Because concerns about my use of “51%” in regard to the law of common consent have come up on this blog before, I wanted to address them with this post:
Excerpt of Post
Although the quorum of the twelve vote for the new President of the High Priesthood, the majority of the body of the saints (51%) must sustain the calling by vote, using the law of common consent. If 51% or more raise their hands in approval, the appointment goes through. If, however, 51% or more raise their hands in disapproval, the appointment does not go through and the apostles need to choose another man for the office, which then requires another sustaining vote from the members. (LDS Anarchist on January 30, 2008, in Poll: Who is the most prophetic?)
Excerpt of Comment on Post
Members can not nominate a candidate and hypothetically the Presiding officer, or body, can also over ride (ignore) the “will of the people”. Incidently the law of Common Consent specifies no percentage. I’d love to know where you got this 51% figure. Having said that any presiding officer conducting business in the Church would hold off setting apart someone or cannonising a revelation even if 5% or even 1% didn’t sustain the decision. (Comment #609 by Steve on January 30, 2008, in Poll: Who is the most prophetic?, emphasis mine.)
Comment on Post
You are right, there is no specification of 51% in the scriptures. I borrowed the term “51%” from what4anarchy, who uses it all the time. However, I think what4anarchy is right in that the scriptures seem to imply that “the voice of the people” is a majority, or 51%. For example, if you look at the pre-mortal experience, two-thirds (66%) sustained Jesus as the Savior, while one third (33%) didn’t. In this case, “the voice of the people” went with Jesus. The 33% number is far above your 1% or even 5%, yet it wasn’t high enough to stop the election of Jesus. Common sense would indicate, therefore, that the law of common consent works on the majority principle. It does not require a unanimous vote to sustain an appointment, nor can a minority (49% or less) stop an appointment.
You also bring up a fallacy that LDS routinely believe, namely that “the Presiding officer…can…over ride (ignore) the will of the people.” In reality, the presiding officer can only ignore the will of the minority of the people, but if a majority says left, while he says right, it is to be left, as the scriptures indicate that we are “to do [our] business by the voice of the people.” (Mosiah 29: 26.) If the Presiding officer attempts to ignore the will of the majority, he becomes a usurper and a tyrant because in the kingdom of God the governors must govern with the consent of the governed. Any attempt to govern without that consent draws Satan into the picture, as governing without consent is satanic.
As long as LDS hold these views about the law of common consent, it will never function as a means to check tyranny and error, which is its purpose. (Comment #610 by LDS Anarchist on January 30, 2008, in Poll: Who is the most prophetic?,)
I thought that put an end to the question about the scriptural need for a majority, but then the following was written:
Excerpt of Post
Satan understood that if the vote went his way, if 51% of us voted for him (Lucifer), that the plan of the Father would have been frustrated. (LDS Anarchist on October 31, 2007 in Deep Waters: What would have happened if Lucifer had won the vote?)
Excerpt of Comment on Post
I have a quick comment to the initial question as to the “ramifications of a winning vote by Lucifer”, or “What would have happened had Lucifer won the vote?”
This is what I think would have happened if Lucifer had drawn 51% of us to his side: The scriptures would have said something like, “… and just over half of the hosts of heaven followed Lucifer’s plan.” The plan of salvation would not have been altered, compromised, or destroyed. God would not have ceased to be God. Lucifer would not have “won”.
My point is… why is a “majority” relevant in this situation? I don’t believe it is. Two-thirds of the hosts of heaven could have followed Lucifer and God would still have chosen Jesus and His plan would not have been compromised. I don’t believe this was a “vote”, but rather, a choice. (Comment #1160 by Jgtrs on June 15, 2008 in Deep Waters: What would have happened if Lucifer had won the vote?, emphasis mine.)
Excerpt of Comment on Post
The 51% number has come up before on this blog. See here and here. Also, the heavens splitting into thirds sounds like what4anarchy’s idea of following the leader. (1/3 under Lucifer, 1/3 under Jehovah and 1/3 under Michael, for example.)
My understanding is “as above, so below” and so what happened in the heavens has its counterpart here on Earth, namely, the law of common consent. So, the following common consent articles may apply to this discussion about percentages: Power of the Law of Common Consent and Is our procedure for sustaining a rubber stamp? and also, perhaps, this one on free agency: The role of free agency in political systems. As God cannot govern without the consent of the governed, I’m not sure what the difference is between a “vote” and a “choice.” There are many ways of voting, not just in raising one’s hand, and each manifestation of a vote is a demonstration of what you are choosing or not choosing.
It doesn’t make sense to me that the principle of “the voice of the people” applies on Earth but not in heaven, as these principles are revealed to us as heavenly principles so that we can pattern our lives according to that standard found in heaven and be empowered to establish Zion, or the kingdom of heaven on Earth. (Comment #1230 by LDS Anarchist on June 17, 2008, in Deep Waters: What would have happened if Lucifer had won the vote?)
The purpose of this post is solely to show that the “voice of the people” means “majority vote.”
Voice of the people defined
Mosiah is the one who defined the expression for us, in the following verse:
Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people. (Mosiah 29: 26)
Mosiah explains that “the voice of the people” is not the “lesser part of the people.” The “lesser part of the people” is otherwise known as a minority. Therefore, as the “voice of the people” is not the minority, it must be the majority. The expression “the voice of the people” is synonymous with “the majority vote of the people.”
Thus, the latter part of the above verse means, “This shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the [majority vote] of the people.”
Book of Mormon scriptures
The expression “the voice of the people” occurs a lot in the scriptures, and in each instance, it means the same thing. So, here are some examples, with the meaning of the expression rendered in plainer English :
And it came to pass that the [majority vote] of the people came, saying: We are desirous that Aaron thy son should be our king and our ruler. Therefore, choose you by the [majority vote] of this people, judges, that ye may be judged according to the laws which have been given you by our fathers, which are correct, and which were given them by the hand of the Lord. Now it is not common that the [majority vote] of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the [majority vote] of the people. And if the time comes that the [majority vote] of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land. If your higher judges do not judge righteous judgments, ye shall cause that a small number of your lower judges should be gathered together, and they shall judge your higher judges, according to the [majority vote] of the people. (Mosiah 29: 2, 25-27, 29)
Yea, well did Mosiah say, who was our last king, when he was about to deliver up the kingdom, having no one to confer it upon, causing that this people should be governed by their own voices—yea, well did he say that if the time should come that the [majority vote] of this people should choose iniquity, that is, if the time should come that this people should fall into transgression, they would be ripe for destruction. (Alma 10: 19)
Nevertheless, it came to pass that Pahoran was appointed by the [majority vote] of the people to be chief judge and a governor over the people of Nephi. And it came to pass that Pacumeni, when he saw that he could not obtain the judgment-seat, he did unite with the [majority vote] of the people. And it came to pass as he [Paanchi] was about to do this, behold, he was taken, and was tried according to the [majority vote] of the people, and condemned unto death; for he had raised up in rebellion and sought to destroy the liberty of the people. And now behold, Pacumeni was appointed, according to the [majority vote] of the people, to be a chief judge and a governor over the people, to reign in the stead of his brother Pahoran; and it was according to his right. And all this was done in the fortieth year of the reign of the judges; and it had an end. (Hel. 1: 5-6, 8, 13)
See also the following Book of Mormon scriptures that use this expression: Mosiah 7: 9; Mosiah 22: 1; Alma 2: 3-4, 7; Alma 4: 16; Alma 27: 21-22; Alma 46: 34; Alma 51: 7, 15-16; Hel. 2: 2; and Hel. 5: 2.
Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, and said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord. And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the [majority vote] of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee. Now therefore hearken unto their [majority vote]: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them. And Samuel told all the words of the Lord unto the people that asked of him a king. And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants. And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day. Nevertheless the people refused to aobey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us; that we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles. And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, Hearken unto their [majority vote], and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye every man unto his city. (1 Sam. 8: 4-22)
This scripture, in particular, is interesting because Samuel was the prophet of the Lord and the majority vote* was asking for something contrary to the will of the Lord (they were asking to change the tribal anarchy into a monarchical State like the nations around them), yet the Lord told his prophet to listen to and obey the majority vote of the people. This is otherwise known as the law of common consent.
*Notice verse four where it says “all the elders of Israel.” This seems to indicate that this wasn’t just a bare majority, but a unanimous majority.
Doctrine and Covenants scriptures
And let all things be done according to the counsel of the order, and united consent or [majority vote] of the order, which dwell in the land of Kirtland. And it is my will that he should sell the lots that are laid off for the building up of the city of my saints, inasmuch as it shall be made known to him by the voice of the Spirit, and according to the counsel of the order, and by the [majority vote] of the order. Therefore, you are dissolved as a united order with your brethren, that you are not bound only up to this hour unto them, only on this wise, as I said, by loan as shall be agreed by this order in council, as your circumstances will admit and the [majority vote] of the council direct. And the avails of the sacred things shall be had in the treasury, and a seal shall be upon it; and it shall not be used or taken out of the treasury by any one, neither shall the seal be loosed which shall be placed upon it, only by the [majority vote] of the order, or by commandment. And there shall not any part of it be used, or taken out of the treasury, only by the [majority vote] and common consent of the order. And this shall be the [majority vote] and common consent of the order—that any man among you say to the treasurer: I have need of this to help me in my stewardship—but in case of transgression, the treasurer shall be subject unto the council and [majority vote] of the order. And in case the treasurer is found an unfaithful and an unwise steward, he shall be subject to the council and [majority vote] of the order, and shall be removed out of his place, and another shall be appointed in his stead. (D&C 104: 21, 36, 53, 64, 71-72, 76-77)
Joseph Smith, Jun., Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams were acknowledged presidents by the [majority vote] of the council; and Joseph Smith, Sen., John Smith, Joseph Coe, John Johnson, Martin Harris, John S. Carter, Jared Carter, Oliver Cowdery, Samuel H. Smith, Orson Hyde, Sylvester Smith, and Luke Johnson, high priests, were chosen to be a standing council for the church, by the unanimous [majority vote] of the council. Voted: that whenever any vacancy shall occur by the death, removal from office for transgression, or removal from the bounds of this church government, of any one of the above-named councilors, it shall be filled by the nomination of the president or presidents, and sanctioned by the [majority vote] of a general council of high priests, convened for that purpose, to act in the name of the church. The president of the church, who is also the president of the council, is appointed by revelation, and acknowledged in his administration by the [majority vote] of the church. (D&C 102: 3, 8-9)
And let my servant Edward Partridge, when he shall appoint a man his portion, give unto him a writing that shall secure unto him his portion, that he shall hold it, even this right and this inheritance in the church, until he transgresses and is not accounted worthy by the [majority vote] of the church, according to the laws and covenants of the church, to belong to the church. And this shall be done through the bishop or the agent, which shall be appointed by the [majority vote] of the church. (D&C 51: 4, 12)
And now, I give unto the church in these parts a commandment, that certain men among them shall be appointed, and they shall be appointed by the [majority vote] of the church; and they shall look to the poor and the needy, and administer to their relief that they shall not suffer; and send them forth to the place which I have commanded them; and this shall be their work, to govern the affairs of the property of this church. (D&C 38: 34-36)
And again, I have called my servant Edward Partridge; and I give a commandment, that he should be appointed by the [majority vote] of the church, and ordained a bishop unto the church, to leave his merchandise and to spend all his time in the labors of the church; to see to all things as it shall be appointed unto him in my laws in the day that I shall give them. (D&C 41: 9-10)
And let there be an agent appointed by the [majority vote] of the church, unto the church in Ohio, to receive moneys to purchase lands in Zion. (D&C 58: 49)
We believe that all governments necessarily require civil officers and magistrates to enforce the laws of the same; and that such as will administer the law in equity and justice should be sought for and upheld by the [majority vote] of the people if a republic, or the will of the sovereign. (D&C 134: 3)
It becomes plain, then, from these scriptures, that the church functions on the principle of majority vote.
The elders are to receive their licenses from other elders, by vote of the church to which they belong, or from the conferences. No person is to be ordained to any office in this church, where there is a regularly organized branch of the same, without the vote of that church; but the presiding elders, traveling bishops, high councilors, high priests, and elders, may have the privilege of ordaining, where there is no branch of the church that a vote may be called. (D&C 20: 63, 65-66)
No need for unanimity unless specified
Unless the voice is specified as having to be “unanimous,” such as in the following scripture, all majority votes (51% or more) are sufficient to decide all issues in the church.
And every decision made by either of these quorums [the First Presidency, the Twelve and the Seventy] must be by the unanimous [majority vote] of the same; that is, every member in each quorum must be agreed to its decisions, in order to make their decisions of the same power or validity one with the other—a majority may form a quorum when circumstances render it impossible to be otherwise—unless this is the case, their decisions are not entitled to the same blessings which the decisions of a quorum of three presidents were anciently, who were ordained after the order of Melchizedek, and were righteous and holy men. (D&C 107: 27-29)
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