Tuesday, February 6, 2018

D&C 107:27 - Unanimity, Presiding, and Counseling Together

Recently I had an experience that caused me to reflect on this idea of unanimity, presiding, and counseling together.   As I searched the scriptures and conference talks related to this topic I came up with several quotes.  These quotes are below, followed by some of my own thoughts.

     "It is possible to rise to the lofty standard set by the Lord for priesthood holders in making decisions in quorums. It is possible when there is great faith and love and the absence of contention. Here is the Lord’s requirement for His endorsement of our decisions: And every decision made by either of these quorums must be by the unanimous voice of the same; that is, every member in each quorum must be agreed to its decisions, in order to make their decisions of the same power or validity one with the other-- D&C 107:27” (Henry B. Eyring, “Learning in the Priesthood”, April 2011 LDS General Conference)

This idea of unanimity in counsels intrigues me.  How does counseling together until unanimity is reached ensure that we are in alignment with the Lord’s will?  In his October 2014 conference talk, Elder Nelson made it clear.

     "The calling of 15 men to the holy apostleship provides great protection for us as members of the Church. Why? Because decisions of these leaders must be unanimous. [See  Doctrine and Covenants 107:27] Can you imagine how the Spirit needs to move upon 15 men to bring about unanimity? These 15 men have varied educational and professional backgrounds, with differing opinions about many things. Trust me! These 15 men—prophets, seers, and revelators—know what the will of the Lord is when unanimity is reached! (M. Russell Nelson, “Sustaining the Prophets”, October 2014 LDS General Conference)

So, when we follow the Lord’s pattern of counseling together until we reach unanimity, then we can be assured that we have come to know his will.  How does this happen?  President Hinckley describes the process:

     "I add by way of personal testimony that during the twenty years I served as a member of the Council of the Twelve and during the nearly thirteen years that I have served in the First Presidency, there has never been a major action taken where this procedure was not observed. I have seen differences of opinion presented in these deliberations. Out of this very process of men speaking their minds has come a sifting and winnowing of ideas and concepts. But I have never observed serious discord or personal enmity among my Brethren. I have, rather, observed a beautiful and remarkable thing—the coming together, under the directing influence of the Holy Spirit and under the power of revelation, of divergent views until there is total harmony and full agreement. Only then is implementation made. That, I testify, represents the spirit of revelation manifested again and again in directing this the Lord’s work. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “God is at the Helm”, April 1994 LDS General Conference)

Then what is the responsibility of the person holding priesthood keys who sits at the head of the counsel?  It doesn’t appear that he is to act as  simply a person who sits at the head of the table, takes everyone’s input and then go off and makes a decision.  This is not unanimity.  Sure, the counsel may follow him out of respect for the keys he holds, but the danger is that without the desired unanimity, the leader is not assured they have come to know the will of the lord.   The definition of priesthood keys is given in “The Guide to the Scriptures”; "Keys are the rights of presidency, or the power given to man by God to direct, control, and govern God’s priesthood on earth.”  This statement by Elder Ballard helps us understand how those priesthood keys relate to counseling together.

     "Our bishops have heavy demands placed upon them. They—and they alone—hold certain keys, and only they can fulfill certain responsibilities. But they are not called to be all things, at all times, to all people. They are called to preside and to lead and to extend God’s love to His children. Our Heavenly Father does not expect them to do everything by themselves.
     "When stake presidents and bishops allow the priesthood and auxiliary leaders whom the Lord has called to serve with them to become part of a problem-solving team, wonderful things begin to happen. Their participation broadens the base of experience and understanding, leading to better solutions. You bishops energize your ward leaders by giving them a chance to offer suggestions and to be heard. You prepare future leaders by allowing them to participate and learn. You can lift much of the load from your shoulders through this kind of involvement. People who feel ownership of a problem are more willing to help find a solution, greatly improving the possibility of success. (M. Russell Ballard, “Counseling with our Counsels”, April 1994 LDS General Conference)

Understanding the Lord's will is particularly important when we extend callings to members of the ward.  Here is the guidance on extending callings from Handbook 2 Chapter 19:

     "Leaders seek the guidance of the Spirit in determining whom to call. They consider the worthiness that may be required for the calling. They also consider the member’s personal or family circumstances. Each calling should benefit the people who are served, the member, and the member’s family.
      "… In some cases, priesthood and auxiliary leaders are asked to make recommendations to their stake presidency or bishopric. They should approach this responsibility prayerfully, knowing that they can receive guidance from the Lord about whom to recommend. However, they should remember that final responsibility to receive inspiration on whom to call rests with the stake presidency or the bishopric.
     "Stake presidents and bishops should carefully evaluate each recommendation, recognizing that it has been prayerfully considered. As needed, they may request another recommendation.

So what is the proper place of unanimity, priesthood keys, and counseling together when extending ward callings?  D&C 38:27 states: “Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine”  Can we seek for unanimity in our counsels and as we discuss callings.  This scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 132:8 comes to mind.  "Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.”  If we are all listening to the same spirit, shouldn’t we all get the same answer?  Granted during the “study it out in your mind” (D&C 9:8) phase of the quest to receive personal revelation, the Spirit may say to one member of the counsel something that the other members of the counsel are not ready to hear or may not have the background to understand.  So the spirit will "lead you along” based on what you are able to bear or understand (D&C 78:18).

With this understanding, should it diminish your faith when the bishop asks you for suggestions of who should be your counselors and after prayerfully selecting some names, he seems to reject your counsel.  As we participate in the revelatory process, you may come up with ideas that help both you and the bishop move through the process.  As he considers your suggestions, he may be inspired do go another way, but your suggestions got him to where he needs to be to take the next step.  After he comes back to you with some additional ideas, then you have the obligation to take his suggestions and seek confirmation of the spirit.  If that confirmation does not come, or if you feel you have received additional insight, then you should get back with the bishop and work through another round of counseling together.

Eventually, by working through this process, honoring priesthood keys, and seeking inspiration, each person in the counsel will be confident in lending their unanimous voice to the decision of the counsel and we will be confident that we are doing the will of the Lord.