Part of an LDS ward conference is to hold a sustaining vote for the layered hierarchy of church leadership. The act of sustaining leadership has been a troublesome event ever since I resumed attending an LDS ward full time in the summer of 2015. At that time my church membership was limited and I was disfellowshipped. As a part of this process I was told: don’t speak out loud in meetings, don’t take part in the sacrament, and don’t participate in the ritual of the sustaining vote.
In other words, my penance during this period of church handbook sanctioned discipline was to show up, shut up, and pay up. And by the way, this the method for repentance and displays our love for you. So appreciate our kindness in our forgiving you for your sinful past (we will forgive you, God doesn’t need to be bothered) while we shun you publicly and also require you to show up for the shunning each week if you ever want to get off the naughty list. And don’t forget to pay your way back into our good graces by paying tithing and offerings. An obedient indoctrinated follower of what I had sucked in my entire life, I went along with the process and accepted the intrusion into my life by total strangers with their demands and questions, and their judgment of my actions, thoughts, and beliefs.
In many ways it was a relief to be constrained from participation in this mindless and meaningless group process. But now that I am back to full membership the situation of how I can follow my conscience with regard to sustaining church leaders comes up.
I do sustain, support and accept the decisions made on behalf of the congregation by the local leaders and those members who are asked to take on callings specific to the function of the ward unit. I subjected myself to their protocols and I could have opted out at any time. However, I question the validity of what it means to sustain the president of the LDS church and the apostles as “prophets, seers, and revelators”. It’s a term that’s been a part of my life from infancy. Now I am finally voicing my discomfort with rote acceptance of the assumptions and generalizations that go hand in hand whenever those descriptions are applied.
I have always know that dissenting during sustaining is unacceptable and just not done. It was this conditioning that pushed me through the “repentance process”. The church requires members to revere and follow their leaders with unquestioning allegiance. This rigid constraint on individual opinion has bothered me for most of my life.
What is meant by “sustaining the leaders”? Some LDS go so far as to say it is a covenant with God to follow the counsel given by the leaders, who happen to be men, not Christ.
“When we sustain the President of the Church by our uplifted hand, it not only signifies that we acknowledge before God that he is the rightful possessor of all the priesthood keys; it means that we covenant with God that we will abide by the direction and the counsel that comes through His prophet. It is a solemn covenant” (David Haight, Ensign, Nov. 1994)”
“It is a serious wrong in the presence of the Almighty for one to vote to sustain the authorities of the Church and then to go away and oppose them and trample under foot the counsels that they give; and we will be judged of the Lord for it (President Joseph F. Smith)”
I could go on but a rant is not necessary. I follow Christ. Putting so much emphasis on quoting recent speeches given by church leaders rather than study of the scriptures seems to be putting men above Christ and His Word, even if they are sustained and voted into their church position.
Today I sidestepped by leaning over to get Leo a tissue during the first round of sustaining, and wiping his nose again during the second. This is not how I want to handle this situation in the future. I don’t oppose the sustaining vote because I don’t object to those who wish to sustain LDS leaders. In the future I will choose to quietly refrain from participation in this ritual.