This just a short, two part series on sustaining. This first post tries to ask some questions regarding the purpose of sustaining (both others and ourselves) and the second post will look at the process of sustaining by examining the question of whether we sustain the person or the office.
The Act of Sustaining
D&C 20:65 teaches that ‘no person is to be ordained to any office in this church… without the vote of that church’. J. Stapely in a post from early 2008 hinted at the radical democratisation of spiritual power that was distributed through JS’s view of priesthood and through this process of sustaining. Therefore sustaining votes are a symbol of the sequestered notion that the Church is to be a kingdom of kings and queens, priests and priestess. It is through such acts that we enact these roles by affirming and accepting the revelatory process which has brought this person forward.
Clearly the act of sustaining is a sign of acceptance or support and yet this symbol suggests a variety of other meanings. One that the CHI makes explicit is that sustaining serves as a momentary form of foucauldian panopticism, though it is clearly delayed. Votes to the contrary are of course encouraged but only if the person has knowledge of some reason (usually unworthy behaviour) why this individual cannot serve. In a community where information regarding intended callings is kept quiet – it is sacred not secret – it is desirable that a space be given for the general community to speak on the moral conduct of the proposed calling. Though I suspect that this is not what most people think when they sustain, it might become important if there is something to be said. In such situations the response I have heard most frequently is that people abstain rather than vote against.
In this regard, the act of sustaining oneself fits with this view, for we publically affirm that we are worthy to accept this calling. In addition we publically commit to serve and are simultaneously enact and support a reshuffling of the network of power in a ward. Thus with one quick vote power struggles are nullified as we willingly incorporate ourselves into a new series of connections which situate us in reconstituted relations to everyone else.
From a different perspective, I suspect that sustaining votes have also become a symbol of our hierarchy. Followers are supposed to sustain their leaders and these are taken more seriously than those votes for a YM president, for example. That the rhetoric of the Church has been directed toward this issue is reflected in our TR questions in which we are asked if we sustain our apostolic, general and local leaders. Perhaps this is evident because I am not a general or local leader, but IMO this question for most people focuses upon people who are above them in the hierarchy.
Before moving onto the process of sustaining, I want to highlight what I believe is an assumption upon which rests many of the problems with the process of sustaining. In my view, this TR question regarding sustaining implies our local leaders are in harmony with our general and apostolic leaders. This is evidently not the case and it therefore creates tension regarding how we perceive the process of sustaining. It is easy to see, once this assumption is illuminated, how the sustaining of our local leaders is connected with the sustaining our Prophet. Moreover it is also clear how the process of sustaining becomes conflicted when this assumption is proved to be fallacious.