Monday, October 20, 2014

"A Key That Will Never Rust": The Majority of the Church Will Never Be Led Astray.

In the Doctrine and Covenants teaches that the Church is the governed by the Law of Common Consent (D&C 20:65; 26:2; 28:13; 38:34; 41:9; 51:4; 124:144). This is a principle which is not always fully appreciated by members of the Church today, but remains an important safeguard given by the Lord in his revelations against deception and imposition by evil and aspiring individuals in the last days. On several occasions the Lord had to remind early Church members of this principle as in the episode with Hiram Page in New York (D&C 28:1-16) and a woman  in Kirtland Ohio(D&C 43:1-7).

This principle also is practiced in the government of priesthood quorums as set forth in one revelation on priesthood:

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–a majority may form a quorum when circumstances render it impossible to be otherwise–Unless this be the case, their decisions are not entitled to the same blessings which the decisions of a quorum of three presidents were anciently, who were ordained after the order of Melchizedek, and were righteous and holy men (D&C 107:27-29)

So in addition to the general membership of the Church, the decisions of quorums (The First Presidency, the twelve and the Seventy are specifically mentioned) are to be preferably unanimous, but certainty by no less than a majority of members in each respective quorum to be considered valid.

“And in case that any decision of these quorums is made in unrighteousness, it may be brought before a general assembly of the several quorums, which constitute the spiritual authorities of the Church; otherwise there can be no appeal from their decision (D&C 107:32).

And in such a case the same principles would apply.

This principle outlined in section 107 of the Doctrine and Covenants can also be found in another revelation given to Joseph Smith on January 12, 1838, in Kirtland, Ohio among the records of the Church. This revelation, while not a part of the standard works today, provides good historical evidence for this principle of common consent as well:

Thus saith the Lord, Let the first Presidency of my Church, be held in full fellowship in Zion and all her stakes, until they shall be found transgressors, by such an high Council as is named in the above alluded section, in Zion, by three witnesses standing against each member of said Presidency, and these witnesses shall be of long and faithful standing, and such also as cannot [p. 51] be impeached by other witnesses before such Council, and when a decision is had by such an Council in Zion, it shall only be for Zion, it shall not answer for her stakes, but if such a decision be acknowledged by the Council of her stakes, then it shall answer for her stakes, But if it is not acknowledged by the stakes, then such stake may have the privilege of hearing for themselves or if such decision shall be acknowledged by a majority of the stakes, then it shall answer for all her stakes

And again, The presidency of my Church, may be tried by the voice of the whole body of the Church in Zion, and the voice of a majority of all her stakes

And again Except a majority is had by the voice of the Church of Zion and a majority of all her stakes, The Charges will be considered not sustained and in order to sustain such Charge or Charges, before such Church of Zion or her stakes, such witnesses must be had as is named above, that is the witnesses to each President, who are of long and faithful standing, that cannot be impeached by other witnesses before the Church of Zion, or her stakes, And all this saith the Lord because of wicked and aspiring men, Let all your doings be in meekness and in humility before me even so Amen.

[Revelation given in the presence of J. Smith Jr., S. Rigdon, Vinson Knight and Geo. W. Robinson, 12 January, 1838 at the French farm in Kirtland, Geauga County, Ohio, in Dean C. Jesse, Ronald K. Esplin and Richard Lyman Bushman, eds., The Joseph Smith Papers: Journals (Salt Lake City: Church Historians Press, 2008) 1:282-83. Emphasis added. I have slightly corrected spelling].

Here again we see the principle of common consent applied to a potential trial of Church leaders in Zion (Missouri) or in the stakes of Zion wherever they may be. In either case a majority votes is required to sustain the charge were such an event to occur.

In addition to the above, it appears that this principle of the Church being governed by the law of common consent, which required at least a majority vote was taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith and was remembered by many of the early Saints who heard him do so (The emphasis in each of these references in mine).

Orson Hyde

Joseph Smith said, some know that this work is of God, and some may not know, but if they believe the testimony of those who do know and follow on they will go into the Celestial kingdom. He also said, always follow the majority of the church, for they will never go wrong. It is not by reason and philosophy, which are after the world, that will regulate His church, but God will regulate it by the power of the Holy Ghost through his representative on the earth. If any people on the earth have reason to be faithful to god in all things it is the people of the Latter-day Saints, who have in their midst His living oracles (Orson Hyde, 11 September, 1867, in Deseret News, 25 September, 1867. Emphasis added).

[It] reminds me of the words of Joseph the Prophet, when he said, “Brethren, remember that the majority of this people will never go astray; and as long as you keep with the majority you are sure to enter the celestial kingdom” (Orson Hyde, 5 May 1870, JD 13:367. Emphasis added).

Edward Stevenson

The writer [Edward Stevenson] heard the Prophet say on the stand at the east end of the Nauvoo Temple, that the time was coming, when there would be many dissensions from the Church. “But,” said he, “I now see the time which I have long desired to see. Let me go where I may, the Gospel tree is planted never more to be rooted up, for there are those present who are prepared to carry on the Gospel, whatever may become of me.” He also said: “I will give you a key by which you may never be deceived, if you will observe these facts: Where the true church is, there will also be a majority of the saints, and the records and history of the Church also” (Andrew Jenson and Edward Stevenson, Infancy of the Church, [1889], 5).

Ezra T. Clark

I heard the Prophet Joseph say he would give the Saints a key whereby they would never be led away or deceived, and that was: the Lord would never suffer the majority of this people to be led away or deceived by impostors, nor would he allow the records of this church to fall into the hands of the enemy (Ezra T. Clark, I.E. 5 [January 1902]: 202).

William G. Nelson

I will give you a key that will never rust. If you will stay with the majority of the twelve apostles, and the records of the church, you will never be led astray (William G. Nelson recollection, YWJ 17 [December 1906]: 543).
My brother William and I were baptized into the Church by the Prophet Joseph during the summer of 1842. I well remember many of the sayings of the Prophet which are on record in the Church. But one I will mention here. He said: “I will give you a key that will never rust; if you will stay with the majority of the twelve Apostles, and the records of the Church, you will never be led astray (“William Goforth Nelson,” Mormon Biography File Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah).

Lyman O. Littlefield

Once in Nauvoo I heard the Prophet declare to the people how they might always know where to find the true Church. He gave it as a guide for them ever afterwards, and said they day would come when they would need it. He said: “Factions and parties will arise out of this Church, and apostates will lead away many. But in the midst of all this, keep with the majority, for the true leaders of God’s people will always be able to have a majority, and the records of the Church will be with them. Keep with the majority, for where the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together” (Lyman O. Littlefield, Millennial Star 45/25 [18 June, 1883]: 389. Emphasis added).

Mosiah Hancock

Brother Joseph gave us to understand that it was our duty to follow the Twelve. The majority of this people will be right; but when you see people thirsting for the blood of the Saints, you may know they are not right (Autobiography of Mosiah Hancock, 28. Emphasis added).

Brigham Young

Among a great many other things he said, and he had a foreboding that he would be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. “I will give you a key to govern your actions if I should be slain by my enemies. If ever this transpires, some persons will stand forth who honor and hold the keys of the holy priesthood, and the main body of the people will follow that individual. You may depend upon this.” many of your are witnesses with regard to the truth of this saying (Brigham Young Address, 7 October 1863, HDC, Ms d 1234 Box 49, folder11. Emphasis added). 
Joseph Smith said that where the keys of the Kingdom were, there would be the place to gather. Wherever the Twelve and Council are, there will the keys be, and the place of gathering (Brigham Young, 3 May, 1846, Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 149-52)

W. W. Phelps

“It takes a majority of any quorum, according to the order of God, as declared in the Doctrine & Covenants, which I hold in my hand, and the common consent of the whole church, to make any act valid; every ordination, therefore made by Sidney Rigdon, he being one only out of a quorum of three, even if he had not otherwise transgressed is illegal” (Trial of Sidney Rigdon, Times & Seasons 5/18 [1 October, 1844]: 663).

This principle also seems to have been known to Oliver Cowdery as reported by additional witnesses of his public testimony when he returned to the Church in 1848.

Oliver Cowdery

Brother Hyde has just said that it was all important that we keep in the true channel in order to avoid the sand bars. This is true. The channel is here. The priesthood is here. I was present with Joseph when a holy angel from God came down from heaven and conferred, or restored, the Aaronic Priesthood and said at the same time that it should remain upon the earth while the earth stands. I was also present with Joseph when the Melchizedek Priesthood was conferred by the holy angels of God which we then confirmed on each other by the will and commandment of God. This Priesthood is also to remain upon the earth until the last remnant of time (Oliver Cowdery, Reuben Miller Journal, 21 October, 1848. Emphasis added).

Oliver Cowdery, who had just arrived from Wisconsin with his family, on being invited, addressed the meeting. He bore testimony in the most positive terms of the truth of the Book of Mormon, the restoration of the priesthood to the earth, and the mission of Joseph Smith as the prophet of the last days. And told the people if they wanted to follow the right path, to keep in the main channel of the stream–where the body of the Church goes, there is the authority; and all these lo here’s and lo there’s, have no authority. But this people have the holy priesthood, “for the angel said unto Joseph Smith, Jr., in my hearing, that this priesthood shall remain on earth unto the end” (George A. Smith to Orson Pratt, Council Bluffs, Iowa, 20 October 1848, MS 11 [1849]: 14. Emphasis added).

O. Cowdery is dead. His last testimony will never be forgotten by many. He said to his friend, [there] was no salvation but in the valley and through the priesthood there (Phineas Young to Brigham Young, Kanesville, 25 April 1850).

Oliver Cowdery said to the people, when he came to Pottawotamie and requested to be restored to the Church, “Follow the Twelve: they are the men with whom the priesthood rests. If you follow the main channel of the stream, you will go right; but if you run into a bayou, you will find yourself among snags” (George A. Smith, 10 January 1858, JD 7:117. Emphasis added).

This Gospel is the “stone taken from the mountain without hands.” John the Baptist, holding the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood; Peter, James, and John, holding the keys of the Melchisedek Priesthood, have ministered for those who shall be heirs of salvation, and with these administrations ordained men to the same Priesthoods. These Priesthoods, with their authority, are now, and must continue to be, in the body of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Blessed is the Elder who received the same, and thrice blessed and holy is he who shall endure to the end (Oliver Cowdery to Samuel W. Richards, 13 January 1849, IE 2 [December 1898]: 95-96. Emphasis added).

Here it is important to observe that the Saints were never taught to follow the majority of the world or the wicked, but to follow the majority of the Twelve and the Saints. Again, this is consistent with the other revelations in the Scriptures about the nature of the Church in the Latter-day Days (Even the parable of the ten virgins suggests at least half of the Saints would remain wise Matthew 25:1-13). Knowing that Joseph Smith lived and died a true Prophet, and knowing that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is true, entails an understanding of where the Church stands in the Bridegroom's timeline.

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