of empathy for those who feel this way. I have been there. The key to overcoming these feelings lies in conversion—true conversion, the kind of conversion Paul, Alma, and Enos talked about. I remember the first years of my married life as being very frustrating. We attempted to live the gospel as we had been taught, doing all of the obvious things: keeping the Word of Wisdom, paying tithing, attending meetings. But I did not feel the joy that is promised by doing so. I found myself envying our friends and relatives who were partially active or completely inactive in the Church. They seemed to have “the world by the tail,” and life was full of fun for them. I began seeking after the things of the world—expensive clothes, fancy hairdos and I developed a drive to “keep up with the Joneses.” I found myself wanting to get a babysitter more and more so we could be with our friends, go places, and have parties. It wasn’t until I truly became converted that I was able to change the way I felt. May I share my conversion with you?

    One Sunday after hearing an inspiring lesson in Sunday School I went home full of enthusiasm and a desire to be a better person. Of course that was not the first time I had had the desire for self-improvement, but due to a lack of will-power and self-control, the things of the world and habits I had developed soon took over and I would lose the drive. I was aware of many of my sins (not all), but I had become very good at rationalizing. I felt I had enough good points to make up for the bad ones, and I used the good old phrase “nobody is perfect” very often.

    But this day was to be different. That evening I started reading a book I had borrowed: Doctrines of Salvation, by Joseph Fielding Smith. I read for quite some time when all of a sudden a most terrible feeling came over me. I knew what I was reading was true but I felt negative about it. I read on, thinking that things would get better, but I soon found myself in a state of mental anxiety I had never known before. It seemed that everything I had ever done wrong came flooding back into my memory and I could no longer rationalize. I became very desperate, desperate to know where I stood with the Lord! I was brought to my knees in fervent prayer. I prayed and prayed but received no relief. I was prompted several times to fast. I had never really fasted before; I had gone without food on Fast Sunday, but I had never really fasted. But being in such a terrible state of mind, I began to fast. At the end of my fast. I knew what I had to do, but as rebellious as I am, I didn’t want to do it! I had been told to go to my husband, Clint, and tell him of all these things that were bothering me. I just couldn’t do that! I was sure he wouldn’t understand! I pleaded with the Lord to let me straighten everything out alone first. I promised him I would get our home back in order, encourage and support Clint in his priesthood callings, shape up myself, and then I would talk to Clint. The Spirit insisted I tell him now. I still resisted. When I would make up my mind to do it my way, a terrible feeling would bear down on me. But when I would consider the Lord’s way, a peaceful feeling would come upon me. I continued to wrestle with this spirit for several days until finally one evening I met Clint at the door (I didn’t even give him a chance to eat dinner), took him to a room, and began pouring my heart out to him. He handled me and all of these problems and feelings I had with kindness and loving understanding, forgiving me for all, just as the Lord knew he was capable of doing. And for the first time in many days, peace entered my soul.

    That evening, Clint and I began reading the book Jesus the Christ together. I found myself looking forward to this reading time like I used to look forward to a TV show or a trip out to get some ice cream. But it wasn’t just that book. I looked forward to Sunday School and Relief Society classes and sermons from the pulpit. Everything took on a new meaning for me; it was as though I were hearing the gospel for the first time—even the old familiar hymns became prayers to me.

    I remember praying from time to time, as I would give thanks to the Lord for opening my eyes, that he would never let me forget that experience. I was afraid that as time went on I would forget and gradually slip back to my old patterns and habits. I am sure if I had known what I was praying for then, I would have hesitated, because the Lord answered that prayer and once again I entered my “Gethsemane.” This time it was more severe. It was both terrible and marvelous—terrible because I came to know Satan’s powers and influence; marvelous because I came to know the nature of God and his Son, Jesus Christ, and I learned the role of the Holy Ghost as he brought me to this knowledge and understanding.

    I am sure that after coming through that experience I did not look any different to the people around me or even seem any different, but I was different inside. I no longer looked at the world or the people in it the same. Through the power of God I had overcome some great obstacles and tremendous fears I had always had, and I possessed an obsession to seek for eternal exaltation. The way to perfection is not easy nor do we achieve it overnight. The Lord has told us it is not easy. I have come to know the meaning of “opposition in all things.” (See 2 Ne. 2:11–16.)

    But this I have learned: you can endure any situation if you have the Spirit of the Lord with you—even the day-to-day performance of monotonous duties. It is this great spirit of conversion that changed Peter from one who feared to a man who died for Christ. It is this spirit that touched our early pioneer ancestors to give up everything they owned to establish Zion in the tops of the mountains. This same spirit prevails with the thousands of converts all over the world who give up the things and even the people they love to be with a body of Saints.

    Eternal exaltation is an individual thing. Seeking for a divine witness as to whether it is worth working for is a step in the right direction. Ask God humbly and sincerely, “Where do I stand with you, Heavenly Father?” Then be prepared to receive his answer. Once you know, you can come to know the joy and blessing of living the abundant life.