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. Should non-members coming to sacrament meetings partake of the sacrament or be told not to? – E.M.W., Helper, Utah.
A. Generally it is customary when non-members are known to be present in a sacrament meeting for the bishop or other presiding officer to announce that the sacrament will now be passed to members of the Church. This is done in the mission field as a means of letting the non-members know that the sacrament is designed primarily for those who belong to the Church. Most people of average intelligence understand this anyway because their own churches provide sacrament or communion primarily for the members of the church. However, if some well intentioned person of spiritual mind came to one of our meetings and desired to partake of our sacrament with real intent and with a worshipful attitude, we would not require him to abstain.
Q. Should graves be dedicated by a member of the holy priesthood or can anybody dedicate a grave? – R.V., Preston, Idaho.
A. The person appointed to offer the dedicatory prayer at the graveside should be a worthy man holding the Melchizedek Priesthood. The Melchizedek Priesthood handbook suggests that the dedication of the graves be performed by the authority of the priesthood and in the name of the Savior.
Q. Can any holder of the Melchizedek Priesthood perform a civil marriage? – A.J.B., Cedar City.
A. The handbook of instructions for stake presidents and bishops says on this subject, “presidents of stakes and bishops of wards are the only ones authorized to perform marriage ceremonies outside of the temple. In the absence or disability of one of these his counselor who under the circumstances is the acting presiding authority may officiate. Couples who marry outside of the temple should be informed of this rule and asked as far as possible not to request exceptions to it. However, when circumstances seem to justify a marriage ceremony’s being performed by someone other than the president of the stake or a bishop of a ward, permission to perform the ceremony must be obtained from the First Presidency. Presidents of stakes and bishops of wards do not have the right to delegate this authority. The request for such permission should be submitted to the First Presidency by the stake president or the bishop in behalf of the elder who wishes to perform the ceremony. They should not approve the application of any elder to perform a marriage who is not entitled to a temple recommend. If the request is approved and permission given to an elder of the Church to perform a marriage ceremony, this permission applies only to the one occasion for which it was given. Presidents of independent branches may obtain permission to perform marriage ceremonies from presidents of stakes in which the branches are located. Permission must be obtained for each ceremony to be performed.”
Q. Will you give us a little information on whether or not the Church regards the Manifesto as the revealed word of God or if it was just an action of the Church. – R.B., Salt Lake City.
A. The Church does accept the Manifesto as the revealed word of God, given through the prophet, seer and revelator of the day when it was issued, President Wilford Woodruff. A copy of the manifesto is found immediately following Section 132 in the Doctrine and Covenants. It is published in all editions of this book, and has been since the Manifesto was issued. Published with it is a motion made by President Lorenzo Snow, and adopted and passed by the Church as a whole accepting the Manifesto as authoritative and binding upon all members of the Church. In the Nov. 7, 1891 issue of the Deseret News, appears a statement by President Wilford Woodruff concerning this matter. In it he says: “I have had some revelations of late, and very important ones to me. And I will tell you what the Lord has said to me. Let me bring your minds to what is termed the Manifesto. The Lord has told me by revelation that there are many members of the Church throughout Zion who are sorely tried in their hearts because of the Manifesto, and also because of the testimony of the Presidency of the Church and the Apostles before the Master of Chancery. Since I received that revelation I have heard of many who are tried in these things. * * * The Lord has told me to ask the Latter-day Saints a question, and he also has told me that if they would listen to what I said to them and answer the question put to them, by the spirit and power of God they would all answer alike, and they would all believe alike with regard to this matter.” He then described what would have happened to the Saints if they had continued to practice plural marriage, how their property would have been confiscated, including the temple. He told how, with the temples confiscated all temple work for living and dead would have stopped. He made it clear in this statement that “the Lord showed me by vision and revelation exactly what would take place if we did not stop this practice.” He said confusion would have reigned throughout the Church, and many men would be made prisoners. He then affirmed that the Lord told him what to do about the practice of plural marriage, and the Manifesto was the result. The Manifesto did come by vision and revelation to the president of the Church, who, as the prophet, seer and revelator of the Lord, was the one appointed to make known the will of God to his people. All Latter-day Saints are bound by that Manifesto, and anyone who teaches so-called plural marriage today does so against the will and wishes of the authorities of the Church, and in doing so they subject themselves to excommunication.
Q. In Mosiah 18:4 a description is given of the place where the first Alma went with his followers, and wherein h performed his baptisms. That land is “a place which was called Mormon, having received its name from the king.” Does that mean there was a king named Mormon who lived among the descendants of Lehi at that early day? – J.R.W., Long Beach, Calif.
A. No, not necessarily. Remember if you will that the Book of Mormon is an abridgment and that we do not have the names of all prominent people living among the descendants of Lehi. The record which came to us does not contain them all, in fact they were not necessary to our understanding of the gospel. There may have been a king named Mormon, and there may not. As a matter of fact, when you read the scripture carefully it allows for another interpretation, to the effect that the king – any king – gave the land the name, but it does not necessarily followed that he called the land after his own name.
Q. Is there any set number of patriarchs to officiate in any one stake? – B.S.A., Ogden.
A. No. Every stake is entitled to one patriarch, and should have one in order to fill up its official roster, and serve the needs of the people. In large stakes some times two are appointed, and this is particularly true if one of the patriarchs is not in good health. Sometimes a patriarch may move from one stake to another. With the approval of the First Presidency, and Twelve, a stake presidency may have such a man sustained to serve in his new stake as a patriarch. He would serve in addition to the men already serving in this position. The appointment of patriarchs is reserved for the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve, who supervise their work.
Q. Is attendance at our Church meetings increasing or decreasing? There seems to be a greater interest among the people, but I wonder if it reflects in Church attendance. – R.L.P., Moroni.
A. According to the reports compiled by the Melchizedek Priesthood Committee of the Church there has been an increase of 21.42 per cent in attendance at Sacrament meeting on the part of holders of the priesthood during the period 1945 to 1947 inclusive. This should also reflect a gain in attendance of members of the families of these priesthood holders.
Q. Does the Church officially teach that Hagoth, referred to in Alma 63:4-8 was the actual forefather of the South Sea Islanders? I have heard this doctrine taught and have wondered if it was authentic. – Mrs. J.R., Manti.
A. The Church takes no official stand on this subject. All we know about Hagoth is what appears in the scriptural references you have cited. There is little doubt in the minds of the Latter-day Saints that the Polynesian peoples were descendants of Lehi, and drifted from the mainland to the South Sea Islands. But to positively identify Hagoth as one who thus drifted to the South Seas is to enter the field of speculation and try to make a decision upon a subject about which there is no revelation. We should stay with the revealed word of God, and not with speculation, for speculation does not save souls. Only the revealed truth can do that.