On March 19, 2017 it was announced that there was a scripture project underway that would restore to us a set of scriptures which would involve attempting to correct as many errors as possible in the texts of the Bible, Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants/Pearl of Great Price. This project was going to undertake printing for the first time in history the full Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible. As I was sitting in a conference in St. George, Utah hearing about this project I opened up the group’s website on my phone and scrolled through their first edition which had already been printed and was online. I was a bit shocked to find that the group had inserted documents written by members of their committee. The head of the committee had just announced that they were going back to the most extant sources for the writings of Joseph and Hyrum Smith and that anything not written by them was being given serious consideration to remove from the scriptures. This meant removing things written by Oliver Cowdery and Sydney Rigdon, two men who were pivotal figures in early Mormondom, two men who had seen Christ and angels. These men’s’ writings were being replaced by writings from this scripture committee by men whom I had never heard of before. In the following days I investigated whether or not these men had seen Christ or angels. To me it would be audacious to remove the writings of men who had only to replace them by men who had not.
One of the documents which had already been inserted and printed by the committee was a Governing Principles which contained those things which we, as fellowships, were following as principles for our day. When I read the Governing Principles I was shocked. Shocked at the assertion in the document that it had been “revealed” through “angles” yet contained elements that were found nowhere in scriptures or teachings of Denver. I become further concerned when I found out that this was an overstatement of how the document came about; the author had never seen Christ or angels but rather took Denver’s teachings and other scriptures and rewrote them in his own words, adding his own flair and interpretations. This concerned me because words matter. Words matter a great deal.
In the Garden of Eden God commanded Adam not to eat of the fruit of the tree. When Adam gives the commandment to Eve he adds that Eve cannot even touch the fruit or she will die. This seemingly inane addition by Adam might just be the reason that Eve fell. When Lucifer approaches Eve bearing the fruit in his hand Eve realizes that he is still alive even though he is touching the fruit. Therefore, when Lucifer tells Eve that she will not die if she partakes (eats) of the fruit she believes him. Thus, it is that if Adam had been exact in repeating the commandments of the Lord we may have a very different story of our founding grandparents.
Since March 19 I have been trying to persuade people that the words in the Governing Principles document matter. They matter a great deal. It has been said that if there are errors in the document that Christ will correct the errors in Zion. By the time he does those errors will have become ingrained false traditions which will be much harder to overcome. We should desire to give the Lord as faithful and error free document as possible. In the Answer to Covenant the Lord stated, “I command you to be wise in word and kind in deed as you write what I require of you.” It is easier to stay right when you start right.
I have also heard it said that this document doesn’t matter because we don’t have to live by it, it is not commandment which we will be required to follow. However, in the Answer to Covenant the Lord stated, “I require a statement of principles to be adopted by the mutual agreement of my people, … I require it to also be added as a guide and standard for my people to follow.”
On March 20, 2017 I was awoken in the early morning hours and asked to write my own version of a Governing Principles document. You can read it here. I have since come to understand, through the Prayer for Covenant and Answer and Covenant that the document is required by the Lord to be written by a group of people and not an individual, therefore, my document does not fit the qualifications of the Lord.
In the ensuing months the original Governing Principles has undergone editing, voting, name changes (it is now titled the Guide and Standard), and endless debates. I attended a June 10, July 2 and Aug 5 attempt at having a group of people edit the original Governing Principles document led by the author/scripture committee member. It has been an ugly process wrought with contention, manipulation, calculation and basic Gentileness. The Aug 5 meeting became particularly ugly with those who felt the original document was revelation straight from God literally yelling at those in the room who did not. In order to have peace many of those against the document accepted it. The Aug 5 document was presented to the general body and voted on and received about 91% acceptance from those who voted. However, there were some in the movement who had concerns enough that they refused to accept the document.
The scripture committee decided to leave the document out of the new scriptures until the body of believers could agree to or write an agreeable document. In October an effort was brought before the people to use a system of lots to organize a committee to write a new document. The process was a far reaching and amazing one with almost 200 names submitted to choose from. 7 people’s names were chosen: 6 men and 1 woman. This committee agreed to use only the words of the Lord in scripture as well as teachings of Joseph Smith and Denver Snuffer. It took them 3 days and 3 nights to complete their document. They pulled from dozens of documents which had been compiled by believers like me who had written our own and submitted them for the group to consider. It is a document which contains only words from true messengers and does not include the philosophies of men mingled with scripture.
The 7 who wrote it took it to the Lord and asked if he accepted it. He did. They then put it to a vote for the people to choose whether or not they would accept it as their Guide and Standard. It received a 93% acceptance rate.
We, as a people, breathed a collective sigh of relief. The task the Lord had given us was complete. Two days later the scripture committee decided that it would only be fair to give the people a choice between the Original, the Aug 5 and the new document by 7. This stirred up the people again. We were finally working together peacefully for the most part and this new move by the scripture committee stirred up controversy, mainly because they took it upon themselves to decide which documents qualified. Two days later the scripture committee decided to table the vote and to table the efforts until the people can learn to get along, even though the scripture committee admits that it is a very small group of dissenters.
As I have contemplated these events I have considered the reasons behind people’s choices of documents. For some they are waiting on the Lord, they have asked but have yet to receive an answer. I can respect that. For some they are concerned that if the original or Aug 5 is not chosen then we will be rejecting the revelations that the author received. Even though I believe that they are being misled I can respect their desire. For some it is about whose assignment it was to begin with and that we must respect the efforts of that person. Even though I believe that it was always in the Lord’s heart for this assignment to be given to the entire body, I can respect these people’s stance. For some it is about choosing to hear the words of the Lord as revealed through his authorized servants and not adding to or taking away from those words, faithfully capturing the teachings given to us today. I respect this and agree with it.
If we are ever allowed by the scripture committee to choose between documents, let us be wise in the choosing; focusing on content rather than process or assignment. In the end it is the content that matters, after all.
Jesus Christ stated, “…It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4 KJV)
As we study the documents up for voting, we should keep this perspective in mind, “is there anything in these documents which could lead to false traditions or practices?” Most of us have come from an LDS background and know how easily false traditions creep in. We followed “faithfully” a Word of Wisdom. In order to have a temple recommend we had to “obey the Word of Wisdom”, however, what we were required to obey was not even in the actual document, it was man’s interpretations of the Word of Wisdom. We would be foolish to think that we will not do the same thing with this Guide and Standard. It is human nature, after all, and we have not yet conquered the natural man.
We need to make an educated, even a wise, choice. As we choose we need to keep in mind that what we choose we are required to follow, we have been commanded to be wise in word and kind in deed to ourselves and to others. Let us educate ourselves and choose the document with the least amount of errors in the content. Words matter after all.
If we ever get to vote, hopefully for one last time, on the statement of principles which we will adopt as our Guide and Standard, let us be wise as serpents as we study the content of each document, and harmless as doves as we interact with one another.