Q&A: Questions and Answers

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

    “What should I do if I know that someone who is administering the sacrament is unworthy? Does this affect the validity of the sacrament?”

    Answer/Brother Rex W. Allred

    The ordinance of the sacrament is one of the most sacred ordinances of the Church. We are privileged to be able to partake of the sacrament almost every week and, through doing so, renew our baptismal covenants with the Lord.

    If a person were aware that an Aaronic Priesthood bearer or possibly an elder was administering the sacrament unworthily, he should quietly inform the bishop of this knowledge and leave the matter in the bishop’s hands. Only the bishop has the responsibility to judge worthiness and to authorize priesthood bearers to administer the sacrament.

    Other courses of action such as refusing to take the sacrament, complaining to others about the unworthiness of a priesthood bearer, or reproaching the accused directly, all have negative results which are not helpful to anyone involved. Matters of this kind are quite sensitive and must be handled with judgment and discretion. The bishop carries the responsibility to do this.

    The sacrament is one of the most sacred and holy ordinances in the Church and should be administered with reverence and dignity. No priesthood bearer who has a serious, unresolved moral problem should participate in preparing, blessing, or passing the sacrament.

    But while basic worthiness to administer the sacrament or participate in other ordinances must be carefully guarded, we must also remember that perfection is not a requirement for priesthood bearers to be permitted to function in various ordinances and callings. Even though priesthood bearers are imperfect in many ways, the Lord allows them to carry out his work. The Church is a school for those who desire to become like the Lord, not a resting place for those who have already made it.

    Ordinances of the priesthood are valid if they are performed by authorized priesthood bearers in the prescribed manner. While local leaders will want to do everything within their power to see that only worthy brethren administer the sacrament, the ordinance does not become invalid if someone involved is unworthy at the time he participates. The sanctity of the ordinance is violated, but not the validity. If the partaker is worthy and sincere, all the possible blessings and benefits will be his.

    Worthily administering or partaking of the sacrament brings blessings to our lives each week. What a great privilege it is for members of all ages to participate in this ordinance as part of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Executive Secretary, Melchizedek Priesthood General Committee

    “How should I feel about playing cards?”

    Answer/Brother Boyd R. Thomas

    This question is really a double one. It may be asked either as “How should I feel about playing games with cards?” or “How should I feel about playing cards?” There is a substantial difference between playing games which use cards to give directions and instructions and playing games which use the ancient, double-faced cards, sometimes called “playing cards.” The nature of the cards used is an important distinction.

    The playing of games in the family setting—both the active, outdoor type and the more sedentary, indoor kind—I view as great teaching aids. By this means personality traits may be developed and children learn acceptable ways to interact with others. For example, it has been important to me to teach my children how to handle defeat or disappointment. Games have been invaluable for this.

    The two most common criticisms of card playing have been, first, that it is a waste of time, and second, that it tends to end in gambling. Both criticisms are valid because, while extremes, they too often occur. Writing at a time before the advent of excessive TV viewing, which is the modern time waster, and before the coming of extensive state-sponsored lotteries, which today enhance the tendency to gamble, some of our General Authorities have spoken out against card playing. Let us consider what President Joseph F. Smith said:

    “While a simple game of cards in itself may be harmless, it is a fact that by immoderate repetition it ends in an infatuation for chance schemes, in habits of excess, in waste of precious time, in dulling and stupor of the mind, and in the complete destruction of religious feeling. … There is the grave danger that lurks in persistent card playing, which begets the spirit of gambling, of speculation and that awakens the dangerous desire to get something for nothing.

    “One’s character may be determined in some measure by the quality of one’s amusements. Men and women of industrious business-like, and thoughtful habits care little for frivolous pastimes, for pleasures that are sought for their own sake. It is not easy to imagine that leading men in the Church would find any pleasure that was either inspiring or helpful at the card table” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939, p. 329).

    Elder John A. Widtsoe has given a useful perspective:

    “It must be added that relaxation from the regular duties of the day is desirable and necessary for human well-being. Wholesome games of recreation are advocated by all right-minded people. Moreover, the … objections [to card playing] are not directed against the many and various card games on the market not employing the usual ‘playing cards.’ Most of these furnish innocent and wholesome recreation, and many are really instructive. It is true that they may be played to excess, but in fact it seldom happens. This is true even when such cards are used in games imitating those with ‘playing cards.’ It is true that such cards may be used for gambling purposes, but in fact it is almost never done. The pall of evil seems to rest upon the ‘playing cards’ handed down to us from antiquity” (Evidences and Reconciliations, Murray & Gee, 1943, pp. 218–19).

    While it is best to avoid the use of “playing cards,” my personal experiences indicate that our family has enjoyed many benefits from playing games with cards. At a time when amusements are generally enjoyed alone, for example TV viewing and video game playing, we in our family like to play card games together. It has been both unifying and has provided the arena for much give and take. All in all, playing card games has given us many delightful moments.

    Former Stake President, Idaho Falls Idaho Ammon West Stake

    “What does a fast involve? I’ve heard there’s more to it than not eating.”

    Answer/Brother J. Roger Fluhman You have heard correctly. There is more to a fast than not eating. Consider the following:

    1. 1.

      We fast to learn more about the Lord and to worship him.

    2. 2.

      We fast to increase our spirituality and our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

    3. 3.

      We fast to gain a testimony of the gospel and to strengthen it.

    4. 4.

      We fast to feel the voice of the Spirit and receive inspiration.

    5. 5.

      We fast to understand more fully the plan of salvation and our dependence upon the Lord.

    6. 6.

      We fast for those who are sick and need special blessings.

    7. 7.

      We fast to help the poor through our fast offerings.

    There are other reasons for fasting. I’ve mentioned some which are important to me.

    In Isaiah 58:3–12 [Isa. 58:3–12], the true law of the fast is set forth. Here many of the reasons for fasting are given—for example, “to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, … to deal thy bread to the hungry” (Isaiah 58:6–7 [Isa. 58:6–7])—and also the blessings that can come from fasting: “Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am” (Isa. 58:9). These verses have made a deep impression on me. They have helped me to understand how to fast and the blessings it brings.

    Fasting and prayer are companions. They are mentioned together often in the scriptures. Alma told the people that he knew the things he spoke were true. He said, “Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself ” (Alma 5:46). Fasting should always be accompanied by prayer.

    Remember, too, that we do not fast in a hypocritical way with a “sad countenance” to impress others (see Matt. 6:16–18 and 3 Ne. 13:16–18).

    I do not have a perfect understanding of fasting. I am not able to use words very well to tell you what happens when we fast or why it happens. But the feelings which come from fasting are sacred and very powerful. They inspire, edify, build, and strengthen. Fasting and feeling, to me, are related.

    Our son, Spencer, has tried to learn to fast since his baptism nearly two years ago. We have not made him feel he must fast at this young age. He may not fast as long as we do on some Sundays. In fast and testimony meeting some time ago, he whispered to me, “I think I’ll go up and bear my testimony.” I smiled and nodded my approval. His sincere testimony touched me. He was feeling something. So did I.

    We will grow spiritually through fasting. Of this I am sure.

    President, Washington Spokane Mission