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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Guest Post: Sustaining vs. Agreeing

Have something to say? Anyone can submit a guest post to Modern Mormon Men. Just send us an email with your post, a post title and a paragraph of introduction (on yourself).

Glynn Wilcox is a Texas native that sojourned in Zion for eight long years. After entering into the new and everlasting convent with his mormon princess Becca, they left Zion to Dallas, where he serves as sunday school president in the Desoto Ward with their two little future rebel missionaries. Read Glynn's other guest posts here.

image via Deseret News
I have never raised my hand in opposition of a sustaining in church … not once ever. Like many, I find myself at odds with some of the church’s positions, chief among them the question of the equality of marriage.

I feel that my disagreement with church leaders not only on this topic but on other things does not mean that I am unable to sustain them with a clear conscious. I feel that it is possible to sustain someone that you may not agree with. To sustain someone in a church calling is to simply say … okay, sure, that is who will be in that leadership role and it is up to them to magnify their calling and it is their responsibility to lead responsibly. I am under covenant to sustain those that are called to positions of leadership; I am not bound to blindly agree with their positions. To sustain a leader under my covenant obligation is to recognize their position, honor that position, including not to slight or diminishing them in regards to their position. While I may disagree with what a leader may advocate or even instruct, I am still covenant bound to sustain them and discharge their decisions unless it is it is clearly improper. To disagree is not to withdraw my sustaining support.

I love my ward, I love my bishopric, I love serving as a member of the ward council in my capacity as Sunday School President. I can say that there are positions that are advocated by various members of my ward that I simply cannot agree with, but I will sustain them.

During my college years in Utah, I sat in a joint Elder/High Priest session when my wife and I were in a family ward. The lesson was about keeping the commandments. During that lesson the topic turned to Rated-R movies and one of the High Priests who was on the High Council advocated that every priesthood holder in town should call the local movie theater (the only one in town) to stop showing Rated-R movies. I interjected that this would be a violation of the concept of agency, and that imposing our view would rob everyone of being able to make the decision for themselves.

With a cold, icy stare the High Priest shot back, “It’s the right thing to do.” I responded, “With all due respect it is not the correct thing to do because it violates one of the core elements of our religion, Agency.” After the meeting I was quickly pulled into the Stake Suite with the Stake President and the member of the High Council from the class. During our meeting, the Stake President asked me a direct question of whether or not I sustained the high councilor and the Stake President. I responded that I did and was under covenant to do so. Then started one of the most startling interactions I have ever had.

The Stake President said that because I publicly disagreed with a High Council member he would have to convene a church court to consider my membership in the church. To which I responded, “ President, my opposition to the Brother’s position had nothing to do with his position as a High Council member but more to do with the preposterous nature of his idea. I never questioned his position, only his assertion as a fellow priesthood holder in a class. I sustain you as stake president and he as a High Council member, and if y’all as leadership proposed and called me, under my covenant, to engage in an action I would be obligated, but disagreeing with a fellow priesthood holder fails to call into question my adherence to my covenants.”

Needless to say the Stake President and the High Council member were taken aback. Over the course of the remaining short discussion we had I reiterated my position that my ability to sustain their leadership and me agreeing to what they said is mutually exclusive. I left that meeting wondering if I would get the letter from the stake offices, but never did…

The problem that a lot of us in the church have is believing that when we sustain someone we have to agree with them. This is simply not the case. My sustaining someone is limited to me supporting the person in their role, not agreeing with them in everything. My covenant is to the church, not to the person, specifically to their office and not to the individual.

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