Q&A: Questions and Answers


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

“Does God hear everyone’s prayers?”

Answer/Brother Roger Merrill

There are at least two different approaches people might take in response to the question, does God hear everyone’s prayers? One approach is exemplified by a fellow we will call Eric. People tell Eric that he is very smart, and he prides himself on his ability to think through ideas and explain them to people.

Recently Eric has been studying about the different nations of the earth. One afternoon as he was watching a film in school about the eastern countries, he was deeply impressed with the number of people on the earth and how varied their lives are.

As he was thinking, he asked himself, does God really near everyone’s prayers? After pondering for awhile he could not conceive how one being could really listen to all those prayers at one time. “It is just impossible; he must have angels assigned to listen for him,” he reasoned. This answer was logical but somehow made him feel a little farther away from his Father in heaven.

Richard is a good example of another approach. Born in the Church, Richard was not active until he was well into his teens. At that time a series of challenging events provided him with the opposition necessary to turn him toward the gospel. After a few weeks of reading and prayer, Richard had developed a testimony of Christ and the truth of the Book of Mormon. People remembered Richard because of his testimony and commitment to it.

One evening Eric and Richard were talking about the Church. Eric said, “You know one thing that bugs me about the Church is that it demands so much blind obedience.”

“What do you mean?” asked Richard.

“Well, for example, the other day in class we were talking about prayer, and I mentioned how many people there are in the world and said that God can’t possibly hear all those prayers. He must have others do it for him. Old Brother Edwards just said I was wrong, and I asked how he knew. He just quoted a bunch of scriptures. Boy, what a cop-out—just blind faith.”

“That’s really interesting, but I disagree on the blind faith idea,” replied Richard. “I thought about that same question not long ago. The first thing I asked myself was, what has the Lord already told us about it? I read some passages in the Doctrine and Covenants (see D&C 88:62–63) and also found a great statement by President John Taylor:

“‘We are told in relation to these matters that the hairs of our heads are numbered; that even a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without our Heavenly Father’s notice; and predicated upon some of these principles are some things taught by Jesus, where He tells men to ask and they shall receive. What! The millions that live upon the earth? Yes, the millions of people, no matter how many there are. Can He hear and answer all? Can He attend to all these things? Yes.’ (Journal of Discourses, vol. 26, p. 31.)

“Since I already have a testimony of the scriptures and the living prophets, the next thing I wanted to know was what do I have to do in order to understand more about how God hears and answers prayers.

“I’ve been praying about it, and last fast Sunday afternoon I was reading Doctrine and Covenants 88 [D&C 88] about the light of Christ and how it is in all and through all things. Of course, I know our Father in heaven is a distinct personage, but this taught that his power, spirit, glory, and influence emanate throughout the universe and create a channel through which light and life are given to all that live. As I’ve been thinking about this, I think l’m starting to realize how our Father can be in personal contact with all his children. I’ve concluded that God hears all who pray, but for us to receive his answers, we must live the commandments and seek him. I don’t feel like that is blind faith.”

Richard’s conclusion meets a great test because it fits with what President Harold B. Lee said in a talk on revelation. He said that we are much like a radio receiver; if our tithing tube is broken, or our keep-morally-clean tube is not operating correctly, we will never receive the messages the Lord sends. Even worse, we could be on the wrong station, thinking we are receiving messages from the Lord when all the time they are coming from the wrong source.

There is an old Chinese proverb that says, in effect, it is not knowing all the answers that indicates a man’s wisdom, but in knowing how to ask the right questions.

What are the right questions and how does that relate to prayer? Prayer is communication between God and man. When we approach the Lord in prayer to seek knowledge and wisdom, our questions should be faithful questions.

Faithful questions seek to understand rather than judge. When Joseph Smith was searching, he read in James 1:5, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” Joseph also read (which we sometimes forget), “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.” The scripture goes on to say of one who wavers and doubts, “… Let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.”

Richard knew how to ask questions; Eric did not. The difference? “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.” Eric asked a judgmental, challenging question not based on trust and faith in the things he had already received. “Let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.”

Richard did not seek to judge but to understand. It is with faith and trust that we can learn to follow President Lee’s counsel to put periods after what the Lord has said, not question marks.

Faith in seeking brings knowledge, wisdom, and light.

I affirm that God does hear all our prayers; he loves us and seeks to communicate. We need to learn to ask the right questions and, in the things of God especially, seek to understand not to judge.

Manager of Organizational Development and Training, Corporation of the President

“What happens when a couple gets a temple divorce? What happens to the children in the next life?”

Answer/Elder James A. Cullimore

As to the first question, “What happens when a couple gets a temple divorce?” we should understand that there is no such thing as a temple divorce. What we refer to as a temple divorce is in fact a cancellation of a temple sealing. When a couple is married in the temple, they not only satisfy the law of the land as to a legal civil marriage, but they are also sealed for time and all eternity in an eternal relationship.

A civil divorce nullifies the marriage so far as the civil law is concerned, but only by a mandate of the president of the Church can the sealing of the couple be cancelled. A cancellation of the sealing is what we are really referring to when we talk about a temple divorce.

When one has been granted a civil divorce after his temple sealing, he must be cleared by the First Presidency before he can be granted a temple recommend by his bishop. After a divorce clearance has been granted by the First Presidency, an application for a cancellation of the temple sealing might be made to the president of the Church. Normally it is the woman who seeks a cancellation of sealing. Since a woman cannot be sealed to two men at the same time, she must have a cancellation of sealing from one before she can be sealed to another.

As to the next question, “What happens to the children in the next life when there has been a cancellation of sealing of the parents?” it is understood that in the case of a cancellation of the sealing of the woman to the man, this does not cancel the sealing of the children to the parents, since they were born in the covenant, which is a birthright blessing. They remain in the status of the sealing to their parents and can never be sealed to anyone else. The decision as to with whom they will go will be determined by the Lord in the hereafter.

Regarding being born in the covenant the General Handbook of Instructions states, “Children born in the covenant cannot be sealed to anyone, but belong to their natural parents. This rule is not altered by adoption, consent of the natural parents, request of the child after becoming of age or death of the natural parents.” (P. 101.)

It should be kept in mind that to be born in the covenant is a birthright blessing, and that if a child remains worthy in this life of celestial blessings, regardless of the actions of his parents, he is assured of that birthright and is guaranteed eternal parentage. One’s worthiness in this life through living the gospel and keeping the commandments, in this as in all things, is the key to eternal life.

Assistant to the Council of the Twelve

“Should I pay tithing on money my parents give me if they have already paid tithing on that money?”

Answer/Bishop Victor L. Brown

Because of the many questions about tithing that are received by the General Authorities of the Church, the First Presidency addressed a letter to presidents of stakes and missions, bishops of wards, and presidents of branches, dated March 19, 1970. They referred these Church officers to the Doctrine and Covenants 119:3–4 [D&C 119:3–4], which reads:

“And this shall be the beginning of the tithing of my people.

“… those who have been thus tithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord.”

After quoting this scripture the First Presidency said: “No one is justified in making any other statement than this. We feel that every member of the Church should be entitled to make his own decision as to what he thinks he owes the Lord, and to make payment accordingly.” They did, however, point out that “interest” is understood to mean “income.”

At the close of each year every member of the Church is invited to attend tithing settlement with his or her bishop, at which time the bishop should be told whether or not the member is a full tithe payer.

Young people should make it a matter of prayer and should consult with their parents if they have any question as to what they should consider income and in deciding how much tithing to pay. They may also seek counsel from their bishop.

The Lord has promised great blessings to those who pay tithes and offerings. We read in Malachi 3:8, 10 [Mal. 3:8, 10]:

“Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. …

“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse … and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”

The payment of tithing is a private matter between the individual member and the Lord, with the bishop, as the Lord’s servant, receiving and accounting for the contribution.

When you have been completely honest with the Lord, a feeling of peace will enter your heart, and you will have no doubt that you are a full tithe payer.

Keep in mind the Lord’s direction to pay tithes on all your interest (or income); counsel with your parents; consider the blessings promised to those who pay their tithes and offerings, and then make your own decision.

As you strive to live this commandment and all of the other commandments of the Lord, you may expect his Spirit to be with you to strengthen and guide you in other decisions of your life.

Presiding Bishop