Q&A: Questions and Answers

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

    “What can one do to keep profanity (spoken by others) from one’s mind and the tip of one’s tongue?”

    Answer/Brother Russell L. Osmond

    “SILENCE, ye fiends of the infernal pit. In the name of Jesus Christ I rebuke you, and command you to be still; I will not live another minute and hear such language. Cease such talk, or you or I die this INSTANT!” (Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt, p. 209.)

    That’s how Joseph Smith responded to profanity and verbal abuse in the Richmond Jail during the winter of 1838. Hopefully, you and I will never have to be in such circumstances. But the problem of dealing with the profanity that surrounds us in our daily lives is nonetheless real. Perhaps my recent experience as a staff member of a military jail will be of use to you.

    I recently completed a tour of duty as chaplain to a centralized military confinement facility. When I first arrived, the staff meetings were full of profanity, even though there were women present. After carefully cultivating the respect of the staff, I one day quietly asked one of the ladies present if she appreciated the type of language being used in that meeting. I was immediately interrupted by one of the principal offenders who said, “Oh, don’t bother Chris; she’s used to us.” Chris then took advantage of this opportunity to say, “I would rather they didn’t talk that way.” As you can well imagine, the entire staff was both surprised and embarrassed; the verbal climate of the staff meetings changed both dramatically and permanently.

    Solomon says in the Proverbs that “a soft answer turneth away wrath.” (Prov. 15:1.) Time and again, in my personal experience with profanity, I have found this to be true.

    I think we often tend to forget that we have total control of our verbal environment. We can deal with it as we choose; that is the beauty of the blessing of free agency. The adversary, on the other hand, would have us believe that we are victims of immediate circumstances. He tempts us in two subtle ways. First, he fills us with the fear of embarrassment if we should say anything about the language of our peers. Then, he manipulates our fear of rejection into the thought that we have to share that verbal behavior to be accepted as a friend. What powerful, ugly, and offensive tools are these! Our only alternative is a very strong and calculated defense.

    My selection of defensive tools has always been a very deliberate one. I long ago learned that I can respond to my environment most effectively through the use of a “windshield wiper defense system.” I am in control of the windshield wipers, and I can turn them on or off at will. When I’m exposed to spoken mud and dirt that might tend to cloud my vision of eternal goals in favor of the immediate satisfaction of peer acceptance, I turn on the windshield wiper of my mental windshield and wipe the slate clean. When I am among those about whose language I need not worry, my windshield wiper rests. Unfortunately, I often find myself in unexpected mud puddles of conversation through no fault of my own. That is the test of the quality of my windshield wiper. If I find that my eternal vision does not clear up as fast as I would like, then I know I have some repenting to do. I find it helpful to never forget the words of the Savior recorded in Matthew 12:36–37 [Matt. 12:36–37]:

    “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

    “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”

    But controlling one’s thoughts is not that simple; it takes a lot of practice. That’s why I never forget the power and value of prayer. Elder Hugh B. Brown once said that through his daily prayers he would give his plans to the Lord every morning and then report his successes and failures every evening. That really works! Paul counseled Timothy to “shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.” (2 Tim. 2:16.) I find my best checkpoint on godliness to be my prayers. Through prayer I can daily recommit myself to increased verbal self-discipline and a better functioning windshield wiper. Since I pray regularly, Satan never succeeds with his masterful tool of making me feel that because I have slipped once, all is lost. I recognize that each mortal day is a rehearsal for the millennium and that profanity is simply a bad cue that I must learn to reject. Through daily prayer I develop the ability to respond properly to my mortal peers by establishing a permanent relationship with my eternal friend, Jesus the Christ.

    Elder Bruce R. McConkie has written that “profanity is an evidence of a diseased soul” (Mormon Doctrine, Bookcraft, Inc., 1966, p. 602) because “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matt. 12:34). My desire to be pure has to a great extent determined my solution to the profanity problem. I could not be pure and profane at the same time, so I have opted to be pure. But you, alone, can make that decision. If you have not made the conscious decision to avoid profanity, then you have tacitly made the unconscious decision not to avoid it. It’s your move.

    Chaplain, U.S. Air Force, Chief of Chaplains Office, Washington, D.C.

    “How often should I ask for a priesthood blessing? Every time I feel sick, or uncomfortable, or unsure?”

    Answer/Elder Franklin D. Richards

    The answer to this question is basically covered in the Melchizedek Priesthood Handbook wherein it is stated:

    “On special occasions Melchizedek Priesthood leaders, bishops, fathers (for their families), and others holding the Melchizedek Priesthood may, on their own initiative or when called upon, give special blessings of comfort and counsel as circumstances suggest. Situations that may be cause for such blessing are:

    “A time of stress or trial, of mental, emotional or physical difficulty, such as when there has been a death in the family, or when a person is preparing to be hospitalized for an operation.

    “If there is illness, the blessing may be part of the ordinance of administration to the sick; otherwise, it may be a blessing of comfort.

    “There are instances when individuals should work out their problems without a special priesthood blessing. No clearly defined rule can be made to designate what to do in every instance except to seek inspiration from the Lord.” (P. 25.)

    I would also suggest that your home teacher, quorum leader, or bishop could give additional counsel in special instances.

    of the First Quorum of the Seventy

    “How do we explain Revelation 22:18 that says not to add to the scriptures?”

    Answer/Brother Eldin Ricks

    Because we believe that the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price are additional scriptures, your question is a very appropriate one. Before discussing it, though, let’s get verses 18 and 19 out in front of us.

    “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

    “And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” [Rev. 22:18–19] (Italics added.)

    Let us first consider what John meant by “this book” and then consider what he meant by not adding to or taking from it. When John wrote the Book of Revelation in the latter part of the first century A.D., he was not writing the concluding pages of the New Testament, as there was no New Testament in existence at that time. He was an exile on the isle of Patmos and was writing a scroll addressed to seven branches of the Church on the western side of what we today call Turkey. His manuscript was entirely independent of the rest of the 27 separate manuscripts that later came to form the anthology that we know of as the New Testament. Nor was his manuscript necessarily the last one written. It is the consensus of those who have written on the subject that several of these 27 scrolls were written after the Book of Revelation was written. Not until the fourth century A.D. did the emerging collection of sacred writings become the New Testament essentially as we know it today. In the light of these facts, we may see that when John spoke of “this book,” he wasn’t referring to a not-yet-formed New Testament but simply to his own scroll, the Book of Revelation itself.

    What, then, does John mean when he commands anyone who reads his work not to add words to it or to take words from it? He means that no one should tamper with the text of his scroll in any way. He wants no copyist, no would-be deceiver, no well-intentioned but misguided believer, no one to make any changes in the way it reads. He wants it to remain precisely as he has inscribed it under the inspiration of the Lord. It is interesting that the author of Deuteronomy, the fourth book of the Old Testament, similarly warns his readers, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it.” (Deut. 4:2; compare Deut. 12:32.) In both cases the writers are commanding future viewers of their sacred manuscripts not to alter anything that has been written. Fortunately, no one seems to be arguing, on the basis of the injunction in Deuteronomy, that there never was to be any more scripture, for then some people might conclude that the rest of the Bible must be rejected.

    Not only is John not saying that there never would be additional scripture, but the inevitable conclusion that one must draw from the Book of Revelation, when taken as a whole, is that John recognized that there undoubtedly would be additional scripture in the last days. How so? What is scripture (Latin: scriptura, “a writing”) but divine revelation in written form? A good portion of the Book of Revelation is a prophecy of heavenly messengers coming to earth at a time beyond John’s day. When such messengers come and a written record is made of the visit and their message, automatically new scripture is formed. In the 11th chapter of the Book of Revelation John predicts the mission of two prophets who will prophesy in Jerusalem at the time of the end. When they prophesy and their divinely revealed message from God is preserved in a written record, again new scripture will be formed. Rising above all other events in prophetic significance in the Book of Revelation is the predicted second coming of Jesus Christ. When Christ comes and men of God make a written record of his coming, once more new scripture will be formed.

    Rather than the Book of Revelation teaching us that there was never to be more scripture given to the human family, the little volume, viewed from beginning to end, becomes splendid evidence that there would be and must be additional scripture in the last days.

    Department of Ancient Scripture, Brigham Young University