A call for prayer and fasting on the topic of the Guide and Standard was offered this past week – to fast and pray on Saturday, April 14. Well, I did fast and pray yesterday, but my efforts were directed in a different direction. That’s just the way it turned out. Nevertheless, I do have some things to share on the topic, and I’ve waited until now to share them. Perhaps there will be something uniquely edifying in the timeliness of my remarks, delivered on the heels of this community prayer.
I think, first, I should establish a common understanding that:
- The Lord called for a statement of principles, from which a Guide and Standard should be developed.
- It should be a light thing.
- It is to be adopted by mutual agreement, which was later defined, according to Denver, and “Choosing not to dispute”.
I like that… “choose not to dispute”. It ties in with so much that I’ve been learning over the past few months.
In my mind, the purpose of this Guide and Standard is three-fold:
- A declaration of common beliefs and values – which declaration should describe that which binds us together (although I question whether what binds us together should even be based upon common beliefs; whether what binds us together shouldn’t actually simply be charity – the pure love of Christ).
- Similarly, a declaration of common ground so that future gatherings, or gatherings of multiple fellowships, whether temporary or more permanent, can take place more smoothly and with less friction.
- A framework for the formation of new fellowships so that they don’t have to re-invent the wheel.
Given these purposes, and given the prevailing belief that not all gatherings will have an LDS background or even a “Snufferite” background (yes – I hate that word, too, but it serves a purpose here), it would seem to me that the Guide and Standard should be as simple as possible – a declaration of the most essential beliefs that would enable diverse groups of people – whether they be LDS, or “Snufferite”, or Hawaiian, or European, or Asian, or protestant, or Catholic, (you get the drift) – to gather. It seems wise to me that the Guide and Standard that seeks to encourage such diversity should state the lowest common denominator of beliefs that would enable us to gather in love and harmony?
Heck, I could go for a Guide and Standard that says, “Thou shalt love the Lord your God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” and “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”. Then, if we wanted to add the sermon on the mount as supplemental to this, I would go for that, too. Add Doctrine of Christ? Yeah, that works. Still no desire to dispute here. Just don’t feel the need.
So, let’s take the Lotster Guide and Standard as an example. A great document. Love the courage and devotion that went into it. Does it meet the above requirements? Yeah – pretty much. I can live with it. It contains a lot more detail than I personally think is necessary, because I think the more detail you include, the less inclusive it is, and the more restrictive it might become. I might choose to dispute philosophically based on the level of detail, except for one thing…I have no fear.
You see, there seems to be this fear lurking behind the idea of the G&S – fear that I am somehow going to be forced to implement every single aspect of it in my personal life, or in my family, or in my fellowship. Well, I don’t have that fear. I don’t think anyone is trying to tell me what I have to do. I don’t feel forced at all. And where would such force – or enforcement – come from anyway? Is the Lord really going to enforce the details of a Guide and Standard when the only criteria He insisted on were that we adopt it by mutual agreement – or by choosing not to dispute? Or is He going to grant such authority to someone on earth? (Frankly, if that happens, I’m outahere) I must have missed the statement, “And, oh, by the way – if you fail to live up to ever every last detail, your eternal salvation will be in jeopardy”. It seems I’ve heard that before – somewhere in my deep, dark past – but I sure didn’t hear it in the Answer & Covenant.
And, oh my, the very idea that something we expect to hold sacred would engender even the slightest hint of fear and/or idea of enforcement is just appalling to me. Fear never was holiness, and the two are incompatible. If there is anything but love implied by or included in this Guide and Standard, then it is a failure. Reject the fear! It has no place among us!
Furthermore, I choose not to dispute, because even though this G&S might be a great thing for starting new fellowships, and to promote consistency between fellowships, once you add any hint of enforcement – whether it be ecclesiastical, emotional, or financial (as in tithing), or any other creative means of control that we as fallen humans are so good at coming up with – then we’re flirting with the dreaded “C” word – CORRELATION.
I also choose not to dispute because I truly respect the thoughts, the efforts, the prayers, the inspiration that went into almost every one of the G&S proposals. Jeff Savage’s version? The August 5th version? The Lotster version? The pamphlet version that someone so beautifully wrote and laid out and printed on 8×10 glossy and sent to every address? Even Log’s version is OK with me. I love its simplicity. Every one of these proposed Guide and Standards is a gift to us all. Every one of them is the result of a sincere, loving desire to serve the Lord and us. I choose not to dispute any of them.
I personally think that all of them except Log’s version contain too much detail, but that’s a personal philosophy, and I have no need personally to be “Right”, and I honor the efforts, and the sources, and the output, and I CHOOSE NOT TO DISPUTE!
Is this apathy, as some others have wondered? No, I think it’s meekness. And I also think it’s the realization that, ultimately, it’s all about love. If we want to have instructions and guidelines about how to baptize, and administer the sacrament, and ordain and recognize priesthood authority (remember, these guidelines are all already in the scriptures) built into the G&S, that’s fine. But if we do it without charity, it means nothing. If we do anything without charity, it means nothing. Anything done without charity is ultimately death. And if we are found WITH charity at the last day, it will be well with us, regardless of the content of whatever G&S is finally adopted. Charity is life!
So, I choose not to dispute. There is just no need. I do not fear that someone is going to take away my salvation if I fail to, or choose not to, implement every detail of the August 5th document in my family or in my fellowship. If adherence helps promote unity within the fellowship that I choose to attend, then I will gladly adhere, because I have charity for my friends. There is nothing in any of these offerings that will prevent me from loving God and loving my neighbor, or from living the sermon on the mount – and THOSE are the Guide and Standard that we will all ultimately be called to account for.