Q&A: Questions and Answers


Aside from the sacrament, some of our worship services seem uninformative, and sometimes boring. Is this a problem in me or one that may be beyond me?

Answer/Bishop Robert L. Simpson

One of the most exciting new programs of the Church is the bishop’s training program now moving forward in every stake. Improved sacrament meetings will undoubtedly be an important by-product of these training sessions for bishops. In the immediate future, each bishop in the Church will be retrained in the fundamentals of a good sacrament meeting. For example, to insure instructional and inspirational sacrament meetings a bishop is encouraged to see that—

1. Advance planning is done for the sacrament meeting, and that those chosen to participate have been well instructed in their assignments.

2. A ward choir stands ready to participate in the sacrament service at least two or three times per month.

3. A preparation meeting is held sometime within the hour prior to the sacrament meeting time so that all points of the meeting might be double-checked and that the spiritual level of all participants might be high.

4. Resource people within the ward and stake are utilized to the maximum degree; that is, the MIA speech director might offer assistance to those assigned to speak; qualified music people might help with the musical arrangements.

5. A continuing reverence program is conscientiously pursued in all of the auxiliary organizations and the importance of reverence is stressed from the stand on frequent occasions.

6. A greeting committee is a part of each ward family so that each person is made to feel welcome and is properly escorted to his seat.

7. The Aaronic Priesthood members are adequately trained in their responsibility in the administration of the sacrament.

Just as important, of course, each member of the Church has an obligation to come to sacrament meeting with a desire to learn gospel principles and to be lifted spiritually as he recommits himself through partaking of the sacrament. A critical eye and attitude can usually be satisfied by looking for mistakes or human failings. On the other hand, one who comes with a desire to help his fellowmen and follow the admonitions of the Savior as he renews his covenants can usually find good in every word that is spoken and every note that is sung.

The sacrament meeting should be an uplifting experience for all. You may need to be more understanding, more receptive, more loving, and more submissive as you assemble each week with the Saints to be edified by the gifts of the Spirit.

First Counselor, Presiding Bishopric

Which is more compatible with the Church—liberalism or conservatism?

Answer/Brother G. Homer Durham

The question as submitted uses no adjectives, such as political, economic, or religious. This response assumes the question has been asked with political connotation. The terms liberalism and conservatism are much-abused terms. They have almost lost precise and useful meaning. In daily repartee both are often resorted to as cloaks for self-proclaimed righteousness or are used as efforts to stylize or categorize another’s contrary position or views.

The Church moves ahead and has a mission to fulfill despite all political currents. It is a conservative institution, seeking to “hold fast to that which is good.” It also stands for liberty and change, overcoming evil with good. In the long run, the categorization of brothers and sisters in the Church as either political “liberals” or “conservatives” can become obnoxious, promoting division. Efforts at unity rather than division are more generally helpful.

Arguments for members in America also occur as to whether the Constitution of the United States is a conservative or liberal document. It has both characteristics, much as stated above.

The Church seeks for truth as its standard and stands for freedom of the individual, the rule of law, and for justice. Section 134 of the Doctrine and Covenants sets forth a Declaration of Belief concerning governments and laws in general [D&C 134]. The Declaration, written in 1835, contains principles that merit constant reference in weighing speeches, policies, and pamphlets of the day.

My answer will probably leave much to be desired on the part of those who see either political conservatism or liberalism as being more important than the principles set forth in the Declaration, or who attempt to steer the thinking of their ward or branch toward any current political position. But the Declaration has served the Church well and continues to provide inspiration to its members. (See especially the basic principles set forth in verse 2.)

Commissioner, Utah System of Higher Education

“How should we deal with friends who are on drugs? How do we help them?”

Answer/Brother Victor L. Brown, Jr.

Be wisely cautious but loving. Perhaps this sounds confusing, but the drug scene is both dangerous and confusing.

There is a difference between drug experimenters and drug abusers. Many young people in contemporary society tamper with drugs, which is foolish but fortunately temporary. Others go much further and become addicted both to the drug and to the culture of drug users.

You can help them most by setting an example of strong, healthy, Christian living. The central figure of Christianity is Jesus Christ, who loved all of us. You can demonstrate love without judging and without condemning the tragedy of improper drug use.

Some specifics might be:

1. Look for the better qualities in your associates. Don’t condemn them because they dress differently or have unusual ideas.

2. Demonstrate in your daily life the rewards of straight living, such as good health, happiness, peace, and accomplishment.

3. Never agree with the improper use of drugs. Speak against it firmly and intelligently.

4. Do not attempt to “treat” drug abusers. Encourage them to go to those who know how to help, such as their bishop, doctor, school counselor.

5. Remember that drug use and abuse are symptoms of the unrest and confusion in our world. Stronger families, moral living, better education, and a more Christlike society are the solutions to the drug crisis.

6. Remember that the drug abuser, one who is addicted, often supports his habit by theft or robbery or other illegal means. Do not get trapped by unwise involvement in this type of behavior.

7. Be very cautious with drug abusers, because they often lie with great skill. They have had to learn this to cover up their habit.

The drug user or the drug abuser is a child of our Father in heaven. Consequently, he is to be loved, not rejected. He has his free agency, which means that you can only help up to the point where he must take over and change on his own. If he does not want to change, there is little you can do. If he does want to change, then your consistent but intelligent love, interest, and support may make the difference between his success or failure.

Associate Director, Church Social Services Department

“Exactly what is a testimony?”

Answer/Brother Jeff Holland

An exact definition would probably sound something like “evidence or attestation in support of fact,” but that sounds as if Perry Mason were replying and probably misses completely the spirit, if not the letter, of the question. So let me suggest a less precise but more useful definition.

I think it is important to realize that when a Latter-day Saint has a testimony, he must have something more than his combined enthusiasm for the Word of Wisdom, tithing, all-Church basketball, and the ward picnic. If it is to be that same saving strength that we once possessed in our premortal existence (see Rev. 12:11), our most essential and fundamental testimony must be that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ. We must be able to give personal “attestation in support of [the] fact” that Christ suffered and bled and died for your sins and mine, and, because of that redemption, it is only through him that we can find the definitive joy for which we were individually created.

Moreover, in this dispensation we must come to know that through the boy-prophet Joseph Smith, Christ restored the fullness of his gospel (including the Book of Mormon, legitimate priesthood, saving ordinances), and that he continues today to learn and direct his church through living apostles and prophets. Many, many other important “facts” follow as a consequence of these few, not the least of which is our own importance as a child of God. But these seem to me to be the most crucial ones, and we must be able to bear them to all the world.

I am guessing that implicit in your question is that slightly more frustrating one, namely, “How do I know when I’ve got a testimony?” In reply to that, I like President Harold B. Lee’s answer: “When your heart tells you things your head doesn’t understand, you have a testimony.” Notice, President Lee doesn’t say that we are not to use our heads in getting a testimony (Alma in the Book of Mormon says to “arouse your faculties,” and that includes our mental processes), but he does say that the final witness is a spiritual statement from within the depths of our soul. Service and study, prayer, fasting, and faithfulness—these are some of the ways to enlarge our capacity for receiving such a message.

And we shouldn’t be too surprised if our testimony comes so carefully that for a while we don’t realize we have it. After being thrown into jail for a little honest missionary work, Jeremiah said that he wasn’t about to say another word for God or the gospel to anybody. “I will not make mention of him,” he said, “nor speak any more in his name.” But something had been happening of which he had been completely unaware. All his struggling and praying and teaching and serving had had their inevitable effect, and when he tried to act as if he didn’t have a testimony, Jeremiah found that the spirit and message of the Lord “was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.” (Jer. 20:9.)

The truth is that a testimony comes from the Holy Ghost, whose role it is to testify of God and his plan and goodnesses. When we have that testimony, we feel as if it were part of us, as if it were a part of our heart and bones. More readily than any other way, a testimony may be discerned by the life it makes us live.

Second counselor, Hartford (Connecticut) Stake, and graduate student at Yale University.