Q&A: Questions and Answers

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

    “Is it all right for a Latter-day Saint girl to hitchhike? When would it not be? I hitchhiked recently to my university during a bus strike.”

    Answer/Sister Marilyn Arnold

    If you had lived under the Law of Moses you would have found that indeed there were laws and commandments that covered areas even as specific as this. But as his people have grown more spiritually mature, the Lord has often simply taught them general principles and expected them to make their own decisions according to the light he has given them. As he said, “… it is not meet that I should command in all things.” This is just one of many, many areas for which there is no specific revelation handed down as Church doctrine. Nevertheless, the Lord has not left us without guidance in such matters. He has given us Church leaders to advise us; he has given us parents with more wisdom than we have; and perhaps most important, he has given us the Holy Ghost. You should ask yourself if prior to your recent hitchhiking trip you consulted these sources. You should also ask yourself, seriously, if hitchhiking was absolutely the only way for you to get to school. Did you really exhaust all the other possibilities? What did others in your situation do, who, like you, had counted on bus transportation?

    There can really be no hard and fast rule against asking rides from strangers. Sometimes we have car trouble or find ourselves in other difficult situations that require us to solicit help from others. And there are many good people in the world who are willing to help us when trouble arises. But to me, seeking help under dire circumstances is quite different from purposely starting a journey as a hitchhiking venture, taking up a station on a public highway, thumb extended.

    You already know all the sensible reasons for not hitchhiking, especially if you are a girl. In many states hitchhiking is against the law. Certainly the newspapers have convinced us, with grim tales of hitchhikers who became assault or murder victims, that hitchhiking is not safe. And there are reasons that go even beyond these very practical considerations. To hitchhike is to ask for trouble, to invite it. It is to willfully remove ourselves from the care of those who love us and place ourselves completely under the power of those who have no reason to be interested in our welfare. Could you with a clear conscience pray for the Lord’s protection on such a venture? It would be like praying to him to keep you warm and then going out in subzero weather in only a bathing suit. It would be like trying to address God and Satan at the same time. As Paul said, “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.” (1 Cor. 10:21.)

    There is another reason why I think a Latter-day Saint girl should not hitchhike. It makes her look cheap. It tells the world that she really has no moral standards that she cares much about. It suggests that she holds herself cheaply. People, rightly or wrongly, pass judgment on the girl at the side of the road. They assume all kinds of things about her; men expect her to be an “easy mark.” This may not be true, but you place yourself at the mercy of such an attitude when you hitchhike.

    Even in an emergency it pays to be careful. One time several of my friends and I decided to take a short vacation in the Tetons. We had not realized that with several people and all their luggage in the car, we would not get the gas mileage we had expected. Consequently, we ran out of gasoline in a mountainous area some distance from any town. Our only hope of getting gas before nightfall was to get help from a passing motorist. So we set about to flag down a car. Two men finally stopped for us, local boys who seemed harmless enough. Nevertheless, several of us went along to find a service station, because we felt there was safety in numbers. Well, the men were harmless enough, but the bottle of liquor they brought out soon after we were on our way was not. They drank during the whole 20 miles or so that we traveled to find gasoline, and by the time we arrived, they were quite drunk. We could have been in a terrible accident. Going back we waited and watched at the station until a family came by that was known to the station proprietor, and he asked them if they would give us a ride back to our car. Those few extra precautions made our return trip much more pleasant.

    If a girl must, under extreme circumstances, ask for a ride from people she does not know, then she should at least take these precautions: (1) Never go alone—and take more than two if possible. (2) Accept rides only with families or women—not with men unaccompanied by women or children. (3) Avoid traveling with strangers after dark.

    Chairman, American Literature Section Department of English Brigham Young University

    “What are the reasons for and the process of excommunication?”

    Answer/Elder Robert L. Simpson

    Regaining the presence of God, the Eternal Father, is what membership in this Church is all about. Eternal life or exaltation should be the goal and objective of every Latter-day Saint. Recognizing the hazards and pitfalls of mortality and the power of the adversary to deceive and persuade in wrong directions, a kind and understanding Heavenly Father has provided a process by which we might receive the help we need to cleanse ourselves and to make the necessary corrections. This pathway is commonly referred to as repentance. All of Heavenly Father’s children have need of this principle in their lives from time to time. When the irregularity has been major, the Church court system plays an important role in helping the transgressor to find his way back. It is all for our benefit and blessing.

    The bishops court and the high council court have properly been referred to as courts of love. The sole purpose of a Church court is to bring about in the Lord’s way a spiritual judgment for every Church member that will hopefully eliminate for all time an irregularity or transgression that could prevent him from the ultimate blessing of exaltation.

    The Lord’s plan is totally positive. His work and his glory is to provide a way whereby as many of his children as possible may return to his holy presence as family units (Moses 1:39), there to share in all that the Father has (D&C 84:33–39). He has no process or plan designed to block the progress of any of his children. His goal is singular; his work and his glory is that all might be edified and exalted.

    The process of Church court discipline might well be likened to fresh, clean water that is ever flushing out the constantly forming cesspools of sin and corruption common to mortality and continually thrust upon man by the power of Satan.

    All Church members who have need to repent must first of all find the courage to seek out their priesthood leaders for help. Relatively few transgressors are excommunicated. Some are disfellowshiped for a season; many, many more are quietly placed on probation by the bishop or stake president. The great majority of those who talk to their priesthood leaders about their personal problems are worked with confidentially without even the need for a court hearing or a formal disciplinary action. The attitude of the individual is all important as he comes to his priesthood authority. If we seek help and correction with a contrite spirit and an unmistakable desire to do right, the priesthood leader can frequently bring about the miracle of forgiveness without the need for court action. This is particularly true of those who are in the beginning stages of transgression and particularly those young people who have fallen prey to the adversary on a one-time or so-called experimental basis.

    When excommunication from the Church is necessary, however, we must not regard the penalty as an end to all blessings and eternal possibilities. Even excommunication, serious as it is, can have the effect of restoring the proper perspective of the offender. Once deprived of Church membership, it is interesting to note how vitally important rebaptism becomes. The truly repentant excommunicated person will strive diligently to regain the waters of baptism. In the Church there are scores of members who have earned their way back into the Church through true repentance and who now stand on more firm ground than ever before in their lives. They have learned their lesson well. They are not likely to make the same mistake again; and surely the blessings of eternity are once again a possibility, thanks to the sanctifying influence of true repentance coupled with the miracle of forgiveness.

    A bishop has the authority to convene a bishops court. The court consists of the ward bishopric, and they may consider the matter of excommunication for any member of the Church living in the ward except for one who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood. The bishops court, however, may render a decision of disfellowshipment for any member of the ward, including Melchizedek Priesthood holders. This court may also place any ward member regardless of priesthood status on probation.

    The high council court under the direction of the stake president consists of the stake presidency and members of the high council. This court has the authority to conduct hearings for any member of the Church residing in the stake, including both Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood holders, and also the authority to impose a decision of excommunication where appropriate. Church members to be tried are notified in advance of the date, the hour, and the place the court will convene. The court should convene in the attitude of fasting and prayer. Total justice in harmony with the revealed word of the Lord should be the prime objective of the court. Judgment that is too light or too harsh often defeats the purposes of the Lord. A fair hearing and a final decision of the court that is ratified by the gifts of the Spirit will always be in the best interest of the member being tried. It is usually those who are so far removed from the spirit of truth as to be imperceptive to the love of Christ and the need for proper priesthood reprimand who leave the Church court with belligerence and ill feeling toward their priesthood leaders. These people are seldom sorry for what they have done but only sorry they have been caught.

    Excommunication need not be the end of all hope. Although the mistake has been grievous and a serious violation of God’s commandments, a person who really loves the Lord and has the desire and the fortitude to now do right can most often reestablish his life and in due process and time may possibly qualify himself for the lofty and ultimate blessings of exaltation.

    There are very few reasons for excommunication in this Church. I can only think of three.

    Church members can become candidates for excommunication as they involve themselves in gross iniquity.

    Church members become candidates for excommunication as they become involved in or advocate plural marriage.

    Church members become candidates for excommunication as they apostatize from the teachings of the Church.

    Gross iniquity involves such transgressions as murder, adultery, sexual perversion, or serious civil court conviction such as a felony.

    It should also be made clear that an apostate is not an indifferent or an inactive member of the Church but rather one who flatly denies the divine nature of the Church or one who is antagonistic against or unresponsive to his priesthood authority.

    Where serious transgression requires a court hearing, may I promise you that the procedure is kind and gentle. The Church court system is just; and as has been stated on many occasions, these are courts of love with the singular objective of helping Church members to get back on a proper course.

    Assistant to the Council of the Twelve

    “Can Satan or his hosts read our thoughts, and do they still have a knowledge of our pre-earth life, which would and could aid them in tempting us?”

    Answer/Elder ElRay L. Christiansen

    The account of Satan, or Lucifer as he came to be known, is a frightening example of rebellion against God and apostasy from that which is right and good.

    All of us, including Lucifer, are sons and daughters of God. Before we were born into mortality, we lived in the premortal state as spirit children of our heavenly parents. We were taught there the plan of salvation.

    We learn from the scriptures that Lucifer, a brilliant, influential character who had considerable authority in the premortal world, rebelled against the plan whereby Jesus Christ would become the Savior and Redeemer of mankind. Lucifer’s plan, which was proposed and rejected, was based on forcible compliance to law without the blessing of free agency. Along with Lucifer one-third of the heavenly host rebelled also and vowed their allegiance to him. Lucifer and his followers were cast out and denied forever the blessing of mortal bodies.

    “And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.” (Moses 4:4.)

    We must realize that Lucifer, the devil, lives just as certainly as we live. Those who teach that there is no devil are simply unaware of the facts. Satan lives. The rebellious spirits who followed him live. Even though he and his hosts are denied the blessing of possessing mortal bodies, he and they possess great power to deceive and to destroy our free agency and take away peace. He has declared war against the saints and will destroy our standards and freedoms and even our souls, if he can.

    “Wherefore, he maketh war with the saints of God, and encompasseth them round about.” (D&C 76:29.)

    True Christians know that invisible forces are waging war against God and his people who are striving to do his will.

    Being cast out of heaven, Lucifer and his satanic hosts turned in their abominable work to the tactics of temptation, deception, and lies. He commenced by intruding into the household of Adam and causing Cain to become a murderer—shedding the blood of his own brother Abel.

    Satan tried to entice our Redeemer through tempting him, but Jesus resisted and Satan failed.

    Because of his role in bringing about a restoration of the gospel in this dispensation, the Prophet Joseph Smith became Satan’s target, and he did all in his power to destroy Joseph just before the appearance of the Father and the Son in the sacred grove. The words of Joseph are as follows:

    “I kneeled down and began to offer up the desire of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me … as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak.” (JS—H 1:15.)

    God allows Lucifer and his agents to tempt us so that we may more deliberately choose between good and evil. The Lord could banish Satan and his angels from the earth and remove temptations from men, but “it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet.” (D&C 29:39.)

    Satan knows all the tricks. He knows where we are susceptible to temptations and how to entice us to do evil. He and his messengers suggest evil, minimize the seriousness of sin, and make evil inviting.

    “He will appear to us in the person of a friend or a relative in whom we have confidence. He has power to place thoughts in our minds and to whisper to us in unspoken impressions to entice us to satisfy our appetites or carnal desires and in various ways he plays upon our weaknesses and desires.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Melchizedek Priesthood Course of Study, 1972–73, p. 298.)

    Surely then Satan and his followers have some knowledge of our thoughts and tendencies. He has knowledge that is superior to man’s knowledge, but he lacks the wisdom to properly use his knowledge for good purposes. Some people are like that and often find themselves opposing even that which is right and true. Satan is a great deceiver, a liar. He appeared unto Korihor in the form of an angel and said unto him: “Go and reclaim this people [the faithful believers in God], for they have all gone astray after an unknown God. And he said unto me: There is no God; yea, and he taught me that which I should say. And I have taught his words; and I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind; and I taught them, even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true; and for this cause I withstood the truth, even until I have brought this great curse upon me.” (Alma 30:53.)

    Satan and his aides no doubt may know our inclinations, our carnal tastes and desires, but they cannot compel a righteous person to do evil if he seeks help from the Lord. Too many try to blame Satan when in reality the fault lies within themselves because they yield to his enticements.

    He delights in introducing to the world innovations and practices that lead to unhappiness and misery, all the while making it appear that such evil practices are now acceptable. “It is he who inspires every evil teaching, every evil thought even in false religions, creeds, and organizations.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 297.)

    In the words of that great prophet Alma, “For I say unto you that whatsoever is good cometh from God, and whatsoever is evil cometh from the devil.

    “Therefore, if a man bringeth forth good works he hearkeneth unto the voice of the good shepherd, and he doth follow him; but whosoever bringeth forth evil works, the same becometh a child of the devil, for he hearkeneth unto his voice, and doth follow him.” (Alma 5:40–41.)

    Assistant to the Council of the Twelve

    “My nonmember friends seem to know a lot about the Church’s financial system and business interests. They say we own controlling interests in many national companies, some of which manufacture products that are against our standards, like liquor and tobacco companies. What can I tell them?”

    Answer/President N. Eldon Tanner

    Briefly you could quote the Church’s general policy to your friends. We do not own nor do we seek controlling interest in any major national company.

    In addition, the Church does not buy securities in any corporation that manufactures products such as cola drinks, publishing companies that print material that is not consistent with our standards, producers of alcoholic beverages, or tobacco companies.

    People at times donate to the Church, properties or securities that would not be consistent with the above principles, but these in turn are sold on the open market soon after they are received.

    The Church still owns a few industries that were started out of necessity during pioneer times. They helped to establish the economy, and they are still functioning. These pioneer industries include companies like the Beneficial Life Insurance Company and the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company. However, many of the original pioneer industries such as Zion’s Bank and ZCMI are no longer owned by the Church.

    We also own support industries such as the Beehive Clothing Mills, Deseret News, and Deseret Press that help in the day-to-day work of the Church.

    The Church does own some agricultural property. In times of need this could easily be converted to welfare production. Of course, all welfare farms are locally owned and operated by the various wards and stakes in the Church. The welfare program yields a great variety of produce, which, with the fast offerings of the Church, is used for the welfare of those in need.

    The financial foundation of the Church is its faithful, devoted membership. The great majority of Church income comes from the tithes and offerings of these faithful members. This income is budgeted according to established directions set down by the Lord in section 120 of the Doctrine and Covenants:

    “Verily, thus saith the Lord, the time is now come, that it [tithing] shall be disposed of by a council, composed of the First Presidency of my Church, and of the bishop and his council, and by my high council; and by mine own voice unto them, saith the Lord.” [D&C 120:1]

    The Council of the Disposition of Tithes is composed of the First Presidency, the Council of the Twelve, and the Presiding Bishopric of the Church.

    The greatest portion of Church expenditures goes toward meetinghouse construction and maintenance and to the education system, which includes seminaries and institutes, Church schools in underdeveloped countries, Brigham Young University, and Ricks College.

    The remainder is spent on other activities, including missionary and temple work, internal communication and administration of the Church, and the printing, translation, and distribution of manuals. All of the funds of the Church are considered sacred and dedicated to furthering our Father’s work on the earth, and they are managed prayerfully and with inspiration.

    First Counselor in the First Presidency