Monday, April 07, 2008

Democratic Vote, or Sustaining Vote

One of the cool things about living in America is our elections. OK, granted there’s a lot of problems with the process. But ultimately, it has served us very well. It has enabled us, over the course of some 230 years (give or take) to maintain a certain amount of civility in our government. I mean, think of it. Every four or eight years, the power in the government changes hands in a peaceful transition. No bloody wars, no genocides or purges. We do have the occasional assassination. So it goes. Still it’s nice to know that if we don’t like who’s in charge, we can vote him (or her, now) out when the next time comes. If they’re particularly bad, and get caught at it, we could even vote them out early.

Thus, John F Kennedy said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

This weekend, it was shown to me a stark contrast to how power and authority is transferred in the church. At conference this weekend, the first session was called a “solemn assembly”, and everyone was called on to sustain the new First Presidency, and the addition of a new apostle to the Quorum of the Twelve. These are the two earthly governing bodies of the church. We were all asked, in turn to raise our hands to sustain these men.

This is not an election. There is no campaigning. I don’t get a vote up-front (more on that in a minute). A choice is made, partly based on tradition, mostly based on revelation, and unity. I get to make a “sustaining” vote, meaning that I raise my hand to show my commitment to follow these men.

Here are the interesting thoughts that went through my mind as I contemplated it afterward. There are times when I think democratic elections make lots of sense. Technically, we’re a republic, not a pure democracy, so even in a representative government, it makes lots of sense to vote. When we’re dealing with earthly issues of governance and authority, I definitely want a say. It is my right, my duty, and my pleasure to participate in it.

But when I think of dealing with God and with spirituality, a democratic vote doesn’t make sense to me. The thought that a vast group of mortals, each with an agenda and an idea of what is right and wrong, trying to gather together the political support to decide what it is that God wants us to do is an idea that is absurd to me. No, when it comes to diety, I want simply to be told what God wants. And then I can accept it or reject it. I can vote after the fact. I can vote with my feet. If I don’t like where I’m being led, I can walk somewhere else.

But I choose not to. For me, it’s not blind faith, it’s not being a sheep and following where everyone else is going. While it’s probably true that some might treat religion that way, I don’t. I choose whom I will follow. And I choose to follow Thomas Monson and the Quorum of the Twelve of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Mark Hansen

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