Q&A: Questions and Answers


Answers are for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.

“What does ‘love thy neighbor’ mean?”

Answer/ Lowell L. Bennion

This is perhaps the most important question one could ask about the gospel of Christ. Jesus made this concept central in the religious life (Matt. 22), and Paul said that without love, everything else profits us nothing (1 Cor. 13).

Only a god knows the full meaning of love. We can but hope to increase in the understanding and living of this central principle of the gospel.

Brotherly love is not easy to define. Let’s begin by saying what it is not, for there are many kinds of love. Brotherly love is not romantic love—that strong, intense emotion a person can feel for someone of the opposite sex. Romantic love is grounded in one’s biological nature, and even though it is experienced as being idealistic and elevating, it is not brotherly love. Unless fortified by other kinds of love, romantic love tends to be unstable, fickle, selfish, possessive, jealous, and envious. By contrast, Paul said of Christian love that it “envieth not” and “seeketh not her own.”

Brotherly love is not synonymous with friendship, although it may be part of it. Friends like each other, delight in each other’s companionship, are confidential, loyal, trusting, and share many mutual interests. Friendship is reciprocal.

Brotherly love is more unselfish than either romantic love or friendship. One possessed of Christian love has a profound concern for the welfare of others. He loses his life in their interest. His life is alter- or other-ego centered. It doesn’t matter whether the other person—the one loved—appreciates or responds to the love shown him, because brotherly love nourishes itself. It resides wholly in the person who loves and doesn’t need response to keep it alive as romantic love and friendship do.

The real test of whether one has brotherly love was given by Jesus when he said and exemplified: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Matt. 5:44.)

Brotherly love, unlike the other two types, is impartial and, therefore, universal. One who has brotherly love is concerned for any and every man, whether he be sinner or saint, attractive or unattractive, of the same or of another faith or race. In fact, if one is selective as to whom he loves, the chances are he loves no man in a brotherly way.

Brotherly love is essentially feeling, an emotion, as are all kinds of love. However, it also has an intellectual component. It takes reflection and self-discipline to desire and seek the good of one who is antagonistic or repulsive. So, I believe, brotherly love must be learned and relearned. It does not strike one spontaneously as romantic love is wont to do. For this reason too, it is the most stable and enduring of all forms of love.

People err in thinking that because they love someone, they must always do their bidding. Parents are afraid to say no or to be firm. People, especially youth, give in to colleagues or associates against their better judgment for fear of offending, of not being loving. Brotherly love is consistent with justice, with firmness, even with rebuke when the person is acting in the interest of others. Some of my finest experiences with love have come when I have had the courage to hold firm with a student, helping him to face up to reality honestly.

Brotherly love means, in the language of the philosopher Kant, to treat persons as ends, never as means to our own selfish ends. By this is meant that in business, in dating, in marriage, at school, and at work, we don’t use and abuse people as functions, as being purely instrumental to our own goals, but that we treat them as whole persons and in their interest—that we practice the Golden Rule.

“Love thy neighbor” remains a fundamental law of the gospel and of human existence. As people are drawn closer together by technological advances, it is imperative that men increase in love of neighbor. If they don’t, life on this planet will be increasingly difficult.

Associate Dean of Students, University of Utah

“A friend of mine says that there is nothing in the Bible that gives conclusive evidence one way or the other about the pre-existence. Can you clarify this?”

Answer/ Eldin Ricks

Let me tell you what the Bible says on the subject, and then you decide whether the evidence is conclusive.

1. Jesus had a premortal existence. The apostle John, who speaks of Christ as the Word made flesh (John 1:14), opens the book that bears his name by testifying, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1.) In other words, in the beginning was Christ, and Christ was with God, and Christ himself also was a God. The important thing for our purpose at the moment, however, is simply that “in the beginning” was Christ.

The apostle Paul also says that in the days of Moses—more than twelve hundred years before Jesus was born—the children of Israel “drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Cor. 10:4.)

If any more Bible evidence should be needed to establish the premortal existence of the Savior, you may wish to note a statement that Jesus himself made the night before his crucifixion. With apparent longing for the glory of his previous existence, he prayed, “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” (John 17:5.)

Thus we see that Jesus was in existence long before his advent into mortality. Let us now check to see whether the Bible teaches that people other than the Savior had a previous spirit life.

2. Jeremiah had a premortal existence. Through revelation the prophet Jeremiah learned something about the preexistence of his own soul. The Lord spoke to him and said, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” (Jer. 1:5.)

Since, as this passage states, the Lord knew Jeremiah before he was born and sanctified Jeremiah before he was born and ordained Jeremiah before he was born, it must be clear that Jeremiah was in existence before his mortal birth.

3. Job had a premortal existence. On one occasion the Lord asked the prophet Job, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.

“When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4, 7.)

Now although the Lord didn’t tell Job where he was before the foundations of the earth were laid, the very question implies that Job was in existence somewhere—and not only Job but “all the sons of God.” And when we recall that the Bible teaches that we are the sons of God (“the offspring of God” is the way the apostle Paul phrases it in Acts 17:29), we can’t help but conclude that we were in existence with Job (and Jeremiah and the Lord Jesus Christ) before the earth was created.

4. Jesus made no attempt to correct his apostles when they expressed a belief in man’s premortal existence. This conclusion is based on an incident narrated in the ninth chapter of John. In reference to a blind man the apostles asked Jesus, “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2.) Note that their question was not simply whether the man’s parents had sinned before he was born but whether the man himself had sinned before he was born. Their query plainly shows that they believed that the man had been both alive and capable of sinning before he was born.

Jesus explained (John 9:3) that neither the man nor his parents had sinned, but the striking fact is that he made no attempt to challenge or correct or alter their basic assumption that the man had had a premortal existence.

5. Certain passages of the Bible make sense only in the light of man’s premortal existence. We as Latter-day Saints understand that during the course of man’s premortal spirit career one third of God’s children rebelled and followed Satan. (See D&C 29:36–38; Moses 4:1–4; Abr. 3:22–28.) This understanding gives meaning to a number of biblical passages bearing on the expulsion from heaven of certain disobedient beings. Consider, for example, 2 Peter 2:4 [2 Pet. 2:4], Jude 1:6, and Revelation 12:7–9 [Rev. 12:7–9].

While the several passages mentioned in the foregoing explanation may or may not offer your friend “conclusive evidence” of the premortal existence of man, I am confident, if he is sincere in his search for divine truth, that they will offer him sufficient evidence to incite an earnest, prayerful inquiry into the doctrines and claims of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Assistant Professor of Religious Instruction, Brigham Young University

“Is religious education more important than academic education?”

Answer/Dean J. Elliot Cameron

This question certainly concerns youth today. In looking toward our day, Daniel was shown when “many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” (Dan. 12:4.)

Paul told Timothy to “study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15), and he further stated:

“This know also, that in the last days … men shall be … ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:1, 2, 7).

Great emphasis has been given in our time to gaining knowledge for knowledge’s sake. An editorial writer has indicated:

“Knowledge is no longer a thing apart from life; knowledge and education, though they may remain an end in life for a few specialists, are today a means to an end, which is the enhanced understanding of everything in life.” (Fortune, November 1964.)

President Joseph Fielding Smith has said, “Knowledge comes both by reason and by revelation. We are expected to study and learn all we can by research and analysis. But there are limits to our learning abilities in the realms of reason and study. The things of God can be known only by the Spirit of God.”

The Lord has counseled us that we should learn as much as we can about “things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms.” (D&C 88:79.)

We must therefore conclude that we cannot neglect our academic learning if we are to follow the counsel of the Lord.

However, this does not mean that we concentrate only on academic learning. The Lord has stated that we should “be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God.” (D&C 88:78.)

We must not believe that all academic education is separate and apart from religious education. The more knowledge we have, when obtained under the direction of the Spirit of God, the better we can understand religious teachings.

Jacob, the brother of Nephi, warned: “O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.” (2 Ne. 9:28–29.)

The academic knowledge we gain will benefit us in our temporal pursuits but the knowledge we gain of spiritual and eternal truths will prepare us to live happily in this life and throughout eternity in the kingdom of God.

Our eventual goal is to gain all knowledge necessary to be like our Eternal Father. We can move in that direction only if we devote our energies and abilities to gaining knowledge of God and his laws and incorporating into our lives eternal truth wherever it is found.

Regional Representative of the Council of the Twelve; Dean of Students, Brigham Young University

“How is the missionary’s place of assignment determined?”

Answer/President Spencer W. Kimball

“We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands, by those who are in authority to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.”

In accordance with this policy each missionary is called of God through the president of the Church. This is the way that Aaron received his call. Moses, the Lord’s prophet, gave to him the call from the Lord.

In the assigning of missionaries there are numerous factors, the chief one being the inspiration received by the Missionary Executive Committee, who review carefully and prayerfully all of the recommendations sent to them by the stakes and missions. As this committee makes recommendations, it considers numerous factors: worthiness, age, experience, military status, home, finances, health, language ability, desires, quotas, limitations of countries, requests, nationality, general attitudes, and the needs of the various missions. When all these factors have been duly weighed, a sincere effort is made to ascertain where the person can make the greatest contribution; the inspiration of the Lord is sought earnestly. The tentative assignment is made subject to approval by the president of the Church, who then signs the call and has it mailed to the prospective missionary.

Acting President of the Council of the Twelve

“We are taught that a woman should support her husband. To what extent should she follow him?”

Answer/ Jelaire Simpson

A Latter-day Saint woman’s enthusiastic support of her husband’s actions begins to weaken when her husband wants to lead her along paths incompatible with the commandments of God. But even under these circumstances, she has an obligation to try to persuade him to go in the right direction. If companions truly love one another, they are willing to sacrifice to bring about one another’s well-being and happiness. Unselfishness, love, and kindness play an integral part in this great personal relationship.

A husband also has the obligation to support and buoy up his wife. In the Book of Mormon, Jacob was burdened with sorrow because of certain husbands’ wickedness. The Lord stated that He would visit these husbands with a “sore curse even unto destruction” if they did not change their ways. So the obligation to be faithful and to support the marriage partner falls on both husband and wife.

However, in the Lord’s house, there is order. He has decreed that the husband is the head of the house and the wife a counselor. If every wife could accept this role and if every husband would fill his role as head of the household with love, gentleness, and authority, much marital discord would be eliminated.

A man needs to feel that his wife believes in him completely. She needs to give him daily support by providing a home that is a haven from the troubles of the outside world. She must genuinely praise him in his successes, lend a listening ear, and give words of encouragement when he is discouraged. Where else can a man be accepted completely just the way he is unless it is in his own home?

In today’s world where women are involved in many projects outside the home, wives sometimes need to be reminded that nothing is more important than their relationships with their husbands. The Lord has told us that we do not attain the highest degree of the celestial kingdom singly. Exaltation and eternal increase are reserved for righteous couples who have kept the commandments of God. Therefore, love needs to be nurtured and protected so that it will grow into an eternal love.

No greater earthly happiness can be found than that attained through the years as you and your husband’s love grows stronger, as you see him honor his priesthood, as you observe your children’s activity in the Church, and as you look forward to an eternity together.

Wife of Bishop Robert L. Simpson, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric