From the Q&A-filled pages of the Juvenile Instructor, 1898:
Q. The question is frequently asked, “What will we do with our girls?” this being prompted by the number of young ladies who are growing to womanhood without much prospect of marriage.
A. This is a most serious question for Latter-day Saints. Probably no people on the earth place a higher value on the married relation than they do. …
A great many young men entertain wrong ideas concerning marriage. They appear to be reluctant to take to themselves wives, because they cannot furnish them with such homes as they think they ought to have, or as many of the girls are accustom4ed to. They hesitate, therefore, about proposing marriage. And even when they are engaged to some young lady of their choice, they delay marriage, hoping that they will be able after a while to furnish their brides with better homes. I know of some cases of this kind.
I happened to be in the company of a number of young people a short time since at an evening sociable, and in conversation with one of the young gentlemen present, found that he was many years past the marriageable age and was still a bachelor. This circumstance prompted the inquiry of the girls present as to how they felt about entering the marriage state. The question was asked, “if you loved a young man, and his circumstances were not as good as he would like them to be, would you be willing to marry him, and with him struggle to get a home and to furnish it?” there was quite a number of young ladies present, and without an exception they replied that they would be very willing to enter into the marriage state under such conditions. In other words, the moderate or poor circumstances of a lover, if he were a true man, would not deter them from marrying him or prompt them to reject his proposal for marriage. …
My experience teaches me that a girl who has an estimable man for a lover would gladly take him, even if he did not have as well-furnished a home as her parents might possess, or such as the young man’s own ambition might desire. She would be willing to commence with him, and by their joint exertions create for themselves a home that would be their delight through life to contemplate, because they had made it by their combined effort. …
Young men make a great mistake to postpone marriage when they reach the proper age. It is a groundless fear for any young man of industrious habits to think that he cannot support a wife. …
The girls ought to be married. But how can they marry if the boys do not propose? It is not yet the fashion for girls to do the proposing. Therefore there should be some teaching on this subject. A generation who marry reasonably early is a happier, a stronger and a purer generation than one in which marriage is deferred till alter in life.
Frequently a remark which I once publicly made concerning marriage is quoted to me. I said that any large element of unmarried young men in a community after they are twenty-four years of age is a dangerous element. Some, in speaking of it, have supposed that I referred to individual young men. Of course, this was not so. I did not refer to individuals; for there are many young men of twenty-four who, through being on missions or for other causes, are not married; but I referred to the danger to society of any considerable element of unmarried men over that age in a community. Does not the experience of mankind prove that this is correct? I certainly think so. I should deplore the increase of unmarried young men beyond twenty-three or twenty-four years of age in any of our communities, as I am satisfied that the effect on society would not be good.
Q. I have long been of the opinion that the Book of Covenants has not been taught or studied as extensively in the Sunday Schools as its importance demands, yet have not been able to see just where its special study can be taken up, except in the Theology class. Of course other grades can refer to its teachings on certain principles – word of Wisdom, etc.
A. The Book of Doctrine and Covenants is by its nature somewhat difficult to handle in the Intermediate Grades, and requires efficient teachers to handle it in a manner to make it interesting to pupils in these grades, except by occasional references. But we recommend its use where the scholars are sufficiently advanced to comprehend its teachings, especially as a book of reference for doctrine and church history.
Q. [A] correspondent asks where special instructions can be found in the Church works in regard to ward fast meetings and testimony meetings.
A. We have nothing special written on these points that we recall at the present time. But it has always been a custom in the Church of Jesus Christ to meet together for fasting and prayer, and, no doubt, bearing testimony also.
Malachi, in his 3rd chapter, 16th verse, says:
“Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name.”
It is recorded that the baptized believers on the day of Pentecost “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
The 14th chapter of Acts contains an account of the labors of Paul and Barnabas among some of the branches of the Church, and the 23rd verse reads as foll0ows: “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.”
Moroni, in his 6th chapter and 5th paragraph says:
“And the Church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls.”
It is evident from these records and from Moroni’s that the same practice prevailed in the Church of Christ in those days that now prevails among the Latter-day Saints. The members of the Church met together in their local meetings as we now in our wards, and they met fasting and for the purpose of praying and bearing testimony one to another concerning their faith.
And wherever there is a Church of Christ organized, this has been, and is, and will be the practice among them.
Q. A correspondent writes to us from Idaho and asks questions concerning the propriety of reading standard novels in meetings of young people which are held. He does not make it clear as to the character of these meetings; but it has become very fashionable of late to form clubs composed of young ladies, where readings are given by one and another. In this case he mentions “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” as one that is being read, and the justification for reading such works is that they convey good moral lessons. He has serious doubts as to the good effect of the reading of such works, and is inclined to not permit his children to take part in meetings where this practice is in vogue. This is a subject upon which there is some variety of opinion. There are good people who contend that works of the imagination, like novels may be read without injury. We have heard the claim made that they improve the language of those who read them, and make their literary style better, and give them a greater range of expression, and in this way have a good effect upon the readers.
There is no doubt some force in this view of the question; and if there were no other books in which good language is used and good styles of expression found, the argument would have force. But the facts are that there is scarcely any end to good, truthful works, written in excellent English and in fine literary style, that can be obtained for general reading without depending upon novels for these purposes. Such books furnish information which is of profit to the readers. But books of fiction feed the imagination, and fill the mind with unreal events and circumstances that originate entirely in the brains of the writers. Imaginary scenes are described, imaginary characters are depicted, and the effect upon the mind and the memory of the reader is injurious.
The reading of novels has a tendency to weaken the memory, for the reason that there is no necessity to remember the contents of a novel, because it is all fictitious. These works, being written in fascinating style in order to make them interesting to the reader, have the effect to make serious works tasteless and without interest. The latter do not contain enough to excite the imagination and therefore they appear dull to the novel reader. As a evidence of this, let anyone who is a habitual novel reader be consulted as to the other works which he reads, and it will be found, in nearly every instance, that he or she does not read history, or scientific works, or the bible or the Book of Mormon, or any of the sacred works which the Lord has given us. If no other bad effect followed the perusal of novels, this of itself should be sufficient to prevent the habit of novel reading being formed.
Q. Is it right for persons to say that they have a strong testimony of the truth of the Gospel if they are not in possession of the same?
A. Above all things, those who profess to be latter-day Saints should be truthful, and not claim knowledge which they do not possess.
There have been many instances, however, in the history of the people of the Lord where persons have arisen to speak and attempted to bear testimony, and while doing so the Spirit of the Lord has descended upon them in such power that they have been able to testify truly concerning the work of God and in a manner that would not have been possible for them to have done previous to their making the attempt.
It is not unfrequently the case that persons have evidence concerning the truth which they do not recognize as evidence, because they are looking for the evidence to be given them in some other form or manner than that in which they have received it.