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Questions from the Grass Roots, 1948 (12)

By: Ardis E. Parshall - January 14, 2011

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. Why do we not allow weddings to be performed in our ward chapels? – J.P., Washington, D.C.

A. Occasionally young couples who for various reasons do not go to the temple to be married desire elaborate church weddings in ward chapels. This is not permitted because the Church does not desire to introduce sectarian wedding customs into our chapels with candles and all the other display which often accompanies such marriages. Our Church always advocates temple marriages because they are ordinances of the Gospel just as baptisms are and should be complied with by all true Latter-day Saints. The so-called church wedding in a chapel, however elaborate it may be, is after all, merely a civil marriage and cannot in any manner take the place of the temple form of marriage. Although the use of chapels for civil marriage ceremonies is discouraged, there is no objection to holding wedding receptions in the recreation halls. If the couple to be married desires the ceremony to be performed just prior to the reception, permission may be granted to conduct a simple service in the recreation hall or lounge. In civil ceremonies the Latter-day Saint couple should be admonished to have either the bishop or the president of the stake to perform the ceremony.

Q. Is it proper for the Ward clerk to take turns with the bishop and his counselors in conducting meetings? – A.L.Z., Bennion, Utah.

A. It is not customary for the ward clerk to take turns with members of the bishopric in conducting meetings. A ward clerk is not a member of the bishopric and holds no position of presidency. The conducting of the meetings should be in the hands of the executive officers of the organizations and general ward meetings should be conducted by members of the bishopric themselves.

Q. When and by whom was Section 135 of the Doctrine and Covenants written, and are the statements therein contained true? – G.H.J., Nephi, Utah.

A. The statements in the 135th section of the Doctrine and Covenants are literally true. If they were not, that section would not have been included in the Doctrine and Covenants. It is an official statement of the Church and is accepted as such. It may be regarded as authentic history with respect to the events covered, and you need have no worry or fear as to whether or not the statements contained therein are true. It was prepared under the direction of the surviving officials of the Church. We suggest that you read Chapter 33, in Vol. 6 of the History of The Church. You will see there a more detailed account of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum corroborating in full what you read in Section 135. Section 135 of the Doctrine and Covenants was written by Pres. John Taylor following the death of the Prophet. It was published in the 1844 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.

Q. In a book I recently bought, reference is made to the book of Jashar. is there such a book in the Bible? – Z.L., Springville.

A. The book of Jashar is an ancient collection of poetical compositions celebrating the earlier heroes and conquests of Israel. It is twice expressly quoted in the Old Testament (Joshua 10:13; II Sam. 1:18). A third quotation is probably to be found in I Kings 8:12. The book was put together after the time of David and before the 8th Century, B.C. It is not regarded as scripture.

Q. In our Sunday School class a discussion arose concerning the weight of the plates received by Joseph Smith from the Angel Moroni. One member of the class said they must weigh 350 pounds and it would be impossible for Joseph Smith to carry them down off the hill and put them in the wagon. Can you help me? – C.B., Castledale, Utah.

A. The plates were sufficiently light to permit the Prophet to put them under his arm and carry them down the hill and take them home. We refer you to the testimony of the eight witnesses as it is printed in the first part of the Book of Mormon. There you will see that the witnesses declared that they actually had the plates in their hands and “hefted” them. This, of course, would have been utterly impossible had the plates weighed anything like 350 pounds. The Prophet Joseph Smith did not at any time say exactly what the plates weighed, but it is evident from the history of the Church that men were able to handle them and hold them and carry them in their own hands. The idea that the plates were too heavy to be lifted is an old cry by enemies of the Church. History disputes this falsehood.

Q. Will you please tell me the names of the presidents of each one of the temples in the Church? – A.C., Payson, Ut.

A. Alberta Temple, Willard L. Smith; Arizona Temple, Harry L. Payne; Hawaiian Temple, Ralph E. Woolley; Idaho Falls Temple, David Smith; Logan Temple, ElRay L. Christiansen; Manti Temple, Lewis R. Anderson; St. George Temple, Harold S. Snow; Salt Lake Temple, Joseph Fielding Smith.

Q. Is it true that plural marriage is required to obtain the highest degree of glory? – G.K., Salt Lake City.

A. Definitely not. The Church teaches no such thing as that. Certain cult leaders are trying to advocate this doctrine among the people, but it is false.

Q. Who were the Prophets Zenos and Zenock referred to in the Book of Mormon? The information given in the Book of Mormon is so slight. – T.O.L., Richfield.

A. There is no more information available than appears in the Book of Mormon record.

Q. Were the Twelve among the Nephites apostles or not? – C.P.D., Virginia, Idaho.

A. The Book of Mormon refers to them as disciples. In no places does it call them apostles. We have no further information on the subject than what appears in the Book of Mormon itself.

Q. Some people from the eastern United States have recently moved next to me. They know nothing about our Church or our teachings. Will you recommend to me some book that I may give them which would provide an introduction to our people and faith? – W.E.B., Ogden.

A. The Church has but recently published a book intended for this very use. It is entitled “What of the Mormons?” It was published by the Church for missionary use and for distribution to persons who, as you say, desire an introduction to our work. The book was written by Gordon Hinckley, and is available at the Deseret Book Company.

Q. Why did spiritual gifts stop in the Church in ancient or medieval times?

A. According to John Wesley, in sermon 89, volume 7 of his works, it was that “the love of many, almost all Christians so called, was waxed cold. The Christians had no more of the spirit of Christ than the heathens. The Son of man, when He came to examine His Church, could hardly find faith upon the earth. This was the real cause why the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were no longer to be found in the Christian Church – because the Christians were turned heathen and had only a dead form left.” In this connection we recommend that you read the seventh chapter of Moroni in the Book of Mormon, particularly that section beginning with verse 35. Among other things, the ancient prophet says: “For if these things have ceased, woe be unto the children of men, because it is because of unbelief and all is vain.” Read the whole chapter. It is worthwhile.

Q. Why do we as Latter-day Saints teach that God is omni-present when we believe that He is a person and can be in one place only at a time?

A. The book “The Articles of Faith” will give you a reply to this question under the caption “Some of the Divine Attributes.” Elder James E. Talmage, the author, says, “There is no part of creation, however remote, into which God cannot penetrate; through the medium of the spirit the Godhead is in direct communication with all things at all times. It has been said, therefore, that God is everywhere present; but this does not mean that the actual person of any one member of the Godhead can be physically present in more than one place at one time. The senses of each of the Trinity are of infinite power; his mind is of limitless capacity; his powers of transferring himself from place to place are infinite; plainly, however, his person cannot be in more than one place at any one time. Admitting the personality of God, we are compelled to accept the fact of his materiality; indeed, an immaterial being, under which meaningless name some have sought to designate the condition of God, cannot exist, for the very expression is a contradiction in terms. If God possesses a form, that form is of necessity of definite proportions and therefore of limited extension in space. It is impossibly for him to occupy at one time more than one space of such limits; and it is not surprising, therefore, to learn from the scriptures that he moves from place to place. Thus we read in connection with the account of the Tower of Babel, ‘And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower.’ Again, God appeared to Abraham, and having declared himself to be ‘the Almighty God,’ he talked with the patriarch, and established a covenant with him; then we read: ‘And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.’” (P. 42-43.)



13 Comments »

  1. Much of this column sounds like the good old Mormonism of my youth.

    But perhaps the reason for that is just that I have lived well outside the Mormon cultural center for much of my adult life. Perhaps things like this are still being debated and discussed in Sunday School and seminary classes in areas of high Mormon concentration.

    Comment by Researcher — January 14, 2011 @ 9:29 am

  2. Gordon Hinckley!

    Comment by J. Stapley — January 14, 2011 @ 9:42 am

  3. Other than the why-no-weddings-in-chapels question which has been raised occasionally on the blogs, I don’t recall much of this having been discussed recently, although it’s all familiar to me from my youth (not that we discussed these questions endlessly, but at some time or another Zenos and Jasher and divine omnipresence and the weight of the plates did all come up). It all seems to be part of the seldom-discussed background of Mormonism that somehow endures no matter how seldom it’s discussed.

    Some things do change, however. Young men sometimes sprout middle initials in middle age.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 14, 2011 @ 9:49 am

  4. Ardis: I thought the initial (middle or first) was bestowed when one is called as a General Authority.

    Comment by Bookslinger — January 14, 2011 @ 9:56 am

  5. … which usually happens when the young man reaches middle age! : )

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 14, 2011 @ 10:33 am

  6. I have two guesses about where the obsession with middle initials came from. First was Joseph F. Smith, where the initial was necessary to distinguish him from his uncle.

    The other was the U.S. Army, which insisted on calling men by their first name, middle initial, surname. Thus did my uncle who went be Terrance among all his childhood acquaintances become Dan T. after his time in the service.

    (For today only)

    Mark E. B.

    Comment by Mark B. — January 14, 2011 @ 10:52 am

  7. I think it did start in Joseph F.’s generation — when he was a child, well before he became a leader. There are lots of references in letters to “Ezra T.” and “John W.” and so on, in a familiar way as if that is how the correspondents were used to referring to their friends and brothers in daily life. Huge families, intimate associations, frequent naming of children after associates, and a need to distinguish one Heber or Brigham or Joseph from all the others!

    One reason I use my middle initial, of course, is the need to distinguish myself from all the other Ardi out there, especially all the other Ardis Parshalls. It’s such a burden.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 14, 2011 @ 11:11 am

  8. I don’t recall often seeing the term “Trinity” used in our church discussions of the Godhead, as the author did in the answer to the last question. Was that more prevalent in other times? From my reading, I haven’t run across it all that much, but then it’s been a while since I did any reading in Widstoe or Talmage, for example.

    Kevin H F(since I am well into, or perhaps on the downhill slope, of my middle age!)

    Comment by kevinf — January 14, 2011 @ 11:50 am

  9. Many Ardi are called, but only one Ardis is chosen.

    Comment by kevinf — January 14, 2011 @ 11:51 am

  10. Good question, kevinf. I just searched Jesus the Christ and found three instances of “Trinity,” one of which is a quotation from the Athanasian Creed. It does sound unfamiliar to me and I can’t recall using that word myself, ever. Anybody else?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 14, 2011 @ 12:15 pm

  11. Anthony:

    Please read the “first installment” linked in the first line of this post for more information on the source of these questions and answers.

    Your comment is unrelated to anything in this post and is solely calculated to draw attention to your own site with its, shall we say, esoteric and non-mainstream Mormon thought. While your comment will remain visible to you for a time, it has not been and will not be posted publicly. Thank you for visiting.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 14, 2011 @ 1:35 pm

  12. That John Wesley quote has long drawn the attention of Mormons:

    http://www.juvenileinstructor.org/from-the-archives-john-wesley-the-latter-day-saint/

    Comment by Christopher — January 15, 2011 @ 1:12 pm

  13. I came across a letter written by Gordon B. Hinckley shortly after his return from his mission in the late 1930s. He signed it “Gordon B. Hinckley.” This was well before he was middle-aged/called to be a general authority. On the other hand, it just might have been an instance of a formal signature ending a letter.

    I was intrigued by the question about plural marriage. The “fundamentalist Mormons” have been a problem for a long time.

    Comment by Steve C. — January 15, 2011 @ 4:13 pm

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