Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » I Have a Question, 1897

I Have a Question, 1897

By: Ardis E. Parshall - March 06, 2009

Here’s another sampling of the questions church members asked George Q. Cannon to answer through the pages of the Juvenile Instructor in 1897. Some of them are still relevant and I can imagine their being asked today … but my favorites are of course the ones steeped in the social conditions of the time they were asked:

Are persons ever ordained to the higher Priesthood without first being ordained to the lesser or Aaronic Priesthood?

Yes. It has not been uncommon to ordain persons to the Melchisedek Priesthood who have never held the Aaronic Priesthood, though the feeling is very general among the authorities of the Church that it is a better plan to ordain, especially in the case of young men, to the offices of the lesser Priesthood in the first place. By ordaining young men Deacons and then Teachers and then Priests after the order of Aaron, they can gain experience and be better prepared to discharge the duties of the higher Priesthood when they are ordained Elders, Seventies, etc. It is frequently the case, however, in preaching the Gospel in the world, that Elders find it necessary to ordain recently baptized men to the Melchisedek Priesthood that they may be able to organize branches and have men qualified to assist them in preaching the Gospel and administering the ordinances to the people among whom they dwell.

We repeat, therefore, that persons can be ordained to the higher Priesthood without first being ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood.

Did Aaron hold the Melchisedek Priesthood?

We do not know of any record within our reach in which this question is answered. But it is extremely probable, and we think the weight of evidence is in favor of the conclusion, that he did hold the melchisedek Priesthood. He was the spokesman of his brother Moses, and before presiding over the Aaronic Priesthood acted as one might act who held the office of a High Priest in the Melchisedek Priesthood.

Should the tobacco smokers and chewers sit together in partaking of the Sacrament, as many of them leave the fumes of their tobacco in the water after they have drunk of the cup?

This is a very pertinent question. We do not know how these parties would like to be put by themselves and made to drink after the rest had got through; but certainly a good many would like to have it that way rather than to partake of the cup upon which the fumes of tobacco had been left for them to inhale.

Is it right and proper for a non-Mormon to be appointed and set apart to be a Counselor in the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association?

We deemed it proper to submit this question to President Joseph F. Smith, who is one of the Presidency of that Association. He informed us that the question had been submitted to the General Superintendency, and they did not consider it proper for a non-member of the church to hold a presiding position in an association which is a Church organization. All such, however, should be welcomed to the Associations as members, and be encouraged to take part in the exercises; but the presiding officers should be members of the Church. If, however, any one of this class did occupy a position, the Presidency did not think it wise to change the existing arrangements this season.

A question is asked whether it would be right for those who are called upon to administer the sacrament to partake of it first, before passing it to the congregation.

This is not generally done. It is after all have partaken that those who administer the sacrament partake of the bread and drink of the cup themselves. there is nothing wrong, however, about their partaking of it first; but it is not the general practice in the Church to do so.

We are asked if a dramatic company, playing in one of our meeting houses, should perform a play which requires the actors to raise their hands towards heaven and swear by the gods, etc. Our correspondent says that it was the Grecian gods who were referred to in the play. He asks whether it would not be advisable to keep such performances out of our meeting houses.

Such performances are certainly not adapted for meeting houses. Performed anywhere, they are likely to make too familiar the use of the name of Deity. There is a sacredness about the name of our Father in heaven which ought to be maintained. Children should be taught never to use that name lightly. We have an example in the case of the Melchisedek priesthood. Before the days of Melchisedek, the priesthood now known by his name was called the “holy priesthood after the order of the Son of God”; but out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid the too frequent repetition of His name, they (the church) in ancient days called that priesthood after Melchisedek, or the melchisedek priesthood. This should be remembered by us; and in joking, or in relating language used by others, the name of the Deity should not be used at all.

A correspondent asks the question, What course should she pursue when the name of a sister is presented to be voted for as president of an association who, she knows, makes slighting remarks about the President of the Stake and her Bishop, and who, she knows also, is not in harmony with either one?

Our correspondent seems to be perplexed as to what course she should take. She shrinks from the thought of arising in the meeting and stating her reasons for not voting, and yet she feels that in her conscience she cannot sustain this sister.

In a case of this kind the sister should tell her husband, or some friend, what her scruples are, and let this friend communicate them either to the Bishop or to the President of the Stake, that they may know what objections she has, and if they are objections that are well taken they should not present such a person for the vote of the people. It would not be wise, speaking generally, for a person to arise in the meeting and explain the reasons for voting against another, without in the first place taking a course to make these explanations in private to the officers in charge. this can easily be done through the medium of a teacher, or some other prudent person, who will be able to weigh the character of the objections which are entertained. This would prevent the one who has objections from being placed in an embarrassing and awkward position.

[Added 7 March:]

Tabernacle jug and cups

This earthenware jug is one of four made by Niels Jensen in 1855. Each held 6-8 gallons and were set on two tables, one on either side of the Tabernacle stand. (In 1855, this would be the old, pointed-roof tabernacle, not the “new” one we’re familiar with; similar practices, possibly with the identical jugs and other fittings, were followed when the new Tabernacle was built.) A brass cock was fitted to the opening near the bottom, and was used to fill water pitchers (not seen in this photo). Water from the pitchers was transferred to the silver tankards seen in this photo — those tankards were the “common cup” passed during sacrament services in the tabernacle.



  1. That one about the sacrament is sooooooo awesome.

    Comment by J. Stapley — March 6, 2009 @ 8:44 am

  2. Usher at church: “Smoking or non?”

    I think I’ll ask to be seated with the smokers this Sunday, you know, as a sign of solidarity and all. But I’ll drink from my own cup, thank you very much.

    Comment by Paul Reeve — March 6, 2009 @ 8:58 am

  3. Extra good, Ardis.

    I was reading through some things last week and saw that about a hundred years ago, church authorities preached strenuously against women using makeup, which they referred to dismissively as “paint”. They made it pretty clear that only a women who practiced a very old profession would use cosmetics.

    I wonder what they would think now of some of our YW Mutual meetings, when the Beehives and MiaMaids have makeover night?

    Comment by Mark Brown — March 6, 2009 @ 9:03 am

  4. These are so fun to read through. I liked the Smoker/Non-Smoker seating arrangements in sacrament meetings. Would this be a time when they used a common cup for the water instead of individual cups. I’m sure that really would have made a difference, especially if someone chewed.

    Comment by Steve C. — March 6, 2009 @ 9:38 am

  5. Y’all have, of course, zeroed in on MY favorite query, too! And yeah, this would have been “common cup” era — eww!

    Mark, since they also objected to waltzes and ragtime (at different eras), I wonder how many heart attacks they would have if they could peer at our YM/YW dances, with or without (as if there were a “without”) paint?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 6, 2009 @ 9:46 am

  6. Terrific! However, I’m surprised that no one has taken issue over the last question where the sister who has reservations about sustaining someone should let a friend or husband express those feelings to the bishop or stake president. Did bishops in those days only talk to other PH holders? I hope not!

    However, does anyone really think that we are voting when we sustain our leaders? I think the current practice is much more of “sustaining” in the true sense of the word a decision that has already been made, and is more of a mandate on that decision than the person who is being presented for the calling.

    At the risk of being irreverent, the whole thing about the sacrament cup and tobacco is truly spew-worthy.

    Comment by kevinf — March 6, 2009 @ 10:07 am

  7. Ah, c’mon, people! Any tobacco chewer worth his salt would know how to keep from sharing his floaties!

    [raising his hands towards heaven and swearing by the gods]

    Comment by Hunter — March 6, 2009 @ 11:20 am

  8. Wow, that’s amazing about the tobacco smokers and chewers. I’m so glad we each get our own little cups these days.

    Being out of harmony with the Stake President and the Bishop and making slighting remarks about them sounds bad, but if you went to the Stake President and Bishop and told them “Sister x makes slighting remarks about you and is not in harmony with you,” wouldn’t that count as making a slighting remark about Sister x and being out of harmony with her?

    Do you think such a mention would be taken seriously or not? Was he essentially saying, “there, there, little lady, don’t you worry your pretty little head about these things”? I’m confused. It grieves me whenever I hear a slighting remark about anyone in the ward, but they’re certainly fairly common. I guess it’s just a human thing. I didn’t expect, though (I suppose we together could hope and work and try harder), for all politics and cliques and backbiting to disappear inside wards. Do your wards usually manage not to have that?

    Comment by Tatiana — March 6, 2009 @ 1:38 pm

  9. I’m surprised that no one has taken issue over the last question where the sister who has reservations about sustaining someone should let a friend or husband express those feelings to the bishop or stake president

    The way I read it, he was proposing a solution for a woman who didn’t want to voice the objection herself. His reason is not that she couldn’t talk to the bishop directly, but that “this would prevent the one who has objections from being placed in an embarrassing and awkward position.”

    Comment by Jacob J — March 6, 2009 @ 1:46 pm

  10. I’m all with #6. Sorry, #9, it doesn’t seem to me like he’s just being nice to her. It seems like she shouldn’t be the one to report things directly to priesthood leaders. I think it’s funny that his suggestion is kind of a good way to keep the gossip going, too. 😀

    Comment by Michelle Glauser — March 6, 2009 @ 1:51 pm

  11. Ardis, I love this series.

    Frankly, I’m struck by how practical both the answers and the questions are. There’s a lot of very open “we don’t know” in the answers – and I love that.

    Comment by Ray — March 6, 2009 @ 5:01 pm

  12. Hear, hear, Ray. I love a good old fashioned “We don’t really know.”

    Comment by Hunter — March 6, 2009 @ 5:08 pm

  13. Tatiana, I’m with you. I am the Relief Society President in my ward. I have a “friend” who quite often calls to tell me about a neighbor or person in the ward who is mad at me and/or the bishop, or who hates me and/or the bishop. Knowing the people who feel this way keeps me from getting too uptight, but it makes me think my “friend” is making the comments to me and that bothers me.

    Comment by Maurine — March 6, 2009 @ 10:06 pm

  14. Sacrament in the Mormon Tabernacle, 1871 (from Harper’s Weekly; detail from large illustration) . . .

    Comment by Rick Grunder — March 6, 2009 @ 10:45 pm

  15. Dude. I’m not sure I see any tobacco users, but there are a couple of gents who could leave some serious beard hair in the cup.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 6, 2009 @ 11:01 pm

  16. Aren’t we so uptight in this day and age. We get grossed out at the thought of using a common cup.

    I remember when I was a deacon and passing sacrament in the Jr. Sunday School (pre-3 hour meeting bloc). We had run out of sacrament cups and were forced to use the common cup. I really got concerned when I looked around and noticed all the kids with runny noses that morning. :-)

    Comment by Steve C. — March 7, 2009 @ 8:55 am

  17. I think that’s a great question about Aaron and the Melchizedek Priesthood. It’s fascinating to ponder the workings of the priesthood while studying the scriptures. Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr. made some interesting comments in regard to the Priesthood of the Nephites in the Book of Mormon.

    Comment by Greg — March 7, 2009 @ 9:33 am

  18. I’ve justed added a photo to the bottom of the post showing two of the “common cups” passed during sacrament services in the tabernacle, along with an earthenware jug that held water for the sacrament. Not shown is the intermediate pitcher, filled from the jug and used to fill the cups. These items are on display in the church’s art and history museum.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 7, 2009 @ 10:13 am

  19. Thank you, Greg — it’s nice to have you pick out one of the lesser-discussed questions here.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 7, 2009 @ 11:13 am

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