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. Are the stories that are told of the childhood and youth of Christ to be accepted seriously?
A. Such stories are not to be accepted as fact. The only actual reference to the childhood of Christ is that which appears in the New Testament telling of his appearance in the temple when he was twelve years old. Stories about him as a child making toy birds and then touching them so that they became alive, and other such stories, are pure fiction.
Q. Do presidents of high priest quorums have to be set apart by one of the General Authorities or does the stake president set this officer apart?
A. It is customary for one of the First Presidency, the Council of the Twelve, or one of the Assistants to the Council of the Twelve to set apart the president of the high priest quorums. However, with the proper approval, the counselors to the president of the high priests quorum may be set apart by members of the stake presidency. Presidencies of high priest quorums must be approved by the General Authorities before being set apart.
Q. Can we accept the archeological discoveries in Central and South America as conclusive evidence of the divinity of the Book of Mormon?
A. The discoveries in Central and South America are extremely interesting and may be considered as corroborative evidence of the Book of Mormon. But one would hardly be safe in basing his full faith in the Book of Mormon upon such discoveries as these. Many of these discoveries have been misinterpreted. However, there are many things of interest in connection with them. Some of the traditions respecting the Messiah as handed down by some of the Indians in the western hemisphere are likewise extremely interesting. Some of the early Mexicans had a story concerning the incarnation and the crucifixion and atonement. The story of the life of the Mexican divinity Quetzalcoatl closely resembles that of the Savior; so closely indeed, that Quetzalcoatl and Jesus were the same being. The history of the former has been handed down to us through an impure source which has sadly disfigured and perverted the original incidents and teachings of the Savior’s life and ministry.
Q. Was the establishment of stakes in the Church done as the result of some revelation or was it just established without revelation.
A. The establishment of stakes in the Church was done as the result of direction received in a revelation from the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith. Here are a few references, all from the Doctrine and Covenants: Section 68:25; 82:14; 101:21`; 107:36-37; 101:39; 59; 115:6; 18; 199:7; 124:36, 134; 125:4; 133:9. See footnote, Essentials in Church History, pg. 146-147.
Q. Are persons who leave our Church to join other churches considered apostates? Should action be taken against them, resulting in excommunication, and how long should we wait before action is taken against such an individual? – A.B.D., Vernal, Utah.
A. Usually when a person leaves our Church to join another church it is evidence of apostasy. In a case of this kind immediately upon the word being given to the bishop of the ward concerning the action of such individual, the bishop should call in the person before the bishop’s court to determine the reasons for their action. If the person is apostate, he should be excommunicated either by the bishop’s court or the stake high council. If, however, there is any opportunity of recovering that person and bringing him back into activity in our own Church and helping him to realize the mistake which he has made, excommunication should be delayed and a labor be taken up with the individual looking toward his repentance.
Q. Recently you said something about Jesus being the Jehovah of the Old Testament. Can you tell me anything more about Bible references on this subject? – GHC, Salt Lake.
A. Bible scholars say that the name Jehovah was used back even in the days of Adam. The word “Lord” is used in some of the translations in place of what appeared as “Jehovah” in the original. In the American revision of 1881-1885, for instance, in the 18th chapter of Genesis, we find the following: “And Jehovah appeared unto him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day.” All through this translation, and likewise in others, the name Jehovah appears in the days of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We understand that the Hebrew revisions or copies of the ancient scriptures contain the name Jehovah. That is as far as we can go back in the original language of the Old Testament. The fact is that all of these translations or revisions of the Bible are imperfect and carry the interpretations of the translations who, without exception, were uninspired. However, you will be interested in the manner in which the Prophet Joseph Smith, in his revised version of the scriptures, recorded one of the Lord’s interviews with Moses: “And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the Lord; and I appeared unto Abraham, to Isaac and unto Jacob. I am the Lord God almighty; the Lord Jehovah. And was not my name known unto them?”
Q. Will you please explain what constitutes fasting on fast day? – L.W., Heber City.
A. The handbook of instructions issued by the General Authorities for use of the stake presidents and bishops has this to say in answer to your question: “Fasting is a form of self denial for self mastery. It is a physical sacrifice for spiritual blessing. All saints should be urged to observe the fast day and enjoy the blessings derived thereby. In general, fasting means taking nothing into the body. No direct instruction is given in the Doctrine and Covenants regarding abstaining from water while fasting; but in the Bible there are three references wherein the drinking of water was omitted during the period of the fast. These are Exodus 34:28 and Deut. 9:9-18 where it states that Moses ‘did neither eat bread nor drink water’; and the Book of Esther 4:13 where Esther asks the Jews to fast for her and neither eat nor drink. The spirit of fasting is the main thing to encourage. Too much stress should not be placed on technical details but the abstaining from two meals as a form of self denial, striving for spiritual strength, and donating for the benefit of the poor should be kept constantly in mind. The amount of the fast offering should be the equivalent of the cost of the two meals from which one abstains. Church members should be as conscientious in this respect as they are expected to be in the payment of tithing.”
Q. Do animals, birds, and plants have spirits, as human beings do? – B.E., Farmington, New Mex.
A. Animals, birds, fish, and plant life were all created spiritually before they were placed temporally upon the earth. If you will read the third chapter of the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price you will see that this is true according to the word of the Lord. The fourth and fifth verses of that chapter read: “And now behold I say unto you that these are the generations of the heaven and the earth when they were created in the day when I the Lord God made the heaven and the earth; and every plant in the fields before it was in the earth and every herb of the field before it grew. For I the Lord God created all things of which I have spoken spiritually before they were naturally upon the face of the earth.” (See also D. & C. 29:23-24; 77:2.)
Q. If we take the Doctrine and Covenants literally, it would seem that the Lord is an unjust God in rewarding exaltation only to those who have heard and accepted the Gospel in mortal life, which of course is contrary to good reasoning. Is it not possible for a person who has not had the opportunity of accepting the Gospel in mortal life to receive exaltation in the Celestial kingdom by having his earthly ordinances performed by proxy in the temple? – E.B., Colorado.
A. You surely have misunderstood the Doctrine and Covenants if you get the idea from it that the Lord is unjust and that He will give exaltation only to those who have heard and accepted the Gospel in mortal life. This is not the teaching of the Church at all. The whole philosophy of the doctrine of salvation for the dead is that persons who have not had the opportunity of hearing the Gospel in life do have it preached to them in the spirit world, and if they accept the Gospel and also if they accept vicarious ordinances performed for them in the temple by their living relatives or others who may do the work, they may go on to their salvation and exaltation. We suggest that you read what has been written on the doctrine of salvation of the dead in such books as, The Way to Perfection by Joseph Fielding Smith, the Articles of Faith by Talmage, and many others. We have a missionary tract entitled The Plan of Salvation which will explain the doctrine to you if you will read it.
President Brigham Young (page 404 of the book entitled The Discourses of Brigham Young) taught “Hundreds of millions of human beings have been born, lived out their short earthly span, and passed away ignorant alike of themselves and of the plan of salvation provided for them. It gives great consolation however to know that this glorious plan devised by heaven follows them into the next existence, offering for their acceptance eternal life and exaltation, thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers in the presence of their Father and God through Jesus Christ His Son.”