I Have a Question


Some of the Brethren have spoken against some types of contemporary music. Are some types of music just inherently evil, or should each piece of music be judged on its own merits?

Larry Bastian, chairman, Church Youth Music Committee: The basic building blocks of music are melody, harmony, and rhythm. Like disconnected words, these elements by themselves are neither good nor evil, but they can be combined in a myriad of ways to create an equal number of effects. A skilled musician uses them to communicate a mood or feeling. If he is successful, the listener will respond emotionally to the mood the composer or performer has sought to create.

There are at least three important persons who participate in each musical experience. First is the composer, who writes the melody and suggests a harmonic and rhythmic treatment. That which he seeks to communicate is then interpreted by an arranger or performer, who may treat the music in such a fashion as to communicate exactly the opposite from that intended by the composer.

The third important person is the listener. Our musical tastes are the result of conditioning and personal experience. Every person responds to music, then, in his own unique fashion.

The key to discerning the quality of music lies in what it communicates to us individually and personally. Perhaps we Latter-day Saints have not often enough asked ourselves the question: “What does this music say to me?” Considering the influence of evil in the affairs of today’s world, especially in contemporary entertainment, we should ask it often.

If one can answer that a song is spiritually inspiring or that it urges him to see himself in a more noble perspective, then that music is good. If the music just entertains or momentarily lifts the spirits, then it has a useful place. If it makes him want to respond in a carnal, sensual way or to consider unrighteous desires, then that music should be avoided.

Sometimes the environment in which music is heard has an effect of its own. For example, a song that sounds pleasant and refreshing on the stereo at home may make a different impression in a remote corner of a darkened room with the music at blaring level.

Music is the language of the heart and of the spirit. It often communicates on a level where words are inadequate. It is on this level that it must be evaluated. We may not understand sometimes why we respond as we do, but we should measure the response, choose that which is compatible with our understanding of the eternal nature of things, and reject the rest.

After a stake genealogy teacher has completed the training of the ward genealogy teachers and all genealogy organizations of the wards are functioning, what are his responsibilities?

Thomas E. Daniels, administrative office manager, Church Genealogical Society: This should be decided by each individual stake after considering the needs of the stake. Monthly lessons are recommended after the original training. Another possibility is to have the teacher visit the ward classes under the direction of the bishop to provide assistance to ward leaders. This has been done successfully in many stakes.

Are there accounts in the Old Testament that are more allegorical than literal?

Sidney B. Sperry, Professor emeritus of Old Testament language and literature, Brigham Young University: Let us first define and illustrate what is meant by an allegory. According to the dictionary, an allegory is “the veiled presentation,” in a figurative story, of a meaning metaphorically implied but not expressly stated. Allegory is prolonged metaphor, in which typically a series of actions are symbolic of other actions. An allegory is like a parable. Just as there are many parables in the New Testament, there are many allegories in the Old Testament.

In Jeremiah there is a good illustration of an allegory:

“My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their resting place.” (Jer. 50:6.)

Notice that Jeremiah does not tell us that his people are “like” or “as” sheep, nor is it necessary for him to explain that the mountains and hills are not literal mountains and hills. Excellent examples of longer allegories are “The Good Shepherd” (John 10:1–18), “The Vine” (John 15:1–8), and “The Tame and the Wild Olive Tree” in the Book of Mormon (Jacob 5).

However, Biblical scholars are not always agreed on the type of literature a given scripture in the Old Testament represents.

Numerous books in the Old Testament contain stories. Genesis, Ruth, Samuel, and Kings are good examples. Some of these may also be used to teach a concept, but very few, if any, of these stories, in my opinion, can be regarded as being more allegorical than literal. On the other hand, the Book of Proverbs contains many allegories that are not historical.

Why does the Church oppose homosexuality? Why is it wrong?

Dr. Lindsay M. Curtis, M.D., Ogden, Utah: I can’t speak for the Church, but let me share some ideas that seem appropriate to me as a doctor and as a Latter-day Saint.

A liberal-permissive element of the medical profession has been extremely outspoken on the subject of homosexuality.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul states: “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly. …” (Rom. 1:26–27.)

We do not interfere with a man’s free agency when we teach him the truths contained in the Bible.

Our modern prophets have been no less forceful in teaching us the Lord’s way and his will in regard to sexuality.

Homosexuals and lesbians seldom are happy people. Theirs is a relationship that is unnatural, one not bound by fidelity, trust, or loyalty, and one totally lacking in the meaningful family relationships that marriage offers. Homosexuality often espouses emotional problems because of the constant insecurity inherent in a relationship neither sanctioned by nor protected by the law.

Because there is no legal bond, homosexuality too often encourages, or at least permits, promiscuity.

To say that “no one gets hurt” is presumptive. Homosexuals are hurt by the unacceptability of the relationship, not only by society, but also by themselves. This is evidenced by their almost universal desire that their children (if they have any) not follow the same pattern.

Someone does get hurt. There is harm in homosexuality. Many homosexuals seek to introduce others into their practice, often those in their tender, impressionable years. Many studies have indicated that such early homosexual experience may interfere with normal sexual adjustment in subsequent marriage.

Nor is homosexuality compatible with peace of mind, tranquility of soul, or with the Spirit of our Father in heaven that all of us want, need, and enjoy when we live in accordance with his laws.

To “persecute” homosexuals would be wrong, just as it would be wrong for us to persecute anyone. We must try to understand why they have chosen this way of life. Many of them want help and can be helped. But we should also understand that homosexual relationships are morally wrong according to the laws of God.

Just as the Word of Wisdom is the Lord’s way with or without medical proof of its value to our health, so likewise the moral law taught by the Church does not require any medical proof of its value to our spiritual and physical health. It is sufficient that the Lord has told us to marry, to have children, and to do this according to the righteous ways of the law of God. In this lies physical health, emotional stability, and true happiness.

I am a resident of the state of Washington and there was a recent law proposed in our state that would lower the drinking age to 18. The Church spoke against the legislation. What difference does it make if you are allowed to drink at 18 instead of at 21?

Robert Backstein, attorney, Tacoma, Washington: As an attorney and a holder of the priesthood, I strongly opposed the proposition on a number of grounds—some societal, some spiritual.

First, it does make a difference if you are 18 or 21. It was Mark Twain who said how surprised he was that his father learned so much from the time Twain was 15 until he turned 21. The late teens are a time of growing maturity and judgment. A young man or young woman changes a great deal in just the three years between 18 and 21.

The percentage of teenagers who are involved in automobile accidents is much higher than the percentage of their older brothers and sisters who drive. As a lawyer and as a parent it seems safer to me for alcohol to be denied those who lack the experience and maturity years can bring.

Those reasons, however, are really unimportant when compared to the real reasons I oppose lowering the drinking age. My real reasons have been stated by Church leaders again and again for more than 50 years every time the question of the law and alcohol has come up.

From the time of prohibition the Church has opposed every law that made liquor easier for anyone to use at any age. The Church leaders opposed the repeal of prohibition, they have spoken against laws that would permit liquor by the drink, and they have discouraged action that would allow the sale of liquor to minors.

The logic of their arguments, which I fully support, is simple. The Lord has said that liquor is not good for man and that it is to be avoided. Experience tells us that an increase in the amount of alcoholic beverages available causes an increase in the problems that come with alcohol: drunkenness, automobile accidents, alcoholism, broken or unhappy homes, unfaithfulness, and unrighteousness in almost every form.

The Lord has spoken against alcohol from the earliest days of his church. However, the adversary will continue to try in every way possible to spread his destructive influence, and alcohol is one of the easiest ways.

Can you help me with two questions I have about baptism? First, are children considered members of the Church before baptism? Secondly, why don’t we baptize little children?

Calvin D. McOmber, instructor, Institute of Religion, Idaho State University: All children of Church members, whether or not they are born in the covenant, are listed as “children of record” in the Church. However, they, like all others, must be taught the gospel and be baptized when they reach the age of accountability, in order to become members of the Church.

Little children were blessed by Jesus as recorded in 3 Nephi 17. [3 Ne. 17] The story relates the great respect the Lord had for their sweetness and innocence. In the New Testament Jesus tells adults that they must become as little children in order to enter the kingdom of God.

Mormon, when he answered the question of his son, Moroni, concerning baptism of little children, was emphatic in his answer that it was “gross error” to assume that little children should be baptized. He said that he had inquired of the Lord and “the word of the Lord came to me by the power of the Holy Ghost saying: Listen to the words of Christ, your redeemer, your Lord and your God. Behold I came into the world, not to call the righteous, but the sinners, to repentance. The whole need no physician but they that are sick, wherefore, little children are whole for they are not capable of committing sin. …”(See Moro. 8:6–8.)

Further, he said that repentance and baptism should be taught to “those who are accountable and capable of committing sin; yea, teach parents that they must repent and be baptized, and humble themselves as their little children, And their little children need no repentance, neither baptism. Behold, baptism is done unto repentance to the fulfilling the commandments unto the remission of sins.” (Moro. 8:10–11.)

And so we see that the scriptures make plain the teachings of the Savior that little children need no baptism.

In studying these passages, one cannot help but exclaim from his own heart how just and kind Christ is in his teachings. One’s very soul declares to him that little children are innocent and are not denied any of the blessings of Christ’s kingdom.