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She Had a Question, 1897 (2nd set)

By: Ardis E. Parshall - October 12, 2009

More advice from the “Confidental Chats” in the Young Woman’s Journal, including a response to Willmia’s letter in our first installment –

—oooOooo—

I give a letter first that has stirred my own heart very deeply, and I hope it will move all who read it with similar emotions. Misery is so hard to bear, even when it is sent to us; but when we seek it ourselves, it is a gnawing worm that never dies nor ever loses its sting. neither time nor forgetfulness affect it, and it is the veritable fiery lake within our own bosoms, which burns with everlasting pains and torments.

Your talks with the girls, I believe will do a great deal of good. The letters on the subject of round dancing, which appeared in the Journal for this month, and a circumstance connected with the reading of them, have opened my eyes to things I had never thought of.

A very dear friend of mine was married a short time ago. Married, not in the temple, in honor and gladness; but at home in disgrace and sorrow. Married, not to a pure and noble man unto whom she might always look for counsel and help; but to one very much her inferior in almost every respect. This marriage was a great surprise to every one, for the young lady had been considered one of the brightest and most interesting girls in our ward.

A few days ago, I called to see her, taking my Young Woman’s Journal with me, for she has always thought a great deal of our Journal; and she had been sick, so I thought to read it to her.

I did so; and while I was reading your answer to Willmia’s letter, my friend interrupted me with a great sob. I looked up to see her kissing her little baby passionately, and weeping.

Catching her hand, and pressing it tenderly, I begged her to calm herself, and said I had read to her too long, and was sorry for it. “No, no!” she cried, clinging to me, and sobbing out her wild grief in my arms. “It is not that,” she said, when she was able to speak, “I am glad you have read these things to me. Tell all the girls for me, Julia, the testimony I shall now give to you. It is this: You know, Julia, that I cared nothing for A— when I first went with him. You know, too, what an excellent waltzer he is, how all the girls, yourself with the rest, thought an evening’s enjoyment at a dance not worth much without a waltz with A—. Oh, Julia! I am now certain, that if I had never waltzed with him, I never, of necessity, should have become his wife!

“Tell this to the girls. Write it to the Journal, only withhold our names. Let all the girls and all the mothers know my sad, sad story; and let it do what good it may.”

This is the testimony of my unfortunate friend; which, if it benefits no one else, has decided me never to waltz again. I can believe her, and by heeding her warning, may escape trouble myself.

There is now a question I would like to have answered concerning the drinking of cocoa and chocolate. I do not mean as a medicine in cases of illness; for in such cases, I suppose tea or coffee might be used as a remedy for certain diseases, without infringing upon the Word of Wisdom. But I refer to the drinking of these things, cocoa and chocolate, as pleasant beverages, at meals, at dinner parties, sociables, etc. Should members of our Young Ladies Associations indulge in and encourage the use of these drinks?

Hoping, my dear sister, that you can answer my question without great trouble to yourself, I am your young friend, Julia S.

In answer to the question asked by Julia, it is perhaps sufficient to say that modern physicians assert that there is an active stimulating principle in cocoa and chocolate, not so virulent as the nicotine of tobacco or the theine of tea nor the cafein of coffee. But cocoaine is certainly a strong drug, and should not be taken into the system constantly no matter for what purpose. I have been told that the man who wrote the Word of Wisdom out for the Prophet, his private secretary, Wm. Clayton, declared for years that the Prophet included all hot drinks in the category of restricted drinks. If a person has no appetite to eat without drinking hot slop, he should certainly wait till his stomach is in a condition to digest food naturally. Tea and coffee are not mentioned in the Word of wisdom, and if we would keep the law, why not interpret it liberally, and refrain from drinking all warm drinks. It is a shame that our young people have not vitality and strength enough to eat simple food and drink cool, pure water. And if our young women in the Mutual Improvement Associations would set their faces against offering warm drinks at evening parties they would introduce a great reform. Good cold water is good enough for any one to drink, and anything more or less than this is unhealthful, unhygienic and not in accordance with the spirit of the Word of Wisdom.

—oooOooo—

Will you please tell me if it would be a breach of propriety for a young lady to comply with the request to exchange photographs with a young gentleman, while uncertain whether he intends proposing matrimony to her or not – and – not quite certain, whether or not she would accept him if he should?

Confidentially yours, Ellen.

Here is a question which it is hard to answer without some detailed knowledge. On general principles, it is not modest for a young girl to give her picture away to any young men but her relatives or to her engaged lover. But if it is a question only between a modest girl and a modest young man in good standing in the Church, there can be little harm in the friendly exchange of photographs. One would need to know the young man and also the young lady before replying to this question. However, it is always safer to be too strict than not strict enough. I would urge you my young friend to talk the matter over with your own dear mother, and if she gives her consent and the young man knows it is merely a friendly affair of which your mother is cognizant, there cannot be much harm in exchanging your pictures. There is an uncertain note in the latter part of your letter, as if you feared that the young man might take encouragement from your giving him your picture, and if you do not wish him to do so, by all means avoid giving one bit of unnecessary pain, which unmeant encouragement always is. have it to say that you have never led young men on until they have proposed marriage to you, only for you to refuse them. it should be your boast that no young man has ever asked you to marry him, except the one you intend to marry. There are very few men who will persist in seeking a girl if she shows him in delicate ways that she does not love him. Make all young men your friends, but allow none of them to reach the point of being rejected lovers.

—oooOooo—

I have enjoyed your answers to the girls and want to ask you some questions.

1. Is it right and proper for a young lady to become engaged without consulting her parents?

2. Should a young lady correspond with a young man without his asking her parents consent?

3. What is meant by “The gospel will not be revealed in all its fullness until the sons of Levi do offer up a sacrifice in righteousness?”

4. How should a young lady, who has the promise in her patriarchal blessing that her son shall become an Apostle, live in order to have it fulfilled?

5. When, if ever, is it proper to give introductions on the street?

6. Should a lady recognize official men on the street or in society, whom she has met only on business in their offices?

Louie W.

In answer to question No. 1, I should say, certainly it is not right for any young girl to become engaged without the knowledge and willing approval of her parents. It seems strange that such a question should eve be asked by a Latter-day Saint girl. It is considered very bad form in the world for a young man to engage a young girl until he has asked the consent of her parents. it would be much better if our young people in this Church took this course. How foolish then would it be for a girl to promise to be a man’s wife, without asking and receiving the consent of her parents. parents who could be treated with such a lack of respect and confidence by their children must have failed somewhere. Young men too should seek the approval of their own parents before they ask a girl to marry them, or at least as soon as they have done so, and they should consult always with their wise father and mother ere they take this the most important step in life.

Question No. 2 is of the same kind. No, certainly not. no young girl should write to a young man without the full approval of her mother and father. Such a condition of affairs is very dangerous to our young people. If your mother, my dear girl, has never drawn out your confidence, do you go to her and gently and lovingly take her into your inmost heart, and make her feel that you love her and seek her counsel. Few mothers will repulse their daughters, but many of them hardly know how to draw their children out and win their confidence.

Question No. 3 is a theological one, which I can only give an opinion about, and not answer in any way authoritatively. The sons of Levi were the ones chosen to act as priests among the jews at the time God gave them the laws through Moses. They were to hold the Aaronic Priesthood, and only they. to interpret the passage literally, would mean that not until the Jews, and that particular tribe of them descended from Levi, must return and rebuild the ancient City of Jerusalem. They must purify themselves and prepare themselves to offer up a righteous sacrifice unto God, which is said in the Scriptures to be the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. if you were to examine the lineage of our people, as told in their patriarchal blessings, you would find that there are very few if any literal descendants of Aaron or Levi among us. We are of the seed of Ephraim. Therefore, not until the Jews and their priests are purified and are ready to offer up a sacrifice, can we expect the Gospel in its fullness to be revealed.

Question No. 4, I should like to have you and some others answer. You who read this letter, please send me your own ideas upon this subject, and we will have a little discussion as to how a young girl should live who had been promised such a glorious possibility.

No. 5. Street introductions are not in good taste. The essence of good manners is to consult always the wishes and feelings of others. And on the street it is impossible to ascertain from both parties if the introduction will be mutually agreeable. So it is considered good form not to make introductions on the street. If you had two friends who had both expressed to you a wish to know the other, and you were all to meet on the street, it might be admissible to give an introduction, but you would have to stand and talk in the street to do this, and this is of itself a breach of good manners.

No. 6. I suppose by the term, official men, you mean clerks and P.O. keepers and dentists, and such men whom you meet in a professional or a mercantile way. No, it is not at all necessary to recognize such men on the street. A lady has that one protection for herself, she can recognize or not, as she pleases, men whom she has met in a professional way, or men who have been introduced to her at balls or socials. The gentleman always looks for her to speak first, and if she does not he knows that she does not wish to keep up the acquaintance.

Let us hear from you again, Louie, you have asked some very important questions.



6 Comments »

  1. I have to admit that the explanation of Willmia’s question about waltzing, finally told here, has a bit of the overwrought dramatics that I normally would suspect of being made up or a composite of several stories. However, I have no reason to think this is the case here. I do think, though, that our 1897 Miss Manners here may have exercised some editorial privilege in the retelling. Sad Story, but I suspect that there is much more than waltzing involved.

    The answer about exchanging photographs and unwanted marriage proposals was interesting, especially the counsel that young women actively discourage potential suitors that she is not interested in, and “allow none of them to reach the point of being rejected lovers.” After watching a handful of Hallmark channel or Lifetime Channel romantic comedies with my wife (alas, nothing praiseworthy or of good report was on the SciFi channel), it would seem that multiple marriage proposals is a persistent fantasy, with the woman accepting a proposal from a less than suitable suitor while the right guy is prevented from doing so by honor or due to a misunderstanding.

    Again, I see interesting gender stereotypes being reinforced here. Men who want to waltz are all bad, and women who fall into the trap of “round dancing” are otherwise powerless to refuse them their untoward advances. Not much subtlety or nuance in these earlier answers.

    Comment by kevinf — October 12, 2009 @ 11:01 am

  2. We’ve often mentioned how direct, how down-to-earth, how reasonable are the responses of Catherine Hurst in the later “Girl Query” department of the Journal. Without intending any disrespect to Mrs. Richards — her florid tone and seemingly overdrawn conclusions seem typical of much of what I read from that time, so she may have met the expectations of her readers and editors in a highly praiseworthy way — the contrast makes Catherine Hurst’s style, coming so soon afterward, all the more remarkable, doesn’t it?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 12, 2009 @ 11:29 am

  3. An interesting take on the Word of Wisdom. I had not thought to consult William Clayton on the matter.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — October 12, 2009 @ 3:03 pm

  4. I never knew the exchanging of pictures as being fraught with protocol. Today, we’re not going to make much of a big deal of Facebook friends. As long as they aren’t sexting…

    Comment by queuno — October 12, 2009 @ 7:00 pm

  5. but you would have to stand and talk in the street to do this, and this is of itself a breach of good manners.

    I think it would be a breach of good manners to talk to one person without introducing him or her to the other person.

    Comment by Maurine — October 12, 2009 @ 10:29 pm

  6. Catching her hand, and pressing it tenderly, I begged her to calm herself, and said I had read to her too long, and was sorry for it. “No, no!” she cried, clinging to me, and sobbing out her wild grief in my arms….Oh, Julia! I am now certain, that if I had never waltzed with him, I never, of necessity, should have become his wife!

    Oh my. This scene reminds me of a passage from the LDS fiction of the period.

    Comment by Justin — October 13, 2009 @ 12:07 pm

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