I Have a Question


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

How, as a leader, can I implement the counsel about rebuking without offending? I seem to have a hard time.

Jon I. Young, president of the Augusta Maine Stake and associate professor of education at the University of Maine at Orono Your question is an important one. Any time you’re in a leadership position you will occasionally need to call someone’s attention to an error. The Savior certainly did this, and he provides an excellent example for us to follow. His disciples were learning, and in the process they made many mistakes. Christ made it plain to them—before he ever rebuked them—that he loved them. Not in a general, abstract sense: He loved each one of them as an individual. And his love was unconditional—no matter what they did, he would love them still.

With a firm foundation of love between him and his disciples, he could rebuke them for their mistakes and still leave them with confidence in their own ability.

Many of us, in a situation where a follower has failed, are prone to say such things as, “I should have known I couldn’t count on anyone else,” “How could you fail? It’s so easy,” “If I want anything done around here I guess I have to do it myself,” or “That’s all right, we never really expected that you’d be able to do it.” The Lord loved Peter more than that. When Peter was unable to continue walking on the water, the Lord quickly identified for him the reason for his failure—“little faith”—and let him know that except for that one flaw he would have succeeded. “Wherefore didst thou doubt?” the Savior asked. And Peter, instead of losing faith in himself, only learned that he could have and should have had more faith in the Lord. (See Matt. 14:25–31.)

I try to follow a few simple rules in order to achieve the Savior’s pattern of loving the person while rebuking the error. I’d like to pass them on to you.

First, I try to be personally involved with the people I work with. If I maintain distance from them, then when I need to rebuke someone he resents it—he feels like I’m asserting my authority over him or that I don’t respect him. But when I am working alongside someone, aware of what is going on, not only does he accept criticism better, but also I am less likely to criticize at all, since I understand the difficulty of his work.

Another rule is to focus on the person’s behavior. Whenever someone is being rebuked he will naturally be defensive. The leader has to separate the “sin” from the “sinner” right from the start, if he hopes to accomplish anything.

Instead of lecturing someone, I usually ask questions that bring out the behavior, questions like “How many families did you visit this month?” or “Did you attend the last stake leadership meeting?” This way the individual is thinking about his behavior rather than about his embarrassment at being rebuked. Even more important, it has him talking, not me.

But I try to avoid questions that start with why—like, “Why didn’t you do your home teaching this month?” All I’ll get then is an excuse, and I may even teach people that irresponsibility is acceptable if their excuses are good enough.

It is also important to help the person see the value of his responsibility. Many people who fail in a calling don’t realize that it matters as much as it does. Questions like “What would it do to help other Saints if you did your job?” and “How does it hurt other Saints if you don’t do it?” often help make a person aware of the importance of his work. It is not enough to simply say, “Your work is so important.” Chances are that they’ll believe you’re just trying to make them feel good about an unimportant job.

It isn’t enough, of course, to get a person to promise to “do better next time.” Usually one of the reasons they fail is that they don’t have any clear idea of how to go about succeeding. The leader should help the person plan how to succeed. If there’s a plan it’s much easier to follow up and encourage him later.

But none of these things does any good unless the person himself has a real commitment. We can encourage a person to have that, but we can’t force a commitment on anyone. However, it’s a good idea to ask for one. Once a person has promised you to follow a certain plan, it is actually easier for him to do it. He does not feel that he is alone. He knows that there is someone else who cares very much if he does a good job or not. And he doesn’t want to let you down.

By using such a positive approach, it is often possible to help a person change without his feeling that he has been rebuked at all. “Rebukes” like this are usually seen the way they are meant: a hand of love extended to help a brother or sister who is faltering. Love will increase, not diminish, when such kindness is used in correcting people. It may take patience, and the process may need to be repeated many times, but if we rebuke a fellow Saint and then show forth “afterwards an increase of love,” he will know that our “faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.” (D&C 121:43–44.)

Where do animals fit in the eternal plan of things?

Gerald E. Jones, director, Institute of Religion, Berkeley, California “Nature helps us to see and understand God. To all His creations we owe an allegiance of service and a profound admiration.” Thus the General Superintendency of the Deseret Sunday School Union, President Joseph F. Smith, President of the Church, and Elders David O. McKay and Stephen L Richards, members of the Council of the Twelve, editorialized in the April 1918 Juvenile Instructor. Recognizing that the “love of nature is akin to the love of God” they reminded the members of the Church that “men learn more easily in sympathetic relationships of all life than they do in the seclusion of human interest.” (P. 183.) Many families recognize the importance of pets and the resultant loving and sharing among their children. Caring for pets can also develop a sense of responsibility.

Devotion of animals to families can be inspiring as well as practical. A recent news item related the bravery of a dog in saving the life of a small girl by breaking the window of a burning automobile and pulling her to safety.

A number of questions have been asked concerning the place of animals in the gospel plan:

Do animals have spirits and are they resurrected? Yes. The Prophet Joseph Smith received information concerning the eternal status of animals. Answers to questions he posed are in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 77. He also spoke about the resurrection of animals in a sermon but did not expand on the subject. (History of the Church, 5:343.)

To what degree of glory do animals go? The scriptures speak only of animals being in the celestial kingdom. Whether they go to other kingdoms is a matter of conjecture. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith on one occasion said the distribution of animals into all three degrees of glory is “very probable,” (Improvement Era, Jan. 1958, pp. 16–17.) To my knowledge, no other prophet has published an opinion on the subject.

Are animals judged and resurrected according to their obedience to laws? According to Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, animals do not have a conscience. They cannot sin and they cannot repent, for they have not the knowledge of right and wrong. (Man: His Origin and Destiny, Deseret Book Co., 1954, pp. 204–5.)

Can animals be with their owners in the hereafter? There is no revealed word on this subject. Reason would tell us that a rancher or farmer may not want all of the cattle he has owned during his life. On the other hand, emotional ties may be honored and family pets may well be restored to their owners in the resurrection. Elder Orson F. Whitney wrote that Joseph Smith expected to have his favorite horse in eternity. (Improvement Era, Aug. 1927, p. 855.)

Just what is the relationship between men and animals? Men are children of God. Animals are for the benefit of man. This does not mean, however, that man is not to have a concern for this part of his stewardship. The prophets in all ages have indicated that man will be accountable for his treatment of animals and that justice and mercy should be exercised concerning them. Alma encourages us to pray over our flocks. (Alma 34:20, 25.) There are numerous examples in Church history of animals being administered to by the anointing of oil and their resultant healing. In the best-known incident, Mary Fielding Smith’s oxen were spared to bring her pioneer family, including a future President of the Church, Joseph F. Smith, to Utah. (Preston Nibley, Presidents of the Church, Deseret Book Co., 1959, pp. 234–35.)

Though the prophets have spoken frequently about man’s responsibility to show proper treatment to animals in this world, very little detail is known about the states of animals in the eternities. Greater emphasis is rightly placed upon man’s need to live the gospel and be worthy to return to his Heavenly Father where he will then learn the answers to such questions. Quoting again from the editorial cited at the beginning of this article: “Men cannot worship the Creator and look with careless indifference upon his creations. The love of all life helps man to the enjoyment of a better life. It exalts the spiritual nature of those in need of divine favor.” (Juvenile Instructor, Apr. 1918, p. 182.)

What does it mean to endure to the end, and why is it necessary?

Roy W. Doxey, professor emeritus of Church history and doctrine and dean emeritus of Religious Instruction at Brigham Young University and Regional Representative of the Twelve Some members of the Church seem to feel that because they have received baptism, and even the temple ordinances, their salvation is assured. But the prophets have taught that one must also endure to the end of this estate in righteousness to obtain the blessing of eternal life. The following scriptures are powerful proclamations of this truth:

Jesus: “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (Matt. 24:13.)

Nephi: “And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.” (2 Ne. 31:16.)

A modern-day revelation: “And again, I would that ye should learn that he only is saved who endureth unto the end. Even so. Amen.” (D&C 53:7.).

A latter-day prophet: “I say to the Latter-day [Saints], no amount of knowledge, no amount of testimony, no amount of sealing in the temples of God to our wives and children will save us; but the keeping of the commandments of God, being honest in our dealings with God and with our fellow men, paying our tithing, obeying the Word of Wisdom and doing our duty as Latter-day Saints—these are the things, and the only things that will save us.” (Heber J. Grant, as quoted in Roy W. Doxey, The Latter-day Prophets and the Doctrine and Covenants, Deseret Book Co., 1965, 4:538–39.)

It is revealed that even those who are sanctified by the Spirit “may … depart from the living God.” (D&C 20:32.) It is also true that they who have not yet received sanctification should be earnestly seeking at all times to be found faithful to the covenants they have made lest they lose their salvation in the celestial kingdom. In fact, those who are “not valiant in the testimony of Jesus … obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God,” and they receive a terrestrial kingdom. (D&C 76:79.) I understand that the blessing of the terrestrial kingdom will be theirs if they are “honorable” in keeping the moral laws; otherwise, they receive a place in the telestial kingdom. (See D&C 76:102–6.)

The gospel plan provides the fullest blessings of the eternities to those who are exemplars of the Master’s teachings and improve upon talents received. In applying the parable of the entrusted talents (see Matt. 25:14–30), the Prophet Joseph Smith said:

“You know, brethren, that when the Master in the Savior’s parable of the stewards called his servants before him he gave them several talents to improve on while he should tarry abroad for a little season, and when he returned he called for an accounting. So it is now. Our Master is absent only for a little season, and at the end of it He will call each to render an account; and where the five talents were bestowed, ten will be required; and he that has made no improvement will be cast out as an unprofitable servant, while the faithful will enjoy everlasting honors. Therefore we earnestly implore the grace of our Father to rest upon you, through Jesus Christ His Son, that you may not faint in the hour of temptation, nor be overcome in the time of persecution.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 68.)

It is strange indeed that some may think their lack of faithfulness to the responsibilities received in baptism will not be held against them in the day of judgment. The Savior forcefully expressed the need to remain faithful following baptism in these words:

“And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.” (3 Ne. 27:19.)

The scriptures condemn those who do not keep their covenants. The explicit statement of the Lord through Ezekiel is as follows:

“But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.” (Ezek. 18:24.)

This same truth is given in a modern revelation:

“And now, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, will not lay any sin to your charge; go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God.” (D&C 82:7.)

Expressed in the language of a present-day General Authority, we have the following:

“Even though we may have been faithful in the past, if we turn away, that faithfulness will profit us nothing. ‘No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God’ [Luke 9:62].” (Howard W. Hunter, Conference Report, Apr. 1961, p. 18.)

The Lord said: “For if ye will not abide in my covenant ye are not worthy of me.” (D&C 98:15.)

The Lord will extend forgiveness to the member of the Church who has not been faithful to gospel covenants if there is true repentance. (See D&C 58:42–43.) Repentance should be immediate and long-lasting.

Some people assume, however, that because they may be able to repent after death, all the blessings of the gospel will be received. But when we depart from this sphere of existence, we will find that we are still the same individuals that we were upon this earth. Death does not change one’s attitudes or create in him a desire to repent, because “that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.” (Alma 34:34.)

To seek perfection through keeping the commandments is the way to endure to the end. There is no other way. Repentance of sins committed before and after baptism brings the Lord’s forgiveness and makes it possible to live the commandments. Living by every word of God in enduring to the end will make one’s calling and election sure, for if one follows the Master he will find rich treasures in this life and eventual eternal life with God.

Whenever I think of enduring to the end of mortality, I remember the following words of President Brigham Young:

“There are a great many texts which might be used, very comprehensive and full of meaning, but I know of none, either in the Old or New Testament, more so than that saying, said to have been made by the Savior, and I have no doubt it was, ‘If ye love me, keep my commandments.’ …

“How long? For a day? Keep the commandments of the Lord for a week? Observe and do his will for a month or a year? There is no promise to any individual, that I have any knowledge of, that he shall receive the reward of the just, unless he is faithful to the end.” (Journal of Discourses, 13:310–11.)

I’ve noticed that some LDS sisters use Ms. as their title. Is this all right?

Alice Colton Smith, Relief Society General Board Well, this is the way I feel about it—and remember, this is my opinion, not doctrine. For some women, Ms. is associated with the women’s liberation movement; when they hear sisters using Ms. they automatically assume that these women are also radical liberationists and antimarriage, antihome, etc. I think that kind of thinking is a shame for two reasons: (1) There’s no place in the gospel for judging others. Stereotyping on the basis of title is a form of making a sister an offender for a word—especially when you don’t know where she stands on these other issues. (2) Assuming that Ms. is an undesirable word takes away a very convenient option if you don’t happen to know a woman’s marital status and want to use something neutral. The title was not invented by the women’s liberation movement. My British friends tell me that they were taught in grammar school to use Ms. for a woman whose marital status is unknown, long before the title had any political or social implications. In the United States, secretarial schools have for a long time suggested the same thing. In Germany, the convenient title Fr. may mean either Frau (Mrs.) or Fraulein (Miss). I like keeping the option. I want as many options as the gospel allows.

Two thoughts might be considered in choosing one’s own option:

A married woman may prefer to use Mrs. instead of Ms. to show that she values her married status; a single woman may prefer to use Ms. instead of Miss because the anonymity of Ms. affords her a degree of protection. I don’t think either should feel offended if she is addressed by a title other than the one she prefers.

Now, if a woman likes just one form of address, I’m delighted to use it if she’ll let me know her preference. For me, it doesn’t matter. Ms., Miss, Mrs., Sister, or just plain Alice—I’ll answer to all of them. But I don’t want to be boxed in until even my title is a must. I want to save the musts for the really important areas.