Voting on Scriptures

I was moved and persuaded by Chris Hamill’s exposition on the way we’ve added scriptures to the canon by voting here. I agree that we do not need a mechanism that is different. The Lord has already accepted scripture additions by this humble method. I would like to add something to the conversation that I think will be useful.

Here is some brief background about me and my interest in this topic and I know I sound like a broken record for others, but it helps my point and I have limited experience to draw from anyway. I participated in the formation of the scriptural canon we have recently accepted. I did this like anyone else in helping the scripture committee where I could by voting on submissions, contributing to the guide and standard discussions, and proofreading a little. In the early stages of the scripture project, I also submitted something I wrote to be considered scripture with one caveat: I thought Denver could correct it as needed considering he has a dispensation which may include prerogatives in this regard. When I found out the scripture committee was not working this way, I removed my submission from consideration. It did not get voted on. I do not think I am capable in my own station of writing scripture. I thought Joseph Smith intended to include lectures on repentance in the scriptures and that I could do some initial leg work towards that goal. I do not have proof for that. I only have impressions from sketchy historical evidence. Regardless, my tenuous submission experience highlights the one area of concern Chris neglected to address in his post.

Many of us know trusting in the arm of flesh is condemned and have learned this lesson through painful experience following the LDS church presidents as supposed prophets by default. I think we have done a good job securing a proper witness from God that Denver is vouched for in his status as a servant. I think we have done a good job seeking for only the words of the Lord through Denver to add to scripture. I think we also understand Denver stands as a fellow saint with us who has the right to teach and preach and be responsible for his own mistakes any time that he is not delivering one of the Lord’s messages for us. I know we sometimes still have anxiety about how well we are doing with this and I do not mean to flatter us away from diligent effort to separate Denver’s opinions from messages sent by God. The simple vote for adding messages through Denver has proven effective and God has revealed his acceptance of those types of efforts so far.

However, we do not yet know how to deal with scripture submissions from the mass body where anyone, redeemed or unredeemed, sincere or charlatan, deluded or inspired, may suggest a vote, like I did above. I offer my failed experience in submitting my own writings for scripture as illustrative of the complicated nature of this issue, and not out of an ambition to turn the tables towards adding my own two cents to the canon. The point is still relevant. There is evidence that Joseph Smith taught in Nauvoo about the keys to ask and get an answer, and to vet scripture submissions so as to avoid the saints being imposed upon by false spirits. We know through most of Joseph’s career as church president, he had all things vetted through him. There is evidence in Nauvoo that Joseph was trying to advance to a stage where the keys were understood by others so as to make the people more independent and less reliant on the prophet because it darkened their minds if they did otherwise. Let me explain how this relates to our current circumstances.

I am not suggesting we complicate the mechanism for voting for scriptures. But, let us consider Joseph’s unfinished actions in Nauvoo and take an example from the early days of the Constitutional Conventions. A straight democracy by vote is subject to the tyranny of a faulty mass vote. A simple republic establishes a base rule of law and a bill of rights that cannot be overturned by democratic vote—no matter how large the majority or super majority. The Lord has asked us to adopt a guide and standard as a people, largely in part (I believe) to establish similar principles of basic doctrine and standards that majority vote cannot persuade people against, in the cases where a simple majority chooses something that is wrong. I know the Lord has a kingdom and not a republic, but either way, and I could be wrong and limited in my view, before we just say that we can accept simple votes for future additions to the canon, we must be clear as a body on whether we all agree that either 1) only messages through Denver or new findings from Joseph Smith’s writings will be considered, or 2) we all understand by what standards God vets true from false revelations so the body has a rule of law to consider when doing simple votes. Personally, I have felt the character and attributes of God mentioned in the Lectures on Faith provide keys to understanding what messages come from him and what do not, but I only offer that as illustrative of a start to understanding how false revelations might be detected. It may be that we understand the whole canon to be instructive in this regard and what I am saying is good to remember and requires no new standard to be developed, received, etc. I only wish to highlight the concern that I have heard many express, and to help us avoid being imposed upon and avoid having the canon hijacked by any future tyranny of the masses.

So, what I am suggesting is that before we move beyond accepting Denver or Joseph’s revelations, we need to come to an understanding of what the Lord’s standards are for what is worthy of being added to the scriptures, and what constitutes his voice over all the false spirits that are abroad in the earth. Understanding is different than adopting new procedures. I do not know if the guide and standard already does this and provides us this key of knowledge. Perhaps it does. Assuming so, it would work as the rule of law for submissions without there needing to be any change of process in the simple voting procedure. It would guide voters in discerning what comes from God and what does not and would allow us to open submissions to receive the word of the Lord from any person other than Denver. At this point, this may be a welcome step or a huge problem.

If we wanted to move in the direction of accepting any scripture submission, we would need to be sure that the standard for doing so is clear and unmistakable in its ability to illuminate truth from error for the common voter, or else we will never be united in accepting anything other than messages through Denver Snuffer. Maybe that is the way God intends it—to only add scriptures through one mouthpiece. I am amenable to that if that is God’s will. But we know that this is also a day when we will move past being taught to know the Lord to all knowing the Lord (Jeremiah 12:9). True, we do not need to rush things and assume we can accept scriptures from any source before people know the Lord, but this issue does present itself as a concern if we accept the simple vote as the means to add any more scripture. God’s house is not a straight democracy, either. What Chris’s exposition neglects to address is the assumption that many have that only Denver can receive messages that can be voted on in the first place. Again, this may be proper, but taken at face value, accepting Chris’s explanation without also agreeing to this assumption invites any person to call for a vote for a scripture submission without any collective understanding on how to handle such a submission. Ambitious souls will be less inclined to withdraw their submission like I was willing to do and instead seek to drum up a majority vote support for their faulty revelation and corrupt the canon if we do not have a standard by which to vet such things. Even if the vote fails, remember the problem with the king men in the Book of Mormon?