Section 26

The Law of Common Consent

“Section 26, The Law of Common Consent,” Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual (2002), 54

Historical Background

See Historical Background for Doctrine and Covenants 24. Sections 24, 25, and 26 were received about the same time.

Notes and Commentary

D&C 26:1. The Lord’s Instruction until Conference

“Going ‘to the west’ meant going to Fayette, New York, a distance of about a hundred miles; and the ‘next conference’ was held at Fayette on September 26 and 27, 1830. ‘Studying the scriptures’ probably had something to do with the translation of the Bible, since the earliest manuscript entries, recorded in the summer and fall of 1830, are in the handwriting of John Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery. Apparently the ‘translation’ and the ‘study’ were being conducted at the same time; perhaps they were actually one and the same.” (Matthews, Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Bible, p. 27.)

D&C 26:2. The Law of Common Consent

Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained that “administrative affairs of the Church are handled in accordance with the law of common consent. This law is that in God’s earthly kingdom, the King counsels what should be done, but then he allows his subjects to accept or reject his proposals. Unless the principle of free agency is operated in righteousness men do not progress to ultimate salvation in the heavenly kingdom hereafter. Accordingly, church officers are selected by the spirit of revelation in those appointed to choose them, but before the officers may serve in their positions, they must receive a formal sustaining vote of the people over whom they are to preside. (D. & C. 20:60–67; 26:2; 28; 38:34–35; 41:9–11; 42:11; 102:9; 124:124–145.)” (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 149–50.)

Not only are Church officers sustained by common consent, but this same principle operates for policies, major decisions, acceptance of new scripture, and other things that affect the lives of the Saints (see D&C 26:2).

D&C 26:2. Could a Person Hold an Office in the Church without the Consent of the People?

“No man can preside in this Church in any capacity without the consent of the people. The Lord has placed upon us the responsibility of sustaining by vote those who are called to various positions of responsibility. No man, should the people decide to the contrary, could preside over any body of Latter-day Saints in this Church, and yet it is not the right of the people to nominate, to choose, for that is the right of the priesthood.” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:123; see also D&C 20:65.)

D&C 26:2. When Should a Person Cast a Negative Vote?

“I have no right to raise my hand in opposition to a man who is appointed to any position in this Church, simply because I may not like him, or because of some personal disagreement or feeling I may have, but only on the grounds that he is guilty of wrong doing, of transgression of the laws of the Church which would disqualify him for the position which he is called to hold.” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:124.)

D&C 26:2. Responsibilities of Those Who Sustain Others

Elder Loren C. Dunn explained the responsibilities that accompany the sustaining process: “When we sustain officers, we are given the opportunity of sustaining those whom the Lord has already called by revelation. … The Lord, then, gives us the opportunity to sustain the action of a divine calling and in effect express ourselves if for any reason we may feel otherwise. To sustain is to make the action binding on ourselves to support those people whom we have sustained. When a person goes through the sacred act of raising his arm to the square, he should remember, with soberness, that which he has done and commence to act in harmony with his sustaining vote both in public and in private.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1972, p. 19; or Ensign, July 1972, p. 43.)

“When you vote affirmatively you make a solemn covenant with the Lord that you will sustain, that is, give your full loyalty and support, without equivocation or reservation, to the officer for whom you vote” (Harold B. Lee, in Conference Report, Apr. 1970, p. 103).

“All things shall be done by common consent” (D&C 26:2).