Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » I Have More Questions, 1899

I Have More Questions, 1899

By: Ardis E. Parshall - June 01, 2012

Q. We have received communications at different times asking questions about raffling, and the propriety of the practice.

A. In answering them, we do not wish to make any application to any particular case or to any association or society that may have gotten up raffles or that may be engaged in doing so for the frequently good purposes with which such proceedings are associated. But speaking in general upon the practice of raffling, we wish to say that it is not approved of by the authorities of the Church. We think it ought not to be encouraged among our people, no matter how worthy the various purposes or persons that may be urged as beneficiaries from its profits or proceeds. We regard it an especially bad practice to introduce among children. It comes very close indeed to a form of gambling – it at least teaches those who engage in it to build hopes on mere chances, the great majority of which, of course, cannot help but be futile in the very nature of things. If it does not actually come within the definition of gambling as prohibited by present law, we recall a time in this community when it was so regarded. This shows that it is a questionable practice, even from this point of view.

But there is no need to multiply words in discussing this phase of the subject, or to advance reasons for the views above expressed. It is sufficient to say that it is not regarded as a good practice; it is not attended with good results and ought not to be encouraged among our people.

Q. An Idaho correspondent submits the following question: “Why do we ordain boys twelve or fourteen years old to the office of Deacon, when Paul says to Timothy in his first Epistle, iii, 12: ‘Let the Deacons be the husbands of one wife’?”

A. Paul in referring to the branches of the Church as then organized had in mind adults who had been ordained. Probably in those branches, the most of the members, if not all, were newly converted, none had been born in the Church who were at that time old enough to hold the Priesthood. With our Elders even in these days it is a very uncommon thing to ordain, while out in the world, very young men to any office. Mature men are frequently ordained as Deacons and act as such. But the circumstances which surround us here in Zion are entirely different form those which surrounded the Saints in the days of Paul, and of which he wrote. There is no impropriety whatever in young men, even as early as at the age of twelve or fourteen years, acting as Deacons. They receive a training that is very valuable to them, and we know of many who have been and are greatly benefitted by acting in this position, meeting with the Deacons’ quorum and receiving such instructions as are proper to be imparted to them in this capacity. The cases to which Paul refers, therefore, and those that exist in Zion, are not at all parallel. All who have had experience among the young Deacons of the Church are doubtless convinced of the propriety of ordaining our boys early, if worthy, that they may become thoroughly familiar one by one with the duties of the various offices and grades of the Priesthood.

Q. We are requested to give answers, through the columns of the Instructor, to the following questions:

“1.– Has a Priest, Teacher or Deacon a right to lay on hands for the healing of the sick, alone, or in connection with others?

“2. – On page 126 of the Doctrine and Covenants, paragraph 58, it says: ‘But neither Teachers nor Deacons have authority to baptize, administer the sacrament or lay on hands.’ What does ‘lay on hands’ mean in this connection – for the sick or for the gift of the Holy Ghost?”

A. If the correspondent offering these questions had been a careful reader of this paper he would have seen, less than a year ago, a reply to his first query, which may also be taken as an answer to the second.

Q. Would it be advisable to have a teachers’ class during the Sunday School?

A. It is seldom practicable, because during the Sunday School session the teachers are required to be with their own classes, and it is very rarely that there are any more of them than are thus needed. The advisability of teachers’ classes will not be disputed – there is always much to learn and the true teacher will be always learning. The hours of Sunday School, however, should be by teachers devoted to giving, rather than to receiving, instruction.

Q. Would you not encourage the children of those who are not of our faith to attend our Sunday Schools?

Q. Most assuredly. Hundreds of Elders go abroad to the nations of the earth each year bearing a message of salvation for the souls of mankind, young and old. Shall our own neighbors who are not of our faith be neglected in this regard merely because they are near at hand and are not utter strangers to us? The thought is absurd; and no teacher who realizes the value which the Father places upon a human soul will be indifferent to a single one of these little ones; be their parentage or training what it may.

Q. Is it necessary for a male teacher in the Sunday School to hold the Priesthood?

A. Perhaps not absolutely necessary; but inasmuch as a man who is fit to be a Sunday School teacher is also worthy of some portion of the Priesthood, there would seem to be very little reason in raising the question. A case can hardly be conceived in the organized Stakes of Zion where such an anomaly cannot be avoided.



  1. Interesting that they would bother to publish a question with the answer being “Oh, we already answered that sometime in the past year. You should have been reading more closely.”

    Comment by Dustin — June 1, 2012 @ 7:18 am

  2. I thought it was interesting too, Dustin; that’s why I included it in this set of questions even though it is a generally pointless answer from our perspective. I think the author of these answers (George Q. Cannon, perhaps) was trying to make the point that people needed to read and learn and remember, and not expect to be babied along as if they had no responsibility for informing themselves. Any other ideas as to why he would answer this way?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 1, 2012 @ 7:39 am

  3. He was probably annoyed at having the same question come up over and over again, and nobody was around to stop him from publishing his pique.

    Comment by Mark B. — June 1, 2012 @ 7:44 am

  4. When I first read that, I was thinking it was a specific person and I’m thinking “What if they just started reading? What if they missed some of the past issues?” but you’re probably right, Mark – the author was probably getting this question over and over.

    It would be interesting to know how these Q&A columns were received by the people asking the questions – Did they notice when their answer was published? Did the answer actually answer the question they were really asking? If the answer wasn’t what they expected, did they accept it?

    No way to know, of course.

    Comment by Dustin — June 1, 2012 @ 8:22 am

  5. I also thought the response to the raffle question was interesting. My paraphrase:
    I don’t want to say any particular raffle is bad. But, raffles in general are bad. In fact, forget that first thing I said; all raffles are bad because they are like gambling and our community has not approved of them in the past. I’m not going to ramble on or even give reasons for my opinions (even though I just did both of those things). Raffles are bad, mkay?
    Stream of consciousness in sore need of an editor (and probably a more moderate opinion on raffles).

    Comment by Capozaino — June 1, 2012 @ 9:04 am

  6. I’ll grant you the editing, Capozaino, but what justifies a more moderate opinion on raffles?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 1, 2012 @ 9:21 am

  7. My take on the Teachers and Deacons and the laying on of hands: The inclusion of the phrase “a careful reader of this paper…” does to me imply a bit of a smackdown. As in, “Dude, that is so 1898. Boom! Done!”

    I do credit it to George Q likely being pretty tired of answering the same questions over and over, which is somewhat implied by the pairing of the first and second questions, which do seem to answer each other.

    I also tried to find in Handbook 2 if the policy in the question about male Sunday School teachers and the priesthood has been formalized, but could not find it there. The logic behind this answer does seem consistent with current practice for just about any calling for male members in the church at this point.

    Comment by kevinf — June 1, 2012 @ 11:33 am

  8. I love Capozaino’s paraphrasing of the section on raffling. I was thinking along the same lines as I was reading it. We can appreciate the author “tederly” walking around and examining the subject before tearing it down though, right?

    Also, regarding the last question of the post. It is hard to imagine a man by all means worthy to teach a Sunday School class because he does not hold the Priesthood. However, I am aware of a couple of instances myself, both regarding rebaptized men who had not yet received a Restoration of Blessings. Both men had been excommunicated (unbeknownst to most in their units) and rebaptized into their respective congregations. One man was called a Sunday School teacher to the youth the very day after he was rebaptized, only later to be released immediately upon having a change in unit leadership six months later. He was not yet “worthy” to teach the Saints (in his new leader’s opinion). The other rebaptized man taught Gospel Doctrine from the time shortly after his baptism until the current day (since receiving his Priesthood and temple blessings back). – An interesting example of the differences in leadership.

    I didn’t mean to hijack the post by any means Ardis. However, there is always some odd exception to the rule in every case. kevinf is correct though in the lack of policy in the handbook. I think that’s why individual leaders are open to do as they see fit in each situation. I only worry about the lack in consistency across the board for these few men in odd circumstances who do not hold the Priesthood.

    Thank you for the post though. It is excellent.

    Comment by Stan Way — June 1, 2012 @ 11:55 am

  9. *”Tenderly”…So much for good grammar today.

    Comment by Stan Way — June 1, 2012 @ 11:57 am

  10. Thanks, Stan, I hadn’t thought of that particular situation. (Almost nothing is really a threadjack if it springs from some point in the post.)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 1, 2012 @ 12:27 pm

  11. Ardis, this may test your position on what constitutes a threadjack, but I will hazard an answer to your question. Just to be clear, I think a more moderate position on the morality of raffles is warranted. If you don’t care about that, just skip to my last paragraph.
    I would personally go even further and say that a more moderate position on gambling is warranted. A lot of moral condemnation directed to gambling seems to be based on the assumption that we should only receive money in direct proportion to the labor we expend, while any money we get from plain luck is ill-gotten gain. This doesn’t really reflect the nature of labor or of many forms of gambling.
    All compensation for labor is, to some extent, dependent on events beyond our control (i.e., luck). For example, the farmer can work all he wants but an unlucky drought might bankrupt him and I can bill all the day long but my clients might refuse to pay or no clients may come to me in the first place. As another example, my savings for retirement are, like those of most people, partially invested in the stock market, and their growth is dependent on luck, at least from my perspective (any economists feel free to supplement or correct me there). Also, those who work in high-compensation and low-compensation jobs do not necessarily get there by merit, or the lack thereof, alone. What we call an “honest wage” is based on a mixture of our abilities, work expended, some divine intervention here and there (I hope anyway), and plain luck.
    Also, gambling frequently involves the use of skill (i.e., labor), and skilled gambling can even turn the odds in favor of the player in some instances.
    Even if we’re going to insist that gambling is an immoral activity because differences between earning an honest wage and placing a dishonest wager are significant (or some other reason), I think raffles are different in that they are used to incentivize giving to an organization or event, usually a charity. Maybe some would say it’s still immoral for muddying pure intentions to give, but I don’t have any moral objections to incentivizing donation, even if the motives for donating aren’t 100% pure.
    With all that said, I still think participating in gambling is a tax on the irrationally optimistic. So I don’t gamble for practical reasons, not moral ones. When it comes to raffles, I think the ends (incentivizing those who wouldn’t otherwise do so to donate to a worthy cause) can justify the means (appealing to our desire to win something).

    Comment by Capozaino — June 1, 2012 @ 1:14 pm

  12. Re: a stocks grown is dependent on luck

    There is not a single model for valuating the price of a company’s share of stock that heavily relies on “luck”. Most rely on dividends, growth potential, future cash flows, interest rates, and the Weighted Average Cost Of Capital.

    To an uninformed person who just sees prices go up and down as a result of market demand from day trading, it may look like “luck”. But you can use various formulas for stock price valuation and get pretty dang close to the current selling price without pricing in “luck”.

    In all fairness, what you’re referring to generally is pricing in “risk” and that risk factor can destroy an investment just as easily as it can a crop of carrots or end your life with a trip to the store.

    Just because I might die on the way to go buy milk doesn’t mean everything is similar to gambling. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t many who are in fact gambling by proxy when they use the stock market, or increasingly in Utah (for some reason) forex currency markets.

    Comment by Farmington — June 1, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

  13. Cap, I have a special antipathy for gambling in its usual recognizable forms (I grant that many “honest” transactions involve factors that, except on the surface, make them not far removed from classic gambling) because I grew up in Las Vegas. A common argument is that if you don’t approve of something, you can simply not participate. This is not true, from my experience there. Uncountable aspects of my life were affected by the gaming industry. Want to build a new elementary school? First, let’s see whether its proximity to commercial property will interfere with anyone’s plans to build a casino. Want to put in a left-turn light to handle increased traffic? Not until we do a study to see whether it will divert traffic from easy access to a casino entrance. Want to plan a fun activity with visiting college friends? Good luck at finding anybody who isn’t more strongly lured to the glittery-by-night/seamy-by-day “glamour” of Las Vegas — heck, we can visit mountains and go water skiing at home, so why would we want to do that here?! And try to ignore the obscene billboards and taxi signs, and don’t think about crime and the cost of controlling it, especially dealing with the aftermath of drunkenness that accompanies so much gambling, and somehow find a way to help young people realize that no matter how well dressed and well spoken and publicly admired certain community leaders are, their money and polish were acquired doing something that should not have been done.

    Good luck not being affected by the gaming industry, no matter how far away from it you tried to live.

    So you push my limits, but only because the sophistry it takes to distinguish between gambling-that-is-sordid and gambling-that-is-a-public-service is something I’ve lived with most of my life, and long ago learned was not wise or good or safe or enlightening, but something to be avoided. I’m all for temperance and nuance and examining shades of gray … except this is one shade of gray, one nuance, that I see as a creeping fog that eventually obscures the light for too many people.

    But there’s your view, and there’s my view. Peace. I want only to add that long-time Keepa readers are aware that I often post question-and-answer columns, as well as other materials, from the Mormon past that may or may not reflect current understanding. I invited you to explain your position because of my own strong feelings on the subject — ordinarily, though, we don’t usually debate the truth of these old questions, but merely note what’s the same and what’s different about the past.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 1, 2012 @ 1:45 pm

  14. Farmington, thanks for your more informed perspective, though I guess the kind of valuation that takes into account all the known factors, attempts to quantify the risks of the unknown factors, and to make minimize risk while optimizing reward based on those factors sounds a lot like gambling strategy to my ears.

    Ardis, I certainly agree that many of the trappings that accompany gambling and that kowtowing to gaming establishments at the expense of worthy causes like schools and motor safety are undesirable (to put it mildly). Maybe it’s all those trappings that led George Q. or whoever it was who answered the questions to essentially take it for granted that gambling and anything resembling it was bad. Also, maybe I shouldn’t have participated in the charity raffle at my High School reunion last year.

    Comment by Capozaino — June 1, 2012 @ 4:43 pm

  15. Might it have been the case that somewhere in a stake of Zion there was a brother who was excluded from holding the priesthood because of his race, but was in every way worthy to be called as a teacher?

    Comment by Alison — June 2, 2012 @ 11:40 am

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