I Have a Question


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

Would you please help me understand the meaning of Doctrine and Covenants 107:36 [D&C 107:36], which speaks of the authority of stake high councils?

Roy W. Doxey, Director of Correlation Review. Whenever I think of councils in the Church, my mind centers on this statement from President Stephen L Richards, counselor to President David O. McKay:

“Now, I don’t know that it is possible for any organization to succeed in the Church under the priesthood without adopting the genius of our Church government. What is that? As I conceive it, the genius of our Church government is government through Councils. The Council of the Presidency, the Council of the Twelve, the Council of the Stake Presidency, or quorum if you choose to use that word, the Council of the Bishopric, and the quorum o[r] Council of the Quorum Presidency. I have had enough experience to know the value of councils. Hardly a day passes but that I see the wisdom, God’s wisdom, in creating councils: to govern his Kingdom. In the spirit under which we labor, men can get together with seemingly divergent views and far different backgrounds, and under the operation of that spirit, by counseling together, they can arrive at an accord, … and therefore I say that accord is always right. That accord represents the wisdom of the council, acting under the Spirit.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1953, p. 86.)

Although the stake high council is not mentioned in the foregoing observation, the same value may be placed on it.

In 1835 when Doctrine and Covenants section 107 was revealed there were two high councils, one in Ohio and the other in Missouri. The one in Ohio was the first organized, and the minutes of that organization are recorded in section 102. These minutes constitute in some respects guidelines for high councils today, especially in the functioning of courts. Since it was the only high council in the Church when it was organized (February 1834), the Kirtland high council was presided over by the First Presidency and had general jurisdiction throughout the Church. This placed the high council in a unique position. (See D&C 102:9–10.) In reference to that high council, President John Taylor said:

“In Kirtland, Ohio; a great many things were revealed through the Prophet. There was then a First Presidency that presided over the High Council, in Kirtland: and that High Council and another which was in Missouri, were the only High Councils in existence. As I have said, the High Council in Kirtland was presided over by Joseph Smith and his Counselors; and hence there were some things associated with this that were quite peculiar in themselves. It is stated that when they were at a loss to find out anything pertaining to any principles that might come before them in their councils, that the presidency were to inquire of the Lord and get revelation on those subjects that were difficult for them to comprehend.” (Journal of Discourses, 19:241.)

Thus, the Kirtland high council, having general jurisdiction throughout the Church, differed from the high council in Missouri, and from stake high councils today. With the First Presidency presiding; the Kirtland high council formed “a quorum equal in authority in the affairs of the church, in all their decisions, to the quorum of the presidency [First Presidency], or to the traveling high council [Twelve Apostles].” (D&C 107:36.)

In the next verse (37) [D&C 107:37], the Lord refers to the high council in Missouri (Zion), which did not have the First Presidency as presiding officers, as being “equal in authority in the affairs of the church, in all their decisions, to the councils of the Twelve at the stakes of Zion.” Thus, this high council, and any other stake high council of twelve members referred to as “councils of the Twelve at the stakes of Zion,” was to be of equal standing to each other.

The growth of the Church was foreordained and known in prophecy. (See D&C 65:2.) That stakes other than those in Ohio and Missouri would be organized was also known, for the Lord made it clear in D&C 101:21 “when there is found no more room for them [the Saints]; … I have other places which I will appoint unto them, and they shall be called stakes, for the curtains or the strength of Zion.”

As each stake is organized, a high council is also organized to assist the stake presidency in governing the stake. None of these stake high councils has jurisdiction over decisions of the First Presidency or the Quorum of the Twelve. A stake high council’s jurisdiction is confined to the stake in which it is organized. The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “No standing High Council has authority to go into the churches abroad, and regulate the matters thereof, for this belongs to the Twelve. No standing High Council will ever be established only in Zion, or one of her stakes.” (History of the Church, 2:220.)

Furthermore, “The High council had nothing to do with the Twelve, or the decisions of the Twelve. But if the Twelve erred they were accountable only to the General Council of the authorities of the whole Church, according to the revelations.” (Ibid., p. 285.)

We have been counseled to store a year’s supply of food, clothing, and, where possible, fuel. Can you explain what might be regarded as a discrepancy between this counsel and 3 Nephi 13:26?

Kenneth H. Beesley, director of Transportation and International Services, Church Materials Management Department; former director of General and Administrative Services, Church Welfare Services Department. There is no discrepancy when the counsel from 3 Nephi 13:26 (“Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them”) or Luke 12:22–34 are considered in context. These references, which include a portion of the Sermon on the Mount (see Matt. 6:25–34), were not directed at the general membership of the Church but to the Apostles and some of the disciples who had been called as missionaries. These particular individuals were counseled to leave their daily business matters and spend their full time preaching the gospel. We expect the same today of those called as General Authorities of the Church or as full-time missionaries.

“There is not now and never has been a call to the saints generally to ‘sell that ye have’ (Luke 12:33) … and then to take no thought for the temporal needs of the present or future. Rather, as part of their mortal probation, the true followers of the Master are expected by him to provide for themselves and their families. (D&C 75.)” (Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965–73, 1:243.)

There is no need to question the counsel of our leaders concerning preparedness over the past four decades. Such counsel is rehearsed at nearly every general conference. For example, Bishop Victor L. Brown, Presiding Bishop of the Church, said in the April 1980 general conference:

“The fundamental principle of welfare services is that you and I provide for our own needs. If serious economic disruption were to occur, the Church would do all in its power to alleviate suffering by supplementing member efforts. But it would not be able to do for the Saints what we have been taught to do for ourselves for over forty years—that is, to have a year’s supply of food, clothing, and, where possible, fuel; to have savings in reserve; and to possess basic production skills. This counsel has been given at least twice a year for all these years. Some have followed the counsel of the Brethren and are prepared, as were the five wise virgins. Some, like the foolish virgins, do not have enough oil in their lamps. (See Matt. 25:1–13.)” (Ensign, May 1980, p. 89.)

As Latter-day Saints we are advised to maintain gardens, to sew, and to make household items. We would be wise also to learn to can, freeze, and dry foods. And, as outlined above, where legally permitted and physically and economically possible, we should store a year’s supply of food, clothing, and fuel. In our present economy it is increasingly important to also have some reserve of cash. The rent or mortgage must be paid by most of us. In the event of unemployment, illness, or death, there is almost always an immediate and continuing need for cash to meet monthly bills and often unplanned medical, legal, funeral, or other expenses.

President Spencer W. Kimball has said: “I like the way the Relief Society teaches personal and family preparedness as ‘provident living.’ This implies the husbanding of our resources, the wise planning of financial matters, full provision for personal health, and adequate preparation for education and career development, giving appropriate attention to home production and storage as well as development of emotional resiliency.” (Ensign, Nov. 1977, p. 78.)

We are also advised to prepare ourselves for the time when we can serve as missionaries. When such a call comes, we will be asked to set aside our normal activities for a period and to commit all of our time, talent, and means to our mission assignment.

I recently read that having large families may lower the IQ of the children. Is there evidence that such a claim is so?

Richard C. Galbraith, associate professor of Family Sciences, Brigham Young University. The “dumber-by-the-dozen” theory was popular among a group of scholars at the University of Michigan in 1975. In their mathematical model, known as the “confluence model,” a child’s intelligence was related to the average quality of that child’s family or home environment. The fewer the children, they reasoned, the more time parents would have for any one child. Children in small families do not have to compete for attention, while children in large families are often taught by their brothers and sisters, who are immature tutors. The authors of this theory therefore advised young couples to have only two children, and to space them far apart (at least five years).

A careful examination of the confluence model, however, discredits this entire line of thought. I will discuss only two points here. First, the mathematical formulas of the model do not produce the intellectual outcomes claimed by the authors. In our lab at BYU, as well as in the Michigan computer facility, scholars have not been able to replicate the confluence model; we find no support for the claims of its authors. In short, the confluence model was a mathematical mistake.

Second, a number of studies show that family size and child spacing have little or nothing to do with intelligence. In a study of 15,000 students at Brigham Young University, the number of brothers and sisters had no influence on college entrance scores. There was no evidence that coming from a large family was an intellectual handicap. In addition, there was no evidence that spacing children far apart in a family had any effect on their intelligence.

The confluence model no longer has popular support. Like many theories, it has been corrected over time. “The truth persists, but the theories of philosophers change and are overthrown. What men use today as a scaffolding for scientific purposes from which to reach out into the unknown for truth, may be torn down tomorrow, having served its purpose.” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939, p. 39.)

(For a more complete and technical discussion, see Richard C. Galbraith, “Sibling Spacing and Intellectual Development: A Closer Look at the Confluence Models,” Developmental Psychology, March, 1982.)