Q&A: Questions and Answers

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

    “Should we continue forgiving a person who keeps doing wrong because that person is confident that he will be forgiven again?”

    Answer/Bishop Vaughn J. Featherstone

    The question is directed to members of the Church: should we forgive a person who continues to do wrong with the full expectation of forgiveness. The Lord made this crystal clear in his response to Peter’s inquiry: “… how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? til seven times?

    “Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” (Matt. 18:21–22.)

    You will note that Peter’s question was directed to those who “sin against me.” In the above question it appears that the person is not sinning against us, but rather continuing to sin.

    Repentance is not a law to be trifled with. Woe unto him who sins with the idea of seeking repentance. He trifles with the very principles of salvation. The person who repents with the idea that he may sin again at a later time is not truly repenting; he is only ceasing his sinful activity for a period with the hope that it will salve his conscience. Then, under the false sense of repentance, the pressure to truly repent seems to be lifted and the sinful one may turn back to the sin.

    In section 42 of the Doctrine and Covenants we read, “… he that … repents with all his heart, and forsaketh it, and doeth it no more, thou shalt forgive.” (D&C 42:25.) Now the Lord is speaking of a major transgression, but it is my feeling that the principle remains the same in all matters needing repentance. We must forsake sin with all our heart, and herein lies the motivation and inspiration from returning to the sin.

    It is interesting to me that the Aaronic Priesthood holds the key to the preparatory gospel, “… which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins. …” (D&C 84:27.) The bishop as president of the Aaronic Priesthood holds the key to repentance. For this reason transgressions of a serious nature must be confessed to the bishop. He then has the power to make a judgment and determine forgiveness on behalf of the Church.

    Remember, my beloved young friends, you may go to your bishop in confidence. No bishop should ever divulge a confidence. In some rare cases he may feel to take the matter to the stake president, oftentimes without divulging names, for additional counsel. This is the great process of the Church and ensures the repentant sinner the inspired counsel and direction from the priesthood-line authority.

    You will be interested in Paul’s counsel and exhortation to Timothy:

    “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

    “But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.

    “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient.

    “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.

    “And that they may recover themselves out of the. snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” (2 Tim. 2:22–26.)

    It seems that as we include all of the character traits that are involved in charity, peradventure God may give us repentance. As this spirit of repentance comes to us, we feel the same great desires that the people felt after King Benjamin’s marvelous discourse:

    “And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.” (Mosiah 5:2.)

    Note the spirit that filled their souls after repentance: “we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.” This attitude only comes through proper repentance. This spirit is available to all of us.

    In section 64 of the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord makes the following statement:

    “Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.

    “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.” (D&C 64:9–10.)

    As we understand this counsel we mature in the gospel and we receive even greater understanding. Again in the 98th section the Lord talks about those who forgive and bear patiently.

    “Now, I speak unto you concerning your families—if men will smite you, or your families, once, and ye bear it patiently and revile not against them, neither seek revenge, ye shall be rewarded;

    “But if ye bear it not patiently, it shall be accounted unto you as being meted out as a just measure unto you.

    “And again, if your enemy shall smite you the second time, and you revile not against your enemy, and bear it patiently, your reward shall be an hundred-fold.

    “And again, if he shall smite you the third time, and ye bear it patiently, your reward shall be doubled unto you four-fold.” (D&C 98:23–26.)

    Only those who have borne up under such great testing will know what the Lord means when he says their reward shall be doubled unto them fourfold. This comes near loving our fellowmen as the Savior would have us love them. I have known a few Latter-day Saints who have been worthy to receive this great reward. Most of us cannot begin to understand the depths of comfort and blessing that those few have received. This attitude ought to be our goal.

    This next verse from the Doctrine and Covenants should be stamped on the heart of every Latter-day Saint.

    “And now, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, will not lay any sin to your charge; go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God.” (D&C 82:7.)

    Repentance to be actual must endure. It cannot be something any of us takes lightly. Repentance is forever, and the Lord says he will remember our sins no more. We have a choice blessing in store as we forsake our sins and do them no more, for the Lord says in the 93rd section, verse 1:

    “Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am.” (D&C 93:1)

    The Lord does not make idle promises. Let us live worthy of this blessing.

    I pray for a special strength for all youth to come unto Christ, and as you do, all other things fade into obscurity.

    Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric

    “How do you diplomatically encourage the boys you like and discourage the boys you do not want to encourage?”

    Answer/Sister Ardeth G. Kapp

    If I were sitting at your side and we were just chatting as friends, I would respond by asking you how you can be sure that the boy you want to discourage this week may not be the very one you wish to encourage next week. It does happen you know. And knowing this makes the challenge considerably more difficult.

    The safe approach and the one most rewarding is to develop the habit of genuine friendship with all those you associate with, the likable as well as those who seem to be less likable. Emotions at times interfere with clear thinking, and some likable characteristics when carefully considered may turn out to be only superficial, while a young man with less obvious virtues may be in the process of becoming a real prince charming, with all of the attributes, characteristics, and potential that you have dreamed of in your heart.

    You might remember the wisdom expressed in the Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (p. 32):

    “Well, I must endure the presence of two or three caterpillars if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies.”

    The tendency to be shortsighted may cause you to see only caterpillars when a butterfly is in the making.

    Close association with a young man whose standards are unacceptable must not be encouraged, but as you maintain unwavering standards of your own, you can still reach out with friendship to all, being mindful, as someone said, that you must be on higher ground if you are to lift another.

    In the Doctrine and Covenants 88:40 we read:

    “For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence: wisdom receiveth wisdom: truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own.” (D&C 88:40)

    And it would seem to follow that to encourage the best, one must strive to be the best, since like spirits attract. However, boys whom you may not choose as close friends can still be lifted by your influence when you treat them with respect. Your attempt to discourage someone who would like to be a friend may be interpreted as rejection and may cause him to think less of himself. When this occurs, you deprive him as well as yourself of an opportunity to lift another.

    And so I would caution you about singling out those boys you want to discourage; rather be friendly and respectful of everyone with whom you associate.

    And now about that special boy you’d really like to encourage! Keep cool! A candle that burns too fast soon burns out. Be friendly. It is easier for a boy to take some initiative if you show interest and ask questions about a game he plays, a committee he serves on, or a class he’s taking. He will appreciate your sincere interest, if not overdone, and it will be much easier to become better acquainted.

    Avoid becoming too anxious about dating. A survey shows that over half of the girls who graduate from high school have never had a date. You may be one of these. But the number of dates need not determine your happiness. There are many wonderful things you can be doing rather than just waiting for a date, or for your fairy godmother as Cinderella did. Just learning to enjoy people and develop friends can be exciting if you’ll let it. A girl who has many friends seems to be the one who attracts even more, and as you enlarge your circle of friends, others will be drawn in. And while you may not be dating, you will be sharing experiences, building memories, and having fun.

    As you become anxious at times and even impatient, remember to talk with your Father in heaven about this matter. As you pray, express the yearnings of your heart and seek direction. “Seek diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly.” (D&C 90:24.)

    The following is an account of a young girl who grew up in a small rural community with limited educational opportunities. The first day of her senior year she found herself without friends, entering the high school in what seemed to her to be a big city. Having lost her way and arriving late, her anxiety was only intensified after she quickly observed that she not only didn’t know her way around, but a glance downward told her that her clothing was different, and she felt different in a most uncomfortable way.

    It was at the close of that day, and the following morning, and each day thereafter that she poured out the yearnings of her heart to her Father in heaven, pleading for the ability to be the kind of a person worthy of friends—lots of friends, boyfriends and girl friends—and making a promise to endeavor to keep all of the commandments in return.

    Days and weeks went by. Fall gave way to winter, and while friendships were forming through her sincere respect extended to each student, still there was a need unfulfilled. Then one Sunday afternoon what seemed like an answer to her prayer came. The telephone rang and the voice of one of the special boys at school enthusiastically extended an invitation to her to attend the Sunday movie. Oh, the yearning, the prayers, the promises, the excitement, the conflict, and now the decision. Could this be an answer to her prayers—a Sunday movie? The decision was quickly but painfully made; the invitation was declined, the response cheerful but final. Oh, the torment. Would he ever call again?

    A young girl poured out the yearnings of her heart to her Father in heaven, obeyed his commandments, and trusted in the outcome. That particular young man never called again, but in due time her prayers were answered with many friends, boyfriends and girl friends, and as that school year drew to a close, she was nominated by the studentbody to receive a special award for friendliness. Many lessons had been learned that year, but the lesson of greatest importance she expressed in these words:

    “Our Father in heaven loves us.
    He knows how we feel.
    He listens to the yearnings of our heart.
    He strengthens us when we’re discouraged.
    And he rewards us—in due time.”

    This same lesson may be yours as you “seek diligently, pray always, and be believing …” knowing that your Father in heaven loves you and will guide you as you strive to encourage the boys you like and extend friendship to people everywhere.

    Counselor in the Aaronic Priesthood MIA, Young Women’s Presidency

    “How do you know if you have a testimony?”

    Answer/Brother G. Homer Durham

    Every conscious human being has a testimony of many things—that fire is hot, ice is cold, people are kind and unkind. A testimony is a declaration or affirmation to establish some fact.

    A testimony of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ comes, fundamentally, in the same way that one learns about natural phenomena and human behavior, namely, by desire, effort, experience, and learning, including study, reflection, practice, and testing. In learning anything, it is always beneficial to make effort intelligently and with purpose. Jesus taught: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine. …” (John 7:17. Italics added.) James wrote: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally. …” (James 1:5.)

    A testimony of the truth of Christ’s gospel as restored by the Prophet Joseph Smith—that God lives, hears, and answers prayers, that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that he guides and directs the Church through authorized priesthood channels, and that divine guidance is available to everyone who seeks it—can come in many ways and through a variety of experiences. Generally, the ability, willingness, and confidence one has in making such a solemn declaration comes from (1) desire, (2) study, (3) work, and (4) prayer. Study opens the door to knowledge. Before we can “do” his will, we must first come to know it. Work, or the application of the knowledge gained, using it in practice, is the laboratory in which knowledge can be tested. Prayer, accompanying both study and work, sustains intelligent, purposeful efforts, and brings the confirmation of the Holy Spirit.

    How do you know if you have such a testimony?

    The best way to find out is to express your honest, innermost feelings. Don’t undertake to amplify your doubts. But express those things of which you have hope. Expression is one form of doing. Express yourself to a parent, another loved one, a friend, a trusted counselor or teacher such as the bishop. Your first effort at stating your solemn declaration and affirmation will probably impress you with the fact that inside, after all, you really know for yourself more than you realized beforehand. Do not overlook the promises contained in Moroni 10:4–6 [Moro. 10:4–6], and in the Doctrine and Covenants 9:7–9. [D&C 9:7–9]

    “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

    “And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

    “And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is.”

    “Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

    “But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.

    “But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.”

    If you have faithfully studied, worked, and prayed, you will know, just as you know when you feel well, or unwell. As Moroni wrote, “… by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” (Moro. 10:5.)

    President Brigham Young said: “Now, my friends … how do you know anything? Can you be deceived by the eye? You can. … Can you be deceived in hearing? Yes; you may hear sounds but not understand their import or whence they come. Can you be deceived by the touch of a finger? You can. The nervous system will not detect everything. What will? The revelations of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of truth will detect everything, and enable all who possess it to understand truth from error, light from darkness, the things of God from the things not of God. It is the only thing that will enable us to understand the Gospel of the Son of God, the will of God, and how we can be saved. Follow it, and it will lead to God, the fountain of light, where the gate will be open, and the mind will be enlightened so that we shall see, know and understand things as they are.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, 1925 ed., p. 52; Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, p. 336.)

    Finally, you should not expect a thunderbolt or some extraordinary manifestation. Rather, a testimony, in most cases, grows. It unfolds gradually, as it is desired, cultivated, and fed. But you will know. And it will be up to you to keep it sturdy and strong. If you neglect it, or discard your desire and exchange it for other values, or if you merely drift, your testimony will diminish. If you forsake it and pursue other values, one day you will not know the truth of the gospel. You will not manifest and declare your knowledge of it, because you, yourself, will have moved away and rejected it. Those who, like Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, receive direct, divine intervention are few in number. Nevertheless, help from those who have firm convictions is always available. But ultimately each person has to determine and decide for himself. Then without hesitation one may clearly affirm his knowledge. As study, activity, and prayer continue, one discovers the meaning of Doctrine and Covenants 50:24 [D&C 50:24]: “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” (Italics added.)

    Commissioner of Higher Education, State of Utah