Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » I Have More Questions, 1890

I Have More Questions, 1890

By: Ardis E. Parshall - April 22, 2011

More questions answered in the Juvenile Instructor by, or under the direction of, George Q. Cannon —

Do the “Lost Tribes” comprise ten only or more than ten of the tribes of Israel?

This question has been submitted with reference to Sunday School Leaflet No. 195, in which the “Lost Tribes” are spoken of as the original tribes. As is generally understood, during the reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon the Israelites existed as a united kingdom. After the death of Solomon (about 975 B.C.) the tribe of Judah and part of the tribe of Benjamin accepted as their king Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, while the rest of the people, usually spoken of as the ten tribes, though really comprising ten tribes in addition to part of the tribe of Benjamin, chose Jeroboam as their ruler. Rehoboam and his subjects were known as the Kingdom of Judah and Jeroboam retained for his people the title of Kingdom of Israel. In the division of the territory secured by the two kingdoms, the northern part of the land belonging to the tribe of Benjamin, including the cities Bethel, Ramah and Jericho, fell to Jeroboam; while the southern portion of this tribe’s possessions went with Judah to Rehoboam. (See I Kings 12:29; 15:17, 21; 16:34). It is thus seen that the Kingdom of Israel, which after the Assyrian captivity (721 B.C.) came to be known as the Lost Tribes, comprised ten tribes in addition to a portion of Benjamin. This explains the common reference to these tribes as including ten and a half of the original tribes.

[A much better explanation of exactly which tribes are considered “Lost” is found in this John A. Tvedtnes article in the January 1982 Ensign.]

Is it right in order to save time to bless both the bread and the water before handing these emblems to the congregation?

It is contrary to the accepted usage of the Church.

Is it right or proper for the Deacons to pass round the emblems in the administration of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper?

Yes; the passing of the bread and water to those who partake is not a part of the administration of the ordinance: that can only be performed by brethren holding the higher Priesthood, or who are Priests after the order of Aaron. We often witness in our meetings the members of the Church passing the plate and the cup one to another. Then, surely, if the members of the Church can rightfully do this, (and it has been done regularly in the presence of the presidents of the church without stoppage or rebuke), there is no reason why the Deacons cannot do so. The meaning of the word Deacon is a helper,. In some languages that is exactly what he is called. One of his duties is to assist the Elder, Priest or Teacher in the performance of Church duties.

Should the regularly ordained Deacons attend to janitor duties for the Sunday School, or should the superintendent appoint from the scholars?

We consider that the first of the two methods mentioned is the better. It is desirable that the young men who are ordained Deacons should be given Church duties to attend to that are in the line of their calling in the Priesthood. To ordain a man to any position in the Priesthood and give him nothing to do is not a wise policy. One so neglected, as a rule, rusts out. It is particularly so with our youth; if called to the deaconship and then left severely alone they often become disappointed and grow careless and indifferent. Again, why should others be appointed to perform those duties and do that work which properly belongs, in the order of God, given to us by revelation, to the Deacons? Let every man be taught his duty and be given an opportunity to do it.

Which is the first law of heaven?

If there is any law of heaven which can properly be called the first, it is obedience. In one sense all laws of heaven are the first – as it is essential that all should be recognized, accepted and obeyed. There is a saying that “Order is heaven’s first law,” and we have found persons who imagined that this quotation was taken from the Bible. This is a mistake. It is from the writings of the English poet Pope and has no more authority to us than any other line of poetry written by him or any other verse-maker not called of God. It is evident that he is not correct, for without obedience there could be no order, therefore obedience comes first.

If a Sunday School superintendent is called on a mission should his place be filled in his absence?

This is one of those questions regarding which no general answer can be given. The Spirit of the Lord is the best guide in such cases. Let the Bishop of the ward and the stake superintendent confer together on the question, and their decision will no doubt be the correct one, as it is their privilege to know the mind of the Lord on all such matters.

Where a brother who is a Priest is an assistant superintendent in the Sunday School, is it necessary that he be ordained to the higher Priesthood before he can assist in setting Sunday School teachers apart?

As the setting apart of a Sunday School teacher confers no Priesthood, we see no reason why an assistant superintendent, who holds the office of a Priest after the order of Aaron, should not assist in setting a teacher apart. In so doing he is conferring no power which he himself does not possess.

Is it right for a brother or sister who has not fasted to partake of the Sacrament on fast day?

Yes, if his conscience acquits him of any wrong doing in not having observed the fast. We know of no law of God which forbids a man or a woman otherwise competent partaking of this holy ordinance because they have not fasted on the ordinary fast day.



  1. It appears that George Q was no lover of poetry. It almost sounds like he is making a blanket pronouncement about all poets when he says “any other verse-maker not called of God”. As to order vs obedience, maybe love might trump either, but it seems a bit like rock/paper/scissors circular logic to me.

    From a historical standpoint, I haven’t looked it up in the new handbook online, but I don’t see a bishop calling a priest to the SS presidency any time soon, nor inviting an Aaronic priesthood holder to participate in setting someone apart for their calling.

    Comment by kevinf — April 22, 2011 @ 11:52 am

  2. The arguement for allowing the Deacons to pass the sacrament would be very interesting to feminists.

    Also, his wording is interesting about blessing both the bread and water before passing it. He seems to imply there is no doctrinal reason to not do it, but it would be culturally “[un]accept[able]” to do so.

    Comment by Jacob M — April 22, 2011 @ 12:02 pm

  3. I almost never bother to say anything aloud, kevinf, but these are the kinds of things that roll through my brain whenever I hear anybody express their gratitude for the “fact” that the church never changes.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 22, 2011 @ 12:05 pm

  4. I agree with you, Jacob. I won’t make those arguments myself, or necessarily even draw attention to them in a feminist priesthood argument, but the logic is certainly there. Ditto for the “accepted usage of the church” bit.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 22, 2011 @ 12:07 pm

  5. Church President Heber J. Grant wrote a letter outlining the exact same logic as to why deacons (by his time young boys) were able to pass the sacrament. Similarly, the preparation of the sacrament table by teachers and gathering fast offerings are not priesthood duties.

    I especially like the Sunday School setting apart bit. fits into the older practices, like RS president setting apart primary officers.

    Comment by J. Stapley — April 22, 2011 @ 1:11 pm

  6. The part about whether to call a new superintendent reminds me of a case I came across of a bishop who had served a couple decades and in the middle of that was away on a mission. His counselors covered bishopric duties while he was gone. There seems to be something in that about seeing a calling as much more than an assignment, and not changed casually. If they had the saying “once a bishop always a bishop” a century ago, they would have really meant it far beyond our conception, and apparently that went for the Sunday School superintendent too.

    Comment by John Mansfield — April 22, 2011 @ 1:41 pm

  7. Having no real recollection of the pre-3-hour-block meeting schedule, I have a hard time wrapping my brain around why the calling of Sunday School Superintendant was so important.

    What was going on with the deacons in 1890 to create so much concern? (I admit that having the “most sacred ordinance outside the temple” administered by 12-year-olds is something of a non-sequiter, and I have no background on the history of how the Aaronic advancement by age developed.)

    In my brother’s stake in Northern California, the SP authorized deacons to held prepare the sacrament, as many wards had a shortage (or absence) of Teachers, and a deacons duty is to “assist the teachers in their duties”!

    Comment by Clark — April 22, 2011 @ 2:47 pm

  8. Pre-block, when there were both Primary (weekday) and Sunday School (Sunday), the SS Superintendent’s duties were easily the equivalent, if not greater, to today’s Primary President. Some of his old duties have been scattered among other positions today, too.

    For much of the 20th century, he (rather than the bishop) identified teachers, and was responsible for training them. The classes he was responsible for ranged all the way from nursery to several adult classes (Gospel Doctrine or whatever it might have been called at any period, and missionary, and parent/family relations, and family history). He ordered the supplies for the Sunday School. He was responsible for the opening exercises, including talks and concert recitations and music practices. He held a regular weekly prayer meeting for his faculty. There were Union meetings with other Sunday Schools in the stake, and beyond, with additional training.

    Now we’ve done away with opening exercises, split responsibility for the children entirely to the Primary, eliminated music practice, don’t bother to train teachers at all, don’t hold prayer meetings, and the clerk orders supplies.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 22, 2011 @ 3:09 pm

  9. Let’s see … he was also responsible for establishing and maintaining ward libraries, and teaching teachers how to make visual aids and use those new-fangled projectors and overheads. He was supposed to see that every teacher in the ward subscribed to The Instructor. People weren’t automatically members of any auxiliaries, so he was responsible for identifying and recruiting new members. He had to raise funds both for his own ward Sunday School and to help finance the General Sunday School Board travels (through Nickel Sundays, for instance, where he had to build enthusiasm in everybody to bring money to contribute on a certain day). And he had umpteen bureaucratic reports to fill out regularly for the stake and above.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 22, 2011 @ 3:14 pm

  10. Technically (though pretty much only technically), the ward library remains under the stewardship of the ward Sunday school president nowadays, as well.

    And i know a good number of female Mormons, both self-identified feminists and non-feminists, plus a few male Mormons of whatever level of feministishness, who are quite aware that the members of the church passing the sacrament trays amongst themselves is a nice bit of evidence that the distribution of the sacramental bread and water isn’t a specifically priesthood responsibility, no matter what longstanding church practice may be.

    Comment by David B — April 22, 2011 @ 4:38 pm

  11. I suppose someone should mention this bit of ugliness in connection with this discussion of passing the sacrament trays down the benches: There is anecdotal evidence that pre-1978, some members would go to elaborate and very visible lengths to pass trays around the few black members so that black hands never touched the handles of the trays, as if holding and passing the trays did require the priesthood — never mind that the member making such a nasty show might be passing the tray around the black member into the hands of a woman.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 22, 2011 @ 4:47 pm

  12. I remember when I was a teen, before the block, we had a Sunday School Superintendent who was not a member of the church. All his family was. I have no idea why he wasn’t. I think I heard he joined later so it was probably a good conversion/activation tool

    And the deacon thing, this is close to a conversation we had just this last Sunday in Teachers Quorum. One teacher, happened to by my youngest son, said that a Priest, who just happened to be his older brother, had told him that teachers should never ever touch the sacrament table. I tactfully corrected saying that the scripture authorization for you to even be there is just to assist the priests so I think it’s OK and I’ll have a talk with your brother (which I forgot to do until now!) I also remember when I was a deacon that we believed we would be struck down if he did any sacrament preparation and as a teacher that we didn’t dare touch the sacrament table during the actual ordinance.

    Comment by Grant — April 22, 2011 @ 6:02 pm

  13. For about the first 6 months after I became a deacon the ward I was in had no teachers, just deacons, about 8 of us. Since there were no teachers they let us deacons prepare the sacrament. Then one of our deacons turned 14 and was made a teacher. The following Sunday several of us deacons went to help as we were accustomed but we were told we could no longer help prepare now that we had a teacher, poor guy had to make all the trays by himself for several months untill someone else had a birthday.

    When I was a 16 year-old priest I was called to be the YM Sec., don’t know if that would be kosher now, I had my last bishop tell me about a year ago that a sister could be the SS Sec (2006 Hand book of Ins.) but neither of us had ever seen it done. I was only about 6 in 1978 so I don’t remember this personally but my father told me that in our ward in Cailf. in the mid 70’s the SS Sec was a black man.

    A year or so back our Stake RS pres spoke to the ward I was in on HC Sunday. She started her talk by tearfully bearing her testimony that one of the signs by which we could know for sure that this was the true church and was set up by God himself was that it had not chagned at all since the the day Joseph Smith started it. I briefly looked around the congregation for our “First Elder” and when I could not find him I took a mental nap for the rest of her talk.

    Comment by Andrew H — April 22, 2011 @ 11:02 pm

  14. We do have a tendency to write too much into things such as the sacrament. An older lady in my unit asked about washing the sacramental cloths. In particular she asked if it was allowable for a female to touch the cloths. I assured her that it was fine. But again, that is one of those misconceptions that creep in.

    Comment by Steve C. — April 24, 2011 @ 6:42 pm