Q&A: Questions and Answers


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

“What kind of emphasis should we place on intellectual activities and pursuits?”

Answer/Sister Karen Lynn

I assume that this questioner uses the word intellectual to refer to such pursuits as philosophy, history, literature, the visual arts, modern and classical languages—scholarly interests that certainly may have a spiritual side or a practical side, but that at first glance don’t seem necessarily to bear either one of these self-justifying labels. Like any question having to do with the goals of life, this problem is an important one.

I think we can justify the value of intellectual pursuits in just two words: heightened awareness. The Lord has created an endlessly fascinating world; in each place and at each period of time, his children have found an incredible variety of ways to deal with their personal and community problems, and to express their discoveries, their values, and their emotions. How tragic (and dull!) for a person to know nothing beyond the limitations of his own experience—to perceive nothing but the problems, joys, and hopes of the Des Moines girl or the Inverness boy, just because that is what he or she happens to be! Education can help us to respond to feelings that lie outside our direct experience; our appreciation is refined and we become more sensitive and perceptive. The spiritual implications of this kind of growth are obvious. To learn to observe clearly, to respond compassionately, to use the lessons of other times and places to improve our own lives—surely these are some of the reasons our Heavenly Father made us thinking creatures to begin with.

Let’s consider for a moment a statement by Dr. Jae R. Ballif, dean of the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences at Brigham Young University:

“Many members of the Church make a sharp distinction between the ‘religious’ and the ‘secular.’ They often imply that the secular is less important and yet includes many broad disciplines of learning, including the sciences. As Latter-day Saints we should know better than this. Our vital task is to distinguish truth from error and pursue the truth wherever it is found. All truth, not just that encompassed by a narrow definition of the word ‘religious,’ can help us toward eternal salvation and toward eventual godhood. Unfortunately, many try to be godlike in their personal characteristics, but refuse to accept the responsibility for gaining knowledge and wisdom. To become like Him we must acquire His personal characteristics and His wisdom.”

So intellectual pursuits are important. The best family member, the best genealogist, the best missionary, the best home teacher—and so on all the way down the list of our important obligations in this earthly life—is the curious person, the alive person, the person willing to expand his awareness in pursuit of “anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy”—all truth.

What each person must decide for himself, then, is the role that intellectual pursuits will play in his life—what scholarly matters he will pursue, when he will pursue them, or whether he will pursue them at all. But to those who reject the whole idea of intellectual pursuits, let me offer some cautions against three possible reasons for this decision which seem to me to be false ones:

1. “It won’t help me earn a living.” Beware of this reason! Neither will most of the important things you study in life. Equip yourself for the ends of life, not just the means. If you value only the training that will help you to earn a dollar, you are admitting that your most important goals are material ones.

2. “Girls don’t need to follow intellectual pursuits.” What a misconception! Our church leaders have never counseled that girls should be content with a second-rate education. Even if your work is centered exclusively around your home, being wise enough to know the value of intellectual pursuits can make all the difference. Be the housewife who can transform the dreaded ironing hour into the opportunity to aim one ear toward the stereo to enjoy the fine music, the play, or the language lesson that means so much to you. Be the mother who can give your children creative experiences in the arts, sciences, languages, or music, rather than the mother who rears a generation of TV watchers.

3. “People who become too smart only succeed in making themselves unhappy.” Ignorance may bring one type of peace of mind but so does sedation. Brigham Young said, “Education is the power to appreciate life.” Does that sound like unhappiness?

Of course, the person in pursuit of intellectual goals must arm himself with his own set of cautions. He must be energetic in his dedication. He must not use education as an excuse to postpone life and perhaps neglect his responsibilities to his family and his church. And above all, he must test each new idea for truthfulness to insure that in his case intellectual enlightenment will not be synonymous with “the wicked craftiness of men.” (2 Ne. 9:28.) If he diligently and prayerfully seeks after truth, he will find great joy and satisfaction as each new understanding adds to his testimony. In the eternal scheme of things, he is closer to godhood. And for the present he is a better Latter-day Saint and a more effective instrument through which our Father in heaven can bless those around him.

Assistant Professor of English, Brigham Young University

“What is the mantle of the prophet?”

Answer/Brother Reed C. Durham, Jr.

The only man in this church today who wears the “mantle of the prophet” in its fullest sense is President Spencer W. Kimball. Therefore, no man who is alive today could know as much about what that mantle is as he does. And we are fortunate that he has spoken on this very subject:

“I’ve chosen to talk to you today about the mantle of the prophet. I consulted Webster’s Dictionary and found there are two mantles: one is a projecting shelf, generally over a fireplace, and that we are not going to talk about. The other one is a coat, or a cloak, a sleeveless cloak generally, and that we will only allude to briefly. [There is a third mantle, however, that] is kind of an intangible thing. Some of the most important of the experiences we possess or have are intangibles. … So I pondered and set again to think of what I might say today about a mantle, especially the kind that neither knows wool, cotton, nor silk, nor leather, and so let us address ourselves to that intangible mantle which is given of God to chosen servants, especially His prophets, which gives them power, authority, light, revelation, direction.” (“The Mantle of the Prophet,” Devotional Address given at the Salt Lake LDS Institute of Religion, April 13, 1973. Italics added.)

The mantle, then, symbolizes an investiture of the right to succeed a former prophet. The biblical account of Elijah throwing his own hair-shirt mantle upon his successor, Elisha, beautifully symbolizes this transference of authority. (See 1 Kgs. 19:19; 2 Kgs. 2:7–15.) Elisha succeeded Elijah.

In our own dispensation when the Lord took the Prophet Joseph Smith from this life, the mantle of leadership fell upon Brigham Young. Documents of Church history are replete with examples of the divine confirmation of this fact. And after Brigham Young passed away, John Taylor wore the mantle—and so on in turn with each president. The established orderly pattern of succession dictates that the Lord has conferred the keys of presidency upon each apostle who is set apart as a member of the Council of the Twelve; and that when a quorum of First Presidency is dissolved (which occurs at the moment of the death of a president of the Church), the entire leadership of the Church and kingdom devolves upon the Council of the Twelve—their senior member presiding. In a general sense, every member of the Council of the Twelve has received the mantle already—the mantle of authority, light, revelation, direction, and the keys of presidency. However, in a specific sense the man who has seniority in that council receives the mantle at the death of the president of the Church, and he alone becomes the mouthpiece for the entire Church. He succeeds the prophet before him. Therefore, at the moment when President Harold B. Lee passed away, President Spencer W. Kimball stepped forth to preside over the Council of the Twelve and, therefore, over the entire Church.

“President Kimball was at that moment the senior apostle of God on earth. And as the last heartbeat of President Lee ceased, the mantle of leadership passed to President Kimball, whose next heartbeat was that of the living oracle and presiding authority of God on earth. From that moment the Church continued under the direction of President Kimball.” (Bruce R. McConkie, “Succession in Presidency,” Church News, Mar. 23, 1974, p. 7.)

Director of the Institute of Religion, University of Utah

“Should a nonmember take the sacrament when attending church with a member?”

Answer/Elder Loren C. Dunn

One of the best opportunities for acquainting nonmembers with the spirit and teachings of the gospel is in our church meetings. As part of the nonmember friendshiping responsibility each of us has, we should invite our friends and acquaintances to go with us to Sunday School and sacrament meeting as well as the appropriate auxiliary meetings. However, if the sacrament is to be passed, we should explain to the nonmember in advance that the sacrament is for members to renew the covenant of baptism that they made when they joined the Church. Since the nonmember has not yet been baptized, there is no need for him to take the sacrament. One could explain also that quite often we have nonmembers in our meetings, and of course, they don’t take the sacrament either, so it is neither unusual nor embarrassing for someone not to take the sacrament.

“And again I say unto you, ye shall not cast any out of your sacrament meetings who are earnestly seeking the kingdom—I speak this concerning those who are not of the church.” (D&C 46:5.)

of the First Council of the Seventy

“How important is a formal education?”

Answer/Brother John M. R. Covey

A very helpful statement concerning the importance of learning was given in a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith in Kirtland, Ohio. It says, “Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may 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, that are expedient for you to understand;

“Of 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—

“That ye may be prepared in all things … to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you.” (D&C 88:78–80.)

It appears that the Lord considered a whole and complete range of learning important if we are to magnify our callings and fulfill our life’s purpose. In order to attain this knowledge, a person needs to be aware of the sources of learning available to him.

There are two sources of learning—one divine and the other human. In the realm of human learning, those with formal educations tend to have more influential positions, make more money, are generally listened to by the world, and are more often found to be the leaders over those without formal educations, in most organizations, at least. The facts of the world are clear—“Fortune favors the best prepared.”

In the realm of divine learning, Elder Bruce R. McConkie best expresses my thoughts: “True religion deals with spiritual things. We do not come to a knowledge of God and his laws through intellectuality or by research or by reason. … In their sphere, education and intellectuality are devoutly to be desired. But when contrasted with spiritual endowments, they are of but slight and passing worth. From an eternal perspective, what each of us needs is a Ph.D. in faith and righteousness. The things that will profit us everlastingly are not the power to reason, but the ability to receive revelation; not the truths learned by study, but the knowledge gained by faith; not what we know about the things of the world, but our knowledge of God and his laws.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Ensign, June 1971, pp. 77–78.)

Years ago, President Marion G. Romney gave a group of college graduates a threefold guide to learning, both formal and personal that I believe applies to everyone. I recommend you commit it to memory. It is as follows:

First, recognize there are two sources of learning, one divine and the other human; second, drink deeply from both sources; third, correctly distinguish between human learning (the learning of the world) and revealed truth, and put your ultimate faith in revealed truth. (See Marion G. Romney, Baccalaureate Services, BYU, May 30, 1957.)

My answer to the question above is that formal education is often important in attaining worldly influence, and individual study, prayer, and righteous living are absolutely essential in attaining spiritual influence. I feel that the challenge to every member of the Church is to strive to combine the two—formal educational training and personal, prayerful study and righteous living. As Jacob warns, this combination is not easy but most desirable:

“O that cunning plan of the evil one! 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. Italics added)

President of the Australia Melbourne Mission

“When do missionaries receive the keys for their ministry—when ordained an elder, when set apart for their mission, or when they receive their endowment?”

Answer/President J. Murray Rawson

The receipt of a missionary call from the president of the Church opens the door for the reception of the keys of that assignment. When a missionary is set apart he receives the keys to act in his assignment.

The keys are the right to “enjoy the blessings of communication with the heavens and the privilege and authority to administer in the ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ, to preach the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins.” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine [Deseret Book Co.: 1939], p. 142.)

The Lord tells us in the Doctrine and Covenants 42:11 [D&C 42:11]. “Again I say unto you that it shall not be given to anyone to go forth and preach my gospel, or to build up my church except he be ordained by some one who has authority …”

The priesthood is the authority given to man to act for God. “Every man ordained to any degree of the priesthood has this authority delegated to him. It is necessary that every act performed under this authority shall be done at the proper time and place, in the proper way, and after the proper order.

“The power of directing these labors constitutes the keys of the priesthood. In their fullness the keys are held by only one person at a time, the Prophet and President of the Church.” (Gospel Doctrine, p. 136.)

President Spencer W. Kimball holds all the keys of the kingdom, which gives to him the power, right, and authority to preside over the kingdom of God on earth [which is the Church] and to direct all of its affairs. (See Gospel Doctrine, p. 136.) He has delegated some of his keys to the stake president and the mission president, who in turn, as they set a missionary apart in behalf of President Kimball, bestow upon him the keys to act in his missionary assignment.

Missionary Home Salt Lake City, Utah