I Have a Question


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

What can I as a home or visiting teacher do for the single person assigned to me?

Diane E. Cleveland, Young Special Interest representative of the Bountiful Val Verda Second Ward and mother of two children As a single person myself, I see home or visiting teaching as a wonderful responsibility and opportunity to use my talents to the best of my ability. It’s a great way to learn to love people.

But I have found that some of my married friends, busy raising families, seldom take time to think about what it’s like to be single—and thus find it difficult to determine and meet any particular needs that the singles they visit might have. A good example of this occurred after a workshop for stake and ward Young Special Interest leaders. My friend Mary asked if feeling excluded was actually a problem for singles. In reply I asked her if she had any single friends. Yes, she did. Then I asked Mary how often she and her husband entertained their single friends. Never, Mary said, shocked at her discovery. Since that time she and her husband have spent more time with their single friends.

I’m not talking about emotional or physical dependence—we as singles need to be sensitive to the needs and concerns of our married friends as well. But let me share with you the example of my visiting and home teachers. They have found ways to help with particular needs that I and my daughters, Elizabeth, thirteen, and Suzanne, eight-and-a-half, might have. These visiting and home teachers have put themselves in my place and asked themselves what they can do to help me. Then they have acted on their answers.

For instance, these days many women are acquainted with the traditional homemaking arts as well as with male-oriented tasks such as mowing lawns and caring for the car, but it never hurts to check with a single woman and make sure that her car has had a lube and oil change in the last few months, that the snow tires are on for the winter, or that the tires are being rotated regularly. Perhaps a recent widower can use help in learning to wash clothes properly or to fix balanced meals.

My two home teachers offered to hang a picture and fix a broken curtain rod for me. They gave my children their business cards with office and home phone numbers and told Elizabeth and Suzanne to call any time of the day or night if they needed help or just needed someone to talk to. This act was especially welcomed because I had been sick, and the girls knew that these two brethren would come instantly if they were needed, just as they would do for their own families.

Visiting teachers’ obligations might not end with the once-a-month message. It might be a good idea to see if a single parent’s children would like to go to the park or go swimming with you and your children. This kindness might help to alleviate some of the pressure that working parents feel keenly during summer months, when their children have more free time. Suzanne has been invited to go fishing with the father and son who live next door to us. Paul, our home teacher, has taken my girls with him when he visits his grandparents. We love to be invited into our married friends’ homes for family home evening. I enjoy having another adult’s viewpoint on the lesson.

The Lord taught us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This is the key to righteous and happy living for all of us, married or single. So singles, too, could find ways to strengthen ties with the marrieds in the ward by being sensitive to particular needs. Those without children might occasionally enjoy helping a married woman who needs a break from the duties of motherhood. We can include the recently returned missionary in some of our activities. The list goes on and on.

As with any responsibility, it is essential to care. As we do, our desire to help will grow, and our ability to sense ways to help will develop, whatever our marital status may be.

I believe that this is truly Christ’s church, but why does he need an organization to save his children?

Melvin J. Petersen, professor of Church history and doctrine, Brigham Young University, and bishop, Orem Thirty-seventh Ward, Orem Utah South Central Stake This question is a very good one, and in preparing an answer it must be stated at the beginning that membership in the Church cannot save an individual independent of other gospel commitments, as indicated by the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord commanded Joseph Smith “to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (D&C 1:30). Why is it important that the Church be made known as “the only true and living church” upon the earth? What does the Church do for us?

1. It provides saving ordinances, performed by the authority of the holy priesthood. Part of the ordinance of baptism, for instance, is to confirm one a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But baptism also provides for the remission of sins, and thus sets one in the pathway toward salvation.

2. Within the Church are prophets and apostles whose instruction, according to Paul, is needed “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

“That we henceforth be no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” (Eph. 4:12–14.)

In a modern revelation the Lord stated that “the Twelve are a Traveling Presiding High Council, to officiate in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the Presidency of the Church, agreeable to the institution of heaven; to build up the church, and regulate all the affairs of the same in all nations, first unto the Gentiles and secondly unto the Jews” (D&C 107:33). It is so important that we have these leaders for instruction that the Lord has revealed that those who hear them not “shall be cut off from among the people” (D&C 1:14).

3. The Lord has promised that gifts of the Spirit will follow the believers, for their profit and salvation (see D&C 84:65–73). And inasmuch as no one person receives every gift (see D&C 46:11), the gifts distributed among the members at large profit one another, (see D&C 46:12). Paul makes the Church analogous to a body having many members and requiring the united effort of all to become like Christ (see 1 Cor. 12:12–31).

4. The Church is a refuge to prepare the members to stand together when the storms come (see D&C 115:6) and to help one another in times of individual stress. Alma taught that individuals who enter into the fold of God covenant “to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light” and “to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:8–9). Would anyone want to exempt himself from such benefits?

5. The Church offers its members an opportunity to express true love. At the Last Supper Jesus said to his apostles, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34). The Church does not have a professional clergy, but rather has all assignments filled by the members themselves. Although growth and development come to those who participate with full purpose of heart, the great value of a lay church is to allow the members to show their true love through service (see D&C 42:29; D&C 20:31).

6. Finally, the Lord wants his church to be a living church, identifiable to others (see D&C 1:30). As Alma so aptly wrote, we covenant “to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places … even until death” (Mosiah 18:9). A great, pulsating church draws the interest and attention of others, through its many members who radiate its message. The Church is to be like an ensign and a judge unto all nations, declaring and clarifying goals and objectives pertaining to Zion (D&C 64:37–38).

Does the “Pronouncing Vocabulary” in the Book of Mormon represent the way the Nephites and Lamanites actually pronounced their names? Was the “Pronouncing Vocabulary” part of the original Book of Mormon?

Robert G. Patch, professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University, and Marcus von Wellnitz, graduate student at BYU The actual pronunciations used by the Nephites and Lamanites are unknown. The “Pronouncing Vocabulary” was produced some time after the Book of Mormon was translated in an effort to encourage a uniform pronunciation of Book of Mormon names.

It has been speculated by some that Joseph Smith knew how to pronounce the names in the Book of Mormon—but unfortunately he never recorded those pronunciations. He may have shared them verbally, however. As his mother, Lucy Mack Smith, recorded:

“During our evening conversations, Joseph would … describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of traveling, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life among them.” (History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, Lucy Mack Smith, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1958, p. 83.)

Although Joseph’s mother makes no mention of names or their pronunciation, it is possible that Joseph’s “recitals” included them. It also seems likely that Joseph would have heard some names spoken by Moroni in one of their many interviews. But no record was made from either source. Thus, when it was clear that a uniform system of pronunciation would be helpful, it had to be invented on the basis of reasoning—or through arbitrary judgment.

A logical place to begin would be with the original languages. It is known that the Book of Mormon contains elements of both Hebrew and Egyptian (see Morm. 9:32–33 and Mosiah 1:4). Sidney B. Sperry has identified the names Pahoran, Paanchi, and Pacumeni as Egyptian, and some Book of Mormon names can also be found in the Bible. But much is still unknown about both those ancient languages. And how does one pronounce Moriancumer, Cumorah, Hagoth, Rameumptom, or Cezoram?

To help resolve the difficulty a conference was held at Brigham Young University on 23 May 1903. At that conference President Joseph F. Smith approved appointments to an examining committee with the provision that “you do not afterwards cut me off the Church if I don’t pronounce the words according to the rule adopted by the committee.”

The following day, May 24, Charles W. Penrose, one of the committee members, presented to the conference the pronunciation rules recommended by the committee:

  1. 1.

    Words of two syllables are accented on the first syllable.

  2. 2.

    Words of three syllables are accented on the second syllable, with some exceptions like Deseret, Helaman, and Korihor.

  3. 3.

    Words of four or more syllables were to be accented on the third syllable, with a few exceptions like Abinadi, Amalickiah, and Abinadom.

  4. 4.

    Words with final i always carried the long vowel, as in Nephi.

  5. 5.

    An initial g was always to be hard, as in Gad.

(See Deseret Evening News, 25 May 1903, p. 3; 26 May 1903, p. 4.)

Between 1903 and 1910 Professor John M. Mills, an Ogden educator who served as Superintendent of the Ogden City Board of Education, created the “Pronouncing Vocabulary,” applying the committee’s rules to the actual names in the Book of Mormon. This work was apparently first published in the 1910 edition of George Reynolds’s A Dictionary of the Book of Mormon. The introduction to the vocabulary explained that President Anthon H. Lund and Dr. James E. Talmage had assisted in the work, which was sponsored by the Deseret Sunday School Union. The vocabulary was submitted “solely in the interest of uniformity. … Euphony in English, ease in translation into other languages, and possible conflicts with other proper names, have been kept in mind throughout.” (A Dictionary of the Book of Mormon, Salt Lake City: Deseret Sunday School Union, 1910, appendix.)