I Have a Question


It seems to me that we are reaching a time of increasing dishonesty in government. Many of our officials’ actions at least seem unethical and often illegal. How can we reconcile this trend with the urgings of our leaders to support and sustain our government?

Dr. Stewart L. Grow, Distinguished Professor of political science, Brigham Young University: It is the system of government, not the individuals who hold office at any given time, that we are told by the Lord to support and sustain, and one of the most effective ways we can support the system is to insist upon honest public officials.

We live under the rule of law, not of men. Under the rule of law, public officials are to be held accountable if they violate the law, and we should insist upon laws that will help them maintain the highest standards of honesty.

Many students have indicated that they still strongly support our system of government, despite their criticisms of dishonesty. The call for honesty in government has not been, and should not be, a partisan one.

Secondly, the headlines may well have been misleading in their implication of wholesale dishonesty. The United States has one of the most honest, ethical governments on earth. Government at every level, from local to national, does not represent the road to private wealth that has tempted other governments into patterns of corruption we cannot imagine in the United States.

Far from weakening our demands for honesty in government, the Watergate questions, for instance, seem to have made us even more sensitive to the issue of honesty. Today we no doubt have far higher expectations of honesty in government officials than among those who engage in business or in the professions. What is normal business practice is condemned as illegal or unethical when we read of it in government. Perhaps this higher standard will help set a new and higher moral tone in all phases of life.

It is proper that citizens should sustain the government by demanding honest administration of the laws. Laws that require proper accounting of funds and reduce the temptations of bribery and other crimes are good laws. They are needed. But in my view they are not an indictment of our present system. The United States system of government is one of the most honest and responsive to the needs of the people of any government I have known anything about.

How can I best teach my children to have respect for others, including those placed in authority over them?

Darnell Zollinger, Instructor in child development, Brigham Young University: The key to teaching our children to respect others is to realize that such respect really grows out of self-respect. We need to teach by example and to show our children that we have respect for them, both as our children and as our eternal brothers and sisters.

Let me suggest some specific ways we can practice the principle of respect.

1. Listen to your children. When a child comes to you to tell you something, listen attentively. If you have to leave before the child has finished what he has to say, don’t just walk away. Explain that you have to leave and ask him to finish a little later. Let him know you respect what he has to say.

2. Show your confidence in his abilities and give him real responsibilities. Once you assign a responsibility to your child, let him fulfill it, even if it takes a little longer and is not as well done as you might like. If you ask your daughter to fix dinner and she burns the potatoes, give her time to correct the mistake; don’t rush in and undermine her confidence in her abilities.

3. Ask your children for their advice and opinions. That will give them a feeling that what they think is important. If you ask advice—on the fastest way home, on what to plant in the garden, or on what to have for dinner—then take the advice.

4. Take time to explain your rules and standards of behavior. The child should be made to understand cause and effect in his life. Children need to know their limits so that they can grow by exercising their agency within the limits you and others have set. Usually when parents take time to explain the rules, when the time comes for a child to respond out of “blind obedience,” he will feel more comfortable in doing so.

5. Admit your own mistakes. It is a fallacy to think that if you admit your mistakes your children will not respect you. The reverse is more often true.

6. Show your own respect for authority. Don’t criticize those placed in positions of leadership. If your children come home complaining about the bishop or a Sunday School teacher, try to find a logical way to answer the criticism without belittling either your child or the bishop or the Sunday School teacher.

These are only some of the ways that you can build your child’s self-respect, but they are good beginnings. If a child knows he is loved and respected, he will be far more likely to return that love and respect.

As a teacher, I often run across materials that I feel would add interest and depth to my classes. These are not listed as approved supplementary materials in the manual. Should I limit myself only to materials that are listed in the manual or am I free to use the fruits of my own research?

Weldon Thacker, member, Church Teacher Development Committee: When lesson manuals are written by Church committees, they are done with the realization that lessons must be appropriate for and usable by teachers throughout the Church. These teachers will come from varying educational backgrounds, cultures, and Church experiences; therefore, the content must be stated in such a way so it can be used and understood universally. Consequently, examples and illustrations appropriate in one situation may not be appropriate in another.

Therefore, it is expected that the individual teacher will take advantage of supplementary resources available to him to increase the effectiveness of his lesson. The teacher development program emphasizes that teachers must adapt the lessons to the needs of the particular individuals in their classes.

However, there is one caution. The material published in the lesson manuals of the Church has all been read and approved by the correlation committees of the Church as being appropriate in terms of doctrine and content. Therefore, when a teacher decides to use material in a lesson other than that provided or referred to in the Church lesson manuals, he should do so as long as it is of a nature that would be approved by the leaders of the Church.

Avoid the temptation to use materials, exciting though they may be, if they would tend to undermine the faith of the members of the class, arouse controversy, or promote causes that have not been publicly approved by the leaders of the Church. Remember that the members of your class have different backgrounds from which to interpret the concepts presented in class. Their understanding and testimonies of the gospel may not be as strong or as complete as yours and therefore may be shaken more easily. Concern about how they will react to the material should be considered carefully. The supplementary material you select should be chosen with these criteria in mind.

I am anxious that my children not only learn about gospel principles, but that gospel principles become an integral and motivating part of their lives. What are some of the basic principles involved in helping our children to really learn the gospel in the most meaningful way?

Neil J. Flinders, Director of research and evaluation, Seminaries and Institutes of Religion: There is a major difference between a religious experience and learning about religion in a formal or scholastic sense. Whether a home is a good, bad, or indifferent one, formal religious schooling only supplements what a child learns at home.

President Wilford Woodruff recognized the importance of the home as the center of learning. When he organized the first “seminary” programs in the Church, he said:

“A strenuous effort should likewise be made to gain the hearty cooperation of the parents, as without their aid the school will measurably fail in the object of its creation.” (Letter signed by the First Presidency, October 29, 1890.)

A second major point that parents should be aware of is that they cannot teach that which they do not practice. Most educators agree that it is the relationship of the teacher and the student that is the most significant in the learning process. This relationship is more important than the curriculum, the facilities, or the location of the schooling. These principles can also apply directly to the home. It is not the size or location of the home that is important; it is the relationship between the parent (teacher) and the child (student) that makes the difference.

The capacity for religious experience varies in a child’s life according to the level of his development. We grow up spiritually in a manner similar to the way we grow up physically. For example, from birth to age eight is the best time to teach a child to obey persons in authority. Ages eight to 12 are the best time to teach a child the importance of laws, rules, and regulations. Ages 12 to 15 are the best time for real religious awakening. It is during this time that the individual acquires the capacity to have qualitatively different personal religious experiences.

Keeping in mind these very broad guidelines, it is an important parental responsibility to provide a child what he needs, not just what he wants. Just as too much candy may have an adverse effect on the physical system, overdoses of, or poorly prepared, spiritual food may also cause distress or damage to the spiritual system. Parents should seek the inspiration to be able to give their children a balanced spiritual diet.

Another factor that parents should recognize is that fear is a great deterrent to a meaningful religious experience. This lesson is well taught in the account of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s hesitation and subsequent feeling of relief prior to his prayer in the Sacred Grove. Only when he had overcome fear could he experience the great spiritual joy that followed.

Some religious movements have instilled fear in their followers. This fear cannot lead to spirituality. The Lord informs us that “… perfect love casteth out all fear.” (Moro. 8:16.)

Significant and lasting religious impact does not seem to be generated by simulated experience. It grows out of the context of real, living experience. The home is the most important creator of such experiences.

Another important question facing parents as they consider the religious education of their children is, “When a child knows right from wrong, what makes him choose the right?”

Modern revelation tells us that the answer is that it is spiritual forces that lead us to make spiritually correct decisions. The scriptures identify at least seven of the spiritual forces that have a positive influence on our choices. These are:

1. The positive example of those we love and respect.

2. Faith and works—knowledge that comes with a spiritual confirmation.

3. The realization that we are children of God.

4. The influence of positive principles.

5. Prayer.

6. The testimony that comes to us as a result of submitting to the ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

7. Experiencing love—the pure love of Christ, either as a recipient or as a transmitter.

What makes a child desire continued religious experience? The answer is satisfaction from previous religious experiences. When a child can sense through the mind and the Spirit that he has grown spiritually, then he will seek further growth.

The family can provide the greatest source of potential satisfaction if it is the home of real experiences and true love, but the various religion classes, from Sunday School to seminary, can do much to assist. The more the two unite in a team effort and strive to complement each other, the more effective religious education will become, and the more persuasive true religious experience will become.

Do the radio and television stations owned by the Church censor their programming to conform to Church standards?

Arch L. Madsen, President, Bonneville International Corporation: Bonneville International Corporation, which is wholly owned by the Church, operates radio or television stations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Kansas City, Seattle, and Salt Lake City.

Each of the stations operates under license from the Federal Communications Commission and is obligated to serve the community where it is located. This sometimes means that we apply different standards in different communities.

Several times in the past we have deleted network programming which we felt would be offensive in the cities we serve. Because our television stations are network affiliates, our ability to exercise complete control over programming is limited.

However, for our radio stations, we have more freedom in the selection of material. In order to help us maintain high quality in both lyrics and music, we employ a record selection service which screens all records before they are played on any of our stations.

Bonneville International is mindful of the need for the highest quality in programming and is especially sensitive to the standards of the Church.