Another Advantage of Church Government

Dan’s recent article referencing the Chad Daybell/Lori Vallow trials makes some excellent points, and one of them is how the Church council system helps moderate and focus leadership, especially how the seniority system acculturates any Prophet-President into this system to moderate any cult-like behaviors that we do see in certain Evangelical and even non-Christian communities. (See: James Jones’ People’s Temple, Heaven’s Gate, Antifa—all “secular” religious cults, in my opinion.) But there was an additional point that occurred to me when I was talking with a friend this morning who was closely following the trial.

My friend was talking about the spurious “Patriarchal Blessings” that Chad Daybell was giving to his damaged brother-in-law Alex to manipulate him into (allegedly) committing crimes on Daybell’s behalf. My friend said, “who called and ordained Chad as Patriarch?!?” It was sort of a joke, but it made me think of this passage from Doctrine & Covenants 42:

Again I say unto you, that it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church.

verse 11

When Dan was talking to me about this article, I mentioned how I think a lot of people don’t like our seniority system because it’s boring. When the President of the Church dies, there is literally zero suspense about who is going to succeed him. We don’t have anything exciting like a campaign and vote, or the Catholic College of Cardinals with their very dramatic system of burning white and black smoke during the Papal Conclave. But with our system, everyone knows the outcome and there is no controversy. Boring, but very effective and smooth.

Likewise with our system of “common consent.” Some people complain that this doesn’t function like a democracy and this isn’t really a vote. And that’s true. Some years ago a friend who was taking missionary discussions was sitting in Sacrament Meeting during one of these sustainings. He leaned over to me and whispered, “you know Jeff, I’ve watched a lot of these now, and these votes are never even close.”

I laughed, but he had a point. It isn’t close. But what is important, back to D&C 42, is that those who hold these callings are all “known to the Church” and “ordained by one who has authority.”

We don’t have any secret officers in the Church, we don’t have some private apostles in absentia who are behind the scenes pulling strings. That would be cool, and make for some exciting TV shows and pulp novels, but it also prevents rogue, unsustained, unordained-by-those-in-authority Patriarchs from going out and giving false Patriarchal Blessings in order to (allegedly) groom them into becoming your own personal hit man. We all know who the general and local officers of the church are (if there is any doubt about the latter, just check LDS Tools!), because we regularly sustain them in general, stake, and ward conferences.

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