I Have a Question


Questions of general gospel interest—answered for general guidance, not as official statements of Church policy.

What is the most effective way for a parent to instill in his children a desire for church activity, and at what age is “forceful persuasion” no longer effective with a child?

Different persuasive techniques are more helpful at some stages of a child’s development than others. Youngsters below the age of eight or ten usually exert little independence in terms of resisting parents’ persuasion to attend church. However, the teen years sometimes present a challenge, especially when a young person’s friends dissuade him from attending his meetings.

In his benevolent wisdom, the Lord has provided several resources to help all family members adhere to gospel principles. Parents should have a heart-to-heart talk to discover the reasons for their child’s unwillingness to attend church regularly. Families who have recently moved may observe that their children are sometimes excluded by certain social groups within the new ward. A talk with the child’s auxiliary or priesthood leaders and home teachers may prove helpful in establishing warm and lasting social relationships.

Parents sometimes simply have to endure in love and patience when a child resists attending church. It is important for parents to avoid a preachy and berating attitude.

Parents may find that the real reason a child skips a meeting is his desire to watch a special television show or engage in some other compelling activity. In this case, a family home evening lesson that covers the basics of keeping the Sabbath day holy and partaking of the sacrament weekly may prove beneficial.

Problems often arise when a family goes on hunting or fishing trips on the Sabbath day or when Sunday School teachers or sacrament meeting speakers are criticized in front of the children. They soon gain the impression that while the gospel may be true, it really isn’t very important.

When traditions of keeping the Sabbath day holy are firmly established in early youth, one need not be too concerned with the matter of forceful persuasion. We, as parents, should always convey by our actions that the Church and the gospel are not just true, but are important as well—a matter of spiritual life and death.

Instill in children a desire for Church activity

Spencer J. Condie, president of the Brigham Young University 107th Branch, is associate professor of sociology and chairman of the Department of University studies, Brigham Young University.

Why the Psalms—how were they used, how did they come to be?

From the beginning of time, the majesty of God has evoked expressions of reverence, gratitude, and appeal from men and women of spiritual depth and understanding.

Many of the most sublime expressions are found in the book of Psalms (from the Latin Liber Psalmorum) or, as it is known in the Hebrew, sefer tehillim—the “Book of Praises.”

According to one tradition, David, “the sweet Psalmist of Israel” (2 Sam. 23:1), composed the Psalter with the aid of ten others, including Adam, Melchizedek, Abraham, and Moses. While such a notion is hardly to be taken literally, prayers and songs of devotion have always been such a part of true worship that even the most ancient patriarchs may be represented to some extent.

Although David did not compose all of the one hundred and fifty psalms included in the popular Old Testament version, he did write a number of them and was probably most instrumental in compiling their nucleus. The book of Psalms is the work of a number of writers, both identified and anonymous, over a period of centuries.

While some psalms were part of Israel’s ancient temple ritual and liturgy, most of the material in the Psalter best lends to private contemplation and worship.

Nowhere in all scripture is there a better description of the intimate strugglings of the human spirit to find peace with man and God. John Calvin said of Psalms: “There is not an emotion of which any one can be conscious that is not here represented as in a mirror. Or rather, the Holy Spirit has here drawn to the life of all the griefs, sorrows, fear, doubts, hopes, cares, perplexities, in short, all the distracting emotions with which the minds of men are wont to be agitated.”

While praise of the Almighty is the central theme of Psalms, it also contains petitions for forgiveness, for deliverance from one’s oppressors, and for the punishment of one’s enemies, as well as declarations of faith in God’s beneficent care and powerful exhortations to righteousness.

Hidden among the many spiritual gems in Psalms are those pearls of great price which prophesy of the Savior’s life and ministry. He himself directed the attention of his disciples to these prophecies following his resurrection, saying, “all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.” (Luke 24:44. Italics added.)

It is most fitting that the book of Psalms, of Praises, should speak of Jesus Christ. For he is Jehovah, the Lord—the shepherd of David and the shepherd of us all.

Rodney Turner, professor of Church history and doctrine, Brigham Young University

Why was there so much leprosy during Old Testament and New Testament times? It seems to be everywhere mentioned in the scriptures.

The word leprosy is translated from a Hebrew term which means “a smiting” and a Greek word meaning “scaly” or “scabby.” Although some scholars believe this disease of the skin (described in detail in Lev. 13–14) was quite common among the Hebrews, others suggest that the stringent laws concerning identification, separation, and purification argue against the disease’s being too widespread.

One who had the disease was considered to have been smitten by God, and the “uncleanness” pronounced upon him by the priest seems to have had ceremonial, rather than sanitary, significance. If a man was completely covered with leprosy, for example, he was considered clean. (Lev. 13:12–13.) Again, if a house was suspected of containing the disease, the furniture was removed before the priest pronounced the house unclean so that the furniture might not also be unclean. Those who had the disease and were pronounced unclean by the priest had to live apart from the community. (Josephus, Ant. 3:261–264, refers to such an existence as “a living death.”) These unfortunate sufferers were living symbols to Israel of Isaiah’s charge to “be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord.” (Isa. 52:11.)

Later Judaism expected the Messiah to remove this affliction, and Jesus often fulfilled this messianic expectation by cleansing lepers. (See Matt. 10:8; Matt. 11:5; Mark 1:40–44; Luke 17:12–19.)

C. Wilfred Griggs, assistant professor of ancient scripture and associate member, Institute for Ancient Studies, Brigham Young University

Is it possible that Shem and Melchizedek are the same person?

This question is frequently asked and is an interesting one. Let us examine first what we know about Shem. Although the Bible names Shem as the eldest son of Noah (Gen. 5:32), modern-day revelation places Japheth as the eldest (Moses 8:12). Both reports, however, are harmonious in naming Shem as the progenitor of Israel and in the fact that the priesthood descended through Shem to all the great patriarchs after Noah. (1 Chr. 1:24–27.) In this patriarchal order of priesthood, Shem stands next to Noah. He held the keys to the priesthood and was the great high priest of his day. 1

Living contemporary with Shem was a man known as Melchizedek, who was also known as the great high priest. 2 The scriptures give us the details of Shem’s birth and ancestry but are silent as to his ministry and later life. Of Melchizedek, however, the opposite is true. Nothing is recorded about his birth or ancestry, even though the Book of Mormon states that he did have a father. (Alma 13:17–18.) Concerning his ministry and life we have several interesting and important facts. (Gen. 14:18–20; Heb. 7:1–4; Alma 13:17–18.)

All of this provokes some questions and calls for answers. Were there two high priests presiding at the same time? Why is the record silent concerning Shem’s ministry? Why is nothing known concerning Melchizedek’s ancestry?

Because of this state of knowledge on our part, many Saints and gospel scholars have wondered if these men were the same person. The truth is, we do not know the answer. But an examination of the scriptures is fascinating, because it seems to indicate that these men may have been one and the same. For example, here is the case for their oneness:

1. The inheritance given to Shem included the land of Salem. Melchizedek appears in scripture as the king of Salem, who reigns over this area.

2. Shem, according to later revelation, reigned in righteousness and the priesthood came through him. Melchizedek appears on the scene with a title that means “king of righteousness.”

3. Shem was the great high priest of his day. Abraham honored the high priest Melchizedek by seeking a blessing at his hands and paying him tithes.

4. Abraham stands next to Shem in the patriarchal order of the priesthood and would surely have received the priesthood from Shem; but D&C 84:5–17 says Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek.

5. Jewish tradition identifies Shem as Melchizedek. 3

6. President Joseph F. Smith’s remarkable vision names Shem among the great patriarchs, but no mention is made of Melchizedek.

7. Times and Seasons (vol. 6, p. 746) speaks of “Shem, who was Melchizedek. …”

On the other hand, there is a case for their being two distinct personalities. Many persons believe D&C 84:14 is proof that there are perhaps several generations between Melchizedek and Noah. The scripture says, “Which Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek, who received it through the lineage of his fathers, even till Noah.”

If it does turn out that Shem and Melchizedek are the same person, this scripture should prove no stumbling block, because it could be interpreted to mean that priesthood authority commenced with Adam and came through the fathers, even till Noah, and then to Shem.

Alma E. Gygi, Salt Lake City businessman.

    Notes

  1.   1.

    Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine (Deseret Book Co., 1919) p. 474.

  2.   2.

    D&C 107:2; Heb. 7:4; Alma 13:17; Gen. 14:18–20.

  3.   3.

    When Abraham returned from the war, Shem, or, as he is sometimes called, Melchizedek, the king of righteousness, priest of the Most High God. …” (Ginsberg, Legends of the Jews, p. 233.) “Jewish tradition pronounces Melchizedek to be a survivor of the Deluge, the patriarch Shem.” (Smith’s Bible Dictionary, p. 393.) “And Adonizedek king of Jerusalem, the same was Shem. …” (Book of Jasher 16:11.)

Will wickedness exist on the earth when Satan is bound during the Millennium?

Men of God in the past have desired to participate in a righteous society and the Lord has said they will eventually find it, but, because of wickedness and abominations, it would not be in their day. (D&C 45:11–14.) Latter-day Saints also look forward to the fulfillment of the promises made in the scriptures that with the second coming of Christ, the earth will be restored to its paradisiacal condition when a reign of justice, peace, and prosperity will prevail. (A of F 1:10.)

The second coming of Christ will also bring the destruction of the many armies at war against the Jewish nation, as well as the destruction of the corrupt nations who have rejected the light of the gospel. (2 Thes. 1:7–9; D&C 29:9; D&C 63:34, 54; D&C 101:23–24.) Some people have assumed that because Jesus predicted “the end of the world” that he meant the end of the earth. (Matt. 24:3.) This idea, however, was dispelled by the Prophet Joseph Smith when he interpreted through inspiration this phrase to mean “the destruction of the wicked.” (JS—M 1:4, 31.)

Yet Joseph Smith has indicated that “there will be wicked men on the earth during the thousand years” of the Millennium. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 268–69.) But the Lord has revealed that the wicked are also those who have not come unto him by accepting the fulness of the gospel. (D&C 29:16; D&C 76:50–53; D&C 84:49–53.)

Therefore, although the morally wicked will be destroyed at the Lord’s coming, honorable men who have not accepted the fulness of the gospel will live during the Millennium.

President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote that the Lord will come suddenly, but all the conditions predicted for the Millennium will not be ushered in suddenly. The traditions of the centuries will continue to influence men; and since they have their free agency, they will be able to act for themselves even though Satan is bound. President Smith concludes his writings with these words regarding the coming of the Savior:

“Corruption and vice shall be done away, those who indulge in such practices shall be swept off from the face of the earth, and it shall be as it was in the days of the great Nephite destruction at the time of the crucifixion, that only the more righteous or the better class of mankind, including the heathen, shall be left.” (“Concerning the Millennium,” Improvement Era, vol. 23 [1920], p. 113.)

Roy W. Doxey, professor of Church history and doctrine and dean of religious instruction, Brigham Young University