Q&A: Questions and Answers


Readers are welcome to send in questions, which will be given to one or more persons for opinion and insight. Answers are printed to give help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.

Should I date a boy who is skeptical toward the Church and try to influence him, or should I not date him for fear he will influence me?

Answer/President Paul H. Dunn

This question is one of the most frequently asked, and for a good reason. The answer is not a simple yes or no. To establish a hard and fast rule would only take away the free agency and choice of man. Someone has said that of the three greatest events in life—birth, marriage, and death—marriage is the only one over which we have any great degree of free agency. Our happiness in mortality and in eternity depends on the choice we make in marriage. While all dates do not necessarily lead to marriage, dating is, of course, instrumental in mate selection.

During my Church experience I have met many not of our faith from almost every walk of life, who, when matched with some of our youth, soar to a higher spiritual and moral plane. I honor and respect these young people for their beliefs and high standards.

While our Church teaches the highest moral and spiritual standards concerning dating and marriage, not all Latter-day Saint youth adhere to them. Often I have said that I would rather my daughters date a non-Latter-day Saint boy with Christlike qualities and high moral standards than a Latter-day Saint boy who has neither.

Such young men properly taught and touched by the Spirit are prime candidates for baptism and the priesthood. Caution should be exercised, however, so that gospel standards and principles will not be compromised. That is the danger!

So often, young ladies of the Church will say, “Once we are married, he will join the Church and then we will go to the temple.” Such hopes are seldom fulfilled. It is far better to remove all doubt before reaching such an important decision.

Several things should be taken into consideration before we date either members or nonmembers. Ask yourself these questions: “Am I sufficiently strong in my adherence to the principles of the gospel and in my personal testimony to share its message boldly and tactfully with my date? Am I looking ahead to my future in such a way that it will include an eternal partner? Is this choice leading me closer to the goal of eternal marriage and the joy and happiness of dwelling with my Father in heaven? And finally, have I evaluated my feelings honestly with myself, my parents, and the Lord?” Too often we leave out of our decisions the wisdom of wise, experienced parents and the inspiration of the Lord.

Love and dating, in the eternal sense, are built upon many things, friendship being the first. A true and lasting courtship must be built upon friendship. Many years ago, Cicero said, “Friendship can exist only where men harmonize in their views of things human and divine.” Eventual love must be built upon partnership. There must be a sharing of happiness, fears, joy, and sorrow. When dating one of your own faith, you are more apt to share common standards, ideals, and eventually, lives.

In the latter days, the prophets have counseled us to prepare for marriage in the temple—to follow the straight and narrow. I am sure that we all want a warm and loving home with a gracious and wonderful family. I think the real question is “Are we willing to make the proper personal preparation?”

of the First Council of the Seventy and President of the New England Mission

There are many reasons why I ask this, but I imagine mostly because my roommates find the subject, in their words, “charming” and “intriguing.” The question: Do we still believe in the Second Coming?

Answer/Commissioner Neal Maxwell

The Church is clearly committed to a belief in the second coming of Christ. The multiplicity of scriptures bearing on this, the frequent counsel of our modern prophets concerning the literalness of this ecclesiastical expectation, all serve to reinforce the need for members not only to believe in this doctrine, but also to see its place in the context of the total plan God has for this planet and people.

It is important that we not be like Jonah, who went to wait for the destruction of Nineveh; but rather, that we work effectively and ceaselessly on the “Ninevehs” of our lives, precisely because we do believe that human history will have a cataclysmic end, even though we do not know when. Thus, there must be balance in our life-style in responding to this powerful doctrine of the second coming.

The chiliast, one who believes in a second coming of Christ that will usher in a millennial reign, has special challenges in reading signs. First, he is urged to notice lest he be caught unawares. Second, he must be aware of how many false readings and alarms there have been in bygone days, even by the faithful.

For instance, has any age had more wonders in the sky than ours, with satellites and journeys to the moon? Has any generation seen, as has ours, such ominous vapors of smoke, with its mushroom clouds over the pathetic pyres of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Yet there is more to come.

Our task is to react and to notice without overreacting, to let life go forward without slipping into the heedlessness of those in the days of Noah. It has been asked, and well it might be, how many of us would have jeered, or at least been privately amused, by the sight of Noah building his ark.

Presumably, the laughter and the heedlessness continued until it began to rain—and kept raining. How wet some people must have been before Noah’s ark suddenly seemed the only sane act in an insane, bewildering situation! To ponder signs without becoming paranoid, to be aware without frantically matching current events with expectations and using energy that should be spent in other ways—these are our tasks.

Perhaps, ironically, the recent secular “prophecies” about coming cataclysms may create a fresh interest in the doctrine of the second coming of Christ. The youth and all members of the Church need to accept the reality of Christ’s return in majesty and power before that event occurs; for, as C. S. Lewis put it, it will do men little good to kneel down when it is no longer possible to stand up, for when the “Author of the play comes on stage, the play is over!”

Church Commissioner of Education

I’ve read in the Doctrine and Covenants where it says to confess your sins and I’ve been told we’re to do it in fast and testimony meeting. What should we do about confessing our sins in public?

Answer/Elder Marion D. Hanks

Generally speaking, we do not confess specific serious personal sins in public meetings.

The Lord has taught us that we are to confess our sins: “… I command you again to repent … and that you confess your sins. …” (D&C 19:20.)

In his own definition of repentance he has taught us: “By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.” (D&C 58:43.)

Thus, confession is commanded of God and is part of repentance.

Related questions arise: Confess what? To whom? Under what circumstances?

We are to confess all our sins to our Heavenly Father. If we forsake these sins, he will forgive (D&C 61:2; Isa. 1:18), forget (D&C 58:42), and never mention them to us (Ezek. 18:20).

Those sins which injure others we are to confess to those whom we have hurt, and seek forgiveness and reconciliation:

“And if thy brother or sister offend thee, thou shalt take him or her between him or her and thee alone; and if he or she confess thou shalt be reconciled.” (D&C 42:88.)

Sins that by their nature put in jeopardy our membership or good standing in the Church must also be confessed to the Lord’s agent, the bishop or other appropriate Church officer. The bishop as common judge has stewardship of the flock and its members. He is responsible for safeguarding the “body of the Church” and its various members in his appointed jurisdiction, even to the point of “cutting off the right hand” or “plucking out the right eye” if it offends.

It is not the general practice of the Church for individuals to confess explicit sins in fast and testimony meetings. The Lord has said that where many are offended or where an offense is widely known, it may be required of an individual by the appropriate Church officer that he acknowledge a sinful act or condition before the priesthood or the congregation (D&C 42:90–91), but members of the Church are not generally encouraged to discuss their sins or those of others before the body of the Church or otherwise publicly (D&C 42:93).

Assistant to the Council of the Twelve

What is the place of psychological counseling in the Church? When do you see the bishop, and when do you see a counselor—or can you do both?

Answer/Elder Marvin J. Ashton

The Father has always had helpers in his kingdom: his Son to create the world, Adam and Eve to begin the mortal race, and all manner of men for all manner of tasks. God did not do it all by himself. He did direct the creation, the procreation of mankind, and all that has concerned this earth; however, he had help, and with that help he was able to accomplish that which he set about to do.

Our biological and environmental scientists assist our Father in heaven, as do professional counselors and other professional people dedicated to helping man live more effectively with himself and his fellow beings.

Trained counselors are an essential source of help as they work with the priesthood leaders, and as bishops work through them to help members. It is important that we continue to allow God to direct us in whatever is our assignment, and that we use our talents as required by the Lord.

As the father of the ward, the bishop has the responsibility of caring for the spiritual, temporal, and social welfare of his ward members. What a blessing it is that he does not have to maintain this welfare alone.

There is a social service task committee in every stake in the Church. This committee is comprised of specifically assigned high councilors who are responsible for the social-emotional needs within a stake.

When the bishop needs a trained counselor to help him with some social-emotional need within the ward and there are no members in his ward with such a professional background, he may turn to the stake social services task committee. This committee will then call on one or more of the resource people within the stake who have been called to serve in, such a capacity because of their abilities. The bishop, of course, is to direct and supervise any assistance given to any member of his ward.

The place of psychological counseling in the Church is under the supervision of the bishop, and one sees a counselor at the suggestion of the bishop. Perhaps we may follow the pattern set in the First Vision. The bishop may introduce a member in need to someone in whom he has confidence, and suggest that the member in need listen to the counsel of this person. Hopefully, through the joint efforts of the individual, the bishop, and the counselor, a better way of life will be realized.

Assistant to the Council of the Twelve and Managing Director of Unified Social Services

How can I develop enthusiasm to magnify my present church calling when I’m honestly not all that excited about it?

Answer/Dean Lowell L. Bennion

Whoever asked this question realizes that church work should be done with enthusiasm and spirit. With this we heartily agree for two reasons:

1. If a calling in Christ’s church is service to him, then surely it should be rendered with heart, mind, and soul. And surely we should follow his admonition to be “anxiously engaged in a good cause” and do his will and not do it “with a doubtful heart or with slothfulness.” (D&C 58:27, 29.)

2. A second reason to work whole-souled in a calling is to keep one’s own integrity. Some things, such as doing dishes or brushing one’s teeth should be placed on the level of routine and may be executed with mind and heart elsewhere; but the significant things of life that we undertake voluntarily ought to be done with full purpose of heart, with conviction, or one’s whole life may be farcical or even hypocritical.

There must be one or more reasons why we perform halfheartedly in a church calling. Maybe our love for the gospel, the Church, or people is shallow; or we put too little effort into the job; or we feel incompetent. Perhaps we are caught in the mechanics of the calling and labor without vision or meaning.

In my experience there is one sure way of maintaining a lively interest in one’s church calling—that is, to see purpose in it. Football is exciting because it is goal-oriented. Life is meaningful when it is purposeful. The church worker must also find his purpose.

In any church service, the goal is to touch human lives for good—to kindle faith in God, a love for Christ, the desire to repent. It is to build lives, to save souls.

When one gets that vision of his calling, then teaching is not giving a lesson; it is leading John and Mary to greater self-respect, to increased trust in God, and to a deeper concern for others. Blessing the sacrament is not reading a prayer; it is uniting the hearts of all believers in a humble supplication to God. Ushering is more than finding a seat; it is giving a reverent and warm greeting to Sister Jones and leading her to her seat.

When church work is viewed as service to individuals for God and Christ, then where we serve is quite incidental. Class president, youth committee representatives, teacher, secretary, bishop, Scout patrol leader, home teacher, baby sitter, organist, Scoutmaster, collector of fast offerings, apostle, custodian—each has an equal but unique opportunity to learn the joy of service.

“And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.” (Matt. 20:27.)

Dean of Students University of Utah