I Have a Question

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

    If my wife works, we can send a son on a mission. Should she?

    Barbara B. Smith, general president of the Relief Society By all means! You should work. She should work. Each member of the family should work to send a worthy son into the mission field. But work is one thing—employment another. Please don’t encourage your wife to accept employment outside your home if you have small children, adolescents, and mid-to-late teen children who need a mother when they get home. She can plan projects in the home that will develop her talents and help her utilize her time and resources wisely, while helping to supplement the family income. For example, one woman I know of pieced and quilted beautiful patchwork quilts; another did tutoring, typed dissertations, theses, and themes for college students. Others took telephone surveys and did soliciting for large stores, made dresses, did alterations for a nearby dress shop. One woman raised and sold African violets. I don’t suppose I would have thought of a simple thing like selling homemade breads and cookies, but one sister did. Her baking skills developed into a thriving family business. I’ve heard of some Mexican sisters who make tamales and piñatas and sell them. Many women who are concerned about marketing their handmade items have found that they can produce quality merchandise to sell at the Mormon Handicraft Gift Shop in Salt Lake City. Other qualified women have tended children or held nursery schools in their homes, or arranged to have one room set aside as a part-time beauty shop. There is no end to what women have done and can do to help support missionaries.

    I know a wonderful couple with a large family who faced a similar decision of how to support a missionary son. A family home evening discussion was held about the problem. It was decided that each son should prepare for the day when he would receive his mission call by becoming self-sustaining and also by participating in helping the other boys in the family meet the expenses of a mission. That night each son chose a project: one chose to plant, grow, and sell tomatoes; another decided to raise chickens; another decided to raise cucumbers. Each child worked hard, and, though they had some crop failures, they learned how to make a profitable venture out of their projects. It took a lot of patience and perseverance on the part of both parents to make this decision a reality; but the boys learned how to work, and they were concerned enough about each other to see them through successful missions. The missionaries, in turn, knew how hard their family was working to support them, and they tried to make their two years all the more meaningful.

    Perhaps, though, your children are all in school, and you feel your wife could accept employment outside your home while they are in school without causing a hardship on your family life. This was the case with a mother of my acquaintance who had five older children. She worked during the hours while her children were away from the home, contributing her earnings to help support three sons in their missionary labors. She has commented that she frequently had to keep reminding herself that her employment was for a specific reason and not just to provide the family with life’s luxuries. Her family held top priority in her life, and that priority had caused her to go to work; it would also determine the time for her return to being a full-time homemaker.

    [photo] Sewing projects done at home can be a mother’s “work” to contribute financially to her son’s full-time mission. (Photography by Marilyn Erd.)

    I’m a full-time missionary who is really getting discouraged because baptisms aren’t coming. What is “success” when I’m not bringing people into the Church?

    George Durrant, assistant professor of religion at Brigham Young University and former president of the Kentucky Louisville Mission Your very question has the ring of success. Your words show that you have such an intense desire to succeed that when it isn’t met, it brings sadness to your soul.

    We do, and indeed should, measure the success of a mission by the quality and quantity of converts the missionary helps bring into the Church. But that same standard is only a part of the way we measure the success of a man. With this in mind, let us first attempt to measure the success of your mission and then your measure as a man.

    If you or I ever decide that the success of a mission doesn’t necessarily correlate with the quantity and quality of new converts, then neither of us would make a good missionary. A successful business renders a service or produces something worthwhile, but its overriding success is determined by its profits. An athletic team is successful when it wins. And a mission is a success if it is the means of bringing people into the Church, and that is the real and rather hard truth.

    When we keep this idea of success in our minds and work and act and pray accordingly, we are real missionaries. Some say, “We can’t make converts here. Not with these people; not now.” And thus through their excuses they begin to feel comfortable. To have such comfort, they pay the price of lowering their goals. Their enthusiasm wanes, and they lose the great edge that is described as the “missionary spirit.”

    Such excuses and decreased aspirations soothe a pain that ought not to be soothed. Instead, all during your mission and throughout your life you should feel disappointed as you recall that your mission was not as successful as you had so deeply desired it would be. Such feelings won’t hurt you; as a matter of fact, they can, if properly viewed, help you. On the other hand, to lower your expectations will forever be a stumbling block and will, if repeated in other situations, almost guarantee a life of mediocrity.

    Now let’s talk about your success as a man. Be disappointed, my brother, but don’t be discouraged. There is a difference, you know. To be discouraged means you are losing courage, and that isn’t the case with you. To be disappointed means your goals are not being met, and that’s what you are experiencing.

    I recall a missionary with whom I talked on a cold winter’s day in Kentucky—just he and I alone in a little office. His eyes moistened as he said, “I get the feeling that Mom and Dad wonder why we aren’t baptizing anyone.” Tears fell as he tried to continue. “They had such high hopes for me, and I’m letting them down. I try, President, I really try, but I just can’t seem to do it.” I sat silently as he softly cried. Oh, how I loved him! How I hoped that I’d have a son who’d care as much as he cared! You see, I knew him. I knew that when he said he had tried, he really had.

    I found myself wishing I could look into his father’s eyes and ask, “How did you raise such a son? How did you infuse in him such honor and integrity? How did you teach him to love so completely? How did he come to be so totally responsible?” I could learn many things from the father of such a noble son.

    The Spirit of the Lord filled my soul as I sat with him. I knew I was in the presence of a man of God. I told him of my love and respect for him. I told him many things, and then he spoke again. “President, my companion and I will work even harder. I know there’s a family waiting for us. We’re going to find them and bring them into the Church. You just watch.” Days came and went, and his full-time mission ended, and he hadn’t found the family. But, oh, how he searched and prayed and worked.

    Some time has passed since I last saw him, and I long to see him again. He was one of my most successful missionaries, for he was a real man. As the years roll on, we will meet someday and talk. He will say, “President, I wanted to find a family so much. It broke my heart then and it still does.” And then after a thoughtful pause he’ll say, “But I sure did try.”

    I’ll look at him with pride and say, “You surely did, you tried with all your heart.” And then I’ll think, “I hope my own sons will try that hard and be that successful.”

    Keep being disappointed in your mission until baptisms come. And if some do come, then be disappointed if even more don’t come. And through all your mission disappointments, conduct yourself in such a way that you’ll never be disappointed in yourself. And if that is your lot, then you, my dear friend, will have been and will forever be a successful man.

    How far should a parent go in insisting on Church activity among his children? At what age can you no longer use “forceful persuasion”?

    Joyce Williams, associate professor of child development, Florida State University These questions center on moral free agency, which has been called by President David O. McKay the “most precious of all life’s endowments … inherent in the spirit of man … man’s inherited and inalienable right.” (Pathways to Happiness, Bookcraft, 1957, p. 90.)

    The use of the terms insisting and forceful suggest a parental zeal that tempts us to deny our children their free agency instead of helping them to learn to use it wisely. Encouraging and facilitating church activity would be far superior to insisting upon it. Since force is usually not necessary with young children and is likely to breed resentment or hostility in older ones, gentle persuasion and forceful example would be preferable.

    Many parents today are hesitant to provide strong leadership for their children in the area of values and morals because they feel they may violate the youngsters’ “rights.” As Latter-day Saints we know that parenthood is a sacred trust and that if children are not taught to obey the Lord’s commandments, we, the parents, will be held responsible. Therefore, a goal of full Church involvement for them should be set at birth and pursued vigorously, but skillfully.

    Young children may gain an early dislike for church because of the boredom or frustration they experience during sacrament meeting or as they are left to roam while parents attend other meetings. We need to establish an early positive feeling about being at church. It is best to keep them occupied with quiet toys. As they mature, little by little, they will be able to sit and pay attention to proceedings with increasing interest.

    Since children do not grasp the significance of full church activity, their early habits and feelings can determine their lifelong practices. The habit of being at church will take on deeper meaning as mental abilities develop and young testimonies grow. The blessing of full church involvement through early habit is a priceless one, given easiest and best by active parents. A vital part of this gift is enthusiastic example. Parents, siblings, and peers who display joy and pleasure in church activity have great impact on little people.

    Children through ages eleven or twelve like to be with their parents and generally enjoy pleasing adults. An unfortunate change may occur with the onset of puberty and the attendant influence of teenage peers and the mass media. It is important at this stage for parents to see the motivation behind young peoples’ questionings and challenging as a normal part of growing up and a desire to establish their own identity in the world. Parents need to build a rapport with their children prior to this age in order to facilitate communication, a degree of give-and-take, and respect for each other’s needs and desires. To give teens choices on things that are not as far-reaching as Church activity may satisfy their desires to express uniqueness: color of clothes, bedroom decor, music volume, food concoctions.

    Adult and youth leaders in the Aaronic Priesthood and Young Women are ready models for teens during this period when parents may be seen as “insensitive” or “old-fashioned.” This temporary change in allegiance may come as a blow to parents but can serve to broaden the youngsters’ outlooks, stimulating their thoughts and helping them to define their individuality. Recalcitrant youth are often more effectively influenced by these nonfamily persons than they are by their own parents. Patient understanding and enthusiasm on the part of parents will usually do more than shame or force in such a situation.

    In summary, we need to regard free agency with respect, while trying through early habit formation and enthusiastic example to help children “choose the right.” We can allow for expressions of individuality and identity-seeking in matters that are not a vital part of the eternal scheme. We can call on resources outside the family. And we must pray for and remain worthy of the comfort and guidance of the Holy Ghost throughout parenthood, as throughout life.

    Were there very many Old Testament prophecies other than those of the apostasy that were fulfilled during the apostolic era?

    Albert Payne, editor and director of specialized services in the Department of Seminaries and Institutes The question reminds me of the boy who asked his father what he could see just beyond the bright light visible in the distance. He couldn’t see anything, of course. And this illustrates somewhat the situation of Old Testament prophets: they apparently saw very little concerning events immediately following the death and resurrection of Christ. It was appropriate and necessary that revelations be centered on Christ and his mission; those were topics of many prophetic utterances. These prophecies and personal witnesses of their truthfulness were the center of men’s faith, the cause of their hope, and the source of their righteousness. Because of this, consideration of anything beyond the preparation for and splendor of Christ’s mission was anticlimatic. In addition, it appears that none of those who chronicled the events following the ministry of Jesus appeared to be very concerned with making connection between these events and Jewish prophetic literature.

    Old Testament prophets were concerned not only with the coming of the Messiah but also with events pertaining to the end of the world. Prophecies relative to these two events constitute an occasional problem: sometimes it is difficult to tell whether a particular prophecy had to do with the dispensation of the fulness of times, the meridian dispensation, or both.

    This will be illustrated below in the first of two examples of early church leaders associating events in their own day with Old Testament prophecy.

    On the day of Pentecost it is recorded that there came a sound as of a rushing, mighty wind, and there appeared cloven tongues like fire that sat upon each of the saints, who spoke in tongues as moved upon by the Holy Ghost. The people who witnessed these things expressed varying opinions as to the cause of the manifestations, but Peter taught that these events partially fulfilled a prophecy spoken by Joel. Quoting Joel, he said:

    “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:

    “And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:

    “And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke:

    “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come:

    “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:17–21.)

    Although this prophecy has frequently and properly been applied to this present dispensation, it should be remembered that Peter thought an aspect of it was being fulfilled in his own day. These same verses from Joel were later quoted by Moroni to Joseph Smith. Moroni said that as of the night of September 21, 1823, Joel’s prophecy was not yet fulfilled but would soon be. This does not, of course, discredit Peter’s statement that they were seeing in part the thing Joel had prophesied, for spiritual manifestations are an integral part of the gospel at all times.

    Two instances of another apostolic church leader referring to Old Testament prophecies being fulfilled in his day are to be found in the writings of Paul.

    You will remember that the Jews thought of themselves as being the elect of God because of their birth as children of Abraham. But Paul taught that the gospel was for all believers, and this, of course, includes the gentile believer. In his epistle to the Romans and in the third chapter of his epistle to the Galatians, Paul taught that those who had faith were children of Abraham. (See Gal. 3:7.) Taking the gospel to the gentiles and their acceptance of it are noted as being in harmony with the prophecy made by Hosea. Paul quotes Hosea as saying:

    “I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.

    “And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.” (Rom. 9:25–26.)

    Paul goes on to say that Isaiah had prophesied to the effect that the gentiles would obtain the righteousness of faith but that the Jews would not accept the gospel because they would not seek salvation by faith—that, in fact, Christ would be a stumbling block to them. (See Rom. 9:27–33.)

    These indications of prophecy fulfilled in apostolic times fit nicely together. They teach that the Jews would not have the necessary faith to accept the gospel—that legalism and their traditions would be stumbling blocks to them; that the gospel would go to the gentiles and they would receive it; and that one of the signs of the gospel having been accepted by the gentiles would be that the Spirit of the Lord would be manifested.

    It appears, therefore, that within our presently available information, there are not many instances known where Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled during the apostolic period.

    [illustration] Peter. (Painting by Marilee Campbell.)