Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » I Have a Question, 1896

I Have a Question, 1896

By: Ardis E. Parshall - May 07, 2009

As usual, the answers to these questions found in the Juvenile Instructor are presumed to have been provided by the magazine’s editor, George Q. Cannon:

Is it necessary in blessing an infant for the elder to speak the entire name, as, John James Smith? Or would the child be properly named if the Elder gave it the name of John James, when the father’s name is Smith, and in reality the child’s name is John James Smith?

The mention of the given name or names is all that is essential to the correct blessing of a child, as its name at birth is the same as that of its parents, and therefore it is not necessary to again confer upon it this name. Sometimes in blessing children, however, the original as well as the Christian name is mentioned, which is, of course, not in the least improper.

The question is asked whether a member of the church should partake of the water while the sacrament is being passed, if he should enter the Sunday School or meeting too late to receive the bread, or should he refuse the water with the remark that he had not partaken of the bread?

There ought to be no question on a matter of this kind. If a person should be detained in coming to meeting and be too late to partake of the bread, upon the water being presented to him, he can easily inform the person administering that he has not partaken of the bread, and there need be no trouble about his being handed the bread, so that he may partake properly of this ordinance.

But this question shows the importance of every one being punctual in attending meetings, and especially meetings where the sacrament is administered. No one should be late at such meetings, if it is possible to avoid it; and should one be detained unavoidably, then the officer administering the sacrament will undoubtedly see that the late-comer has the bread first, and then the water.

When a father or other persons holding the Melchisedek Priesthood blesses and names a baby when eight days old, is it then necessary for the parents to take the child to Fast meeting and have it blessed and named again?

While it is the right of every father in this Church to bless his child when it is eight days old, if he so desires, there is, however, an order in the Church that children should be blessed in the ward, under the direction of the bishop. One reason for this is that there may be a proper record kept of the birth of the child, its parentage, the name that is given to it, etc., so that its name may be numbered among the names of the Saints of God. And this should be observed by all parents in the blessing of their children.

We have received a communication upon the subject of administering the sacrament to Sunday schools on fast days. The reason for asking this question, we are informed, is that it is contemplated by some of the superintendents of the Sunday schools to appoint the Sabbath as a fast day, and the question is asked, Would it be proper to administer the sacrament on those days, or should it be omitted?

There would be no impropriety in administering the sacrament on fast days to those who are entitled to receive it, and the partaking of the sacrament by those who are fasting would not be considered as a violation of the fast. The partaking of the bread and the contents of the cup under such circumstances would be quite proper, and has been the custom in the Church upon frequ4ent occasions when fast days have been appointed.

As to the propriety of appointing Sunday as a fast day for the children we take the view that it should be very well considered before deciding upon it, as the children should be taught, where they can do so, to join in the fast that is observed by the whole Church, namely, the first Thursday in every month.

Another correspondent asks some questions as to whether there would be any impropriety in members of the theological class, young men from fourteen to twenty-three years of age passing the sacrament after the offering of the prayers by an Elder or a Priest. He says that some of these young men hold no Priesthood; others are Deacons and Teachers.

It would be well always to use those who bear the Priesthood to pass the bread and the cup, although there is no fixed rule in the Church that we know of upon this point. Questions have been frequently asked concerning this, some appearing to think that it is improper or wrong for anyone not bearing the Priesthood to pass the bread or the cup. But while it is preferable always to use men for this purpose who hold the Priesthood, so as to avoid creating questions in the minds of the Saints, still there appears to be no wrong in those who do not bear the Priesthood doing this, as we frequently see in congregations women and children passing the bread and the cup to those who sit beside them, and this certainly does not detract from the value of the ordinance in any manner.

If the superintendent of a [Sunday] school be present and the assistant acts, which of the two presides? Should not the minutes read thus: Sabbath school convened, with Supt. ______ presiding; school called to order by Asst. Supt. ______?

In all meetings of the Sunday school the superintendent is the presiding officer, though he may call upon his assistants or any other person whom he thinks proper, to conduct the services, in which case the record should be prepared in language similar to that suggested in the above question. In some schools it is customary for the superintendent and his assistant to take turns in conducting the exercises, which is very proper and encouraging to the brethren who are called to be the assistants to the superintendent in the great and important Sunday school work.

We are asked if it is true doctrine to teach that those who hold the Priesthood now in the flesh, held it in the spirit world before they came here.

We might ask: “Suppose this is true, of what use is it, and how are people benefited by teaching it?”

We know that men must be ordained by those having authority in the flesh, or they cannot legally officiate in any of the ordinances which belong to the Priesthood. Even the Prophet Joseph and Oliver Cowdery, after being ordained by the heavenly messenger, John the Baptist, to the Aaronic Priesthood, were commanded afterwards to ordain each other.

But in reply to the question as to the correctness of this doctrine, we have to say that we know of nothing that has been revealed and written which warrants any one in teaching as doctrine, that men who hold the Priesthood here were ordained to the Priesthood before they came here. Such ideas should not be advanced in public or in private.



  1. Maybe I read the question and answer wrong, but did it say that one did not need to hold the priesthood to pass the sacrament? Did I miss or misread something?

    I liked the comments on the importance of being punctual to meetings. So, was 1896 also on “Mormon Standard Time”?

    Comment by Steve C. — May 7, 2009 @ 8:34 am

  2. We might ask: “Suppose this is true, of what use is it, and how are people benefited by teaching it?”

    Now there is a quote to keep and a standard to judge by!

    Comment by Coffinberry — May 7, 2009 @ 8:40 am

  3. That’s how I read it, Steve — but remember, let’s avoid creating questions in the minds of the Saints!

    Definitely something to write on the inside of your lesson manual for those rilly speshul speculative class discussions, Coffinberry.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 7, 2009 @ 8:50 am

  4. That last statement about the propriety of even asking the question reminded me of something our former bishop would jokingly say: Whenever a General Authority holds a Q & A session, if the question is about something he has an opinion on, it’s a “great question.” But if it’s on a topic where little is known or the subject is not a favored one, then the answer turns into a mini-discourse on whether we really need to know this or that. Cynical, yes, but perhaps a shade true.

    All of this is to say that maybe “we don’t know” is enough of an answer? And GQC has done that on plenty of other occasions in this “I Have a Question” series (so that’s why his suggestion to avoid speculation really stuck out this time).

    I do appreciate GQC’s generally genial and gentlemanly tone in answering the questions (e.g., “Sometimes in blessing children, however, the original as well as the Christian name is mentioned, which is, of course, not in the least improper“). Bravo.

    Comment by Hunter — May 7, 2009 @ 10:06 am

  5. I love these.

    Regarding the priesthood and passing the sacrement, Bill Hartley wrote in his wonderful JMH Article the Heber J. Grant, wrote “there was ‘no rule in the Church’ that only priesthood bearers could carry the sacrament to the congregation after it was blessed. While it was ‘custom’ for priesthood men or boys to pass around the bread and water, he said, ‘it would in no wise invalidate the ordinance’ if some ‘worthy young brethren lacking priesthood performed it in the absence of ordained boys’ and he had “no objection” if it were done.” He wrote further that “Women and custodians usually prepared the sacrament table, so it did not appear on a list of priesthood duties until 1933.”

    I also enjoyed the bit on eighth-day blessings. This was a debate (home or at church) that spanned decades and Church policy was fairly dynamic. I like the tradition of the eighth-day blessings, though. I haven’t been able to pin down when people stopped doing them. Probably during Grant’s administration, if I had to guess.

    Comment by J. Stapley — May 7, 2009 @ 1:30 pm

  6. My wife has always wondered about the priesthood requirement to pass the sacrament, as it obviously is passed by women and children along the pews to the other side. I’m not enough of an iconoclast to publicly point out this incongruity, and try to get the bishop to let the YW pass it. However, a couple of my kids on missions in Argentina and Chile, said they ran into branch presidents and bishops who soundly berated women who even touched the trays for usurping priesthood authority.

    Culture wars, gotta love it. Reminds me of the really old SNL sketch of the Spanish language TV game show, “Quien es muy Macho!”

    As always, these Q&A sessions with George Q. Cannon are fun to read, and instructive.

    Comment by kevinf — May 7, 2009 @ 1:43 pm

  7. Look at the descriptions of teachers’ and deacons’ duties in D&C 20. There’s nothing there that cannot be done by any member, whether he (or she) holds the priesthood.

    “Teach, preach, expound, exhort, and invite all to come unto Christ”? Check

    “Visit the house of each member”? Check

    “See that there is no iniquity in the church”? Check

    Whatever else–I’m running this on memory only.

    Teachers and deacons do not perform ordinances–they’re the Levites of the latter-day church. And any distinction of duties or responsibilities between the two offices is not based on the section 20 descriptions: which ends, as to teachers “and are to be assisted by the deacons, as occasion requires.”

    Comment by Mark B. — May 7, 2009 @ 1:56 pm

  8. Mark B, I’d agree, except that I would add the office of High Council. All responsibility, no authority.

    Comment by kevinf — May 7, 2009 @ 2:10 pm

  9. The Church has clarified further these days how babies are actually named. It makes no difference what’s said at the pulpit. The only name registered “upon the records of the Church” is the one submitted by the clerk, taken from the paper form signed by the parents.

    Now there’s some power…

    Comment by queuno — May 7, 2009 @ 9:51 pm

  10. A religion of clerks indeed.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — May 7, 2009 @ 11:56 pm

  11. The Church could not run without the clerks.

    Comment by Steve C. — May 8, 2009 @ 8:09 am

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