Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Questions from the Grass Roots, 1948 (15)

Questions from the Grass Roots, 1948 (15)

By: Ardis E. Parshall - April 01, 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. Will you please tell us what instruction the Church gives with respect to our use of copyrighted music or plays? – L.H.Y., Salt Lake City.

A. The use of copyrighted music or dramatic compositions in any of our church buildings without a license subjects the owners of the building to a fine for each performance. Copyrighted music or plays should not be used without first obtaining permission from the author or the owner of the copyright so as to avoid any infringement of the copyright law. If proper explanation is made that any contributions received at the performance are to be used for religious or charitable purposes exclusively, permission may be secured in most instances from the author or copyright owner for use of their plays without cost to the ward.

Q. Mention of ink is sometimes made in the old scriptures. Is it possible that the ancient people used ink in their writing? – L.R., Salt Lake City.

A. The people in ancient times did use a type of ink which they manufactured from a combination of soot, charcoal and gum mixed with water. This ink was very black. It could with little difficulty be washed from parchments, but if left the color persisted indefinitely. In consistency it was about the same as our printers ink of today. Josephus indicates that different colors were used. See Jeremiah 36:18; 2 Cor. 3:3; Second John chapter 12.

Q. How often does the Church take a census of its members? – A.L.B., Preston, Idaho.

A. Every five years a census of the Church is taken. In making the census, an effort is made to obtain names of all persons claiming to be members of the Church whether on record in that ward or branch or not. The ward record of members is checked and adjusted according to the census. If it is discovered after the census is taken and checked that names of some persons on the record are not residing in the ward, membership record cards are forwarded to the Presiding Bishop’s office. If there are members residing in the ward whose names are not on record as members, bishops of those wards request that records of such persons be sent to the ward from the Presiding Bishop’s office.

Q. Can persons from other states be married in the temples of Utah without having to have a serological test? – W.O., Ely, Nev.

A. The instructions issued by the First Presidency on this subject say that, “In order to avoid serological tests, some couples are civilly married in a state not requiring serological tests and then immediately apply for recommends to one of the temples in Utah for sealing. An unwillingness to submit to a test raises in itself a question which rather accentuates the need for the test. Therefore couples who have been married civilly since the Utah statute went into effect Feb. 28, 1941 are not admitted to the temple to be sealed without their first having passed their serological test. Bishops will not issue recommends to any such couple to be sealed in the temple until they have complied with the requirements of the law and present the necessary certificates.”

Q. What is the attitude of the Church with respect to raffling and games of chance? – A.L.B., Logan.

A. Several of the leaders of the Church have clearly expressed themselves as in opposition to games of chance and raffling. President Joseph F. Smith said, “Raffling is a chance and hence leads to gambling. For that reason if for no other it should not be encouraged among the young people of the Church.” President Brigham Young declared raffling to be a modified form of gambling and said that as latter-day Saints we cannot afford to sacrifice moral principles to financial gain. President Lorenzo Snow said, “I have often expressed my unqualified disapproval of raffling.” President Grant said, “I have always understood that our people were advised to raise their money for charitable and ward purposes without indulging in raffling where chances are sold. There is no objection to creating competition in various ways in ward entertainments but the selling of chances on any article is being discouraged.” It is recommended by the present general authorities that raffling be not used as a means of raising funds among our people.

Q. When persons commit crimes and are sent to prison because of them, are they excommunicated from the Church? – G.T., Ogden.

A. Every person overtaken in transgression is entitled to a hearing. When a person is confined to a prison or reformatory a letter should be written to him directing his attention to the trial and conviction and inquiring how he feels and whether he desires to retain his membership in the Church – that forgiveness is only possible upon sincere repentance. The person should be invited to declare himself fully and freely. If he evidences a spirit of repentance and desires to retain his membership in the Church, action by the bishop’s court should be deferred, but the person should be requested to report to the bishopric as soon as possible after being released from prison. The case may then be reviewed and final decision made. If the individual does not care about his membership and so expresses himself, waiving the right to appear before the bishop’s court, he may be handled in the usual manner for the events for which he was convicted in the civil court. Cases of murder and persistent sex crimes are in a different category, however, and usually excommunication follows immediately in such instances.

Q. Is God the Father really and actually our true Father in every sense of the word or only in the same sense that George Washington is the father of our country? – Mrs. R.K., Salt Lake City.

A. God is literally the father of our spirits. The epistle to the Hebrews chapter 12 verse 9 speaks of God as the father of our spirits. Paul in Acts 17:28-29 declares that we are the offspring of God. Jesus, when He sent Mary to tell the disciples of His resurrection, said, as it is recorded in John 20:17, ‘I ascend to my Father and to your Father.” The entire doctrine of the pre-existence as understood by the Latter-day Saints is based upon the proposition that we are the spirit offspring of God and that He is literally the Father of our spirits in the same sense in which our fathers here in mortality are the fathers of our flesh. Read Discourses of Brigham Young, pages 36-37.

Q. Did we have the choice before we came to earth as to whom we would have for our parents and at what time of the world’s history we would be sent to mortality? – G.E.W., Salt Lake City.

A. There is no revelation on this subject.

Q. Does the fact that we have been baptized for the remission of sins of which we have repented mean that we will not have to be punished for our sins? – E.W., Green River, Wyoming.

A. We suggest that you read Section 10 of the Doctrine and Covenants where we see that if we truly repent we will not have to suffer for sins. We must remember, however, what true repentance is, and that it includes complete abandonment of the practice whereby we have broken the law.

Q. Is it right for any person in the ward to try to promote any social schemes or business deals through our quorum or other meetings? – T.D.M., Ogden.

A. Religious meetings and classes are not the proper places for advocating private financial schemes. From time to time individuals or groups engaged in promoting some business or social welfare organization take improper advantage of the people by invoking quotations from standard Church works and from Church authorities and by arguing in Church gatherings in support of their propositions. Any business or social scheme which requires bolstering by argument based on Church doctrine or history is one of which the people may well be careful. Whenever any social order is to be established in the Church it will of course be made known through the First Presidency.

Q. We have had an argument. Is it all right to begin dancing at midnight Sunday if a holiday falls on Monday, providing we have otherwise observed the Sabbath day? – S.L.T., Brigham City.

A. Dances which begin at midnight Sunday when a holiday falls on Monday and continue until the early hours of the morning are not looked upon with approval by the Church. Church officers are urged to use their influence to see that this practice is discouraged among our people. Under no circumstances should such things be conducted under Church supervision or in Church buildings. This applies also to dances which extend beyond reasonable and legitimate hours for closing, even though they begin in the evening.



  1. Hmm. I think I am aware of some New Year’s dances starting at 12:01am on Mondays, preceded by firesides and fellowshipping potlucks.

    Interesting stance on serological testing.

    Comment by kew — April 1, 2011 @ 7:06 am

  2. I didn’t know what serological testing was! (Had to look it up.) I’m still not clear why blood tests were required for a Utah marriage license. Please tell me the requirement had nothing to do with race and instead is just a health and safety reg?

    Anyhow, I was interested to read that an incarcerated person could retain membership in the Church and defer a disciplinary hearing until after they got out of prison. Am I reading that wrong?

    Comment by David Y. — April 1, 2011 @ 9:48 am

  3. Oh, and as much as I love George Q. Cannon’s “we don’t know” responses, I really, really like this brief one: “There is no revelation on this subject.”

    [filing that one away for the next Elder’s Quorum/Sunday School class discussion]

    Comment by David Y. — April 1, 2011 @ 9:53 am

  4. David, I’m 99.9% certain the testing requirement had to do with venereal diseases only (tests can’t determine race anyway, so far as I know).

    And yes, I think you’re reading that prison question right, that under some circumstances (responding to the notification letter, showing a repentant attitude and a desire to maintain membership, and barring murder or sex crime), a prisoner’s trial for his membership could be postponed until he was available in person to plead his case. I have no idea of current practice — does anyone?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 1, 2011 @ 9:59 am

  5. When I got a marriage license in Utah in 1976, blood tests were required. And Ardis is right–the tests were for VD.

    I didn’t study for it, unlike the guy who spent two months studying for his Wasserman Test.

    Comment by Mark B. — April 1, 2011 @ 11:41 am

  6. The question about choosing one’s parents and the following answer were interesting. My wife had a BYU instructor give the class some “statements” about the “doctrine of spiritual attraction” which purported that spirits waiting for mortality are attracted to similar spirits based on the spiritual development of both the child and parents. Other than this sheet my wife had, I had never seen anything regarding this. Has anyone else seen anything similar?

    Comment by Steve C. — April 1, 2011 @ 11:57 am

  7. I’m shocked and appalled that someone might use a priesthood quorum meeting to promote a business scheme. Does that really happen? :-)

    Comment by Steve C. — April 1, 2011 @ 11:59 am

  8. I’ve never seen anything like that, Steve, but a couple of years ago when there was a Gospel Doctrine lesson about premortality, I really stressed that we knew only X, Y, and Z from either the scriptures or prophetic teachings, and that romantic notions like A, B, and C, that we sometimes heard were not doctrinal, but came from cultural pseudo-doctrine (like Nephi Anderson’s Added Upon). I thought I had done a pretty good job of teaching that point … until someone raised her hand and bore a very vehement testimony to the “fact” that we not only chose our parents, but we also specifically chose and approved each and every trial we would have in life. I was flabbergasted by her forcefulness — which seemed as much directed to refuting my “false” teachings about what we don’t know about premortality as to insisting on what she thought was truth — and am afraid I stood there with my jaw hanging.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 1, 2011 @ 12:11 pm

  9. →I wonder if the ink question was asked by someone who thought all ancient scriptures must have been kept on metal plates. (That’s something that i’ve actually heard a handful of Mormons claim. Happily, they’ve always been gently corrected every time i’ve seen that.)

    →The clerical undertaking necessary to track members back when it was all pen and paper boggles my mind. Yeah, there were fewer members then, but still.

    →Yes, blood tests for marriage licenses were to test for STDs, and they’re still required by a large but slowly shrinking number of states. Maryland hasn’t ever required them, as far as i can tell, which means that marriage in the Washington DC temple (which is actually in Kensington, Maryland) has never required a blood test. If i read this answer right, though, a Mormon couple from Maryland (not that there would have been many at this time) would still have had to get a blood test to be sealed. Interesting situation of extending Utah’s norms and customs (and laws!) to Mormons outside of that state.

    →Interesting differences between current and past practices regarding church membership and criminal conviction.

    →“Any business or social scheme which requires bolstering by argument based on Church doctrine or history is one of which the people may well be careful.” I am so going to memorize this quote and use it.

    →The church’s Handbook has at times painfully legalistic rules for what times church activities can begin and end. Given that questions like whether they can start midnight Sunday/Monday night have come up in the past, i guess i can understand why a bit better now.

    →And finally, how can they say we have no revelation on whether we chose our parents? We have Saturday’s Warrior, don’t we? 😉

    Comment by David B — April 1, 2011 @ 12:17 pm

  10. The business solicitations? I just got the latest in a series of multi-level-marketing-related emails from someone at church. Why oh why. I thought I lived far enough from Utah County to avoid this sort of thing.

    And on the subject of Saturday’s Warrior, I tried to watch a production of that a couple of years ago on BYU TV to see if it was something I wanted to show my kids (a piece of my childhood and all that) but it was so horrid that I couldn’t bear to watch more than about five minutes of it. I sure hope BYU TV isn’t still showing it since it violates most of the provisions of the 13th Article of Faith.

    Comment by Researcher — April 1, 2011 @ 12:24 pm

  11. Well, Ardis, you shouldn’t have tried to crush her testimony. :)

    My first thought about the blood test was the race thing, but then I realized that they probably couldn’t tell someone’s race via blood that long ago.

    My question to the answerer would be, what about someone whose falsely convicted of murder? It has been known to happen over the years.

    Comment by Jacob M — April 1, 2011 @ 12:26 pm

  12. I am cautious of things people suggest about the pre-existance anyway. There is really very little we do know doctrinally (Saturday’s Warriors notwithstanding).

    When my wife and I got married in L.A., California required a blood test. When we went to get our license, they didn’t accept my blood test since it was out of state (and this was a couple of days before our marriage). We finally found a judge who exempted that for us and issued the license. But now I wonder, is our sealing invalid??? Are we not really married??? :-)

    Comment by Steve C. — April 1, 2011 @ 12:27 pm

  13. This is a really interesting set.

    I thought the blood test thing was for having kids. Looks like it was discovered in 1940, so it seems to match with the 1941 law.
    When I got married (late 90’s) in Idaho, it was required to state your blood type, but nobody was going to prohibit marriage on that basis. It was just to alert you to the potential problem if kids were in the future.

    I love the answer to the “did we choose our parents” question. I am aware of several individuals whose patriarchal blessings mention commitments and relationships formed in the preexistence, FWIW.

    And yes, the “using the Church for business dealings’ answer was also a classic.

    Comment by Clark — April 1, 2011 @ 12:57 pm

  14. Is Utah County really the home of church-related multi-level marketing schemes. Oh, yeah. How could I have forgotten Nu-Scam!

    And as to Saturday’s Warriors, all lawyers with a passing knowledge of ancient law should remember that there’s lex talionis, lex naturae and lex de acevedo.

    I suspect that the requirement for blood tests before temple sealings applied to those whose sealings followed immediately after their civil marriage, which was permitted in those days.

    Comment by Mark B. — April 1, 2011 @ 1:45 pm

  15. Mark B. (#14): I’m Facebook-conditioned enough that i read your second paragraph and immediately looked for the “Like” button.

    Comment by David B — April 1, 2011 @ 2:13 pm

  16. The missionaries who baptized me gave me Added Upon as a baptism present. And a certain musical came to town right around then. And I was 15. Let’s just say it was a bit of shock to figure out that “there was no revelation on this subject.”

    Comment by Jami — April 2, 2011 @ 12:33 pm

  17. It was explained to me that the blood testing was to make you aware of the “Rh factor” problem if you have that particular combination of blood types. Positive father and negative mother could be very dangerous to a baby. But STD information was mentioned as a precaution.

    I liked that he pointed out that it seemed sneaky to try to avoid it.

    Comment by Carol — April 2, 2011 @ 6:38 pm

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