Section 26: Common Consent
This section, given in July 1830, in Harmony. Joseph offered no information in the History of the Church about the circumstances in which section 26 was received.
D&C 26 Common Consent
D&C 26:2 All things shall be done by common consent in the church.
1 Behold, I say unto you that you shall let your time be devoted to the studying of the scriptures, and to preaching, and to confirming the church at Colesville, and to performing your labors on the land, such as is required, until after you shall go to the west to hold the next conference; and then it shall be made known what you shall do.
verse 1 “you shall let your time be devoted to the studying of the scriptures” Joseph is instructed to continue his work in correcting the King James Bible. See the supplemental article Joseph Smith’s Inspired Revision of the Bible—The JST.
“and to confirming the church at Colesville” Colesville, New York, is about twenty miles north of Harmony, Pennsylvania. The branch at Colesville consisted mainly of the Joseph and Newel Knight families, but there were other interested persons in the area. As the foregoing historical summaries have made clear, Joseph is having trouble getting the newly baptized Colesville saints confirmed members of the Church because of persecutions in that town. Joseph is counseled by the Lord to complete that assignment.
“until after you shall go to the west to hold the next conference” Going “to the west” meant going northwest to Fayette, New York, a distance of about a hundred miles. The “next conference” will be held at Fayette on September 26 and 27, 1830.
2 And all things shall be done by common consent in the church, by much prayer and faith, for all things you shall receive by faith. Amen.
verse 2 Our church government is neither a theocracy nor a democracy. That is to say, the Lord exercises his sovereign authority through his authorized servants, but it is the privilege of the people to accept or reject—to agree or disagree. Church members do not have the power to nominate or elect, but they do have the right to decide whether they will sustain and support. This form of government has been called a theo-democracy, and it is the form of government that will exist during the Millennium. Should a majority of the saints refuse to sustain a name or a proposed action, it must be withdrawn. Elder Charles W. Penrose taught, “The voice of the people should respond to the voice of the Lord. It is the voice of the Lord and the voice of the people together in this Church that sanctions all things therein. . . . The Lord designs that every individual member shall take an interest therein, shall bear a part of the responsibility, and shall take upon him or her the spirit of the Church, and be an active living member of the body” (JD, 21:45-46).
A theo-democracy is the law of heaven as well as the law of his Church. The Lord said of his power, “Behold, I am from above, and my power lieth beneath” (D&C 63:59). That is, he doesn’t govern by some power or authority which comes from elsewhere. Rather, he governs by divine directive but acknowledges the agency or those governed and awaits their consent. His very power derives from those he governs who, by and large, love and obey him (Abraham 4:18)—thus he is powerful.
Should a member of the Church ever cast a negative vote for an individual being sustained to an office in the Church? President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:
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, or transgression of the laws of the Church which would disqualify him for the position which he is called to hold (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:124).
When we do sustain an individual to a calling, we are not simply giving our passive consent. We are instead obligated to actively support and sustain that individual.
Brief Historical Setting
The Knights, Sally and Newel, who became close friends of Joseph and Emma, visited the Smiths in Harmony in early August 1830. The four held a confirmation service for the purpose of confirming Sally and Emma. Both had been baptized in Colesville but not confirmed. Joseph went out to purchase wine for the sacrament to be administered at that service. As he did so he was met by an angel representing the Lord who instructed him concerning the sacrament [D&C 27 -The Sacrament Emblems].
- Michael J. Preece