Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Questions from the Grass Roots, 1948 (8)

Questions from the Grass Roots, 1948 (8)

By: Ardis E. Parshall - November 16, 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. When a person is being confirmed a member of the Church, is it proper for the elders doing the confirming to put both of their hands on the candidate’s head, or put one hand on the person’s head and the other hand on the Elder’s shoulder who is standing at the left. – C.A., Petaluma, Calif.

A. There is no set rule on this in the Church. Ordinarily, however, when only a few Elders officiate in this work, they put both hands on the head of the candidate. However, if there are too many men officiating to allow them to comfortably put both hands on the head of the candidate, then the right hand is usually placed on the head of the candidate and the left hand on the shoulder of the Elder next. It is the number of the elders participating which would govern in a case like that.

Q. In our Sunday School class we have been talking about the Urim and Thummim and would like to know just what it is. We all had a different point of view on it. – R.W., Schofield, Utah.

A. The Urim and Thummim consisted of two transparent stones, set in bows of silver and attached to a breast plate. They were mentioned anciently in connection with priestly functions as outlined in the bible under the law of Moses. They were to be used in making the will of the Lord clear and comprehensible to the priests. Aaron wore the Urim and Thummin upon his heart when he went to obtain the judgment of the Lord. His successors did also. See [long list of scriptures not transcribed; consult Topical Guide.] The Prophet Joseph Smith said that the use of the Urim and Thummim, which were deposited with the gold plates and delivered to him with the gold plates, “constituted seers in ancient or former times and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book.” The Prophet Joseph Smith received some revelations through the Urim and Thummim. The Urim and Thummim was used ancient not only by the people in the days of Moses, but later on by the Book of Mormon people. Reference is made to them in Mosiah 8:13-19; Ether 3:23-28. There is a discussion on this subject in Dr. Widtsoe’s book entitled “Evidences and Reconciliations.” This discussion will prove of interest to you.

Q. We in our ward are planning to build a new chapel. A ballot was taken in the ward to determine the location on which to build. We have a two-thirds majority to build at our present location. Will this vote be the final decision? – H.M., Idaho.

A. Recommendations as to building sites are made by the ward bishopric and the stake presidency, and are submitted to the building committee at the Presiding Bishop’s Office. The final decision will have to await approval of the General Authorities of the Church through the General Building Committee of the Church.

Q. When minors are married under the civil law, they must have the consent of their parents. Is it likewise necessary when they are being married in the temple? – HCS, Phoenix, Ariz.

A. All legal requirements under civil marriage are also requirements of temple marriage. Temple marriages are legal marriages in every sense, and all requirements of the law must be met.

Q. What is our belief regarding children who died before they are blessed and named by the Elders of the Church? – PC, Pocatello, Idaho.

A. We believe that infants who die go back to the presence of God, whether or not they have been blessed and named. We do not believe an infant is handicapped so far as eternal progress is concerned, merely because of his not having been blessed before death ensues. When children in the Church die before they are blessed, details of the birth and death are entered in the ward record of members in the same manner as children who live to be blessed, and are included in the Church records and statistics just the same as if they had been blessed. However, stillborn children are not reported or recorded with ordinary births and deaths.

Q. I have heard that Joseph Smith the Prophet predicted that there would be stakes throughout the United States. Is this true?

A. On page 363 of the book entitled “The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” by Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, there is a paragraph which reads as follows:

“I have received instructions from the Lord that from henceforth wherever the elders of Israel shall build up churches and branches unto the Lord through the States, there shall be a stake of Zion. In the great cities, as Boston, New York, etc., there shall be stakes. It is a glorious proclamation and I reserved it to the last, and designed it to be understood that this work shall commence after the washings, anointings and endowments have been performed here.”

Q. Do we baptize persons of unsound mentality when they arrive at the age of 8 years as we do normal children? – H.S., Salt Lake City.

A. Those who are mentally deficient do not need to be baptized, no matter what their age may be. They are not in a position to understand, nor are they capable of repentance, and therefore they cannot be held accountable. Should they ever become mentally responsible, the ordinances of the gospel may then be administered.

Q. Will the Saints escape all the judgments that are to be poured out upon the earth? – M.C.F., Idaho Falls, Ida.

A. No. At one time the Prophet Joseph Smith discussed this and said: “I explained concerning the coming of the Son of Man; also that it is a false idea that the Saints will escape all the judgments whilst the wicked suffer; for all flesh is subject to suffer and the righteous shall hardly escape; still many of the Saints will escape for the just shall live by faith; yet many of the righteous will fall prey to disease, to pestilence, etc., by reason of the weakness of the flesh, and yet to be saved in the Kingdom of God. So that it is an unhallowed principle to say that such and such have transgressed because they have been preyed upon by disease or death, for all flesh is subject to death, and the Savior has said, Judge not lest ye be judged.” (Doc. Hist. of Ch. 4:11.) In this connection read Doc. & Cov. 112:24-26 and “The Teachings of Joseph Smith,” page 162.

Q. Why is the bishop the president of the priests’ quorum, instead of a priest? We have deacons as presidents of deacons’ quorums, the same on the teachers’ quorums, but why is it different in the priests’ quorums?

A. Through direct revelation from the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the ward bishop is made the president of the Aaronic Priesthood of his ward. (Doc. & Cov. 101 107:87-88.) This presidency is shared by his counselors. (Doc. & Cov. 107:15.) In this same revelation, which names the bishop as president of the Aaronic Priesthood, it is also specified that he “is to preside over forty-eight priests and to sit in council with them, to teach them the duties of their office, as given in the covenants.” (v. 87.)

Q. In administering the sacrament, is it right and proper for both priests to kneel at the same time while giving the blessing? – J.H., Salt Lake City.

A. It is customary for only the one priest to kneel at a time, the other priest remaining seated.

Q. Is it ever considered permissible to hold the sacrament tray with the left hand while partaking of it with the right hand and then pass it with the left hand to the next person? – C.O.S., Chicago, Ill.

A. Yes, it is permissible. There is no set rule on this procedure. It is customary for the individual to partake of the sacrament with the right hand.

Q. Is it right to deduct the payments from your tithing which you make to your building fund and ward budget or is tithing a separate and distinct thing from all other contributions? – P.R.L., Logan, Utah.

A. Tithing is separate and distinct from all other contributions.



  1. Ardis, did the original have Doc. & Cov. 101:87-88? I’m sure they meant 107? In any case, the answer is wonderfully confused. Also, love me some Urim and Thummim!

    Comment by WVS — November 16, 2010 @ 9:56 am

  2. You’re right about the number — thanks, I’ll correct.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 16, 2010 @ 10:30 am

  3. Building funds, ward budgets, the congregation “voting” for the site of a new chapel–how much things have changed.

    I found the question on stakes across the United States interesting. Given that in 1948 the bulk of the Church still lived in the intermountain west it such a question might not seem so far-fetched. There were few organized stakes outside the Mormon corridor and none overseas. What is interesting is that within a few years there was a proliferation of stake creation throughout the US and abroad.

    Comment by Steve C. — November 16, 2010 @ 10:40 am

  4. I love the Urim and Thummim, too! I liked the last line of the answer: “This discussion will prove of interest to you.” Wonder how he knew that?

    Comment by Aaron Brooks — November 16, 2010 @ 10:43 am

  5. Regarding the question that Steve mentions with the Joseph Smith quote about the stakes, see the recent, very interesting post by WVS “Where is Zion“, and don’t miss his link in the post to the different versions of the Joseph Smith sermon. Simply fascinating. My husband and I spent quite a bit of time discussing the points in that post about that question.

    Comment by Researcher — November 16, 2010 @ 11:08 am

  6. I’ve always wondered about the hand on the shoulder. It works well, I think. Makes me wonder when exactly a bunch of people surrounded another for the laying on of hands and someone said, “Hey, if we put our hands on each other’s shoulders, we’ll all fit better.” It sure has caught on thought!

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 17, 2010 @ 10:49 am

  7. For the record with this post, here is the relevant bit from Widtsoe’s book re: Urim and Thummim


    The Urim and Thummim are mentioned in the Bible in connection with priestly functions. They were to be used in making the will of the Lord clear and comprehensible to the priest. Aaron was instructed to wear the Urim and Thummim “upon his heart,” when he went to secure “judgment” from the Lord, and his successors were instructed to use the Urim and Thummim when they asked “counsel” from the Lord. Clearly, the Urim and Thummim were used in official communication with the Lord. Beyond that, little is known of them. (See Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8; Numbers 27:21; Deuteronomy 33:8; I Samuel 28:6; Ezra 2:63; Nehemiah 7:65.)

    In modern times the Urim and Thummim reappear. The Prophet Joseph Smith records that the angel Moroni said that “there was a book deposited, written on gold plates… also, that there were two stones in silver bows… and these stones fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim… deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these stones were what constituted ‘Seers’ in ancient or former times, and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 1:12).

    When the actual work of translation began, the Urim and Thummim were found to be indispensable. In various places the statement is made that the translation was made “by means of the Urim and Thummim” (D. & C. 10:1). On one occasion, when the Prophet, through the defection of Martin Harris, lost a part of the manuscript translation, the Urim and Thummim were taken from him, and the power of translation ceased. Upon the return of the sacred instruments, the work was resumed (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 1:23). While the Prophet was undoubtedly required to place himself in the proper spirit and mental attitude before he could use the Urim and Thummim successfully, yet it must also be concluded that the stones were essential to the work of translation.

    Most of the early revelations to Joseph Smith were obtained by the use of the Urim and Thummim. Speaking of those early days the Prophet usually says, “I enquired of the Lord through the Urim and Thummim, and obtained the following” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 1:33, 36, 45, 49, 53). The “stones in silver bows” seemed, therefore, to have possessed the general power of making spiritual manifestations understandable to Joseph Smith.

    The Prophet did not always receive revelations by the aid of the Urim and Thummim. As he grew in spiritual power, he learned to bring his spirit into such harmony with divinity that it became, as it were, a Urim and Thummim to him, and God’s will was revealed without the intervention of external aids. This method is clearly, though briefly, expressed in one of the early revelations.

    Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

    But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.

    But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given from me. (D. & C. 9:7-9)

    Similarly, the Book of Mormon sets forth the conditions which enable a person to receive divine communications without special outside means.

    And when you shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

    And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. (Book of Mormon, Moroni 10:4, 5)

    That is, truth may become known when one places himself in harmony or in tune with the requirements of the subject in hand.

    The possession of the Urim and Thummim, with their purpose and use, really becomes a strong evidence of the truth of Joseph Smith’s message. It is a commonplace of science that the senses of man are so poor as to make them inadequate to discover more than a small fraction of universal truth. Indeed, with unaided senses, man stands helpless before the many phenomena of nature. It is an equally elementary fact that aids of the senses of man, when found, open up large and new vistas of knowledge. Every aid to human sense becomes, in fact, a door to a new field of scientific exploration.

    The history of science is largely the story of the accumulation of aids to man’s senses. By the use of a glass prism, ordinary sunlight is broken into the many prismatic colors; a sensitive thermometer reveals heat rays above the red end of the spectrum; a photographic plate reveals the existence of different rays at the violet end of the spectrum; uranium glass changes the invisible rays at the violet end of the spectrum into light rays; a magnetic needle makes known the presence of a low tension electric current in a wire; the magnetic currents over the earth are indicated by the compass; by X-rays the bones of the body are made visible; a great telescope is now being built which will enable the human eye to see light, of the intensity of a small candle, forty thousand miles away. Such examples might be greatly multiplied.

    Joseph Smith was but a humble, inexperienced lad. He was assigned a tremendous task. His need of help such as the Urim and Thummim, until by mighty prayer and effort his body and spirit became spiritually “tuned,” seems both logical and scientific.

    It should be noted also that the Prophet does not enter into any argument to prove the necessity of the use of the Urim and Thummim. His simple mention of them argues strongly for his veracity. An impostor would probably have attempted an explanation of the “seer stones.”

    The Urim and Thummim were aids to Joseph’s spiritual senses. How they operated is not known. For that matter, the methods of operation of most of the aids to man’s physical senses are not understood. Joseph’s claim to the need of such aids becomes an evidence for the truth of his life’s labor.

    Comment by chris — November 22, 2010 @ 9:28 am

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