Gospel Q&A is a series from LDS Daily that strives to answer important gospel questions from readers. Today, we answer the question, “Should I raise my hand to sustain people in callings when I visit a ward?”
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I love this question. It’s so simple, but we all feel a little weird sitting in a ward we are visiting when the sustainings arise. Perhaps more so when the bishopric member calls for an expression of thanks for people being released from their callings. What is the appropriate way to respond?
Before we can know if we should sustain, we have to know what it means to sustain sometime in a calling. It doesn’t mean we like them. It means, according to the Church handbook, that we “pledge [our] support and willingness to help.”
Bishop H. Burke Peterson described sustaining “someone in a Church position [as] a sign of our personal commitment to uphold the Lord’s choice of that person in that calling.”
Harold B. Lee, when presenting Joseph Fielding Smith as prophet, seer, and revelator to the church, went so far as to say, “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.” (Emphasis added.)
President Eyring concurred, and as a second witness to President Lee’s words affirmed, “You can withhold your sustaining vote, or you can pledge your sustaining faith. By raising your hand to sustain, you make a promise. You make a promise with God, whose servants these are, that you will sustain them.”
Let it be noted, however, that opposing votes in the sustaining process are taken seriously. If you know a reason, an action, or a behavior, that you feel should disqualify someone from church service, it is a moral obligation to raise that concern with your bishopric or stake presidency. Even a visitor who is not a member of the church who “knows of conduct that could disqualify the person from serving in the position” may share this information in private with a bishopric or stake presidency member.
To those whom we can sustain, however, how do we give our loyalty and support?
Again, President Eyring suggested some questions we can ask ourselves in preparation to sustain our leaders.
- “Have I thought or spoken of human weakness in the people I have pledged to sustain?
- Have I looked for evidence that the Lord is leading them?
- Have I conscientiously and loyally followed their leadership?
- Have I spoken about the evidence I can see that they are God’s servants?
- Do I pray for them regularly by name and with feelings of love?
“Those questions will, for most of us, lead to some uneasiness and a need to repent.”
Although President Eyring’s words can be convicting, if we act on these suggestions, we will more fully offer our support and loyalty to those whom the Lord has called to lead us.
Additionally, sustaining fellow ward members may look like coming to Sunday School or Priesthood or Relief Society meetings prepared, having read the material and pondered it. It means we are willing to support the lesson or offer a prayer when asked. It means we consider joining the ward choir when the conductor has been begging you for months. (Anyone want to guess my calling?!) Sustaining each other means we help each other succeed in magnifying our callings as we strive to serve the Lord and His children.
Knowing all this, what’s appropriate when visiting another ward?
Bishop H. Burke Peterson wrote that each church member “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.”
Your uplifted hand is “not expected” until your uplifted loyalty and earnestness can also be anticipated. Will you be in this ward often enough to support and sustain? Will you take seriously your commitment to helping these brothers and sisters magnify their callings? If not, there’s no need to raise your hand.
Similarly, if you or your loved ones have been blessed and benefitted by someone’s service, there is no harm in raising your hand in thanks, even if you aren’t in their ward. Still, as above, it is not expected.
More important than raising our hands is that we uplift and support each other in the ward. Truly sustaining one another will create more unity and selflessness and ultimately make our wards and stakes closer to the place of Zion they should be.
Disclaimer: While all of my answers will use scriptures and/or words of modern prophets, I do not represent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I don’t believe any of my answers are comprehensive. I’m just one person using the gospel I have been blessed with to bring hope, peace, and answers to other seekers of truth.