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Sustaining leaders

Church leaders who have been called of God are sustained to serve in their positions by a sustaining vote from those whom they will lead.

The pattern of sustaining Church authorities is familiar to members of the Church. One in authority presents the names of those called to serve and then states that those in favor may signify by the uplifted hand. There is also opportunity for those who are not in favor to express their feelings. Should this occur there is also an established procedure to hear an explanation.In some ways this important procedure has become almost routine, but the very act of sustaining is anything but procedural.

Obviously there is no campaigning for position or lobbying for votes. This is because the Church operates as a theocracy. A theocracy recognizes God and Jesus Christ as supreme beings whose will is manifest through leaders who have been called by revelation. The Prophet Joseph Smith declared this in the Fifth Article of Faith when he said: "We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof."

Thus, those who are called represent Deity in their specific callings.

In sustaining their leaders it is important for Church members to remember that raising the right hand is not just sustaining those who are called. When the hand is raised that is just the beginning. The uplifted hand also signifies a pledge to work to the best of one's ability to help the leader succeed in magnifying his or her calling. A true sustaining vote means a commitment of faithfulness in the great cause of this latter-day work.

From the scriptures we learn of many occasions where individuals failed to extend a sustaining vote into acts and deeds of worth.

In September 1830, at a conference of the five-month old Church, David Whitmer, one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon, was called to serve as a missionary. But along with the call came a reprimand from the Lord:

"Behold, I say unto you, David, that you have feared man and have not relied on me for strength as you ought.

"But your mind has been on the things of the earth more than on the things of me, your Maker, and the ministry whereunto you have been called; and you have not given heed unto my Spirit, and to those who were set over you, but have been persuaded by those whom I have not commanded." (D&C 30:1-2.) How easy it seems at times to be persuaded by those who are not "commanded by God." Sustaining of Church leaders denotes our willingness to follow those whom God has called.

Another scriptural lesson is found in the Old Testament in the lives of Samuel the Prophet and King Saul.

Acting under the direction of God, Samuel instructed Saul to take his armies and destroy the Amalekites because of their great wickedness. The Prophet Samuel said: "Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass." (1 Sam. 15:3.) And what did Saul do? He destroyed everything but the best of the animals, and more seriously, spared the life of Agag the wicked king of the Amalekites.

When Samuel learned of Saul's disobedience he confronted Saul and demanded an explanation. Saul boasted of his victory, and stated that his associates persuaded him to bring the best of the animals to be sacrificed to the Lord in Gilgal. With deep disappointment in Saul, Samuel rebuked him.

"Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

"For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king." (1 Sam. 15:22-23.)

What a great price Saul paid for not following the Prophet's instructions.

At a crucial time in his work of translating the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith learned a valuable lesson of obedience.

When Martin Harris persuaded Joseph to give him manuscript pages of the translation the material was lost or destroyed, which brought this reprimand to Joseph: "And behold, how oft you have transgressed the commandments and the laws of God, and have gone on in the persuasions of men.

"For behold, you should not have feared man more than God. . . ." (D&C 3:6-7.)

And thus we see that when we follow the commandments of God and truly sustain by our good works those whom He has called the Lord will bless us and prosper us in all things.