Q&A: Questions and Answers

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

“I am a sixteen-year-old girl who loves her mother, but she is always telling me how she hates my wearing bib overalls. What can I do?”

Answer/ Norma B. Ashton

Your question seems to have a deeper implication than whether or not you continue to wear your bib overalls against your mother’s wishes. You say that you love your mother very much but are being sort of stubborn, and your mother is constantly reminding you how much she hates your wearing the overalls. Yet neither of you is gaining much ground. Perhaps now is the time for you two to use that great problem-solving device of communication. In the Bible we read, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord. …” (Isa. 1:18.) If you and your mother will find a quiet time to sit down privately and reason together about this problem, and any other problem that might arise between you, you will very probably be able to solve it together.

Prepare yourself for “reasoning together.” One reason communication breaks down is because two people look at things differently. Go to your meeting with a desire to solve the problem with a loving feeling in your heart and with a willingness to understand your mother’s feelings. Give your mother your full attention, empathize with her, and try to see her point of view. To do this takes patience and courage. Listen to her without interrupting and ask her to do the same with you. Try to keep your emotions under control as you both exchange ideas. Listening with such understanding can open the channels of communication.

Quietly think through your desire to wear the overalls. Ask yourself why you like to wear them. Is it because of the way they feel? Do you like the way they look on you and the way you look in them? Are they extra comfortable? Or are they a badge of your independence? Understand your own reasons and feelings and weigh each item carefully. Then express yourself clearly, quietly, and with a gentle voice to your mother.

When each of you has heard the reasoning of the other, perhaps the answer to the problem will be evident. If not, it may be a time for compromise. Your mother may be willing to allow you to wear the overalls on some occasions if you will be willing to forego wearing them when it is particularly offensive to her. If guidelines can be set and adhered to, the constant reminding and resentment can be avoided. However, love and respect for each other is much more important than the issue at hand. Reasoning together can and should help family members solve problems and make home a place where love and happiness are ever present.

Relief Society General Board

“What has been and what is the role of theater in the Church?”

Answer/ Keith Engar

Theater has played four basic roles in the Church: first, in Nauvoo days and early Utah days the Church supported theater primarily to provide wholesome entertainment for the isolated Latter-day Saint members. A small group of professional actors trained casts from among the members, and the plays were selected on the same basis that any American theater group would select plays. There was nothing unique about the repertoire. What was unique was the Church’s sponsorship of theater to provide entertainment for its members.

Second, in Nauvoo and throughout our history the Church has supported the theater as a recreational activity for performers and other participants in the production side. Brigham Young himself appeared as the High Priest in a Nauvoo production of Sheridan’s Pizarro. MIA plays, roadshows, blackouts, one-act play festivals, and musicals have been presented thousands of times to millions of spectators. Of course, when audiences are given fine entertainment by watching their friends and relatives perform, then the first two roles of theater in the Church form a happy combination. Leadership is the key factor in determining whether or not the happy combination works.

The third major role of theater in the Church is to provide inspirational reinforcement of the Church’s divine mission. For this purpose plays and pageants on Mormon themes are written for presentation by all age groups. Primary pageants, Sunday School Christmas programs, MIA parent-youth night presentations, and MIA plays and musicals represent a few examples of what has been done.

The fourth major role is for the theater to serve the Church as a medium for missionary work. The Hill Cumorah Pageant, the annual production of Promised Valley, and The Mormon Miracle are examples.

I think any objective student of theater would have to acknowledge that the Church has had a remarkable history in its support of theater as an integral part of the total Church program. We have critics, however, who question the quality of our activities and who claim that our programs have not resulted in universally acceptable Mormon plays.

The only answer that I can give for the first criticism is that one will find all levels of production in Church theater from highly professional to downright embarrassing. But then that continuum is characteristic of all theater, not just our own. We can and must do better, and we will do better as growing numbers of talented young people start to take their share of responsibility.

As for the second criticism, I have no simple answer—just a hope that Mormon playwrights will continue to develop. We have had some excellent plays from Mormon playwrights, and I feel it is only a matter of time before some truly significant plays on Mormon themes will be written, particularly as we develop the capacity to laugh a bit at ourselves. The delightful New Era article, “Through Gentile Eyes” (March ’72), was a refreshing harbinger of new attitudes on our part.

Some new patterns point to a promising future:

First, I’m excited by the Brigham Young University Theater’s potential as a center for the Mormon playwright. The BYU Festival of Mormon Arts and the BYU Theater’s season of new Mormon plays have already resulted in memorable work. The New Era has contributed to Church-wide consciousness of the new program by publishing excerpts from Carol Lynn Pearson’s book and lyrics from The Order is Love, a delightful musical produced by the BYU Festival of Mormon Arts.

Second, the new Promised Valley Playhouse will be a theater operated by the Church for cultural programs. During the summer months Promised Valley will hold the boards, but during the rest of the year Mormon playwrights will likely have opportunities such as they have never before enjoyed.

Third, private theater ventures are producing more Mormon plays than heretofore and will do more if the public supports them.

As the Church continues its phenomenal growth as a world organization, I expect that several different kinds of Mormon plays will develop based on divers cultural patterns.

The Mormon playwright needs our help as never before if we are to have the benefits of his talent. He needs time to write, he needs a place to write, and he needs a theater in which to produce his plays. I for one am highly optimistic that these needs are going to be met in many different ways, and I hope that young Church members will be aware of what these needs are and do their part to meet them.

Head of the Department of Theater, University of Utah, YMMIA General Board

“How can I profit more from stake conference? Lately I’ve begun to feel that going is a waste of my time.”

Answer/ Richard H. Morley

Conferences in the Church are special occasions when members and nonmembers alike gather and glean strength from one another and from the speakers. The words of truth delivered there can benefit you in your church callings as well as in personal matters.

Unfortunately there are people who attend both local and general conferences who feel that there is really nothing there for them. Usually the blame is placed on the speakers, but why, if the speakers are at fault, does one person go home dissatisfied while another, who was seated close-by, find that it was one of the best conferences he’s ever attended? The problem is not in the speaker but in the listeners.

Certainly the speakers do have a great obligation to prepare to speak. They should follow the Lord’s admonition to “teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.” Those who do so diligently are promised that grace will attend them. (D&C 88:77–78.) In their preparations the speakers should assess the needs of the congregation and make themselves receptive to the promptings of the Spirit. But how often is an excellent sermon not delivered because of the unreceptive attitude of the audience? When the audience has been expecting and praying for inspiration, speakers often find that they speak with power beyond their natural capacities. It seems that the spiritual growth, inspiration, and satisfaction derived from conference are largely a personal matter.

Some have expressed regret that General Authorities are no longer able to attend local conferences with the same regularity that they used to. We know that the growth of the Church makes this impossible. Remember that Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.” (John 13:20.) In other words, if a person does not value and respect local speakers in their assignments, the Lord’s Spirit will not be with that person.

Exactly how can the listener profit more from conference?

First, he needs to prepare his mind for the conference by being expectant, receptive, optimistic. He should have been obeying the commandments and have been endeavoring to put into practice those items of counsel imparted at the last conference. As important as it is to attend conferences, more important are the periods of faithfulness during the intervening months. “And it shall come to pass, that inasmuch as they are faithful, and exercise faith in me, I will pour out my Spirit upon them in the day that they assemble themselves together.” (D&C 44:2.)

In addition, going to the Lord in prayer with regard to special problems or needs, as well as fasting, can be beneficial to you, to the speaker, and to others in the congregation.

Those who thus assemble to receive the Lord’s will concerning them are told that “this is pleasing unto your Lord, and the angels rejoice over you; the alms of your prayers have come up into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, and are recorded in the book of the names of the sanctified, even them of the celestial world.” (D&C 88:1–2.)

By giving some thought to your preparation the Lord’s will can be revealed to you, and conferences can become meaningful events in your life.

Home Study Supervisor for Seminaries and Institutes, Australia