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I Have More Questions, 1897

By: Ardis E. Parshall - March 09, 2010

Priesthood … dances … hypnotism — the Saints of 1897 had questions about them all, and wrote to George Q. Cannon of the Juvenile Instructor for answers:

Q. One of the country ward Sunday Schools, being desirous to raise funds for the use of the school, arranged to have a dance for that purpose; and in order to make the dance more attractive, we suppose, it was arranged that it should be what the superintendent called an “auction-basket dance.”

A. This is a new title for a dance at least to the editor of the Juvenile Instructor. The dance, we understand, is arranged in this way: Each lady is expected to bring a basket of picnic, and then each basket is sold to the highest bidder, and the successful bidder secures for a partner the lady who brought the basket.

This is a new invention for raising money, and one that we think ought not to be permitted in any party that is got up under the auspices of the Sunday School. The reasons for objecting to this method are so plain that everyone should understand them. But it seems from this that some do not perceive the danger there is in such an arrangement. If those who patronized the party referred to were all faithful Latter-day Saints, it would still be objectionable; but we are informed that this particular Sunday School is in a part of the country where rude cowboys and other strangers are likely to be patrons of the party, as well as a good many rough boys who are called Mormons. Now, any one of these that chose to bid a good price for a basket of eatables brought by some young lady whose companionship as a partner he would like would be at liberty, under such an arrangement as this, to bid for her and secure her as partner for the evening.

Is this a proper thing for Sunday School superintendents and teachers to permit?

Such a dance as an “auction-basket dance” ought never to be allowed in any of our settlements, and we trust that we shall never hear of such a practice from this time forward among Latter-day Saints.

Q. One of our brethren to whom the question was assigned by the class to look up, “Can a teacher pass the Sacrament after it has been blessed?” writes to the editor upon this subject. He appears to entertain the view that there is an impropriety in the teachers passing the bread and the water after they have been blessed, because it does not come under the authority of a teacher to administer the Sacrament. He seems to be of the opinion that they have no more authority to pass the bread and the cup than to ask the blessing upon them, and that the passing of it is just as much a part of the administering as the blessing. Finding that the general opinion of those with whom he has talked is contrary to his view, he writes for information.

A. Teachers and Deacons can pass around the bread and the water in the administration of the Sacrament, though they do not hold the Melchisedek Priesthood and are not Priests after the order of Aaron. According to the practice that has prevailed in the Church from the beginning, and which was permitted by the Prophet Joseph and all the brethren who have succeeded him as President of the Church, not only Teachers and Deacons may pass the emblems, but lay members may do so in handing them from one communicant to another. There is no warrant for any view in opposition to this.

Q. A valued correspondent writes to us and informs us that she has taught in primaries and in Sunday Schools, as well as at hone, that “obedience is the first law of heaven”; but a short time since one of the Elders, who frequently talks to the young and is an earnest Sunday School worker, told the children of the Sunday School of which she is a teacher, that “order is the first law of heaven,” and to write it down and hand it to their teachers.

A. Some people appear to think that the statement that order is heaven’s first law is from the Bible. This is not so. The poet Pope, in his “Essay on Man,” says:

Order is heaven’s first law; and this confessed,
Some are, and must be, greater than the rest.

That may sound well in poetry; but it is not correct in principle. Our sister was quite correct in believing and stating what she heard from President Jos. F. Smith on this subject, that obedience takes the precedence of order as a law of heaven.

Q. One of the theological classes has had under discussion the question as to the quorum from which the Twelve Apostles are selected. One of the brethren seemed to be very positive that they must be High Priests before they become Apostles.

A. A number of apostles have been chosen who were High Priests. Others have been ordained Apostles who were Seventies. There would be no impropriety in selecting an Apostle from among the Elders, the Seventies, or the High Priests.

Q. What attitude ought Latter-day Saints to take toward the so-called science of hypnotism?

A. If man has been blessed with one trait which more than another makes him resemble his Maker, it is that of individuality – the attribute which gives strength of purpose, self-reliance, and ability to do and to control; in short the power which makes each human a self, distinct from all other beings and from the universe. now, who ever submits himself to the will of the hypnotist, loses this power – so far as that person at least is concerned; and there can be little doubt that his individuality is weakened in respect of all with whom he comes in contact.

The cases where men and women have become slaves to the whim and caprice of the hypnotist are pitiable to relate. Where they have long submitted to his manipulations, a mere look or gesture form him has been sufficient to throw them into the hypnotic state. They then become the creatures of his will, unable to resist him. …

Nor is it alone during the sleep state that the hypnotist can exercise his influence. He may charge the subject, while the latter is in the hypnotic state, to do a certain thing, or be at a certain place, at a given time thereafter, and the subject will fid himself irresistibly drawn to do the bidding of his relentless master. …

In view of such facts it should not take any Latter-day Saint much time to decide that he will have nothing to do with hypnotism. A man may give up his labor, his wealth, even his body for the use and manipulation of his fellow-man – and yet remain the arbiter of his own fate. But he who surrenders his will to another, sells his free agency, barters away the distinguishing characteristic of a son of God. Hypnotism strikes deeper than any mere physical sin; it may be called a kind of prostitution of the soul.



15 Comments »

  1. Wow, this installment was fantastic! And it just kept on getting better and better and better, and then that very last line finished it up in all sorts of wonderful awesomeness:

    “Hypnotism strikes deeper than any mere physical sin; it may be called a kind of prostitution of the soul.”

    Oh, this made my day.

    Comment by Hunter — March 9, 2010 @ 9:01 am

  2. I thought about making that phrase the title but was afraid it would be blocked at some readers’ workplaces. Will have to remember it for use somewhere, sometime.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 9, 2010 @ 9:07 am

  3. Sometimes these historical posts reinforce the dictum that the more things change, the more they stay the same. But this one is so foreign. I cannot imagine a debate over whether obedience or order is the first law of heaven. And the “[Elder], who frequently talks to the young and is an earnest Sunday School worker” undermining one of the teachers! Talk about passive-aggressive behavior. (I guess that part hasn’t changed!)

    Comment by Researcher — March 9, 2010 @ 9:13 am

  4. I had occasion last spring to be in the Brigham City Tabernacle and to read the dedicatory prayer given by George Q. Cannon (which Google tells me was also given the same year as this JI article). The dedicatory prayer given by First Counselor Cannon is such a beautiful, profound blessing. And then to read stuff from Juvenile Instructor Editor George Q., when he’s wearing a slightly different hat, is kinda funny and fun.

    Comment by Hunter — March 9, 2010 @ 9:59 am

  5. There are some charming and fun turns of phrase here. I especially relish “a basket of picnic.” I’d like to use “Rude Cowboys and Other Strangers” as the title of a short story collection (or perhaps a memoir). And I know I went to school with the “good many rough boys who are called Mormons.”

    Comment by Mina — March 9, 2010 @ 1:17 pm

  6. Ponders asking the stake to revive an old pioneer custom called the ‘auction-basket dance’ at the Stake Pioneer Picnic this Summer….

    Would hypnotherapy (at the hands, or voice, of a fully qualified practitioner) also constitute ‘prostitution of the soul’?

    Comment by Anne (U.K) — March 9, 2010 @ 1:27 pm

  7. Ha!

    Teachers and Deacons may pass the emblems, but lay members may do so in handing them from one communicant to another.

    My wife has always wondered about the distinction between a deacon passing the sacrament tray, and a sister passing it to the person next to her. Wondering as in “Why is this any different?” Not that she is advocating for the Beehives girls to be given equal opportunities to serve, mind you.

    Also, if you have hypnotized someone else, what does that make you? Is that why some hypnotists wear big hats?

    Both the hypnotism and basket auction seem to be based on a root sense of not giving up your agency to someone else, certainly a very Mormon theme.

    Comment by kevinf — March 9, 2010 @ 1:35 pm

  8. The evils of the picnic basket… A theme for Rogers and Hammerstein used to good effect. Poor Curly McLain had to auction his saddle to keep his girl out of the clutches of one “rude cowboy.”

    And why doesn’t anyone use the word “communicant” in Mormondom anymore? It has such a nice reverent ring…

    Questions 3 and 5 reminded me of McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine. While he doesn’t go so far as to call hypnotism “prostitution of the soul,” he sides squarely with Bro. Cannon on both issues.

    Question 4 brings up an interesting historical question: when was the last time an apostle was selected that WASN’T a high priest prior to his ordination? Alvin Dyer? J. Reuben Clark? I think this is one of those areas like literal descendants of Aaron serving as bishop without counselors. Sure it’s possible an Elder could be ordained an apostle, but in practice it never happens.

    Comment by Clark — March 9, 2010 @ 2:21 pm

  9. I still wonder after all this time whether anybody is going to find something in a post to be as interesting as I do. And almost every time, somebody — several somebodies — land on exactly the phrases or ideas that intrigued me in the first place.

    Thank you.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 9, 2010 @ 3:11 pm

  10. Was J. Reuben Clark Jr. ordained an apostle? (The Deseret News almanac says he was, on October 11, 1934.) But he was never a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. And the almanac is silent on whether he was ordained a high priest.

    And Alvin R. Dyer, though he was ordained an apostle (in October 1967), was never a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. And after serving as “another” counselor to Pres. McKay, he returned to serving as an Assistant to the Twelve, and then the First Quorum of Seventy when it was organized in 1976, until he died in 1977. And he was ordained a high priest in 1927.

    Comment by Mark B. — March 9, 2010 @ 3:11 pm

  11. Actually, I was most interested in the Rude Cowboys and the Rough Boys Called Mormons.

    Comment by Mark B. — March 9, 2010 @ 3:12 pm

  12. Many of the ladies were equally interested. Bad boys, you know. ;)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 9, 2010 @ 3:32 pm

  13. I only had 2-3 seconds to speculate on why GQC thought lunch auctions were inappropriate, but his reasons definitely weren’t the same as mine. (The potential for hurt feelings, and unflattering attitudes toward women)

    Comment by Moniker Challenged — March 9, 2010 @ 4:37 pm

  14. Yeah, Moniker, the idea that a single dance, conversation, or even entire evening in a public area would lead a young girl to ruin seems preposterous to this modern mind. So much for “in the world, but not of the world.”

    Then again, The GQC attitude does bear a certain resemblance to the “don’t date non-members” mantra that was preached to me in the early ’90s.

    Comment by Clark — March 9, 2010 @ 4:44 pm

  15. But of course I enjoy these posts, Ardis! After all, I am a very juvenile instructor…

    Comment by Mina — March 9, 2010 @ 8:33 pm

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