I Have a Question

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

What is our role when a general emergency arises and our family has already prepared and planned adequately, while others have not?

John H. Cox, president, Georgia Macon Mission. To answer this question, let’s review the fundamental gospel principles upon which relief is extended to the needy.

The Lord counsels us to first provide for self: “For it is expedient that I, the Lord, should make every man accountable, as a steward over earthly blessings.” (D&C 104:13.) He counsels us to next provide for family: wives have claim on their husbands for support (see D&C 83:2), young children on their parents (see D&C 83:4; Mosiah 4:14), and elderly parents on their children (see Mark 7:10–13). Through modern prophets, the Lord has also clarified that relatives need to help care for distressed kin.

When everything possible has been done by the individual and the family to provide for temporal needs, the Lord will provide through the larger family of the Church: “And after that, they have claim upon the church, or in other words upon the Lord’s storehouse.” (D&C 83:5.)

But how much should we give to another? Under the Mosaic law, a “freewill offering of thine hand” was to be generous, “according as the Lord thy God hath blessed thee.” (Deut. 16:10; see also Mosiah 4:26.) Speaking to this generation, the Lord says that we should impart to the poor and needy “the abundance which [he has] made,” and he reassures us that “the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare.” (D&C 104:17–18.) When we give freely as we are able, the Lord will bless us. (See Luke 6:38; see also Mark 10:21.)

The spirit with which we give is most important. We are to give and not count the cost. “Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto.

“For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.” (Deut. 15:10–11.)

The Lord expects us to be liberal in determining who should receive our help. We are to “administer of [our] substance unto him that standeth in need; and … not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to [us] in vain, and turn him out to perish.

“Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—

“But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; …

“For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?” (Mosiah 4:16–19.)

We are not to judge who is worthy of our gift and who is not. “O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.

“And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God.” (Mosiah 4:21–22.)

In so directing our giving, the Lord yet counsels us to be wise. “See that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength.” (Mosiah 4:27.) Our obligations to our families and others who have claim on our resources cannot be set aside. One of our real challenges as Latter-day Saints is to find ways to meet our current obligations while moving beyond them to give of our resources generously and out of pure motives.

In trying to understand how to appropriately serve others, we have no better example than the Savior himself. It was he who gave the greatest offering—his atoning sacrifice. Offered without the least reservation, this act of selflessness stands supreme, “leaving us an example, that ye should follow.” (1 Pet. 2:21.)

Let’s look now at the responsibilities of the recipient of financial relief. The Atonement again provides a powerful parallel. Although redemption from personal sins was a gift freely given to all, its total beneficial effect is conditional on the individual’s meeting certain prescribed requirements—repenting and obeying the other principles and ordinances of the gospel. In a similar way, relief to the needy, also freely given, will only sanctify the recipient when he or she accepts certain responsibilities.

These responsibilities include humility, gratitude, and an obligation to accept assistance only sufficient for one’s needs—food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. These latter essential ingredients, suggested by Mosiah 4:26, should satisfy us. To take more than this is to expect more than we deserve. As Paul said to Timothy: “Having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” (1 Tim. 6:8.)

Laboring with our own hands is also one of our obligations. (See Mosiah 27:4; D&C 56:17.) Whatever our circumstances, we should work to the extent of our abilities to be self-sustaining.

From the foregoing, it should be clear that neither the giver nor the receiver can make demands upon each other, or else the essence of charity is lost. Though both are reliant upon each other to satisfy temporal and spiritual needs, yet Christlike behavior requires that neither be the judge of the other.

What is the appropriate way to address Church members at church and in professional settings?

Beverly B. Campbell, Church director of international affairs, and a member of the McLean Second Ward, McLean Virginia Stake. When unsure how to address someone in any situation, we can profitably ask ourselves two simple questions: What form of address will help us best relate to each other? How might I show due respect for the person and his or her office?

As Latter-day Saints united by common beliefs, the terms Brother and Sister best describe our relationship. That terminology is correct in any Church setting, even though the person being addressed bears exalted worldly titles. We learn in 4 Nephi 1:17 that there were no “-ites” among the happy, peaceable “children of Christ.” [4 Ne. 1:17] As fellow Saints who have taken upon ourselves the name of Christ, we would not be well served by invariably using secular titles that tend to divide, classify, and rank people.

We show proper respect to our Church leaders by referring to them in Church-related functions by their ecclesiastical titles. We may refer to a bishop as “Bishop Garza” or a stake president as “President Leiben,” for example. The titles Bishop and President (designating members of temple, mission, stake, and district presidencies and branch presidencies) are appropriate even after the leader has been released.

In dealing with the same individuals in professional capacities, circumstance (for example, whether the conversation is private or not, with nonmembers or not) will dictate the appropriate form of address. In our professional associations with other Church members, we observe the etiquette of normal social interchange, addressing them by their secular titles or by another polite form such as “Mr.” or “Mrs.” unless they indicate otherwise or unless we know them well enough to feel comfortable addressing them as “Brother” or “Sister” (again, depending on the circumstances) or by first name.

It seems that in the heavens, given names are precious. We learn in the scriptures that Deity and angelic messengers have addressed mortal men, women, and children by their given names. (See, for example, 1 Sam. 3:10; Luke 1:30; JS—H 1:17.) We hardly need to be told how pleasant it is to be addressed by name. It can be unsettling, however, when young people, without permission, address those much older than they by given name. And sometimes adults show a similar lack of respect by not taking time to learn and use the given names of ward youth.

As adults we can become lazy when it comes to learning the names of members of our wards and stakes, some of whom long to be called by first name. In a classroom setting, it is appropriate to call upon members, saying, for instance, “Brother Chen.” In a private conversation in the foyer, though, it may be more fitting to say, “Shuvai, how are you feeling?”

Suppose our home teacher pays us an informal visit at our place of employment. How might we introduce Brother Walker to a nonmember friend and co-worker who is present? If we follow the principle that it is better to be inclusive than exclusive, we might say, “Janice, I would like you to meet Charles Walker.” We could then explain further: “Because Charles and I are members of the same church and he is here as a brother in the gospel, you may hear me refer to him as Brother Walker.”

The many different situations in which we might be confused about how to address a fellow Saint underscore the wisdom of following general principles such as those discussed here. Trying to resolve such questions as strict matters of etiquette or protocol may not be feasible. Rather, we should look for our answer in the grand simplicity of the gospel and in the purposeful fellowship of the Saints.

Different cultural norms, circumstances, and degrees of familiarity require different forms of address. For the most part, however, our course will be clear if we trust our instincts to guide us in making any necessary adjustments. Fortunately, our unique relationship as brothers and sisters in the gospel minimizes the risk that our occasional blunders will be viewed as anything but innocent and excusable.

How did it come to be that our largely non-Christian world reckons years from the birth of Jesus Christ?

John P. Pratt, research scientist and member of the Orem Fifth Ward, Orem Utah Stake. The Gregorian calendar, which is now used worldwide, began as the Roman Catholic calendar. It reckons years as A.D. (anno Domini, “in the year of the Lord”) or B.C. (“before Christ”). Many non-Christian religions retain their own calendars for religious purposes. For example, the Hebrews reckon years from the Creation, Zoroastrians reckon from the birth of Zoroaster, and Muslims reckon from the flight of Mohammed from Mecca (similar to the Nephites reckoning from the flight of Lehi from Jerusalem).

How, then, has this Christian calendar become almost universally accepted as the legal calendar in a predominantly non-Christian world? The answer is apparently twofold: first, the calendar spread around the world with Christian colonization; second, as international trade increased, it became convenient for everyone to use the same calendar.

In A.D. 325 the Council of Nicaea adopted the Roman calendar as the official calendar of the Roman Catholic Church. Nearly identical to our calendar today, this calendar is called the Julian calendar in honor of Julius Caesar, who introduced it. It was not until two centuries later that our current system of reckoning years from the birth of Christ was devised. At that time a Catholic monk, Dionysius Exiguus, calculated the year of Christ’s birth from the available records and proposed that the Christian Era begin in the year now called A.D. 1.

This method of reckoning time from Christ was not widely used until Charlemagne made it official for the Holy Roman Empire in the ninth century A.D. By the twelfth century, England had also begun using the system, which spread around the world with the European colonization that followed.

In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII made minor changes to the Julian (or “Old Style”) calendar to make it astronomically more accurate so that Easter would be celebrated at the right time. Thus the calendar became known as the Gregorian (or “New Style”) calendar, and the A.D. reckoning became firmly established as the calendar was adopted by Roman Catholic countries such as Spain and France.

Later the Gregorian calendar became less associated with Catholicism and gained popularity because it was accurate and convenient for international trade. It was adopted by several Protestant countries such as those in Scandinavia in 1700, Great Britain in 1752, and countries arising from Great Britain’s worldwide colonies, such as America in 1752 and India in 1757. China adopted the same calendar in 1911, Russia in 1918, and some Eastern Orthodox countries as late as 1940.

Today virtually the entire world uses the Gregorian calendar for commercial purposes. In order to remove the Christian implications from the calendar, the designations C.E. (“of the common era”) and B.C.E. (“before the common era”) are sometimes used to replace A.D. and B.C.

It is interesting to note that the Nephites were probably the first nation to reckon years from the birth of Jesus Christ, doing so as early as nine years after the sign of his birth. (See 3 Ne. 2:8.) Thus both world hemispheres independently began reckoning time from Christ’s birth.

There have been various attempts to replace the Gregorian calendar so as to not use Christ’s birth as the beginning point. In 1793 France began counting years from the French Revolution the previous year, abandoning the seven-day week and dividing each thirty-day month into three periods of ten days each. This system was discontinued on 1 January 1806 after Napoleon Bonaparte, in order to be recognized by the Pope as the emperor of France, agreed to return to the Gregorian calendar. A more recent example is Sri Lanka. When that country gained independence in 1966, it opted to revert to the Buddhist calendar, but in 1971 it returned to the Gregorian calendar because of difficulties in international commerce.

In sum, the spread of Christian colonization established the calendar we use today, and international commerce continues to motivate its use.