I Have a Question


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

I’m a divorced mother with a four-year-old son. I know he needs me, especially this last year before he starts kindergarten. But if I don’t work, I’ll probably have to accept government welfare. I feel guilty about neglecting my son—and I am not sure about accepting government welfare. Can you help me?

R. Quinn Gardner, managing director, Church Welfare Services You are not alone in your concern. This current and complex problem affects many—one in every eight families in the United States today is headed by a woman. (Women Workers Today, U.S. Dept. of Labor, 1976, p. 10.) Many of these women are mothers like yourself with young children. What should the standard be for Latter-day Saint mothers who are in this situation?

Obviously, the young widow or divorcee has many needs, including the needs for adult company and recreation. To satisfy these needs requires that she leave the home and her children on occasion. As a general rule, however, when it comes to work away from home, Church leaders have counseled that whenever possible the mother should remain in the home. Especially is this true of mothers with preschool children. While she is at home loving, teaching, and guiding her young children she should use reasonable means to generate income from within the home. Sewing, canvassing with the telephone, perhaps a home mail-order business of her own are possibilities. Several good books are available on this subject of earning income while at home, such as Homework (Vera Judge, Deseret Book, 1977). She may also consider taking reputable correspondence courses to increase her talents and expertise so that, if necessary, when all the children are in school, she will be able to find more rewarding, suitable, and gainful employment. Only where absolutely necessary should the mother of small children seek work outside the home and then such work should be to the extent possible of a part-time nature.

Thus, as a young mother you should try as hard as possible to remain in your home where you should try to provide for yourself and your little boy. Where you cannot provide adequately, your immediate family—parents, brothers, and sisters—and your extended family—grandparents, uncles, aunts—should help you if at all possible. Where your family members are unable to help sufficiently, then the Church stands ready to provide you with assistance.

A faithful divorced sister with a four-year-old son is clearly included within the spirit and the letter of section 83 of the Doctrine and Covenants:

“Verily, thus saith the Lord, in addition to the laws of the church concerning women and children, those who belong to the church, who have lost their husbands or fathers:

“Women have claim on their husbands for their maintenance, until their husbands are taken; and if they are not found transgressors they shall have fellowship in the church. …

“And the storehouse shall be kept by the consecrations of the church; and the widows and orphans shall be provided for, as also the poor.” (D&C 83:1–2, 6.)

Of course, each individual’s circumstances must be considered as unique. The mother’s age and health, her children (how many and how old), her financial resources, her previous training and education, her personal interests, experience, and capabilities, and other factors will vary. But the general welfare principles remain the same: (1) the divorced or widowed mother with preschool children should stay in the home and provide as much as possible for herself and her children; (2) when she cannot meet needs and obligations, her family should assist; and (3) where both individual and family resources are inadequate, the Church is prepared to help.

Your bishop is empowered—indeed he is commanded—to actively seek out those who need help and to provide for their needs. To aid him in assessing and meeting those needs, the bishop has the Storehouse Resource System he can call upon. He has access to an employment system coordinated by Melchizedek Priesthood Quorums. He has the bishops storehouse from which he may obtain food and nonfood commodities. He has the fast offering fund out of which he may pay for rent and utilities. As approved by his stake president, he may call upon LDS Social Services where necessary. Deseret Industries stocks nonfood items that your bishop may obtain by using a bishop’s order. Normally the bishop will call upon the Relief Society president to assist in determining how to apply the resources in the Storehouse Resource System. I am certain your bishop stands ready to help both you and your little boy.

I hasten to add, however, that the Lord’s program to care for those in need does not end with the rendering of assistance. If commodities, money, and services were simply handed out, they could and would become a dole. When you receive such assistance from the Church, your bishop will provide you with work or service opportunities to match your ability and your circumstances. In accepting Church aid, then, you merit what you receive through work or service. You do not necessarily give full monetary value. Nor is this expected. The members of the Church, through their consecrated time and offerings, have given money and commodities to help you. You, in turn, give of yourself to help them.

By this we see that Church welfare is much more a program of giving than of getting. I hope you do not look negatively upon acceptance of Church assistance as long as you do your part and work to the best of your ability, giving your time and talents to help others who may have needs similar to yours. Receiving Church welfare assistance is as honorable as giving it.

Now the question will arise, “Does this mean that I should not accept government assistance?”

This is not a question that can be given a simple answer; there are many governments; there are many aspects of government welfare assistance that must be considered.

Perhaps the most important factor to be considered is the fact that the care of poor, needy, and distressed members of the Church is a primary duty given by scriptural commandment to the Church by the Lord. In other words, the care of “the poor, the widows, and the fatherless” in the Church is a province of the Church and its members. To the extent that bishops shift this kind of care from the Church to secular sources, blessings are lost—to both giver and receiver.

Stated succinctly, the Church’s policy on accepting government assistance is as follows:

“The responsibility for each member’s spiritual, social, emotional, physical, or economic well-being rests first, upon himself, second, upon his family, and third, upon the Church. Members of the Church are commanded by the Lord to be self-reliant and independent to the extent of their ability. (See D&C 78:13–14.)

“No true Latter-day Saint, while physically or emotionally able, will voluntarily shift the burden of his own or his family’s well-being to someone else. So long as he can, under the inspiration of the Lord and with his own labors, he will work to the extent of his ability to supply himself and his family with the spiritual and temporal necessities of life. (Gen. 3:19; 1 Tim. 5:8; and Philip. 2:12.)

“As guided by the Spirit of the Lord and through applying these principles, each member of the Church should make his own decision as to what assistance he accepts, be it from governmental or other source. In this way, independence, self-respect, dignity, and self-reliance will be fostered, and free agency maintained.” (The Presiding Bishopric, September 1977.)

To summarize then: First, decide to be where your child needs you most. Except in unusual circumstances, this will be in the home. Second, do what you reasonably can to support yourself while in the home. Where your own resources are insufficient, look to your family. And when that will not suffice, do not hesitate to seek help from the Church; it’s the Lord’s “own way” of providing for his Saints. (See D&C 104:16–17.) And as for government assistance, this decision must be made by you. It should be made in accordance with the principles the Lord has revealed through his appointed leaders, as has already been outlined.

How can parents best help their children prepare and present talks?

Clarissa Whitney, chairman of the speech department, Santa Ana College, Santa Ana, California There are several things parents can do to help their children give talks. Most of them are interesting, informative, and entertaining activities. Best of all, they are easy to plan and to do!

Recently an older brother asked me what courses I enjoyed teaching. When I mentioned group discussion he said, “That course should be easy for you. You were born into a group discussion!” (I’m the middle child in a family of nine children.) We laughed but we then agreed that many of us learn to “give talks” by learning “to talk.”

Having family discussions is a good way to start teaching children to talk, and the dinner hour is a good time. My dad and mother used to read an article, a story, or a scripture and ask each of us to tell what it meant to us or how we could apply it in our daily living. Other times we were asked to talk about an interesting experience we had had during the day or week, or we were asked to tell a favorite story. If you’d like to try this activity it will provide information for another important aid—a card file for each family member. Filing can be done simply by using a card section for each child. Recording statements such as “LeAnn likes to tell the story about …” or, “Christopher is interested in …” brings back incidents and events at an opportune time. Filing may also be done under subject headings such as Obedience, Faith, etc., and they can then be used when it is time to prepare a talk.

Providing frequency in speaking is important. We children thoroughly enjoyed planning our family nights. Under our parents’ direction, each of us in turn planned the menu for dinner, conducted the program and activities, and taught a lesson or gave a talk. We were always praised for our efforts. Then Mom and Dad took their turns. We children learned a great deal from observing and listening.

Giving impromptu speeches was an activity our children enjoyed. We wrote a word, a proverb, a scripture, or a quotation on cards. Then each child drew a card and he or she spoke about that subject. Variations for impromptu speeches included posing a problem and asking the speaker to suggest a solution; gift wrapping several articles and letting each one choose a gift, unwrap it, then talk about it; and putting different items in a bag and letting each person draw out and talk about the item. If all of these are carefully chosen the experiences are very valuable. We found them to be worthwhile and enjoyable at all ages.

At this point you may be wondering about an activity for the shy child. We tried something recently that is proving to be very successful. My husband built a puppet theater for our grandchildren. I collected puppets and wrote scripts for them. The children are delighted with the ideas. We also asked the children to have the puppets tell us stories they know or can make up. This activity helps the shy child gain self-confidence and develop skills. It also encourages creative thinking and develops the imagination. Puppet patterns are available and felt puppets are easy to make.

One more suggestion. Use a tape recorder for practicing talks. We’ve used them with our children (and I use them in the classroom). They are helpful for all ages. Record the person telling a story or experience or reading a poem, then play it back. As the child gains confidence and skill, give positive criticism for improving the presentation. (When giving criticism I try to remember a quotation by Arnold H. Glasgow. He said, “Glass blowers will never produce anything as fragile as the human ego.”) When the child can tell the experience, story, or poem effectively, assist him or her in preparing an introduction and a conclusion. Then encourage the child to practice the completed talk several times before presenting it to others. Somehow children don’t mind practicing when they can use the tape recorder!

After a child has experienced these activities and can give a simple talk, the rules, skills, and techniques for public speaking should be taught. The rules for preparing a speech are quite simple. A talk has three parts: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Each part has a purpose. (1) The introduction should gain the attention of the listeners and preview the subject. (2) The body contains the subject matter or message. (3) The conclusion reviews and emphasizes the message. If the purpose of the talk is to persuade, the conclusion also gives a “course of direction” or “call to action” for the listeners.

Parents really aren’t helping children when they write speeches for them. Messages should come from the personal or vicarious experiences of the speaker, and the message should convey how and what the speaker thinks and feels.

For beginning speakers (especially the shy person), just reading a story or poem may seem to be adequate, but children shouldn’t be encouraged to make mediocre presentations, nor should they ever be embarrassed because of inadequate preparation. The family circle is the place to teach and to practice preparation and presentation. With the parents’ support, a speech can be well prepared and the child can be confident.

There are no secrets or shortcuts to effective speaking. The steps are preparation, practice, and presentation. If children are included in family discussions and activities—and are encouraged and assisted in the preparation and practice of talks—they should do well in presenting them. They will also find it a rewarding and satisfying experience.

Our only child, so far, recently passed away. We know he is part of our eternal family, but we wonder what we might do as other children come along to make him part of our family in mortality.

Marvin R. VanDam, counselor in the Holladay Twentieth Ward Bishopric, Salt Lake Olympus Stake The ongoing family remembrance of our little Patrick began at the time I dedicated his grave on a lovely August afternoon in 1972.

Patrick was born in Abington, Pennsylvania, and because of a complication at birth he lived only six days. We lived near a lovely little cemetery, but decided that he should be buried instead in a location near where we would want our eventual home to be—or at least in an area we could easily visit, since corporate assignments might require us to move frequently for many years.

We therefore held the funeral and buried him in Utah, where we grew up and where our parents lived. Since then we have moved to two different European countries on assignment, and then back to Utah. We are grateful for having made that decision.

In the prayer of dedication at the gravesite, I asked fervently that our family might live to be worthy to join Patrick someday in that perfect place where he now is. Six years later, we still pray often for that same blessing, and find that it is a significant family encouragement and challenge to work toward that goal.

We not only pray that we might someday meet and again associate with this special son and brother, but we also feel it is appropriate to pray for his current success and welfare. Nevertheless, we know that all is well with him because of the promise of the Lord that little children who die in infancy are perfect and worthy of his kingdom.

Inasmuch as we are now fortunate to live convenient to the cemetery where Patrick is buried, we have established the practice of going there from time to time to have family prayer. Sometimes one of our children will say, “Can we please stop at Patrick’s grave to have prayer?” Whenever we do, it provides us with a special teaching moment to talk with the children about things important, sacred, and eternal.

Since Patrick is, we feel, as much a part of our family as any living earthly child, we believe there is value to be gained from remembering his birthday and even in sharing a birthday cake baked in his honor. To have the children thus see our total faith as parents that Patrick is real, that his little body will be resurrected, and that we may be joined again eternally as a family is an advantage that we as parents would not want to lose.

Because four of our children have been born since Patrick died, we are grateful for the white leather book of remembrance we compiled to remember him by. In it we have his certificates, photos from the hospital and of the funeral and burial, related correspondence, and other small treasures. As we show the children this book of remembrance, Patrick remains real to those who knew him and becomes real to the children who did not meet him here.

My wife, Sandy, and I are most thankful for the fact that the Lord allowed the birth and death of this little boy to be one of the most beautiful and spiritual family experiences we have been privileged to have since our marriage. The Lord made his presence and even his death sweet to us, and we cherish not only the memory of Patrick himself, but also the memory of those few special and sacred days we spent together. At that time we studied as thoroughly as possible the doctrines and writings of the Church regarding little children who die. As parents and as a family we cannot express how grateful we are for those promises and the future they hold. I want to say that we do not as a family constantly dwell on Patrick, but we make a conscious effort not to forget him, nor to forget the very special family challenge and promise he has given us.

I’m puzzled by the instructions in D&C 20:76 that the priests should “kneel with the church” in blessing the sacrament. What does this mean, and has it ever been the practice for the whole congregation to kneel?

James B. Allen, Assistant Church Historian Your interesting question makes me suspect that you wonder if Saints might be technically violating some instruction by not kneeling during the administration of the sacrament. Let me assure you that you have no need for concern.

Partaking of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is one of our most sacred ordinances. We have several customs that help emphasize the sacredness of the occasion. They include singing appropriate hymns, reciting scriptures, and asking the priests and deacons to be properly groomed. But such aids to worship are not nearly as important as the special purpose of the sacrament itself. The sacrament prayers were given by revelation—both to the Book of Mormon people and to the Prophet Joseph Smith. If you read them carefully you will find the full meaning of the sacrament, including the commitments we take upon ourselves each week as we partake.

Outward practices change from time to time; according to changing circumstances and as the leaders of the Church receive inspiration from the Lord. The Prophet Joseph Smith once said that “that which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another.” (History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 5:135.) In this spirit the Latter-day Saints clearly understand that external forms may be altered by the living prophets as often as the Spirit so dictates to them.

Historically, I am not really certain what the phrase “kneel with the church” meant, and so far as I have been able to discover Joseph Smith did not elaborate upon it. It would be fruitless for us, it seems to me, to try to interpret too precisely a phrase that was not commented upon by the Prophet.

At the same time, we can recognize with interest some of the changes that have taken place in the external patterns. When the sacrament was first introduced by the Savior, he was seated with his apostles. He simply blessed the bread and wine, explained their meaning, and passed them around the table. (See Luke 22:14–20.) When the Savior appeared among the Nephites, he taught them about the sacrament by having them “sit themselves down upon the earth,” then blessing and distributing the sacred emblems. (See 3 Ne. 18:1–4.) It became the practice, however, for those administering the sacrament in Book of Mormon times to “kneel down with the church” as they said the prayer. (Moro. 1:2.)

In the early days of Latter-day Saint Church history, beginning with Joseph Smith, it was not uncommon for the Saints to hear an uplifting gospel sermon while the sacrament was being passed. This was merely a custom, not a revealed rule, and by the end of the nineteenth century it was discontinued.

Later, it became the custom to play or sing devotional music during the sacrament service, but in 1946 the First Presidency felt inspired to recommend that this be replaced by quiet and worshipful reverence. In a letter to all stake presidents and bishops they explained a principle that could also apply to any such outward practices: “Anything which detracts the partaker’s thoughts from the covenants he or she is making is not in accordance with the ideal condition that should exist whenever this sacred, commemorative ordinance is administered.” (Improvement Era, 1946, 49:384.)

The practice of having the whole congregation kneel during the sacrament prayer was not uncommon during the nineteenth century, though it was not required, either. In 1902, President Joseph F. Smith approved an Improvement Era editorial that observed that it had been the custom “when the congregations were not so large as they are now” for the whole congregation to kneel, and that it was still not improper. This was in response to a question about whether more than one of the brethren administering the sacrament should kneel during the prayer. “This matter, however,” the editorial concluded, “may be regulated by the presiding authority, according to local surroundings, circumstances and conditions.” (Improvement Era, 1902, 5:473–74.) The custom of all kneeling together was clearly disappearing at that time, though we do not know when the practice finally ended. The important thing is that the sacred meaning of the sacrament and the essential elements of the sacrament service—that is, the purpose, the prayer, and the authority of the priesthood—have remained constant. These, after all, are the things that really count.