Monday, March 8, 2010

Respecting Our Right to Oppose

Whenever I am at the stand conducting any sustaining votes, I always look around the congregation slowly and purposefully - and I pause long enough after asking the question about dissent to make it obvious that I actually am allowing for the possibility that there will be dissent. I also explicitly turn and look behind me at all the people sitting on the stand - again, to make it obvious that I am looking at each and every individual in the room at the time. Honestly, I do not expect a dissenting vote, but I believe I owe it to the spirit of the process to take my time and make the possibility of opposition real in the minds of those in attendance.

The standard wording is, “It is *proposed* that we sustain . . . All in favor . . . All opposed . . .” My vote is a sign that I am willing to sustain the *proposed* action - or not to sustain it. Any construct that limits or denies that right to object to a proposal makes it something other than a proposal.

Since we don’t believe in infallibility in the issuing of callings, and since there have been and continue to be instances where a dissenting vote has changed a calling, I have a hard time accepting a sustaining vote as anything less than a sustaining vote. I can accept the idea that we are not “electing” someone, but that doesn’t mean that my vote always should be seen as automatic or a test of my faith. If I know nothing that would disqualify a candidate for the office to which s/he is being called, I accept fully my need to accept it on faith - if as nothing more than my public statement of trust in the person who issued the call. If I know of something that would disqualify the candidate, however, I feel it is my duty to make it known to the proper person - even if that means I have to raise my hand in opposition to the calling / action.


PaulM said...

What's the prescribed action should a "no" vote come up? I've never seen it happen. Just curious because I plan on being a "no" next week at stake conference.

Papa D said...

The correct action is for the person at the stand to mention that the presiding leader(s) will meet with those who have opposed immediately following the meeting. Nothing more should be said from the pulpit than that. Sometimes more is said, but that should be the action.

During the meeting to discuss the opposition, the reason for the opposition is asked. It then should be taken into consideration by those issuing the calling and might or might not change the calling. If further investigation needs to occur (for example, if a breach of temple covenants is alleged), that should be communicated to the one opposing the action.

The opposition discussion should not be a place where the leader(s) try to change the mind of the opposing person, but it absolutely is supposed to be a time for probing questions, if necessary, to get to the heart of the opposition. That's a fine line, and it isn't always walked perfectly. Also, combativeness on the part of the opposer often will lead to defensiveness on the part of the leader(s). That's just human nature, and, unfortunately, most of us still are struggling to let go of the natural man in that regard.

Honestly, if the opposition is along the lines of "I simply can't support that person in that calling" or "He's an arrogant jerk" nothing is going to happen in nearly all cases. That is going to be seen as a personal issue, even if others agree with the personality assessment. In order for it to have an effect, there is going to have to be a good reason given that is along the lines of blatantly and eggregiously improper behavior - since infallibility AND personality conflicts are almost a given for most leaders.

Mama D said...

So, out of curiosity, what happens during stake conf when members are in multiple rooms because of the size of the congregation? Is there a bishop or high councilor in every room to note the sustaining/opposing votes?

Papa D said...

Whenever there are multiple rooms being used as a part of the actual meeting (like the Tabernacle and BYU Marriott center for General Conference or additional rooms in a Stake Center), there is supposed to be someone representing the presiding authority in those locations to take care of such possibilities (like apostles at General Conference or high counselors at stake conference).

Papa D said...

and, yes, everyone else, we do talk in person - not just on our blogs. lol