Where and when should we manifest a sustaining vote in the Church?


“Where and when should we manifest a sustaining vote in the Church?” New Era, June 1976, 34–35

“Where and when should we manifest a sustaining vote in the Church, and where and when should we not manifest such a vote?”

Answer/Bishop H. Burke Peterson

Each Church member is entitled to vote for officers of any Church unit to which he or she belongs.

A member may vote to sustain officers of the ward or branch in which he lives. However, he is not expected to vote for officers of wards or branches in which he does not live, although no objection is likely to be raised if he does.

A member may vote to sustain officers of the stake, district, or mission in which he lives. He may sustain these officers whenever they are presented for a vote in any meeting held within the stake, district, or mission in which he lives. However, he is not expected to vote for officers of stakes, districts, or missions in which he does not live, although, again, no objection is likely to be raised if he does.

A member may vote to sustain General Authorities of the Church in any meeting held anywhere within the Church at which the names of the General Authorities are presented for a vote.

When a member is called to a Church position and he is presented to the congregation for a sustaining vote, he should manifest his personal sustaining vote for himself in that calling.

Voting by the uplifted hand to sustain someone in a Church position is a sign of our personal commitment to uphold the Lord’s choice of that person in that calling. President Harold B. Lee identified the commitment, the covenant, inherent in voting to sustain. In the solemn assembly called to sustain Joseph Fielding Smith as prophet, seer, and revelator to the Church, President Lee said:

“Everyone is perfectly free to vote as he wishes. There is no compulsion whatsoever in this voting. 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.” (Conference Report, April 1970, p. 103.)

We are free to exercise our agency to sustain or not sustain, but we should consider prayerfully the counsel of President Joseph Fielding Smith:

“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. The priesthood selects, under the inspiration of our Father in heaven, and then it is the duty of the Latter-day Saints, as they are assembled in conference or other capacity, by the uplifted hand, to sustain or to reject; and I take it that no man has the right to raise his hand in opposition, or with contrary vote, unless he has a reason for doing so that would be valid if presented before those who stand at the head. In other words, 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. That is my understanding of it.” (CR, June 1919, p. 92.)

The right to call members to Church positions rests with the presiding priesthood authorities under the guidance of divine inspiration. The right to sustain rests with the individual members of the Church. President John Taylor said, “God appoints, the people sustain.” President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., outlined this principle in a general conference of the Church:

“When the presiding authority has so ‘nominated’ or chosen, or called any man to office, that man is then presented to the body of the Church to be ‘sustained,’ in political language to be ‘elected.’

“Thus the body of the Church has no ‘calling’ or ‘nominating’ power, but only the sustaining, or politically speaking, the ‘electing’ power.

“When the presiding authority presents any man to the body of the Church to be sustained, the only power which the assembly has is to vote, by uplifted hand, either to sustain or not to sustain.

“Obviously, neither the body of the Church, nor any of its members can propose that other men be called to office, for the calling of men is the sole power and function of the presiding authority.

“Therefore, all debate, all proposals of other names, all discussions of merit and worthiness, are wholly out of order in such an assemblage.” (CR, October 1940, pp. 28–29.)

Our presiding authorities at all levels of Church government present to us the Lord’s choice; we then have the opportunity to cast our vote with the Lord. President Spencer W. Kimball confirmed this principle at the time of the calling of President Harold B. Lee as the Lord’s chosen to be prophet, seer, and revelator:

“It is reassuring to know that President Lee was not elected through committees and conventions with all their conflicts, criticisms, and by the vote of men, but was called of God and then sustained by the people.” (CR, October 1972, p. 28.)

We have, then, a sacred responsibility to manifest our sustaining vote according to correct principles as taught to us by our presiding authorities and as witnessed by the Spirit.

  • First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric