Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » They Had Questions, 1959

They Had Questions, 1959

By: Ardis E. Parshall - January 08, 2010

These questions, asked of the General Sunday School Board in 1959, are kinda weird and picky, until you read between the lines: I find myself asking, That’s been a problem for fifty years? or, Why couldn’t they figure that one out for themselves? or Wow; if somebody had to ask, it probably means somebody was actually doing that!


Q. Is it necessary that those who offer the opening and closing prayers in Sunday School hold the priesthood? – Yellowstone Stake.

A. No, anyone in good standing, without regard to the holding of the priesthood, may offer opening and closing prayers in Sunday School.


Q. Must a teacher of Course No. 27 [Gospel Essentials] hold the Melchizedek Priesthood? – Kalispell Branch, West Central States Mission.

A. No. The requirements listed in the handbook for a qualified teacher in Sunday School do not require membership in the priesthood.


Q. Is it permissible to show Sunday School motion pictures in the chapel during the worship service of the Sunday School? – Columbia River Stake.

A. No. Permission to use the chapel on Sunday for showing religious films, such as “As Others See Us,” has been granted only when the showing of the film would not conflict or interfere with the holding of other meetings.


Q. Is it appropriate to tell a short story prior to the commencement of the Junior Sunday School, to arrest attention? – North Tooele Stake.

A. No. it is not recommended. The time of the worship service is allocated, and there is no time for such a deviation.


Q. How can the Sunday school help make newly baptized adult members feel at home?

A. Members of the Senior Aaronic Priesthood, their wives, and newly baptized adult members of the ward are specially invited to attend the gospel Essentials Class, Courses 28 and 29. Every superintendent is advised to consult with the bishop concerning a Gospel Essentials Class in his ward. Nonmembers and adult members of mixed families are also invited.


Q. Does the Junior Sunday School coordinator have any responsibility for visiting classes during the class period?

A. Yes. She, in company with a member of the superintendency, should visit the classes regularly. They should plan to remain in one class the entire period in order to get the entire picture of the class as a whole.


Q. May officers and teachers be set apart?

A. It is the policy of the Church that all auxiliary officers (presidents, superintendents, counselors, secretaries) be set apart. The setting apart of teachers and other workers is not mandatory. if a person accepting such a call desires a special blessing to aid him in fulfilling his assignment, the bishop should feel free to give or cause to have given such a blessing. It is not necessary, however, that these brethren and sisters be formally set apart.


Q. What can we do to improve reverence in our worship service?

A. “One meaningful positive step that can be taken is to see that all meetings – including those of the auxiliary organizations – are started at the time they are scheduled to start. The gap between the scheduled start of a meeting and the actual start is often disorderly and disturbing. It cannot help but have an adverse effect upon members and friends who come to the worship service in a spirit of reverence.


Q. Should Sunday School be held for 90 minutes on fast Sunday?

A. In wards which occupy their buildings alone and where travel to the meetinghouse is not excessive, the Sunday School should be held for 90 minutes in the forenoon and fast meeting for at least 90 minutes in the afternoon. (See letter of First Presidency, Jan. 20, 1959, March edition, 1959 Handbook, Appendix B.)


Q. Is it all right to solicit subscriptions to The Instructor in the prayer meeting? – Virginia Stake.

A. It is entirely proper to mention and follow up Instructor subscriptions in the prayer meeting. it is usually far more effective to secure subscriptions of teachers by personal contact and following the suggestions of The Instructor Committee.


Q. Is it proper to solicit subscriptions to The Instructor in the worship service? – Virginia Stake.

A. It is not appropriate to solicit subscriptions in the worship service; first, because it detracts from the reverential attitude of the service; and, second, because it applies to but a few of those who are in attendance.


Q. When a small ward has a library, should it be used by all organizations, or should each organization have its own? – Boulder Ward, Garfield Stake.

A. A Sunday School library may properly operate as a ward library in order that all organizations may benefit therefrom. Each ward Sunday School, however, should have one person designated as librarian who is responsible for the library work in that Sunday School.


Q. In what respect is Course No. 25 (Parent and Youth) elective?

A. It is suggested that either Course 24 [Parent and Child] or 25 should be offered each year in every school large enough to support it. They are elective in the sense that the individual adult may choose whether to take this course or another adult course. There is a mistaken idea by some that the election is wirth the superintendent as to whether or not the course will be offered.


Q. Are class officers responsible for enlistment in the four adult classes in the Sunday School? – Alberta Stake.

A. yes. After a member of the ward superintendency has called together the class officers to divide up the potential list of all adult members of the ward among the four courses, the class officers are then responsible for the enlistment work with the persons in their groups under the direction of the teacher.


When distances are great, is it wise to hold preparation meeting every two months rather than monthly? – Washington Stake.

A. Usually not. The preparation meeting is designed as a monthly meeting for the preview of the ensuing lessons for the coming month. it would be better to divide the stake into districts with a monthly meeting in each district, having the stake board members meet with the districts on different Sundays of the month.



  1. Start the meetings on time? That would violate one of the grand old traditions of our worship services. (Mormon Standard Time.)

    (It would be nice to be able to plan the organ prelude a little more carefully instead of having it go on for some random amount of time.)

    Comment by Researcher — January 8, 2010 @ 7:09 am

  2. Gap filling improvisational organ preludes could be a great thing — for some organists. Just imagine brother “JSB” improvising a six part fugue. . . What a challenge it would be to resolve the fugue in the time from the counselor standing up to when he arrives at the podium.

    Comment by Eric Boysen — January 8, 2010 @ 7:40 am

  3. It was interesting to read your reactions to the questions, Ardis. As for me, I found myself somewhat relieved as I was reminded that it’s not only our generation who needs to have everything clarified and systemetized. It was kind of comforting to be reminded that it’s probably just human nature to get all caught up in silly protocols about whether you need to be ordained to the priesthood in order to say a public prayer.

    What’s the latest date of these questions series (before we get the softball questions common in the 1980s and thereafter)?

    Comment by Hunter — January 8, 2010 @ 9:18 am

  4. I don’t know how far forward I’ll find questions, Hunter. Except for the “Girl Queries,” which was a regular department in the Young Woman’s Journal in the 19-teens, these don’t appear in the magazines as formal columns, generally, but tucked in here and there in odd corners (like these, from the Instructor) or often as the launch points for editorials in the Improvement Era I just sort of take ’em as I find ’em, until there are enough for a post.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 8, 2010 @ 9:25 am

  5. I was surprised to see the reference to the “Gospel Essentials class” in 1959.

    I have a vague recollection of the first time I heard that term–it wasn’t when I was in kindergarten–and it seemed that it was new to the church at that time (probably early 1970s). So, did that class have a name change in the 60s and then go back to “Gospel Essentials” in the 70s, or was it just my Utah ward with only one non-member family within the boundaries that just didn’t need one until the 70s?

    When the Gospel Essentials class did get started in our ward, my dad, who taught the Gospel Doctrine class, used to refer to his class as the “Gospel Non-essentials Class.”

    Comment by Mark B. — January 8, 2010 @ 9:36 am

  6. I was a bit surprised about not setting apart teachers. Has that changed or do we still NOT set apart teachers?

    Comment by John McKinney — January 8, 2010 @ 10:38 am

  7. John, we’ve set them apart all my adult life, but I’ve seen several references to the early- and mid-century practice of setting apart *officers only,* in all the auxiliaries. I think that’s where a lot of the “I’m just a teacher” attitude arose.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 8, 2010 @ 11:27 am

  8. Mark, I thought I could quickly sort out the names used by the various Sunday School classes through the years, but it will take me a little longer than I can spare today, so I’ll get back to you about this.

    Researcher, it’s fun to see how each of us with our personal responsibilities and personalities respond to all this — I’ve never considered what late meeting starts must do to the organist! But if JSB were our ward organist and I were the bishop, I think I would start all meetings late, and maybe even test his genius as Eric suggests by perhaps strolling to the stand some weeks and other times sprinting there. Because that’s the kind of leader I would be as a bishop. Nyah.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 8, 2010 @ 11:44 am

  9. If JS Bach were around, I would prefer that he was our ward organist, but he certainly wouldn’t put up with our organ.

    Actually, the last bishopric tended to do exactly what you describe, Ardis, but the members of the current bishopric will get up right before the end of a piece of music, so the prelude really isn’t a problem anymore like it used to be. I’m just complaining out of habit. :)

    Comment by Researcher — January 8, 2010 @ 1:14 pm

  10. As Ward or Stake Organist, it’s been successful practice for me to insist that the Bishop or Stake President lean forward and give me the “1 minute to go” sign. This helps muchly.

    Comment by Hunter — January 8, 2010 @ 1:33 pm

  11. “Q. Is it appropriate to tell a short story prior to the commencement of the Junior Sunday School, to arrest attention? – North Tooele Stake.

    A. No. it is not recommended. The time of the worship service is allocated, and there is no time for such a deviation.”

    The asking of this question is funny. The answer is just scary.

    Comment by Alex — January 8, 2010 @ 2:51 pm

  12. Regarding the prayer issue, it was my understanding that only priesthood bearers could give opening and closing prayers in sacrament meeting. In “Lengthen Your Stride,” the author says the practice was formalized in 1967 and done away with in 1978. So if they had to have the priesthood to pray in Sacrament, why no Sunday School? (A residue of this policy is that disfellowshiped members may not pray in any public church meeting.)

    And while setting apart may now be required for everyone, doesn’t the entire concept of “church officers” create “ranks” in the church? Despite JR. Clark’s best efforts, the church does have ranks: General Authorities, Lt. General Authorities, j/k (kind of…)

    Comment by Clark — January 8, 2010 @ 2:53 pm

  13. Alex, old church documents are not for the faint of heart …

    I didn’t know the only-priesthood-could-pray thing went on for so long, Clark. I must not have been paying that close attention in sacrament meeting as a child. And of course my answer to the “wny not Sunday School?” is that the policy made no sense and had no doctrinal reason, so of course it wasn’t applied logically. (I guess the spirit was never brought into Relief Society meetings, either.)

    But I think — don’t know, am cheerfully willing to be corrected — that the restriction on prayers (talks, lessons, other public “performances”) of disfellowshiped members dates to virtually the beginning of the church, doesn’t it? I mean, I wouldn’t call it a residue of the relatively short-lived policy you mention.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 8, 2010 @ 3:10 pm

  14. Don’t know either, Ardis. The answerer in this article is pretty specific that the member has to be in good standing, which seems to support your position.

    Alex, would the answer have been better had it been worded, “It is better to worship for entire allotted time in a room of unattentive, roudy children, than to take a few moments and create a reverent, attentive atmosphere.”

    Which brings us to another question: Even in the era of superindendents, elective courses, and numbers, was the primary purpose of Sunday School to learn, or to worship? What is the primary purpose today?

    Comment by Clark — January 8, 2010 @ 3:39 pm

  15. Clark, frankly, I think that for generations the primary purpose of Sunday School (and other auxiliaries) *was* content learning, rather than worship, although plainly it was hoped children would learn how to live and worship through what they were taught as factual material.

    I’m looking this minute at a seminary manual (seminary was then a class for jr. as well as sr. high school students) from the 1930s. In the introduction explaining the layout of each lesson, the author notes:

    The religious lessons in this book cluster around individuals, in most of whom are incarnated the religious principle that the pupils should acquire. These men and women are the well-known characters of the Bible, perhaps the best examples o faith in God that coul be found. Associated with each lesson is song, prayer, scripture reading, and a concert prayer [we’ll get back to this in a whole post later] in which is embodied the main thought of the lesson. These combined exercises constitute worship. At the end of the lesson is a verse of poetry …

    Some of the teachers may feel that this plan of providing for worship will take too much time. They want to get to the facts of the lesson as soon as possible, but really the center of religion is worship. It is the very heart of religion. … [emphasis added]

    The author seems almost apologetic about breaking into the “facts” with worship, as if he’s doing something that is not standard practice. Anyway, there’s an example, for what it’s worth, exploring your question.

    I don’t know when it changed, but today it seems to be clear that the pendulum has swung far to the other side, where worship is king and facts or text or context or whatever you want to call it is in the distant rear.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 8, 2010 @ 3:53 pm

  16. I remember an uncle commenting in the late 1960s about his bishop asking women to say the prayer in Sacrament Meeting, and this uncle was incensed–it just wasn’t right. That must have been a non-conforming bishop if the practice wasn’t done away with until 1978.

    The comment about prelude music makes me shake my head. As a former, and now part-time, organist who now teach stake workshops, I don’t have any qualms about finishing a phrase of music (or more, depending upon what is going on) while the bishop or counselor is at the pulpit. It quiets people down and gets them ready for the meeting.

    I would love to have JSB as our ward organist, although he would not be appreciated or accepted by the people used to the choppy hymn prelude (thought to be Wonderful)by some of our organists. They would think he was just showing off.

    Comment by Maurine — January 8, 2010 @ 9:08 pm

  17. I’m sure the prayer policy was distributed orally before it was codified in the 1967 Priesthood Bulletin. And even though it was so lately repealed, I am aware of verbal instruction by certain general authorities to restrict certain prayers in sacrament meeting to priesthood holders during the 1990s. But I agree with you, Ardis, the restriction on disfellowshipped members certainly dates back to the earliest moments of the Restoration.

    Ardis, are you familiar what the “prayer meeting” referred to in one question is?

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 8, 2010 @ 9:31 pm

  18. You mean, J. Stapley, you don’t know what a “prayer meeting” is? I guess confessing either knowledge or ignorance will divide the young lambs from the old goats!

    Comment by Mark B. — January 8, 2010 @ 9:51 pm

  19. I confess to being an old goat[ess] — J., prayer meeting was a short (~15 min.) meeting held a half hour before most auxiliary meetings. It was a “faculty” meeting in that auxiliary business was conducted and announcements were made. There was a brief spiritual thought, and a prayer. Everybody left, theoretically in a spiritual mood, with 15 minutes to set up their classrooms and get to opening exercises in a calm, unrushed way.

    Prayer meetings went away with the block schedule, of course. LDS-Archives has minutes of thousands of prayer meetings, recorded just like all the other official meetings.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 8, 2010 @ 10:20 pm

  20. It occurs to me that J. probably hoped these were ritual-related meetings focused on prayer. But alas, the highest ritual was determining which class had 2-1/2 minute talks next month, or whose turn it was to host the Relief Society board meeting luncheon.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 8, 2010 @ 10:22 pm

  21. No! We cannot arrest the attention of young children! Not okay! …??!?

    Comment by jeans — January 9, 2010 @ 5:45 am

  22. Alright, we’ll release all the attentions, but the children still need to attend, and the adult tensions will rise proportionately.

    Comment by Eric Boysen — January 9, 2010 @ 7:47 am

  23. What’s a prayer meeting? I certainly won’t admit to being a goat (!), but I remember attending one right before my mission; it would have been for my missionary farewell. Early 1990s.

    The stake I grew up in had the practice of holding a prayer meeting before each sacrament meeting. The bishop and counselors and people who were talking in the meeting and those who were saying the prayers and perhaps a few other people (executive secretary? ward clerk? a music person?) would meet and say a prayer together and go over the schedule of the meeting. The bishop would ask the people who were praying in sacrament meeting to remember to pray for Sister so-and-so or Brother such-and-such, who were having severe health problems.

    Was this church policy, or a local hold-over from earlier days? It sure seemed to make the meetings run more smoothly and start on time more frequently than they seem to now.

    Thanks for the suggestions on the organ, Hunter and Maurine. It makes me giggle, however, to think of asking the bishop to give me the high sign. I’m sure he’d love to do it, but I wouldn’t be able to see him, and things are working fine right now.

    Comment by Researcher — January 9, 2010 @ 8:26 am

  24. I remember pre-sacrament prayer meetings for participants in some wards in the late 1990s; but t’is true, I didn’t know about the earlier prayer meeting. I figured it was a bit late for the more formal ritual meeting and the idea that an announcement would be useful (implying a lot of people there) piqued my interest.

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 9, 2010 @ 9:20 am

  25. Eric FTW — not just for the punning but because it actually makes sense. (Or did I not get enough sleep? No, 12 hours is about right.)

    Researcher, I had forgotten about that kind of prayer meeting. I’ve only attended one, don’t think I’ve ever seen minutes of any like that, and guess that they are and were optional according to the management style of a particular bishop.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 9, 2010 @ 10:50 am

  26. This reminds me of the line in the old missionary discussions about “wouldn’t you really like to be judged by someone like Jesus?”

    I guess I’m just not up to dividing sheep from goats.

    Comment by Mark B. — January 9, 2010 @ 12:04 pm

  27. oh, I had forgotten about prayer meetings! We used to hold them before APYW on a Tuesday night when I first joined. And they held them before Sunday School and Sacrament. Were they ‘officially’ abandoned after the introduction of the Consolidated Schedule, or did they just die a death?

    Comment by Anne (U.K) — January 9, 2010 @ 4:24 pm

  28. Anne, I think the “officialness” of ending them came when the block meeting schedule was announced and prayer meetings were not part of it. There wouldn’t be time in the program for a prayer meeting between the first and second hours (trying to cram a meeting in during those minutes would, I think, leave teachers feeling anything BUT spiritual and prepared to teach!) But I’ll see if I can find any discussion of it and report back.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 9, 2010 @ 5:21 pm

Leave a comment

RSS feed for comments on this post.
TrackBack URI