Q&A: Questions and Answers

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

    “What can you do for a friend who has had a strong testimony and been very active in the Church but who suddenly falls away?”

    Answer/Sister Karen Lynn

    You’d like to think it could never happen. After all, part of that secure, comfortable existence that you value so much is the Church activity you share with the people you love and trust. But then one day—maybe without warning, or maybe as the culmination of a gradual dropping away from the Church—you find that your friend is no longer attending meetings, no longer acknowledging his testimony, and no longer sharing in the life of your ward or branch.

    No two people ever become inactive for exactly the same reasons. While one may drop out simply because he was offended by the remark of a ward member, another may be struggling with deep conflicts that are very real to him. To find and help solve the problem is never an easy task. But whatever the difficulties may be, a friend—your friend—has become inactive, and you want to do whatever you can. Here are some suggestions to help you decide what your role might be.

    1. If it’s at all possible, continue to be a friend to your friend.

    Listen with understanding. If your friend is willing to tell you about the causes of his inactivity, let him talk without judging him immediately. If you reflect his feelings back to him in a way that shows concern and understanding, you may be helping him back into activity. The very process of talking through his problems may reveal to him how unsubstantial his doubts really are. Be willing to talk; even though the subject may be awkward, it’s just as awkward to pretend his inactivity doesn’t exist when in fact both of you are worried about it. (Remember, of course, that if the problems are extremely serious, you have neither the wish nor the authority to be the “listening ear” for confessions; that’s the bishop’s role.)

    If you’re really friends, your friendship is likely to be based on more than Church associations. Maybe you help each other with shorthand homework, play chess together, or sit next to each other in the violin section of the school orchestra. Don’t let your friend’s inactivity ruin every phase of your friendship. Let him know you like him for himself. When he finally does decide to enter back into activity, it would be too bad if no friend were there to hold the door open and extend a welcoming hand.

    Of course, there is always the possibility that instead of being just distracted from Church activity by other interests, your friend has actually replaced the friends and activities that were part of his former life. He may have drifted into inappropriate or sinful behavior, preferring new pastimes and associates that you know you just cannot go along with. It is not your responsibility to follow a friend, in the name of friendship, as he pursues goals and associations that you know are wrong. Particularly if the friend is a special friend of the opposite sex, you may feel that your strength, if you continue dating, will “reform” him (or her), but you must balance the possibility of reform against what might happen to you.

    Suppose your friend invites you to become part of his new life-style. Since you now must set an example for him, the only right response to this invitation is blunt honesty—preferably honesty that leaves a better choice open to him: “You know I’m your friend, but you also know better than to give me that kind of invitation. I’ll call you next week about tennis.”

    2. When you invite him to Church meetings and activities, make sure the invitation is for his sake and not just an expression of your own wishes and frustrations.

    This is a hard one. After all, you don’t want your priesthood quorum percentages to go down; or maybe you’re having a hard time coping with your own loneliness at Church functions; or maybe you don’t want the embarrassment of having to explain to people that your best friend is no longer active. But genuine interest in his welfare and happiness is better than coaxing, better than nagging, and even better than a barrage of invitations and phone calls that might seem more like a Mutual class conspiracy than a gesture of love and welcome.

    When you’re worried, tense, and anxious to help, you may have trouble expressing an invitation in a way that focuses on him rather than you. Let your manner say, “I love you and want you to do what’s right, but I respect your free agency. I will be delighted if you accept, but if you say no, you will not offend me, and you will not ruin our friendship.”

    3. Pray to the Lord to help you, and pray to the Lord to help your friend.

    Since no two people have the same needs and personalities, the inactivity of a friend is an occasion for sincere and thoughtful prayer. The Lord may guide you toward a line of action that is just the thing to renew your friend’s interest in the Church. Maybe your Mutual class can decide on a project that he will not be able to resist. Maybe you will sense that the right course is to drop the gentle tactics and confront him very boldly. (A friend of mine was startled back into activity when her usually mild-mannered sister exploded one Sunday morning: “Jane, your attitude is utter nonsense, and you know that as well as I do. Get ready for Sunday School right now!” She said later that everyone had been so understanding and tolerant that she had begun to think her inactivity didn’t really matter.)

    Perhaps as the result of your prayers another person will come to mind, one who can work with you in re-activating your friend. A member of his family, the visiting teachers, the home teachers—someone he respects might have a new influence or some new suggestions. Working prayerfully, the two of you can decide how to go about this re-missionary work.

    And without fail you will want to petition the Lord to touch your friend’s heart. Many young people, as the time arrives to go on a mission, or as they become parents and suddenly are concerned about the rearing of their own children, turn again to the teachings that have formed the framework of their earlier lives. Or your friend may finally realize that without question, he was happier in the days when he was living the commandments as an active member of the Lord’s church.

    The power of the Lord is great. It’s wrong to give up hope. As you’re probably aware, some of the finest and strongest members of our church have gone through periods of trial and doubt and have returned as faithful and sensitive Saints. As the Savior reminded the Nephites, “Ye know not but what they will return and repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal them; and ye shall be the means of bringing salvation unto them.” (3 Ne. 18:32.)

    Assistant Professor of English, Brigham Young University

    “Others tell me I need to love myself. Yet how do I do this properly without being conceited?”

    Answer/Brother Clark Swain , Ph.D

    When a lawyer asked Jesus, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” he answered, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Matt. 22:36–39.) Notice that Jesus said you are to love your neighbor as yourself. You are a child of God, along with your neighbor. God wants you to love yourself just as much as he wants you to love others.

    To be conceited is to be proud, to be arrogant, and to have a tendency to be boastful. Pride is one of the seven deadly sins according to the Old Testament. (See Prov. 6:17.) And Jesus said, “He who exalts himself shall be humbled.” Concerning conceit the prophet Alma in the Book of Mormon asked, “Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, … that you have been sufficiently humble? … Behold, are ye stripped of pride? I say unto you, If ye are not, ye are not prepared to meet God” (Alma 5:27–28.) The scriptures clearly teach, then, that you are to love yourself and avoid the sin of conceit or pride. How can you accomplish both goals?

    If you truly love yourself, you will remember that you are a physical, mental, and spiritual being. Loving yourself as God wants you to means that you use wisdom in protecting your life and conserving your health in order to complete your mission on earth. This means that you live the Word of Wisdom, which includes eating regular, nutritious meals and getting plenty of exercise.

    Being mentally strong includes remembering that the glory of God is intelligence. Knowing this you will want to steadily increase your knowledge and wisdom and avoid literature, movies, and conversations that would pollute your mind. We who love ourselves properly take seriously the Lord’s teaching that we are to let virtue garnish our thoughts unceasingly.

    Keeping yourself morally clean is loving yourself properly. In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48.) And in these latter days he said:

    “For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance;

    “Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven;

    “And he that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received; for my Spirit shall not always strive with man, saith the Lord of Hosts.” (D&C 1:31–33). Forgiving yourself after sufficiently repenting of a sin is an important dimension of self love. God will forgive you and will remember your sins no more if you repent of them, and you also must do the same for yourself.

    As you develop your talents, you will discover that you sometimes excel over others in certain activities. This does not mean that you are better than they are. Conceit comes from comparing yourself to others and concluding that you are better than they are. Comparing yourself to others can also result in either feelings of inferiority or superiority. Psychologist Maxwell Maltz says an inferiority complex and a superiority complex are merely opposite sides of the same coin. And the coin is counterfeit, for no one is either inferior or superior to anyone else. A person is just different from others. Accept yourself as the unique person that you are without comparing yourself to others. Doing this will help you love yourself properly without conceit.

    Associate Professor, Marriage and Family Studies, Boise State University

    “Since we believe in modern revelation, is it ever written down and published and given to the Saints?”

    Answer/ Brother Roy W. Doxey

    Your question indicates that you believe what the scriptures and the ninth Article of Faith teach regarding the continuous nature of revelation. [A of F 1:9]

    Of the standard works of the Church, the Doctrine and Covenants contains the bulk of the revelations received during the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith. A careful examination of the History of the Church, however, will reveal that all of the written revelations received by the Prophet are not included in the Doctrine and Covenants. In this regard, Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, later president of the Church, wrote:

    “We are blessed with revelation; the Church is built upon that foundation. All the revelations given do not have to be written. The inspiration may come to the brethren, stating what shall be done, as the Lord directs them. It does not have to be printed in a book. We have revelations that have been given, that have been written; some of them have been published; some of them have not.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:282.)

    One consideration in responding to your question is the distinction between what may be called the formal revelation (written, as in the Doctrine and Covenants) and the informal (given by inspiration, a form of revelation in the spoken word that is sometimes published). The basis for both of these types of revelation is the following statement from a modern revelation. Bear in mind that when this revelation was given in November 1831, the leadership of the Church consisted of a First Elder and a Second Elder (there was no First Presidency or Twelve Apostles), and it was given to four elders:

    “And, behold, and lo, this is an ensample unto all those who were ordained unto this priesthood, whose mission is appointed unto them to go forth—

    “And this is the ensample unto them, that they shall speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost.

    “And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.” (D&C 68:2–4.)

    Only the president of the Church receives revelation for the Church universally, and only under his direction may other prophets, seers, and revelators receive the right, the power, and authority to declare the mind and will of God to his people. When moved upon by the Holy Ghost, their words become scripture. But how does the hearer or reader know that they have been moved upon by the Holy Spirit? The answer: By that same power which gave the revelation. (See D&C 50:21–24.) Herein are power and vitality maintained in the Church. This principle has and will continue to move the Church onward to its divine destiny. Members of the Church rejoice in the knowledge that they are beneficiaries of continuous revelation through their chosen leaders.

    The inspired instructions from the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles become scripture. Each Thursday they meet in the Salt Lake Temple, where decisions are made to further the kingdom of God. The experience of Elder John A. Widtsoe, a member of the Council of the Twelve, illustrates an important point. When asked when the last revelation was received by the Church, he replied that it was probably last Thursday.

    Another time when inspiration is received is at the general conferences that are convened twice each year. One classification of revelation constitutes the answers to the problems of the day. One acquainted with the proceedings of general conferences knows that Latter-day Saints who take the counsel given there find solutions that bring successful living.

    President Joseph Fielding Smith considered that members of the Church receive counsel by revelation at every general conference of the Church. (Answers to Gospel Questions, 2:205.) In this same vein, President Harold B. Lee stated the following in a general conference of the Church:

    “Now, you Latter-day Saints, I think you have never attended a conference where in these three days you have heard more inspired declarations on most every subject and problem about which you have been worrying. If you want to know what the Lord would have the Saints know and to have his guidance and direction for the next six months, get a copy of the proceedings of this conference, and you will have the latest word of the Lord as far as the Saints are concerned. And [also] all others who are not of us, but who believe what has been said has been the mind of the Lord, the will of the Lord, and the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation. (See D&C 68:4.)” (Conference Report, Oct. 1973, p. 168.)

    One of the distinctions to be made in answering your question is the application of the law of common consent in adding a book of scripture. In October 1880, for example, the Pearl of Great Price and the Doctrine and Covenants were presented to the general conference of the Church for acceptance of the membership of the Church. Again in the general conference of the Church held in April 1976, two important revelations were approved to be added to the Pearl of Great Price. This procedure is to receive concurrence on adding material to a standard work and to commit the Church to live the principles included in the addition. The revelation is valid regardless of what action might be taken, either positive or negative.

    In view of what I have written, probably the following may answer your question. In the informal class to which I have referred earlier, inspiration or revelation is given in the general conferences and also in the official documents issued from the First Presidency of the Church. Remember, revelation does not have to be written or published to be revelation. Latter-day Saints have come to understand that real security in life comes through obedience to the counsel of the living oracles regardless of the medium of communication.

    Is it necessary for revelation to begin with “Thus saith the Lord,” or “A revelation,” or “Hearken and listen to the voice of the Lord” as so many of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants? No, but one test of revelation is the Lord’s instruction to seek for confirmation by the Holy Ghost. The same Spirit that gave the revelation may certify to the faithful member of the Church of its truth.

    The Prophet Joseph Smith said that to keep the commandments it is necessary to know them, and “we cannot expect to know all, or more than we now know unless we comply with or keep those we have already received.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 256.)

    Director of Correlation Review