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.

“When should a young man not go on a mission?”

Answer/Elder Gordon B. Hinckley

In the first place, a young man does not initiate his missionary call. In light of this, it is not his prerogative to choose or not to choose to go on a mission. His bishop and stake president recommend him, and he may state his desires to them. The call comes from the President of the Church, and the young man may then accept it or reject it.

There are circumstances under which he should frankly tell his bishop that he should not be considered for a mission. If he feels himself unworthy to represent the Church as a missionary because of immorality or failure to live other Church standards, he must candidly tell his bishop.

If he has health problems, either physical or mental, that would make it difficult or impossible for him to stand the rigors of missionary service, he should advise the bishop.

He may be seriously in debt or have other financial problems that would make it inadvisable for him to go at a particular time. He should candidly counsel with his bishop on these matters.

Furthermore, if he has a critical attitude concerning the Church, if he is unwilling to go where he is called unselfishly and devote himself wholeheartedly to the work, there may be a serious question as to whether he should be considered for missionary service.

On the other hand, he should know that if he responds to a call given him and devotes himself in the right spirit and attitude to the work, walking in obedience to the counsel of those placed over him, he will come to know a joy and satisfaction such as he is not likely to experience in any other activity in life.

of the Council of the Twelve

“How much kissing is too much?”

Answer/Dean Lowell L. Bennion

This question is catchy and interesting—but it suggests a quantitative answer. I submit that the “how much” approach desired by the person who is asking the question is the wrong way to look at this issue. The kiss Judas gave Jesus was one too many. So was the first kiss given by a girl I know to a certain fellow, because it led to many more and to a miserable marriage.

The important questions are these: Whom should I kiss? Why? Under what circumstances?

Kissing is a deeply personal and qualitative expression of feeling between two individuals. It must be viewed as a part of their total relationship.

Many things around you encourage you to give affection, such as your physical maturity, movies, advertising, music, stories, articles, and conversation. It is sad that sometimes in this impersonal, materialistic world, some of us fail to build warm human relationships in our family, neighborhood, and even church; consequently, some young people turn to virtual strangers to find acceptance and a sense of belonging.

Granted this is the trend of the day. But there are good reasons why you should be discriminating and self-controlled in your giving of affection. As you are aware, kissing is more stimulating than satisfying; consequently, it invites more and more. Once a couple begins to share affection in a kissing—or in other words, a physical—way, this activity tends to become the focus of interest. Often such a couple ceases to explore the other significant dimensions of personality: mind, character, maturity, religious faith, moral values, and goals.

Affection should grow out of genuine friendship and brotherly love, not precede them, if one wishes to be sure of having real and lasting love in marriage. Kissing for the sake of kissing invites more affection, and many fine young people become more deeply involved than they actually wish to be.

As a guiding principle, I suggest that affection, whether holding hands, walking arm in arm, or kissing, between a young man and woman be consistent in degree and character with the nature of their total relationship. Affection should never be sought after as an end in itself, because this does violence to a person. Let affection grow and flower gradually, as do buds, blossoms, and the fruit of a tree. Let it be a part of a larger, naturally developing relationship that has its roots in a rich companionship of the mind, character, and faith. When and if kissing comes into a relationship is dependent upon the nature and intent of that relationship.

associate dean of students, University of Utah

“With all the knowledge we have of perhaps harmful additives in much of the food we buy today, and our knowledge of caffeine in soft drinks and chocolate, and lots of other unhealthful substances in food products, how does one live the Word of Wisdom in 1971? Can one really live it fully?”

Answer/Doctor Lindsay R. Curtis

May I refer all members to section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants to read and reread. We have been admonished repeatedly by our General Authorities to leave this section as it is, neither adding to it, as many food faddists are inclined to do, nor interpreting it so liberally that it loses all significance.

In reference to the question, it is true that caffeine is a stimulant, and an unnecessary stimulant for constant consumption. But it is a very valuable drug when it is used by physicians. Without it, many of our medicines would fail to relieve our headaches, our discomforts due to colds and injuries, and many other conditions.

Chocolate contains theobromine, which in great amounts could cause untoward results; yet theobromine is a valuable medicine in its proper place.

Some substances used for preservation of foods could be undesirable if taken in excessive amounts. But how much more dangerous would be spoiled food? The amount used to prevent spoilage is carefully regulated by law and common sense to avoid any poisonous effects.

Let us use good judgment. If we are still uncertain about certain products and feel keenly about it, let us make it a matter of prayer and fasting. We will find the proper interpretation—for us. But we should not feel that this is the answer for everyone else.

We could speculate as to what the Lord might say in a 1971 version of the Word of Wisdom, but he hasn’t seen fit to elaborate on the original revelation. And he doesn’t need to. We’ve been given the basic guidelines; our bodies are holy tabernacles and we are to use wisdom and all the good judgment we possess in caring for them. In that sense, we can live the Word of Wisdom as fully now as when it was given in 1833.

Answer/Mrs. Winnifred Jardine

Aside from the specific instructions regarding alcohol, tobacco, and hot drinks (which we have been told means tea and coffee), the application of the Word of Wisdom is a matter of personal discipline and restraint.

The revelation contains much more than just the don’ts. It has to do with eating foods that are healthful, and eating them in a quantity right for us.

Certainly, in 1971 mankind has a wide variety of nutritious foods to eat—pasteurized milk and dairy products; meat, poultry, fish, and eggs (in moderation); a wide variety of fruits and vegetables (preferably fresh); and cereals (whole grain, if preferred, or enriched).

In terms of the quantity of food to be eaten, the general need for calories is lessening each year * because of our increasingly sedentary life style. The Word of Wisdom certainly anticipates this condition in 1971, because it counsels us to eat sparingly.

To me this means to eat simple foods only to satisfy hunger, not to gorge or stuff. But for many persons in 1971, food has become much more. It has become an emotional issue and element of faddism. It is a bone of contention and almost a religion itself with some people. One of the purposes of the Word of Wisdom, it seems to me, is to keep food in its proper place: to eat to sustain good health. The body’s needs will then have been met, and both body and mind are then free to turn to more important things.

gynecologist and medical columnist

Deseret News food columnist

  1.   *

    Food and Nutrition Board, National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council Recommended Daily Dietary Allowances, revised 1968.

“In considering the social issues and pressures facing individuals in the Church, what does the Church perceive as its role as an institution in alleviating social ills? By not acting as an institution directly, doesn’t the Church put itself in the position of supporting the existence of these social ills in society?”

Answer/Commissioner Neal Maxwell

The first point to be made in responding to this question is that the gospel of Jesus Christ emphasizes, basically, preventive medicine. By having love at home, and by learning great principles and governing ourselves, the compliant member of the Church reduces not only his own frustrations, but also the sum of human misery. Only by concentrating on the basic principles in the teachings of Jesus can society ever solve the ills that beset it. For instance, the only real cure for alcoholism is abstinence.

We will not solve the problem of public welfare unless we reenthrone the principle of work, which is a spiritual necessity, even if it were not an economic necessity, and unless we end the dole with its counter-productive, destructive dependency relationships, which breed two-way resentment. (A Catholic priest’s prayer included the insightful words, “Father, bless the poor that they shall forgive us the bread that we give them.”)

In dozens of ways, therefore, the Church, by encouraging us to keep the commandments, is contributing directly to the alleviation of social ills. (See Mosiah 4:9–16 for specific promises relating to peace, poverty, justice, and love.)

The multiplicity of issues and causes to which members may wish to give individual allegiance are many, but we all need to remember in dealing with man’s causes that Jesus “advocateth the cause of the children of men.”

Nevertheless, in the spirit of section 58 of the Doctrine and Covenants, members “should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.” (D&C 58) Before one gives his support, causes should be carefully selected in accordance with the scrutinizing light of the gospel, and our energy should be expended in such a way that we recognize the ecology of effectiveness, which suggests that the time and effort expended in the home are usually most productive. Members could get caught up in such a multiplicity of causes that they neglect their primary responsibilities, or they could discover their idealism being crassly exploited by a deceitful cause.

So far as specific causes or issues to which the Church may address itself institutionally, these are a matter for the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve to determine. In a worldwide Church there are hundreds of local issues in hundreds of places where members live, and it would be impractical for the Church to become embroiled in each of these. But when the leaders of the Church do speak out officially, our task is to “follow the brethren.”

commissioner of education for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints