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I Have a Question, 1840

By: Ardis E. Parshall - December 01, 2011

Questions answered by Parley P. Pratt in the Millennial Star

Question: If a brother in the Church be in debt to another brother, and does not appear to aim at paying him, what is to be done? The creditor does not wish to go to law at any rate, before the unjust; but is he to have no way of obtaining his due? Or, should he lay his case before some of the officers of the Church, for them to decide whether the debtor be a transgressor or no, and deal with him accordingly?

Answer: If he does not aim at paying, he is a transgressor; for the law requires him to pay his brethren their due, as well as all other men; and if, after following the instructions of Matthew xviii., 15 and 16, he will not offer satisfaction, tell it to the Church (Officers or council,) and if the Church decide that he is a transgressor, they will, of course, cut him off, and then the brother can have restitution through the laws of the land.

Question: In baptizing, suppose I should fail to cover the person, say his hands or his face were not covered, would this neglect be censurable on my part? And how far might I go in such neglect, and yet the ordinance be accepted of God, and the design of it be answered?

Answer: If neglect arose through carelessness, you would be highly censurable; but if, from scarcity of water, as is sometimes the case, or from some exertion or unusual action of the candidate, or a slipping of your own foot, &c., &c., you might not be censurable. God acts upon reasonable principles; and as the ordinance is “not the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience,” God would accept the offering, should such a casualty occur; but we say to all Elders and Priests, see to it that you bury those who offer themselves for baptism, and thus cut off all occasion for observations on this point.

Question: If one, who is not a member of the Church, be sick, and requests me to pray for him, if he be not willing to obey the Gospel should I lay my hands on him, or anoint him with oil?

Answer: If you cannot consistently administer in the name of Jesus to one who does not believe in Jesus, why should you administer to such an one? For “in vain do ye call me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say.”

Question: As it is lawful to administer the sacrament to one who wishes to be baptized, and cannot, because of her husband or father; is it lawful to confirm the person into the Church?

Answer: No: baptism always precedes confirmation: but it is the privilege of the Elders to lay their hands on such, and bless them in the name of the Lord, as the spirit directs.

Question: May a Teacher break the bread or pour out the wine at sacrament, or carry it to the Saints; and may he preach in the congregation of the Saints?

Answer: See 1st No. of the STAR, 10 page, 11 par.: “but neither Teacher nor Deacon have authority to baptize, administer the sacrament, or lay on hands,” yet they may pass the bread and wine; and as they are standing ministers unto the church, it is especially the Teacher’s duty to preach to the Saints in their assemblies, or at home, or whenever they have the opportunity, and teach them the things of the kingdom, according to the revelations.

Question: Ought the elders and Priests, when their testimony is rejected, tow ash their feet, &c.; and is there no hope of those against whom they wash their feet? An idea has gone out that we consider such sealed up for destruction. Is the washing of feet, in this way, anything more than a testimony that we are clear of their blood, when we bear testimony of it before God?

Answer: Certainly; see the STAR, page 80, par. 16: and when the Elders and Priests have borne a faithful testimony to any city, town, village or person, and that testimony is rejected, and they have fulfilled the revelation, and borne testimony unto the father in the name of Jesus, that city, town, village, or person is in the hands of a righteous God, who will do with them according to his own pleasure; we are clear from their blood.

Question: Is it right for the Elders, in their preaching, to talk of the conduct and characters of the sects? Does the church at all sanction it? Is the church at war with them, or false principles?

Answer: It is the duty of the Elders to preach the Gospel of life and salvation to all men, sects, denominations and parties so far as they can get opportunity, and show all how they may come back again to the presence of God; and, if this come in contact with party feelings, we cannot help it; but by all means avoid calling any man or set of men, as it only tends to irritate and drive men from the truth.

Question: Is it expedient to call out our opponents to discussion?

Answer: No: but if we are opposed in the principles we teach, we will defend the truth with the sword of the Spirit, and, in meekness, instruct those who oppose themselves.

Question: Are we required to go from house to house to preach?

Answer: Yes: and this is sometimes very profitable, and should be practised when no more extensive field presents itself. The ancient servants accomplished much in this way, and so may we.

Question: Would it be well to establish Sunday Schools in the Church?

Answer: Certainly: let the Elders gather the people together, old and young, every Sabbath day, in the streets, if no more convenient place offers, and teach them the first principles of the Gospel of Christ, viz.: – faith, repentance, and baptism for the remission of sins, for the first lesson; eating and drinking at the table of the Lord, laying on of hands for the reception of the Holy ghost, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment, for the second lesson; and, for the third lesson, let parents teach their children obedience, and train them in the way they should go; and, finally, let the Elders, Brothers and Sisters, all with one accord, teach their friends, neighbours, and all within their reach, those principles which will make them virtuous and wise unto salvation, and practise what they preach on the Sabbath and six other days in each week, even unto the end, and they will find it a very profitable school, and receive a glorious reward for their labours.

Question: Should a woman be subject to her husband, and not be baptized, though he be ever so wicked and profligate, and the same in the case of a child and parent.

Answer: Even as the Holy Scriptures direct, so let wives and children be subject unto their own husbands and parents, as unto the Lord, and not as unto the spirit of the Evil One.

Question: Why cannot an officer in the Church retain his standing as a member, if he gives up his office?

Answer: No officer in the Church of Christ will resign his office without cause; and, when the cause is searched out, it will be found, that sloth, covetousness, or some such like principle of sin or transgression, is at the foundation of his resignation, and the Church of Jesus Christ is no place for sloth, covetousness, or transgression of any kind. He that receiveth the priesthood receiveth the Lord Jesus, and he that putteth away the priesthood putteth away the Lord, and the only means by which he could enter into covenant with him; and, consequently, is not a fit companion for the children of the kingdom. Where there is no law there is no transgression; and where a law has not been understood, for want of information on the principles thereof, there is no guilt.



9 Comments »

  1. I love reading this sort of thing — old questions and old answers. I love the vocabulary and the grammar. Here, I also much appreciate Elder Pratt’s wonderful answers. Very refreshing. I especially love the answer about baptism water covering the supplicant — the emphasis on both the spirit and the letter of the law and the insight into how the two work together.

    Comment by ji — December 1, 2011 @ 9:21 am

  2. I’m glad, ji. This set especially appeals to me because it is so early — unlike some of the later sets, these questions hadn’t been asked before and I don’t have the reaction of rolling my eyes about the pickiness and pedantry of some later questions. It’s all new.

    The one about missionary tracting and its mix of encouragement about the possibilities, as well as a seeming acknowledgement that there are more profitable ways of working, was fun for me.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 1, 2011 @ 9:43 am

  3. Fantastic. I enjoyed this immensely.

    Comment by The Other Clark — December 1, 2011 @ 10:26 am

  4. Interesting that on the question of whether a teacher can break bread and pour wine, from my 2011 perspective, Pratt didn’t answer the question. Wonder if that is just me imposing my cultural norms…

    Comment by Matt W. — December 1, 2011 @ 10:38 am

  5. Matt, I thought he did answer. “administering the sacrament” = breaking the bread and pouring the wine.

    Comment by Bookslinger — December 1, 2011 @ 11:26 am

  6. The last Q/A answers questions I had about early members in Missouri having church courts, getting disfellowshipped and ex’d for things which are not cause for the same treatment today. Perhaps it explains some of the disaffections.

    Comment by Bookslinger — December 1, 2011 @ 11:54 am

  7. The answer to the first question seems to imply that it’s improper to take legal action against a “brother in the Gospel,” so that the church court must come first, and if he’s obstinate, then he’s ex’ed off so relief can be sought in temporal courts.

    Comment by The Other Clark — December 1, 2011 @ 12:24 pm

  8. I thought that these questions were a lot different from others we have seen. Maybe it is because, as Ardis says, the questions are earlier than the others.

    Comment by Maurine Ward — December 1, 2011 @ 9:13 pm

  9. Re: “If a brother be in debt to another brother…”
    It seems hard to me to take this course against a person one has called a brother.

    Comment by Steve — December 2, 2011 @ 7:39 am

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