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Questions from the Grass Roots, 1948

By: Ardis E. Parshall - August 02, 2010

The Church News introduced a Q&A column in 1948, with this invitation:

This column is for the use of our readers. If you have questions on any Church problem, concerning doctrine, history, Church government or procedure, send them to the Church News Editor, Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah.

All questions must be accompanied by name and address. If a question cannot be answered in this column the author will be so informed by letter.

On the one hand, I like these questions as being more representative of the issues that were on the minds of ordinary Church members than the more formal organizational and doctrinal matters that have been the subject of earlier “I Have a Question” posts. On the other hand, it is impossible to know who provided the answers and therefore how “official” they were. Still, this reflects what people were thinking and asking and teaching.

You aren’t going to believe some of the oddities that will appear in this and future posts!

Q. If there is no olive oil available is it all right to use mineral oil in administering to the sick? – J.H., Logan, Utah.

A. No. We do not consecrate any oil but olive oil. This is in accordance with the teachings of the people of God even from ancient times. When, in the days of Moses, the Lord provided for a special ointment with which to anoint his servants under the Mosaic law, he specified olive oil (Ex. 30:22-33.) In our day, from the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith, we have followed the biblical custom of using olive oil in our administrations. The handbook of instructions issued by the general authorities for use in wards and stakes says: “Oil for this anointing should be pure olive oil which has been consecrated for the purpose.” (P. 91.) Under the instructions in this same handbook we read: “Olive oil is consecrated before it is used to anoint the sick. A good grade of pure olive oil should be secured and those holding the Melchizedek Priesthood should set it apart for its holy purpose.” if there is no olive oil available, then the elders might lay their hands on the head of the afflicted person and bless him for his health, and the Lord will hear the prayer of faith.

Q. To which people was the name “Jew” correctly applied? One of my friends says that Jesus was not a Jew. Was he? – H.R.L., Provo, Utah.

A. Technically, a Jew is a descendant of the tribe of Judah, and in ancient times, one of the Kingdom of Judah. (2 Kings 16:6; 25:25.) Following the captivity of Judah the word came into general use referring to anyone who returned from the captivity, and finally it was made to apply to anyone of the Hebrew race anywhere. In the days of the Savior, persons who lived in Judea were spoken of as Jews as distinguished from persons who lived in other sections of the Holy Land. For instance, in the first verse of the seventh Chapter of John we read “After these things Jesus walked in Galilee for he would not walk in Jewry because the Jews sought to kill him”; and in the fifth chapter of the same book, verses 10 to 18, are references which give a similar idea. In the seventh chapter of John, again, reference is made to the Savior going to Judea for a feast, at which the Jews sought him out, etc., illustrating that residents of Judea were called Jews, as distinguished from the residents of Galilee or Samaria. You recall that the locality in which people lived in those days gave them their designation; Jesus was a Nazarene; he was also a Galilean, and in this narrow sense, some say he was not a Jew. However, by blood he was a descendant of Judah, through the loins of King David, and therefore he was a Jew definitely, and was technically King of the Jews as Pilate said.

Q. Is there anything in our Church doctrines which says that it is wrong for an expectant mother to accept anesthetic from her doctor during the pains of childbirth? – L.D., American Fork.

A. No, of course not. If a mother in travail can get any comfort out of some anesthetic, she certainly should be entitled to it.

Q. Should tithing be paid on money received from the government in payment of insurance or upon money received from a family inheritance? – J.S.H., Salt Lake City.

A. All sources of income should be tithed. Those who are non-productive, or on relief are exempt from the payment of tithing. Insurance is not considered as a relief payment. It is something you have earned and paid for. An inheritance as a gift is an increase in your possessions and normally should be tithed.

Q. Is it the doctrine of the Church that all Latter-day Saints when they die must be buried with their faces toward the east? – J.H.J., San Diego.

A. No.

Q. Does the Church recommend that Saturday night dances be disregarded? – R.W.E., Provo, Utah.

A. No. The recreational program sponsored by the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Association recommend that good, wholesome, clean dances be conducted under Church sponsorship on Saturday night, or any other night except Sunday. Many stakes in the Church conduct Saturday night socials for their young people. The understanding in all cases, however, is that the entertainment close well before midnight so that no one will be dancing on the Sabbath.

Q. It is the opinion of some that as long as a person holds the Melchizedek Priesthood he can gather a group together and go and live the law of consecration at any time without any higher authority. Is this true? – M.F.H., Los Angeles.

A. No, this is not true. The law of consecration was given in the early days of the Church, but it was taken away again by the act of the Lord Himself, and the law of tithing was substituted for it. The law of tithing therefore has become the order of the Church, and the law of consecration as it was given in the days of Joseph Smith is no longer to be observed at this time although later on it will probably again be given to the people of the Church. Anyone who attempts now on his own authority to set up a law of consecration is out of harmony with the authorities of the Church. Anyone who tries to gather a group together, whether for the purpose you mention, or some other purpose contrary to the rule of the Church is treading on dangerous ground which has led some to apostasy. the revocation and discontinuance of the United Order came during a time when the Latter-day Saint people were hunted, scattered abroad with their property gone, their organization largely broken up, wounded in mind and in spirit. The Lord gave what has been known as the Fishing River revelation (D.C. 105) in which He said among other things, “And let those commandments which I have given concerning Zion and her law be executed and fulfilled after her redemption.” The law of tithing was given in what we know as Section 119 of the Doctrine and Covenants and it is still in full force and effect. If you would like a comprehensive discussion of the United Order and law of Consecration write to the Editor of the Church News and one will be sent to you as prepared by President J. Reuben Clark, Jr.

Q. Are Sunday Schools in the wards supposed to be held on stake conference day? – W.E.R., Salt Lake.

A. Sunday Schools should not be closed on the day of stake conference. all classes with the exception of Gospel Doctrine and other adult classes should remain in session. This applies except where conference is being held in a ward building and Sunday School and conference cannot be accommodated in the same building at the same time. Attendance of all members of the Church, old and young, at stake conference should be encouraged. A member of any Sunday School class who desires to attend stake conference should be excused to do so, and any class in the Sunday School under proper supervision, may attend the stake conference in a body.

Q. Is it true that persons being ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood must be interviewed by a member of the stake presidency? – R.W.Z., Cedar City.

A. Candidates for ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood must be interviewed by a member of the stake presidency who will question them carefully pertaining to their conduct, personal purity, and faith. The endorsements of the bishop of the ward is also required as is the approval of the high council, before the names of such persons are presented to the general priesthood of the stake for approval. All of this must be done prior to ordination.

Q. I have a son who is not in very good health. I feel that it would be a good thing for him to go away possibly on a mission so that he could recover his health. Are young people in that condition accepted for missionary service? – L.R., Salt Lake.

A. Before recommending any person for missionary service bishops are asked to make sure that the prospective missionary is physically fit. Extensive walking, irregular living conditions, and unusual physical and mental strain almost invariably result in accentuating physical weaknesses and impairments. Disability in the mission is expensive and often results in embarrassment and injustice to the missionary, his companion, and the Church. all missionaries must be examined by a doctor and unless the doctor pronounces them physically fit, they cannot be accepted for missionary service. Missionaries are not called to give service for their personal benefit, but as a commandment and duty to carry the message of salvation to the world.

Q. Why is it so much harder for people who have had an illegitimate birth to learn the principles of the Gospel than for other people? – E.M.W., North Carolina.

A. It is not necessarily so. The Lord is no respecter of persons. The individual illegitimately born was not to blame in any way for his plight, If he will study the Gospel and serve the Lord and keep his commandments there is no reason why he can not receive the blessings of the Lord just like anyone else.

Q. What are the qualifications to be married in the Temple? I am a member of the Church, but my wife is a member of another church. however, she is being converted to Mormonism and expects to join the Church in the near future. – W.V.M., Provo.

A. To be permitted to enter the temple a person must be a member of the Church for at least one year, and must be duly recommended by the bishop and stake president, the recommend attesting to the worthiness of the individual as to manner of life and obedience to the commandments of God. Only men holding the Melchizedek Priesthood are permitted to receive their endowments.

Q. When administering to a sick person, should the oil be given inwardly, and should the afflicted part be anointed? – Ed. S., Salt Lake City.

A. The answer is no to both of these questions. We do not give the oil inwardly. In administering to the sick person, we anoint the crown of the head, and not any afflicted part. There is no virtue, so far as the administration is concerned, in giving the sick person a spoonful of oil to drink. That is not a part of the ordinance, and should not be so regarded.

Q. Do persons who are ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood receive a certificate of ordination? – M.R.L., Ogden.

A. When a person has been ordained a high priest or an elder he should receive a certificate of ordination signed by the president and secretary of his quorum. Certificates of ordination of seventies will be issued by the First Council of Seventy. All such certificates should be carefully preserved as an evidence of ordination.

Q. Can you tell me where the city of Zarahemla was located? – F.W., Preston, Idaho.

A. No. Nobody knows. Attempts to locate it have been purely in the speculative realm.

Q. Should persons be set apart for offices in the Church in the general sacrament meeting or in some private meeting? Should teachers and secretaries be set apart as well as the heads of the organizations? – D.J., Oregon.

A. It is the custom in the Church that settings apart take place in small private meetings rather than in the regular sacrament meeting. it is also customary in many stakes and wards to have secretaries and teachers set apart as well as the executive officers.

Q. What is the attitude of the Church regarding the eating of pork? How is its modern use consistent with the word of the bible against eating swine? – Mrs. E.W.H., Salt Lake.

A. The restrictions on the use of pork as given under the law of Moses were not renewed to the latter-day Saints in our day by modern revelation. The Lord did say a good deal about meat and other foods, but he did not single out the use of pork. In Section 49 of the Doctrine and Covenants beginning with verse 18 we read: “whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meat, that man should not eat the same, that man is not ordained of God; for behold the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air and that which cometh of the earth is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance.” You are familiar with what the Lord says in the Word of Wisdom, section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants. “Yea, flesh also of the beasts and of the fowls of the air I the Lord have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving. Nevertheless they are to be used sparingly; and it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter or of cold or of famine.”

Q. Would the Church raise any objection to one of its members holding the Priesthood marrying a Jewess? – W.V.S., Kellogg, Idaho.

A. No, if the Jewess is a member of the Church.

Q. A certain couple was not married in the temple. The man is not active. Can the woman take her children with her to the temple and have them sealed to her without the husband?

A. No. Children are sealed to both parents, and such sealings take place only after the parents themselves have been sealed together.

Next up: Questions from the Grass Roots, 1948 – Curse of Cain Edition



  1. Wow, so much here to work with. But I’ll stick with just one. I had heard that at some point in our history consecrated oil was taken internally, as well as being applied locally. Apparently not by 1948.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — August 2, 2010 @ 8:34 am

  2. Yeah, I guess the number of questions and answers is a little overwhelming for a single post. But that’s part of what I found so fascinating — the sheer variety of questions, some of which I’ve never seen before.

    I hope J. has time to stop here and give a response to the matter of the consecrated oil. I don’t if his study comes this far forward but hoped it would be useful to him to have one more bit of dated thought.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 2, 2010 @ 8:42 am

  3. Yes, please, let’s send our youth who are spiritually or physically ill off on missions so that they can get better… 🙁

    (The Ft. Worth mission president last year gave some excellent talks where he quoted leaders of the Church, including Hinckley, on how missions will exacerbate both your positive and negative qualities, and he quoted another apostle as saying that most missionary problems were the parents’ fault. Shock and awe.)

    Comment by queuno — August 2, 2010 @ 9:18 am

  4. Maybe “raising the bar” isn’t quite as new an idea as we usually think it is — I, too, was unpleasantly surprised to see that a parent thought of a mission as a rest and recuperation tour, and I immediately felt sorry for the potential companions.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 2, 2010 @ 9:23 am

  5. Those who are non-productive, or on relief are exempt from the payment of tithing.
    So I think that the relief is ‘Church Welfare’ or I’m wrong? I loved the Q&A about Jesus not being a Jew.
    Great piece and again very interesting the the date in history has to do alot with the framing of the question.

    Comment by Mex Davis — August 2, 2010 @ 9:47 am

  6. Mex, I think the language of the day would make “relief” any kind of welfare (government as well as Church).

    We had some odd and interesting questions on our minds back in the day, didn’t we?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 2, 2010 @ 9:52 am

  7. I remember hearing about being buried facing east when I was a kid, so that one didn’t seem all that strange to me. A couple of the others did seem odd. Was someone contemplating going off and starting a communal farm or something? Or the one about how much harder it is for an illegitimate child to learn the gospel.

    And I’m glad they cleared up that issue with the olive oil vs mineral oil. Next thing you know, it’s Valvoline.

    Comment by kevinf — August 2, 2010 @ 10:04 am

  8. So your comment leads me to the next question. Does that same rule apply today regarding paying tithing on government welfare or unemployment?
    I think we ask odd and interesting questions even today. Thanks again, great piece.

    Comment by Mex Davis — August 2, 2010 @ 10:07 am

  9. There were some small apostate groups at this time that did live communally, kevinf. A while ago I was all set to write about a violinist who had done some interesting missionary work in New York in the early part of the century. As always, I checked to see what I could find out about the man’s later life in order to round out the post a bit … and dropped the idea of writing about him when I discovered he had started such a “United Order” commune, featuring group marriage (not polygamy, but full-blown wife swapping).

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 2, 2010 @ 10:09 am

  10. Mex, that’s one I’d have to defer to a bishop for answer. I have no idea what the current practice is — I suspect it has changed from time to time.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 2, 2010 @ 10:11 am

  11. That second question reminds me of a conversation I had with a woman, not a church member, on my mission. Her mother’s pastor had said (pre-World War II Germany) that Jesus was a Jew, and that was so offensive to her mother that she never attended church again in her life.

    Comment by Researcher — August 2, 2010 @ 10:37 am

  12. Wow!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 2, 2010 @ 10:45 am

  13. The second to last question is great: “There is no objection to your marrying a Jewess so long as she’s a Mormon Jewess.” 🙂

    Giggles aside, it’s kind of an interesting artifact of the times. I converted to Mormonism from a Jewish background, and I’d be honestly shocked (but not offended) if anyone referred to me as “a Jew who is a member of the Church.” In contrast, when I was serving in a Pentecostal mission, members of that church were disturbingly eager to embrace my Jewish heritage, with one pastor referring to me by my Jewish middle name (as opposed to my non-Jewish given name).

    Comment by Bro. Jones — August 2, 2010 @ 11:39 am

  14. Stay tuned, Bro. Jones — there are other questions asked this year that show a startling (by today’s standards) awareness of and attitude toward Jewishness!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 2, 2010 @ 12:20 pm

  15. This post is so timely. I was having a conversation with two of my brothers the other day and the subject of medication during childbirth came up. In my brother’s ward, the bishop’s wife insisted that it was against Church doctrine for women to have epidurals during childbirth. Women, she argued, are supposed to suffer (part of Eve’s penalty). I guess these notions continue to circulate within the Church.

    Comment by Steve C. — August 2, 2010 @ 12:32 pm

  16. Gee, Steve, that’s the one I thought was the wildest of all the oddball questions. I’m sure you’re right as to the argument of people who believe that way, but — sheesh!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 2, 2010 @ 1:44 pm

  17. Some days I’m pretty non-productive. Does that mean I’m exempt?

    I’m trying hard to figure out burials “facing east.” Most bodies I’ve seen prepared for burial would be facing up. (I’m not going to make any macabre jokes about someone turning the head in that direction just before burial.)

    By that one lady’s reasoning, I suppose that anti-perspirants are taboo too, eh? To say nothing of working in an air-conditioned office! Or during the winter! (Hey, I could live with that!)

    Comment by Mark B. — August 2, 2010 @ 2:01 pm

  18. Wow. I’ve heard the anti-labor medication argument as something in the far-distant past, but never as something that has come up any time recently. That’s simply amazing. There’s nothing like resurrecting incorrect and archaic old notions to justify the oppression of women. (Do these people believe in ultrasounds? vaccines? aspirin? cough drops? toothpaste?)

    But now that I think about it, I can imagine someone merging the movement for natural childbirth with that old notion. I wonder if the bishop’s wife is a natural child birth advocate and is getting her medical preferences mixed up with incorrect notions of scripture.

    (And perhaps I should disclose here that I had an epidural in two of my five deliveries. I sometimes joke that if I had had an epidural for my first delivery, I might have had more than one child.)

    Comment by Researcher — August 2, 2010 @ 2:08 pm

  19. Burials facing east is a tradition to make it easier for the resurected to see the Savior on Resurrection Morning, and is a fairly longstanding Christian custom (buried so that if you sat up in the coffin, you’d face east.)

    The corrolaries are (1) The common etiquette of never walk on the east side of the gravestone, which would be stepping on the dead body and (2) the vast majority of temples face east. On a few, the Angel Moroni faces east even though the main entrance is on some other side of the building.

    Comment by Clark — August 2, 2010 @ 2:16 pm

  20. What I like best about the answer to that question, Mark and Researcher, is that it doesn’t just say “no,” it says “no, of course not.” I think I detect an incredulous tone of voice and a “whatever gave you THAT idea?” look on the face of the answerer, whoever he or she might have been.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 2, 2010 @ 2:23 pm

  21. This post and the comments have been a load of fun. Thanks. I can’t wait for the next in the series.

    So, should I feel badly that I laughed aloud at the poor questioner from Preston, Idaho who asked so innocently if the editor could please indicate where the city of Zarahemla was located? I mean, c’mon! Seriously? Well, anyway, it was cute, I thought.

    Comment by David Y. — August 2, 2010 @ 2:29 pm

  22. Wait’ll you read the one asking what the Church has to say about the sunken continent of Atlantis, David.

    Is this why the General Authorities keep telling us to talk to our bishops rather than write to Salt Lake? They don’t want to deal with these anymore?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 2, 2010 @ 2:39 pm

  23. That same Bishop’s wive had their children in a wading pool in their living room. It’s not my cup of (herbal) tea, but to each their own. I just have a problem when people say this or that method is doctrinal and this or that method is against the Church based solely on hearsay or rumor or old traditions.

    Ardis, you’re teasing us! Cain and Atlantis questions. I cannot wait! Can you give is a hint? Do the Brethren connect Cain with Bigfoot? Inquiring minds want to know.

    Comment by Steve C. — August 2, 2010 @ 6:33 pm

  24. I was hired to write a history of a family in Mesquite and Bunkerville. I recall at least one incidence when someone took the olive oil internally. I’ll get to my office in the morning and post the account. I know those who are writing articles and books on healing will have a lot of olive oil taken internally stories.

    Comment by Maurine — August 3, 2010 @ 2:00 am

  25. Steve, Cain is Bigfoot! And I have it on good authority – a late, third-hand account – that he lives in Tennessee too!

    Comment by Bruce Crow — August 3, 2010 @ 10:24 am

  26. Bruce: We need to find Cain/Bigfoot!

    Comment by Steve C. — August 3, 2010 @ 1:10 pm

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