Q&A: Questions and Answers

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

    “How can the Savior be a personal counselor to me?”

    Answer/Brother Dean Jarman

    The question suggests a belief in a wonderful relationship with the Savior where one senses his nearness, his love, and his guidance. In this setting men can counsel with the Lord and receive direction from his influence.

    The question that is often asked is how can this happen—especially to me? The scriptures teach us about the counseling relationship one can have with the Savior. One needs to understand that there is an influence or Spirit that comes from Christ to every individual. It is often called the Light of Christ, the Spirit of Christ, or sometimes even the word of the Lord. (D&C 84:44–45.) This influence is one of guidance and enlightenment.

    The Lord instructed Joseph Smith that “the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that harkeneth to the voice of the Spirit.” (D&C 84:46.) Some refer to the Light of Christ as one’s true conscience. That is, there is something within each person that is of Christ; it is a true light or true conscience. As one hearkens to the true voice or feeling within him, the promise of the Lord is that there will occur a spiritual enlightenment or, in other words, an increase of light. One’s understanding of what is right will increase, and he will come more to enjoy the mind of Christ.

    Often when an individual tries to solve a problem, he relies heavily on his ability to think, to consider alternatives, and to weigh the consequences of possible choices. This is a valuable process but is incomplete by itself. He needs also to search and listen to the truest feelings within himself, which feelings are the light of Christ. There can be many voices that speak to an individual, but there is one true light within that is of Christ. Let me illustrate this idea with three examples.

    A returned missionary came one day for some advice on whether he should join a particular group on campus at this point in his life. When asked what he thought about it, he suggested several ideas that seemed to point to one course of action. When asked what he really felt inside about it, there was at first a look of puzzlement and then a smile as he recognized that the feeling was different from what most of his reasons suggested.

    One day a boy stopped by the office and for several moments talked very negatively and critically about the Church, suggesting several reasons why the Church just couldn’t be the Lord’s. When asked to search deeply within himself, to examine his conscience concerning the matter as to whether or not the Church was the Lord’s, he replied after some reflective thought, “I feel it is true.”

    Another individual was advocating the new morality, suggesting that a boy and girl are free to choose the nature of their affectional relationship based on the circumstances of each situation, without fear of law or punishment, neither of which he felt existed. He was confronted with God’s standard of morality and the truth that there is something within each person that comes from the Lord to assist him in distinguishing between good and evil. When he was challenged to look within himself to see which of the two conflicting approaches to morality was really right, he replied, after some pause, “That which I feel is different from that which I have been saying.”

    Yes, truly did Mormon write that “the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil. …” (Moro. 7:16.) He further said that the true way to judge is to be able to discern one’s feelings, “… for every thing which inviteth to do good … is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ. …” (Moro. 7:16.)

    The reflective thought within a person must be sincere and done with real intent. Many times an individual will lay aside the influence of the Lord in favor of what seems appealing or rational at the moment. Such an individual may fluctuate back and forth in his feelings. If the negative feelings are a true source of inspiration, they will continue to be felt if one really wants to know what he should do.

    On one occasion a girl was trying to decide whether or not to marry a certain individual and was confused because at times she felt doubt and uncertainty and at other times was certain she wanted to marry him. When they were together it seemed right, but when she was alone or away from him, there was much doubt and uncertainty. We talked about many things: the kind of person she wanted to marry, the element of trust in marriage, possible reasons for her doubt, and why at times it seemed all right. Toward the end of the conversation she was asked to consider what she really felt was the right thing to do. After a few moments she observed that she had really known all along it wasn’t right but had just put aside those feelings. One must follow the counsel of Mormon and “search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil. …” He then promised, “… if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ.” (Moro. 7:19.)

    In developing a counseling relationship with Christ, follow these three simple processes: (1) recognize and believe that there is a feeling within you that comes from Christ; (2) consider the alternatives; and (3) listen to your honest feelings. If one is in doubt, then it is usually wise not to proceed. When one follows his true conscience, there will be an attendant joy and peace. The old adage of “follow your conscience” is very true and applicable in learning to discern and follow the counsel of the Savior.

    First Counselor, Salt Lake University Second Stake

    “Do you consider skydiving, auto racing, skin diving, mountain climbing, motorcycle riding, and so forth, risks that we should not expose ourselves to?”

    Answer/Brother John M. Goddard

    It is my personal conviction that sports or hobbies that contain elements of risk need not be totally avoided if the person involved is properly trained and has taken every precaution. Throughout my life I have enormously enjoyed adventurous activities that can be regarded as hazardous to health, for example: scuba-diving in shark-infested waters to depths of 200 feet off the Galapagos Islands; surfing in Australia and Hawaii; skydiving at Lake Elsinore, California; climbing great mountains all over the world, including the Matterhorn in Switzerland, Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Mount Ararat in Turkey, and Huascaran in Peru; snowmobiling and skiing in Utah; skin diving and cave exploring worldwide; flying jet fighters, including the sensational F-111 at 1,500 mph; running rapids on 15 different rivers; and, most recently, delightful flights in a glider and a hot air balloon.

    In each of these adventures there has been a deep and enduring enrichment of body, mind, and spirit, a warm sense of communion with our Heavenly Father through contact with the beauty of his creations. I am emphatically opposed to anyone risking his life unnecessarily; that, of course, is foolish. But danger can be minimized through proper training and the development of skill and judgment through experience. Lives are too often lost through lack of experience or adequate instruction. It is imperative that a novice undergo a period of training by an experienced instructor before attempting to climb a mountain, bail out of a plane, or dive with unfamiliar equipment. Thus one can achieve independence by degrees, progressing from one plateau of ability to another, until skillful competence is achieved, thus largely controlling the dangers.

    One of the basic principles of the gospel that has been a constant source of inspiration in my own life is the concept of eternal progression. This fundamental teaches us to continually strive to develop our maximum potentialities, physically, intellectually, and spiritually, throughout our lives. Far too many ignore this important commandment and become content with a sterile, colorless existence, timidly avoiding anything that might be considered perilous or out of the ordinary. “Spectatoritis” is one of the common and deadly traps of modern times, becoming increasingly the engrained pattern of living as a person grows older. But it will always be infinitely more enjoyable and rewarding to be a doer rather than a watcher. We live most intensely when we are expressing our God-given abilities in action, and life takes on new meaning when we constantly expand our horizons and add new dimensions. These are the reasons why I feel that action-packed, challenging, and adventurous activities are worthwhile and approved by our Heavenly Father.

    Explorer, Adventurer

    “Is there any reason or Church doctrine that would suggest that I should not have my ears pierced?”

    Answer/Sister Marianne C. Sharp

    When I was in a jeweler’s shop the other day, I asked the jeweler, “Are girls having their ears pierced now?” He answered, “They are really going for it now,” and he pushed forward a velvet-lined tray full of earrings for pierced ears.

    Piercing the ear lobes in order to insert earrings is a vogue that comes and goes. It was the only means in biblical times, it would seem, for women to wear earrings. Gold earrings were recognized not only as ornaments but also as items of value.

    Perhaps one of the earlier mentions of earrings being used is in the Bible where the servant of Jacob, seeking a kinswoman as a wife for Isaac, presented Rebekah with bracelets and gold earrings. The King James Bible account reads, “And I put the earring upon her face, and the bracelets upon her hands.” (Gen. 24:47.)

    When this was studied in a Sunday School class, a Lebanese sister said, “I suppose that would be a nose ring”—which did not appeal to my taste. It is interesting to find that the account in the Inspired Version of the Bible reads, “And I gave the earrings unto her, to put into her ears, and the bracelets upon her hands.” (JST, Gen. 24:51.) This would indicate that the earrings of Rebekah were to go into her ears.

    In some instances the Old Testament tells of the Israelites collecting their gold earrings (1) to melt them down for the golden calf (Ex. 32:2–4) and (2) to contribute to the adornment of the tabernacle (Ex. 35:22).

    Today there are other means of fastening earrings to the ear, so there is not the necessity of piercing the ear lobes. The only credible reason I have heard given for piercing ears is where the earrings are of great value, such as diamond earrings, and the wearer wishes to avoid losing them.

    I do recall as a young girl how ugly pierced ear lobes looked to me. A relative who had been born in the 1870s had had her ears pierced as a teenage girl. It was very popular at that time in Salt Lake City. However, this woman did not always wear earrings, and the perforations were most ugly to me.

    The craze to pierce or not to pierce seems to occur and recur. I know of no pronouncement or stand that Church authorities have made in this regard. I recall with what disfavor I looked upon one of my granddaughters piercing her ears. I believe she did pierce them but then let them grow together again.

    There are some people to whom the practice is repugnant and others who feel comfortable with it; so I would think the decision would be an individual one that each girl and her parents should reach together.

    First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency

    “I think I have a strong inferiority complex. If I wait long enough, will it go away?”

    Answer/Brother Lowell Bennion

    It is natural to have feelings of inferiority. Almost everyone does. Even those individuals who appear outwardly confident and pleased with themselves may be compensating for feelings of inadequacy.

    Especially during the teen years one is often plagued with feelings of inferiority. This is a time when one is neither a child nor, consistently, an adult, when one is groping for self-identity, trying to discover one’s real self and what one wishes to make of oneself. It is also a time of life when one is “outer-directed,” seeking to please one’s peers, seeking acceptance by both boyfriends and girl friends. Trying to please everyone else is one of the surest ways of becoming confused about one’s own worth.

    Man is naturally self-conscious. There is no escape from oneself except into extreme mental illness. Hence, strong feelings of inferiority are most distressing.

    One of man’s most basic psychological or spiritual needs is to think well of himself, to have a feeling of personal worth, a sense of self-esteem. One should learn to accept, love, and enjoy oneself. Without self-acceptance one is in constant misery because that’s where life is—inside us. Also, without self-acceptance one cannot be free to relate to others in their interests because one is always trying to guard and protect his own starved ego. T. V. Smith, a wise teacher, said: “If you love your neighbor as yourself and hate yourself, woe unto your neighbor.” Love of self is a prerequisite to love of fellowman.

    The question is asked: “If I wait long enough, will it (my inferiority complex) go away?” It is likely to diminish in time as one matures and finds himself, but again, it may not. Either way, having an inferiority complex is a miserable feeling one need not endure. There are things that can be done to overcome such a negative self-concept. Let me suggest a few.

    1. Take care of your body and your health. Keep up your energy. Get enough sleep. Build your physical strength through play, work, and exercise. Bathe often and refresh yourself frequently.

    2. Cultivate your strong points. Everyone is unique in his strengths. Let that uniqueness be a source of satisfaction—it may be a smile, beautiful hair, a freckled face, a pug nose, a sense of humor, patience, determination, compassion, or a talent. Develop competence in one thing—in a skill, in a subject of study, at the piano, in sewing, cooking, gardening, or in any worthwhile endeavor.

    3. Keep your integrity. That is, internalize gospel ideals; make them your own. Don’t ape other people. Be your honest self. Think your own thoughts, speak your own mind appropriately, tell the truth, be true to your own deepest convictions. Be “inner directed,” governed by your own standards and ideals.

    If you have made mistakes and committed sins—as we all do—don’t dwell on them. “One does not become clean by rolling in the mire,” said Huxley. Make restitution by repenting and then turn your mind and heart to better things. Crowd out evil with good.

    4. Jesus said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” (Luke 9:24.) If you withdraw from life, crawling into your own shell, brooding over feelings of inferiority, you will shrivel up, and life will be bleak and dark for you—like the meat enclosed within the shell of an old walnut.

    If, on the other hand, you will serve others with a glad heart—help your mom and dad, be thoughtful of brother and sister, listen to friends, visit the sick and afflicted, sing praises to God and his Son, labor gladly in their cause, you will surely discover your own worth and experience the true value of your own self.

    5. A brilliant German professor was converted to the restored gospel and the Church because of our positive conception of man’s potential. Upon hearing our teachings that man is a child of God with free agency, capable of eternal progression, “that men are that they might have joy,” she exclaimed: “How could a creation of God be more evil than good—especially man who was created in his image?”

    Let us too become excited about being who we are—children of God, created in his image, objects of his love.

    Director of Community Services, Salt Lake City, Utah