Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » I Have a Question, 1899

I Have a Question, 1899

By: Ardis E. Parshall - May 28, 2009

More doctrinal and procedural questions answered by George Q. Cannon through the pages of the Juvenile Instructor. Topics include the perennially discussed passing of the Sacrament and blessing of children  — I wonder why the most familiar rituals raise so many questions? — along with some novelties.

We have received an inquiry as to whether it would be better to pass the Sacrament to those coming into the meeting late – many entertaining the view that a more punctual and prompt attendance might be secured if those who come late were denied the privilege of receiving these emblems.

A question came up before the Sunday School Union Board respecting the practice which had obtained in some places of closing the doors of a meeting house while the Sacrament was being passed, and thus keeping outside, until the Sacrament had been administered, those who were not punctual. The reasons that were assigned for this custom were those mentioned by our correspondent above …

On the other hand it was argued that sometimes persons were unavoidably detained, and that in very cold weather there had been cases where people had suffered exceedingly from the exposure to which they were subjected in remaining outside the building while the Sacrament was being administered. …

After viewing the subject in all its bearings, it was felt that this rule of closing the doors and thus denying the Sacrament to those who came late, was not a proper one to enforce, for every Latter-day Saint in good standing is entitled to partake of the Sacrament when it is being administered, and it was not deemed proper to punish any of them by depriving them of the opportunity of partaking of it because of their being delayed in reaching the meeting. In such circumstances, if persons are delayed after the bread has been passed, it would only be courteous in the person administering the Sacrament to have the bread carried to such person, that he or she might partake of it, and not be deprived of what most of the Saints, and indeed all who enjoy the right spirit, esteem as a very great privilege. Even thought this may involve a little labor and the necessity of taking some trouble, it is a kindness to a brother or sister that brethren officiating in the administration ought not to be unwilling to render.

We notice a tendency in some theological classes in our Sunday schools to agitate and discuss questions that bring about differences of opinion and sometimes dissension.

There is no end to the questions that might be asked which would be very difficult if not impossible for any mortal to answer. It does not require much intelligence nor much thought to propound a query to which the wisest man can not make a satisfactory reply. A desire for information is of course to be commended; but a curiosity as to abstruse points in theology does not always indicate a real search for knowledge, nor does it necessarily imply depth of thought or diligent study. It is frequently an evidence of a quibbling mind, and in many cases that have come to our knowledge it suggests rather a desire to “show off” in argument and display skill in controversy than a desire for the real essence of truth.

However, there is much truth which all men cannot yet understand; and there are many things which are plain to some that are obscure to others. Where the plain word of God has been given, there is an end to dispute or controversy. Beyond this it is unprofitable for theological classes to venture; for when disputants follow their theories past the point where the written or revealed word extends, they are at once in a vast realm of uncertainty where one man’s opinion is as good as another’s.

We repeat, it is well for students in our theological classes to confine themselves to the written revelations and to the word of God as He has given it, not indulging in wild speculations and all sorts of fancies concerning things about which the Lord has not given His word.

The tenth Article of Faith of the Latter-day Saints states among other things their belief “that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisaic glory.” The question is sometimes asked if this change is to take place before the millennial reign of peace, during that period, or afterwards.

The revelations given to the Prophet Joseph Smith make it clear that the earth is to be renewed and receive its paradisaic glory after the peaceful reign of a thousand years is past. In a revelation given him in September, 1830, are recorded these words: “When the thousand years are ended, and men again begin to deny their God, then will I spare the earth for a little season; and the end shall come, and the heaven and the earth shall be consumed and pass away, and there shall be a new heaven and a new earth, for all old things shall pass away, and all things shall become new, even the heaven and the earth, and all the fullness thereof, both men and beasts, the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea.” (Doctrine and Covenants, section 29.)

A correspondent asks as to what action should be taken with reference to a Sunday School teacher who refuses to partake of the Sacrament Sunday after Sunday – how long this should be permitted without action being taken upon it.

Before giving any expression of our views about it we should want to know what reason the teacher had; we can give no rule for such cases without knowing the circumstances. Certainly no person is to be condemned unless there should be found good reason for it, and in the case of a teacher who declines to partake of the Sacrament we should think it very proper for the Superintendent to talk with him privately and endeavor to learn his reasons, to the end that if there were differences which could be removed or difficulties which could be explained, this might be done before the affair assumed any importance or excited the notice of other teachers or of the children.

Will you kindly inform me through your columns if it is against the rules of the Church to have what are known as character or fancy dress balls? In many localities dancing is about the only form of recreation for the young people, and where no masked balls are held, merely the costumes worn, many feel that the objection to masquerading is removed.

There are decided objections to masked balls among the Latter-day Saints, because they can so easily be made agencies of evil. It is difficult to understand how one’s interest or pleasure can be increased by concealing his or her face at a social party. Of course not all who do this have any improper motives whatever; but the opportunity for the evil-minded is there, and innocent persons are frequently thrown into close contact with others as partners whom they would scorn to meet or associate with under other circumstances. a masked ball, as such, is therefore entirely disapproved of.

As to character or costume balls where the face is not masked, much of the objection above referred to would be removed. There is of course the item of expense in dressing in character and sometimes there is a tendency to indecency in costume; in other words those who take part sometimes feel that properly to present the character they have in mind they must wear clothing of a pattern or material which they and their friends would be ashamed of under other circumstances. Such a feature as this is, of course, to be criticized. But, on the other hand, character balls can frequently be made very entertaining and even instructive where thought is bestowed upon the costume and it represents truthfully the person or the time that the wearer has in mind.

Is it right in blessing children to confer on them all the powers and blessings of the new and everlasting covenant? I observe Elders doing this sometimes in our fast meetings, and in one instance the elder conferred all the keys and powers and blessings of the new and everlasting covenant upon the babe he was blessing.

The blessing of children is a very simple matter and it should not be surrounded at all by forms. The bestowing upon a babe of the blessings and powers that pertain to adults and that are only pronounced upon people of more advanced years and experience, is entirely unsuitable and improper. It is a departure from the simplicity of the beautiful ordinance of taking the infant, bestowing upon it a name, and giving it a blessing. Certainly the use of such terms as our correspondent refers to is improper …

In some minds there seems to be an idea that there should be a different form of blessing for children born of non-members and for those who are identified with the Church; and it is from such sources that in the case of children belonging to members of the Church “the blessings of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” and all the attendant favors are frequently conferred upon the child. this is all wrong. … All little children, no matter what their parentage may be, are innocent in the sight of heaven, and they should be received as such and blessed as such.



  1. We notice a tendency in some theological classes in our Sunday schools to agitate and discuss questions that bring about differences of opinion and sometimes dissension.

    it’s a good thing that never happens on the blogs. oh wait … ;-D

    Comment by ellen — May 28, 2009 @ 6:45 am

  2. Yeah, ellen, I noticed that George Q. Cannon’s phrase “a quibbling mind” probably applies to much of my blogging.

    But then, remember, if you ever feel too convicted by GQC, just remember what Bruce R. McConkie said (and I quote!):

    “Forget everything that . . . George Q. Cannon . . . has said in days past.”


    On a more serious note, I think a major part of what I love about the Q&A series is the realization that others, too, have had these questions before. It’s refreshing to me to know that I’m not the first one to raise a particular issue or have a particular question. And, the corrolary of that realization is that sometimes men and women of good will can come down on different sides of an issue. (OK, I’ll quit speaking in the abstract: I enjoyed reading how GQC encouraged giving late-arriving members the emblems of the sacrament, whereas our Stake President has firmly prohibited it.)

    Comment by Hunter — May 28, 2009 @ 10:54 am

  3. The push away from premillennialism is fascinating.

    Comment by J. Stapley — May 28, 2009 @ 11:49 am

  4. As long as we’re talking about blogging…

    …not indulging in wild speculations and all sorts of fancies concerning things about which the Lord has not given His word.

    It’s pretty cool that people could write in questions and get answers like these. What do people do now, call the reference folks at the Church Office Building? (No, of course not. First, they search Wikipedia.)

    Comment by FHL — May 28, 2009 @ 12:14 pm

  5. At the risk of incurring the wrath of the reference staff for stirring up business for them …

    FHL, very often people do contact the Church History Library to ask questions, some of them doctrinal rather than historical questions. Such questions are usually farmed out to the many senior missionaries assigned to the library; there is some sort of supervision by staff, but I don’t know how much vetting of answers is really done or how official or reliable they should be considered. Still, you can ask a librarian and get some sort of reply.

    (Wait until the library reopens on June 22 to ask anything; you’ll only get an automated ask-us-later response if you were to ask anything right now.)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 28, 2009 @ 12:36 pm

  6. represents truthfully the person or the time that the wearer has in mind

    Wow. That put me in mind of Elder Bednar’s recent CES fireside address on truth.

    Comment by Coffinberry — May 28, 2009 @ 1:31 pm

  7. I’m not familiar with that fireside, Coffinberry. Can you summarize it, or point me toward something more about it?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 28, 2009 @ 1:48 pm

  8. In the first question, this goal is stated:

    a more punctual and prompt attendance might be secured

    My experience says we’re still looking for the answer to that particular question. Perhaps it is time to indulge in n “wild speculations and all sorts of fancies” about that one.

    Comment by kevinf — May 28, 2009 @ 4:52 pm

  9. Guilt-tripping doesn’t work with punctuality any more than it does with family history, eh? 🙂

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 28, 2009 @ 5:56 pm

  10. Well said, Ardis, especially when the same people are late every week. One of our Gospel Doctrine teachers comes late every week, along with her older children and married son and daughter-in-law who lives with her. Many years ago her husband gave up and now he arrives to church fifteen minutes early. Although he doesn’t doggedly save the seats by him for his family, everyone in the ward knows they will show up. Once in awhile when we have visitors who sit in “their” seats, it is comical to watch the late-comers come in, walk to their bench, get a surprised look on their faces, then try to find other seats. I have yet to see them arrive on time during the four years we have been in the same ward. I will add that this person is one of my best friends.

    Comment by Maurine — May 28, 2009 @ 11:07 pm

  11. Ardis, my brother-in-law used to work in reference at the COB and now works in reference (I think?) at the BYU library. He said he got all sorts of crazy questions.

    Comment by FHL — May 29, 2009 @ 3:00 pm

  12. I don’t doubt that, FHL! As a patron at the Church History Library, of course I’m not privy to the questions that come in or the answers that go out. Under recent crowded conditions, though, I couldn’t help but overhear some questions at the desk, or overhear missionaries struggling with how to find answers to bizarre questions. (I think they shouldn’t even try; some questions are so bizarre that they merit nothing more than a form letter stating that the question is outside the scope of the reference desk.)

    Some of my favorites:

    1. How many of Helaman’s warriors were married, and how many were single?

    2. When the Jaredites made bread, did they use sprouted, or unsprouted, grain?

    3. I heard that the Hotel Utah was built using funds loaned by European financiers, and that one condition of the loans was that the hotel always maintain a brothel for the use of the visiting lenders. Do you still have a brothel there now that you use the hotel for a church?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 29, 2009 @ 3:40 pm

  13. Ardis,
    There were no form letters, and I got the impression we were to come up with an answer for everything, even those that started with:”Send you all you have on my great-great”, etc. I dealt with several where they wanted info on the missionary service of a grandfather, but no name was given. But the craziest I handled was:

    “My grandmother says her great-grandfather (name given) pushed a wheelbarrow from Illinois out west. I heard that’s what the Mormons did when they were searching for a place to settle. Was he a Mormon?” It was easy just looking in the Mormon Overland Travel database, and not finding him, just writing :”We have no record of …..”

    Comment by Curt A. — May 29, 2009 @ 5:18 pm

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