Updated: Saturday, 8 Nov 14
[Continuing the conversation... See Part 9]
|David O. McKay|
|John (Jack) R. Howard|
Eugene N. Kovalenko: Jack, you have asked me to amplify my understanding of the LDS Church Handbook.
I think it has a valuable place in Mormon governance so long as it does not trump the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Since the LDS Church is basically governed by a lay male priesthood, its leadership often changes rapidly. For example, key pastoral leaders (such as bishops) can be called and installed unannounced often within days by higher level priesthood leaders, ostensibly by inspiration. (This is what happened at a critical time in my life in mid July 1965. See here and here.) This kind of rapid change has obvious advantages and disadvantages. Leaders without prior training generally need immediate guidance on how to administer their callings and new responsibilities. The Handbook is designed for such people, especially when more experienced leaders are not available for training.
Since 1889 through 2010 (last edition), there have been at least 27 editions published by the First Presidency of the Church. During David O. McKay's term in office, for example, there were 3 editions (#18, #19 and #20) produced between 1960 and 1968. In recent years two separate versions have emerged: Handbook 1, which is expressly for bishops, stake presidents and higher offices and not available to the general membership or public. Handbook 2, which is available free to the general public.
All this is well and good for keeping order and serving as a general reference for new or inexperienced leaders. But I can think of a recent personal experience where use of the Handbook trumped the Holy Spirit and another particularly noxious example in the life of one of my sons, where the Handbook was (and presumably still is) dead wrong. Here is a reference to a quote from a letter to my son from his newly installed local bishop in response to my son's request to have his name removed from the records of the Church.
The bishop advised my son of the consequences of his request to remove his name from the church records by copying the words from the Handbook to declare that “the following will occur”:
- Your name will be removed from the records of the church
- The effect of your baptism and confirmation will be cancelled
- Your priesthood will be withdrawn
- Your sealing to your parents will be suspended
- Your claim to the Savior for forgiveness will be cancelled
I was quick to advise my son to ignore this incredibly misguided "consequence".
John R. Howard: I certainly understand your concern, Gene, and thanks for such a thorough explanation. What do you have to say about that, David?
David O. McKay: I am surely concerned about the last item that Brother Eugene has brought to our attention. It must be corrected.
ENK: Thanks for saying that, David. It gives me hope if you still have influence on the current institutional apparatus.
I hope you can see why I cannot even begin to accept the widely and officially announced claim by LDS Church leaders and its generally obedient-without-thought membership that "the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Only True Church on the face of the earth authorized and recognized by God the Father and Jesus Christ."
DOM: I can surely see your point, brother.
ENK: Can you also see two other policies that I think naturally follow from that misdirected assertion? That is: First, that the practice of leadership by seniority ought to be abolished; Second, that the practice of excommunication ought to be stopped, completely re-examined and overhauled, if not eliminated entirely.
DOM: That would be a monumental change, brother! Virtually impossible.
ENK: I don't think so, good friend. If the Holy Spirit were truly in charge of directing the Church and the leadership in tune with the Lord Jesus, as you once championed at a general conference, then nothing is impossible in matters of correcting and changing corrupt or incorrect policies.
The LDS Church has an historic opportunity to set the example for the world that it always boasted having and destined to represent. And that is one of humility and repentance by confessing its error and changing its direction.
That single act would profoundly influence national leadership, which would surely influence international leadership in turn.
JRH: That's a breathtaking suggestion, Gene!
ENK: Yes, Jack, but not impossible for the Holy Spirit. I hope I can get George's ear on this at our next meeting on Oct 22.
JRH: You will probably frighten him.
ENK: No doubt. But it's worth the effort, don't you think?
JRH: I can't argue with that, Gene, but I hope you will be able to present these things to brother George in a skillful, humble and loving way yourself. You must be the example you want to see from him and his institution.
DOM: Very well said, Brother John. Very well said indeed.
ENK: Thank you, friends and brothers. Until we talk again.
On 7/8 November 2014, Eugene wrote:
My friends, the regular conversation with George on 22 Oct 14 went better than I had expected. At first he was not interested in my reading Part 10 to him aloud during our meeting. But at the end he seemed pleased and took my printout copy with him.
Nevertheless, I'm not sure he really registered my point and now think that was our last regular conversation. My original purpose in talking to him was to discern whether he was aware of having misrepresented me to the then bishop of the ward years ago, who had appeared in my dream on 3 Aug 10. Because I felt betrayed and misjudged by George for four years, I felt the need to reach out to him to resolve this issue for my own sake, irrespective of his. This intention was accelerated when I dreamed this past July 13 of having a pleasant telephone conversation with him, which inspired my contacting him externally. This led to these current conversations, which evoked the wise inner dream characters of David O. McKay and John R. Howard.
Over these past few months, since the most recent dream of my inner George, I have been able to forgive the outer George for what I now understand was an unintended misrepresentation on his part. Since he doesn't even remember what I am talking about, I have let the issue go.