In 1909 the editors of the Juvenile Instructor discussed all those questions that the magazine received and that we have enjoyed reading a century or more later. Or, more precisely, those questions that the magazine received but that we have not seen …
We receive many questions which we are forced to leave unanswered. Some of these questions are of a personal nature, and refer to matters better answered by others.
Questions are asked about the belief of Catholics. We believe the Catholic is better prepared to answer questions affecting his form of worship than we are, for he has made a study of that belief and we have not. That has been one of the difficulties the Church we represent has been forced to meet. Men are constantly interpreting our belief and the doctrine we teach. We ought to be better able to make a statement of the tenets of our faith than strangers, for we have learned them, not only in letter, but in truth. (Some years ago a Mormon elder was attacked through the columns of a newspaper, and one statement well remembered was “the very acknowledgment he, the elder, has made, that he was born and raised in the Mormon church, disqualifies him for speaking on the question of Mormonism.”)
Questions are sent which deal with subjects about which nothing definite is known, and about which only conjectures can be offered. We cannot guess at these with any greater degree of certainty than you can. We refuse to make guesses and deal with “beasts” and “horns.”
Many questions come which should rightfully go to the conference or mission presidents. Questions affecting the standing of people in the various branches or conferences will invariably be referred to your presiding officer.
Questions coming from the organized wards and stakes and referring to matters belonging to the officials of such organizations will be referred to the proper authorities.
We shall be pleased to answer any question, time and space will permit, if it refers to points of doctrine affecting our salvation or to any useful truth pertaining to the great latter day work.
There is an art in asking questions. As much thought should be exercised in asking questions as in answering them. The task of answering is easy when a question is asked that shows that the questioner has been thinking.
We are frequently asked questions which have to do with the standing of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We feel that the church has been organized long enough to need no apology for its being nor to make excuse for its doctrine. It has stood a pretty severe test and can, if needs be, stand a greater.
What we have said hasn’t been to keep people from asking questions, but to stop an indiscriminate deluge of foolish or catch questions.
Before you send your questions, write them out, then read them over, lay them aside for a few days, then get them out and read them again with a prayerful heart, and you will be surprised how many of those knotty problems you will be able to solve for yourself.
It isn’t a new thing for unfair questions to be asked, to seek to entrap the unwary. Christ had these same people to deal with. They asked him many questions and toward the last, when he preferred not to make answer to certain of them they said he condemned himself by his silence.