Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Questions from the Grass Roots, 1948 (7)

Questions from the Grass Roots, 1948 (7)

By: Ardis E. Parshall - November 02, 2010

The source of these questions and answers can be found in the first installment of this series. It bears repeating for newcomers that the person(s) answering these questions is/are not identified, and that the answers given here are not necessarily current teaching. The chief value of these columns today is in seeing what issues were on the minds of ordinary Church members 60 years ago, and in noting what has changed since then, or what issues we consider modern concerns were being discussed that long ago.

Q. Is it possible for one, after receiving a definite testimony of the Gospel, through apostasy and unrighteousness to have that knowledge taken from him? Or would he be just “kicking against the pricks.” – C.A., Thornton, Ida.

A. “The devils also believe and tremble.” Such a person as you describe would be just kicking against the pricks. Recall the apostates in the days of Joseph Smith. They did not lose their knowledge of the truth of the gospel and the divine calling of the Prophet. They fought him with a full knowledge of the truth. We pride ourselves that although some of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon left the church and became bitter toward the Prophet, nevertheless they held true to their testimony of the book. if they had lost their knowledge of the truth, would they have thus held steadfast to their testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon during their apostate condition? The New Testament recites instances where devils cast out of individuals by the Savior, acknowledged Him as the Christ. They had not lost their knowledge, devils though they were.

Q. I have been told that a design of the Big Dipper appears on the west wall of the Salt Lake Temple. Is this true, and if so, what is the significance of its use? – K.K., Manti.

A. It is true, but there is no particular significance to it.

Q. You said recently in the question and answer column that the use of the big dipper as a decoration on the west end of the Salt Lake Temple had no particular significance. By what authority does the book “Temples of the Most High” give it special significance? – G.D.P., Provo.

A. The book to which you refer was not published by the church. It was a private publication.

Q.When does the spirit enter the body, at birth or before? In the case of a still born infant, are we to believe that such a body will be resurrected? – ABB, Monticello.

A. There is no specific revelation on either of these subjects, therefore anything that might be said upon them would be mere speculation. With respect to still born children, we will say that on the records of the Church such births are not recorded.

Q. What do we mean by the word seer? Do we have a special meaning for it, apart from “prophet” and “revelator”? – H.B., Brigham City.

A. Read such references to this subject as appear in D & C 21:1; 124:125; 107:92; 124:94. A seer is one who “sees,” that is who can under divine power see into the future, perceiving things which shall come forth. At times he sees things by heavenly vision, or at times he may be shown in other ways. (See Mosiah 8:13-17 for a detailed statement.) A prophet might predict something without having seen a vision, merely speaking as he is given utterance by the Spirit of the Lord. A revelator might be given a revelation from the Lord without seeing anything before his eyes. But a seer, in vision, beholds many things. Nephi and Lehi were seers. They were shown the history of the world in vision, with an angel to guide and help them. They were even shown our day. Read First Nephi, beginning with chapter 11, for a description of what a seer receives. John the Revelator was a seer, for he also saw into the future, by means of vision. What he wrote is referred to as a revelation, and so it is. But that revelation came by means of a vision or seership. The writing, or revelation, was a record of what was given the seer in vision.

Q. Is it true that some churches of the world will accept members from other churches without baptism, considering that the baptism obtained in another church is efficacious and that no rebaptism in the new church is necessary? – J.A.S., Provo, Utah.

A. Yes, this is true. Of course keep in mind that many churches do not regard baptism as being necessary anyway, so that it makes no difference to the churches whether a candidate desires baptism or not. So far as our Church is concerned, we recognize no baptism performed outside our Church. We teach that the power of the priesthood is required to make a baptism effective, and we declare that only the latter-day Saints possess the true priesthood, and therefore no one outside our Church has the right to perform baptisms. Baptism is essential to salvation. It can only be performed under proper conditions, including the exercise of true priesthood, which we alone have.

Q. Just who are eligible for assistance under the Church Welfare Program? – E.R.O. Idaho Falls.

A. The responsibility for the care of those in need rests legally and morally with the relatives. If, however, relatives are not able to provide for those requiring assistance, then the Church through the welfare organizations in each ward and branch should render necessary aid by supplying to those for whom the Church is responsible commodities produced by the Welfare Program consisting of food, clothing, fuel, and other necessities. No hard and fast rule should be applied with regard to the matter of those who should be assisted. Families who are worthy of assistance should be in one of the following classifications:

First, faithful members of the Church. A faithful member is one who has paid tithing when in a position to do so, has attended ward meetings, and has responded to the requests of his presiding officers.

Second, members of divided families where one parent is not a member of the Church but the other parent and the children are devoted and active members. This class is entitled to the assistance by the Church because the act, ideas, or religious inclinations of a parent cannot always be controlled by the other members of the family. Such families should receive the attentions of the ward teachers in order that the entire family as a whole is stimulated and encouraged to participate in Church activity.

Third, partially inactive families where both the father and the mother are members of the Church, but one or the other is inactive. This situation should not preclude the rendering of assistance.

Fourth, inactive members willing to work for what they need, even though they have contributed nothing to the Church in the way of services or finance. The Church is not obligated to care for them but as long as they are willing to work for what they need, it is our responsibility to see that they do not lack the necessities of life. Kindness and charity must always characterize the Church. Families classified as inactive should also receive the attention of the ward teachers.

Q. If our record of membership has been lost, is it necessary for us to be rebaptized, or is there some other way of handling this problem? – R.W., Logan.

A. If record of membership has been lost and members are unable to furnish definite proof of their baptism and confirmation written statements of parents and others who were present at the time, certifying that the baptism and confirmation actually took place, as well as the evidence of those acquainted with them as to their faithful labors, proper conduct, and present record of activity, may be accepted and such persons may be received as members of the ward on the vote of the congregation, and their names entered on the ward’s record of members. As a general rule, persons eight years of age or over should have some individual record of their baptisms as well as the recollection of their baptism and confirmation and by all means they should be able to state at least the year when these ordinances were performed and by whom. An effort should be made to have each member’s record as complete and accurate as possible. Persons claiming membership in the Church who cannot furnish acceptable evidence of their standing should be baptized and confirmed.

Q. Just what is frankincense? – V.L., Richfield.

A. Frankincense is the gum from a tree grown in Arabia. It was white in color and was used in the oil by which the priests were anointed. (Exodus 30-34) and also in the meal offerings. (Lev. 2:1-16) It is a dry gum resin and when burned is fragrant.

Q. When a new president of the Church is chosen, who sets him apart and confers upon him the keys of his office and the power to act? – L.R.H., Orem, Utah.

A. When the First Presidency is dissolved by the death of the president, the executive powers in the Church are exercised by the Council of the twelve. The Council, as a group, holds the authority, and, therefore, when a new president of the Church is chosen the Council of the Twelve lay their hands upon the man thus chosen and they give to him the right to exercise the keys of his office. When President George Albert Smith was made the president of the Church, this took place with all of the apostles of the Church laying their hands upon the head of the new president. Pres. George F. Richards was voice on behalf of the apostles and set apart and ordained George Albert Smith as the president.



  1. I would be interested if the blessings that set apart the president of the church are recorded. Not that I think they are anything overtly special, but like dedicatory prayers for temples I think they would be interesting to read.

    Comment by Joseph Smidt — November 2, 2010 @ 9:23 am

  2. Ha! I loved it: Yes, just what IS frankincense?!

    Comment by David Y. — November 2, 2010 @ 10:10 am

  3. Re the Big Dipper, several LDS authors, including J.E. Talmage in The House of the Lord, have quoted or paraphrased Truman Angell’s 1854 description: “On the two west corner towers, and on the west end, a few feet below the top of battlements, may be seen in bold (or alto relievo) the great dipper, or Ursa Major, with the pointers ranging nearly towards the north star. (Moral, the lost may find themselves by the Priesthood.)”

    Comment by Justin — November 2, 2010 @ 1:44 pm

  4. Thanks, Justin. I love to study symbols and shadows of all kinds, but it’s tough to recognize who knows what he’s talking about. Joseph McConkie’s book on gospel symbols, for example, just states baldly that “the color green means thus-and-such” without giving any explanation or source, which I find so unsatisfactory that I can’t use the book. TOA ought to know, in this case, what he had in mind when he added the dippers.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 2, 2010 @ 2:07 pm

  5. This installment has a different (condescending? curt?) feel than the earlier ones for some reason.

    I think the answer to the Big Dipper question reflects plain laziness. Does he expect us to believe that the stone carvers put it there “just for the fun of it?”

    The testimony answer is also interesting–okay, wrong (in my opinion). I have heard of many cases where the fire of testimony dies down to embers though inattention and is eventually overwhelmed by doubt. Else why the constant admonitions to pray and study the scriptures?

    A convenient reference for more recent Church statements on stillborn children is here.

    Comment by Clark — November 2, 2010 @ 2:48 pm

  6. Thanks for the link, Clark. I should have hunted up something myself, for something as tender as stillbirths where counsel and understanding may have changed over the years.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 2, 2010 @ 3:08 pm

  7. The question about a lost membership record is intriguing. Who lost it? Did some clerk let it drop into the waste basket with a pile of papers? Was it lost in the mail during a relocation?

    For many years, membership records were kept on a looseleaf form and stores in a large multi-ring binder. These records were mailed to a member’s new ward when they moved. My record had followed me to many wards by that tiime. In 1974 or 1975, these were done away with after the data had been entered on a punchtape which was sent to SLC. This was the beginning of the present membership system which is all computerized, of course. The old paper records were to be destroyed.

    When the instructions came for this to take place, I was bishop of a ward in Michigan. The idea of destroying those old original records, with entries by many clerks or bishops showing blessing, baptism, etc. to the then present time was just not acceptable to me. I may have someday to answer to some priesthood tribunal, but I put out the word that the members could have their old records just by coming by the clerk’s office. Many did. I have the records for myself and family, kept in a safe place and scanned onto a Floppy, then a CD and now on a DVD. There is nothing better than an original record.

    Comment by CurtA — November 2, 2010 @ 3:25 pm

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