To sustain or not to sustain?
We had ward conference yesterday, and as part of that, the leaders of the church were put to a sustaining vote. I admit that I had a personal quandary about whether to participate – what does it mean to sustain my leaders, both on the local and general levels?
I’ll just go ahead and say it – I don’t support the new policy on same-sex couples and their children (or revelation… or whatever we’re calling it these days). To me it is not only un-Christlike and uncharitable, it seems to signal an increasing shift towards our church’s collective worship of the heterosexual, nuclear family in place of worshiping Christ (who, strangely, had very little to say about the heterosexual, nuclear family). It feels like idolatry, and it has been hurtful and divisive. I’ve prayed about it, I’ve read about it, and I just don’t feel like it’s of God. On the other hand, I have no qualms about our prophets and church leaders being fallible people – I see evidence throughout scripture and church history that confirms that, to quote Elder Holland, “imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with.” I am willing to grant them grace and space to work through this thorny theological issue, just as I hope my fellow church members, church leaders, and ultimately God are also willing to grant me the same as I work through all of my imperfections.
That said, I fear that “sustaining our leaders” has evolved from a process of leaders obtaining common consent (with occasional or even frequent dissent) to showing a willingness to conform; to sustain a leader now seems to suggest that we will fall in line and do as we’re told. In fact, the church webpage on “sustaining our prophets and apostles” say exactly that – we are to “examine our lives, repent as necessary, pledge to keep the Lord’s commandments, and follow His servants.” No counsel is given on what to do when obedience to church leaders would require a sacrifice of integrity. How do we sustain our leaders in those cases?
When I think of sustaining something, I think of providing sustenance. If I have a plant, for example, and I see that it’s dying, my duty is to provide it food, light, air, and nutrients to try to correct the imbalances it has. I don’t simply keep doing what I was doing that caused the plant to be dying in the first place. How do we provide sustenance to our church leaders? When I ask the Lord to sustain me through my trials, I hope that I will receive strength, support, additional light and knowledge, and patience. So if I feel that my leaders are making a mistake, what is my duty in sustaining them?
I admit that I haven’t figured this out, so I’m asking our readers for their advice. This is an idea that I’m still struggling with – do I raise my arm and say that I sustain my leaders when given the opportunity, even if I disagree with them in many ways? Do I oppose their sustaining as a way of voicing my concerns? Do I abstain from the procedure? How, as a woman in this church with very little institutional authority and voice, do I best sustain my leaders, especially in times when I disagree with the path they’re taking?