Q&A: Questions and Answers

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

“How do you know when your prayer is answered—when the answer is from the Lord and not from your own warm, earnest, and even well-motivated desires?”

Answer/President Marion G. Romney

The way I know when the Lord answers my prayers is, in most cases, by the way I feel.

The Lord’s explanations to Oliver Cowdery on this subject are very enlightening. They are found in the sixth, eighth, and ninth sections of the Doctrine and Covenants.

At the time these revelations were given, the Prophet Joseph Smith was translating the Book of Mormon. Oliver, who was acting as his scribe, was concerned about getting a sure witness to the truth of the work in which they were engaged. In response to Oliver’s prayer, the Lord gave him, through the Prophet, the following:

“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, blessed art thou for what thou hast done; for thou hast inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time.

“Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the Spirit of truth;

“Yea, I tell thee, that thou mayest know that there is none else save God that knowest thy thoughts and the intents of thy heart.

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things.

“Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?” (D&C 6:14–16, 22–23.)

From these statements of the Lord I know that an answer from the Lord to my prayers enlightens and brings peace to my mind.

The Lord confirmed this fact when a few days later He said:

“Oliver Cowdery, verily, verily, I say unto you, that assuredly as the Lord liveth, who is your God and your Redeemer, even so surely shall you receive a knowledge of whatsoever things you shall ask in faith, with an honest heart, believing that you shall receive a knowledge concerning the engravings of old records, which are ancient, which contain those parts of my scripture of which has been spoken by the manifestation of my Spirit.

“Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.

“Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.” (D&C 8:1–3.)

In the revelation containing these verses the Lord authorized and gave Oliver the power to do some translating. Because he did not proceed to translate but continued to act as scribe for the Prophet, the Lord withdrew the commission and spoke to Oliver as follows:

“Do not murmur, my son, for it is wisdom in me that I have dealt with you after this manner.

“Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

“But behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.

“But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.” (D&C 9:6–9.)

In praying, I try to follow the teachings of these scriptures. When confronted with a problem I prayerfully weigh in my mind alternative solutions and come to a conclusion as to which of them is best. Then in prayer I submit to the Lord my problem, tell him I desire to make the right choice, what is, in my judgment, the right course. Then I ask him if I have made the right decision to give me the burning in my bosom that He promised Oliver Cowdery. When enlightenment and peace come into my mind, I know the Lord is saying yes. If I have a “stupor of thought,” I know he is saying no, and I try again, following the same procedure.

In conclusion, I repeat: I know when and how the Lord answers my prayers by the way I feel.

When we learn to distinguish between the inspiration that comes from the Spirit of the Lord and that which comes from our own uninspired hopes and desires, we need make no mistakes. To this I testify.

Second Counselor in the First Presidency

“What can be done to make gospel lessons more interesting?”

Answer/Brother Charles R. Hobbs

One of my favorite aphorisms goes something like this: “The ideal teaching situation consists of Mark Hopkins sitting on one end of a log and on the other end a student.”

This remark originated from a speech delivered by General (later President) James A. Garfield in 1871. Garfield was a student of Mark Hopkins, the latter having served with distinction as professor of philosophy at Williams College for over 50 years. To President Garfield, Mark Hopkins was the symbol of great teaching. Interestingly, as I have investigated the life of Mark Hopkins, I have found that the paramount quality of his teaching was love.

From this and many other examples and personal experiences, I am convinced that the best way to secure an interesting lesson is for a student to sit on the “other end of a log” with a great teacher who exemplifies love. The first requisite then is to have the right kind of a teacher in the classroom.

None of us who are gospel teachers are as effective as we might be or ought to be. For this reason the Lord has blessed us with the teacher development and meetinghouse library programs. Through the participation of the teacher in the basic course, inservice lessons, supervision in teaching, and through appropriate use of instructional materials from the meetinghouse library, lessons can’t help but become more interesting. So may I suggest that all teachers and potential teachers, including youth, take advantage of teacher development classes and meetinghouse library services.

A common saying that I have heard expressed throughout the Church is: “It is not my purpose to entertain students but to teach the gospel.” When one stops to think about it, this statement is inaccurate. It probably even contributes to poor teaching. Let me show you why.

My American College Dictionary defines entertain as follows: “To receive or admit with a view to consider and decide; to take into consideration. To keep, hold, or maintain in the mind with favor; to harbor; cherish. To engage the attention of, with anything that causes the time to pass pleasantly.” And within a teaching situation we might add: to entertain is to make a lesson interesting, for the dictionary defines interesting as “engaging attention.” With these definitions, shouldn’t teachers make an effort to entertain students?

I have observed that frequently when a teacher announces he does not intend to entertain anybody, he is looking for an excuse for his lack of preparation.

Teachers should be cautioned not to entertain simply for entertainment’s sake or for amusement only. The stimulating ideas and techniques a teacher uses should be directed toward carrying out an objective that will change the lives of students. Gospel lessons should accomplish more than simply being interesting. They should change people’s lives and cause them to keep the Lord’s commandments. But I believe the way a teacher changes people’s lives for good is by entertaining them through spiritual, social, or intellectual experiences, and all of this, ideally, within a loving relationship.

We have been discussing what might be done with a teacher to make gospel lessons more interesting. But another requisite of an interesting lesson that comes off with impact is good students as well as a good teacher. Even the most qualified and best-prepared teacher can go down in flames if he has a classroom of incorrigible rascals who are bent on being the devil’s advocates. Every student in a gospel classroom has the responsibility of helping his teacher succeed. An unfortunate condition in all too many classrooms exists with some students who attempt to be self-appointed entertainers during lessons, disrupting, robbing everyone who is present of meaningful learning experiences. Interesting lessons call for attentive, contributing class members.

The ideal teaching situation to make gospel lessons interesting and meaningful is an outstanding LDS teacher on one end of the log—a teacher who knows how to entertain and love—and on the other end, students who are supportive, eager to learn, with reciprocating love for the teacher.

Associate Director Teacher Development and Meetinghouse Library Programs

“Is it against Church standards to drink cola beverages or any other beverage containing caffeine?”

Answer/Bishop H. Burke Peterson

This is a very perplexing question to many. Maybe we should lead into its answer by first recounting a true story. Many years ago the ruler of Babylon was King Nebuchadnezzar. There was a war going on between Babylon and Judah. During the war King Nebuchadnezzar’s army was laying siege to Jerusalem. After capturing the city, the king, knowing of the fine quality of the Judean young people, instructed his leaders to capture certain of these young men of Israel who had royal blood in their veins. They were known to be strong of body and of mind and skillful in all wisdom. King Nebuchadnezzar wanted to raise them in his court that they might be a strength to his own people. The king set up a program where they would be given a daily provision of meat and wine—the same quality that he ate and drank. His plan was to have them thus fed and taught for three years and then to have them brought before him to be observed and tested with the thought in mind of then using the best of them as some of his country’s leaders.

Among those captured was a young man named Daniel and his three friends. When Daniel was told what he was to eat and drink, he was disturbed. He did not wish to eat the king’s food nor drink his wine for he knew it would be damaging to his body and mind. Now the Lord had made it possible for Daniel to become a good friend to the king’s chief servant. Daniel asked the chief servant if he could eat and drink something different that he might not defile his body. Daniel told the servant that he knew he and his friends would be stronger and wiser than all the other captured young men if he would allow them to eat proper foods. The servant was afraid the king would take his head if he disobeyed. However, Daniel talked the servant into letting him eat another kind of food and drink only water for just ten days. This was to be a test to see if there wasn’t a difference between him and his friends and all the others. The chief servant consented, and at the end of the ten days Daniel said the servant looked upon them and “their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat.”

After seeing the results, the chief servant then allowed these four to continue eating and drinking the good food they wished. The scripture says, “As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.” (Dan. 1:17.)

At the end of the three years King Nebuchadnezzar had them all brought before him to be questioned and tested. The record says that among them all, none was found like Daniel and his friends. In all matters of wisdom and understanding the king found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in his kingdom. What a tribute and blessing to four courageous young men who would not defile their bodies with food and drink that was not good for them! Even then Daniel understood the Lord’s law of health.

The Word of Wisdom is a guide to strengthening the body and mind and keeping them healthy so the spirit of the individual can function without impairment. If we understand the Word of Wisdom properly, we will do all things necessary to avoid weakening the marvelous temple the Lord has given us to house our spirit.

The revelation in the 89th section of the Doctrine and Covenants says:

“And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man.” (D&C 89:10.)

We should notice the word wholesome and always consider the things that we take into our body as to whether they are wholesome or not. The scripture continues, “All these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.” (D&C 89:11.) Consider the word prudence. Would eating a whole apple pie or a cake or watermelon at one sitting be prudent? It is contrary to the principles embodied in the Word of Wisdom to take an excess of anything into our bodies.

Two of the tests we can employ as we question the use of any food or beverage are: Is it wholesome? Is it prudent? As we know, some of us need more rest than others. These same principles imply that we should not tax our bodies beyond good judgment. Finally, remember that the Lord has counseled:

“For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.” (D&C 58:26.)

We know that cola drinks contain the drug caffeine. We know caffeine is not wholesome nor prudent for the use of our bodies. It is only sound judgment to conclude that cola drinks and any others that contain caffeine or other harmful ingredients should not be used.

For those who are willing to exhibit the same courage and good judgment as the boy Daniel:

“And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;

“And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;

“And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.

“And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.” (D&C 89:18–21.)

First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric

“We hear a lot about family ties in the hereafter, but will we be able to associate with our friends there also?”

Answer/Brother Harold Glen Clark

The first hereafter to which we all go when we die is the world of disembodied spirits. (Alma 40:11.) Here our relatives and friends may converse together under certain circumstances somewhat the same as we do here on earth. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 353.) This spirit world is a waiting, working, resting, learning place. Here most of us will reside until we are ready for our resurrection, our final redemption and judgment. When we finally move from this spirit world experience, we will go to man’s ultimate and eternal abode. This abode will be in that kingdom by whose laws we have lived. It might be called the rest of our hereafter. (D&C 76:89, 107–112.)

Who then, associates with whom in this first part of our hereafter—the spirit world?

The Bible tells us that the spirit of Jesus went to this spirit world after he died on the cross. The penitent thief who died on a cross at the same time was told that on that day he would be in paradise with Jesus. (Luke 23:42, 43.) Hence, it appears that the righteous, the not-so-righteous, and the downright evil all go to the same spirit world. This world has different dwelling places in it. For example, those who were disobedient in the days of Noah went to this world. Peter tells us that after Christ suffered death and his body was placed in the tomb, he went to these spirits who were in prison and preached to them. (1 Pet. 3:18–20, 1 Pet. 4:6; Gospel Doctrine, pp. 472–76; D&C 76:73–74.)

We know, then, that the righteous can associate with the righteous in the spirit world and also visit with and teach the gospel to friends who may not have lived righteously. However, the unrighteous cannot come where the righteous dwell. There is a restraining or a confinement of our friends who have been disobedient or evil until such time as they show faith in Christ, repent, accept vicarious baptism, and are made worthy of a better place than the prison. President Joseph F. Smith said that he saw in vision the spirits in prison who were drowned in the flood in the days of Noah. They were visited by faithful priesthood members who taught them the gospel under the direction of the priesthood of God. The temple work for the disobedient and others was to be done on this earth. Thus, they would have an opportunity to accept or reject these bonafide and necessary ordinances of God.

The answer to the question about our friendships in this spirit world is that the righteous who die have the privilege of wider association in the spirit world than those who have not lived righteously. We will be able to associate with all our friends for good purposes, if we have been righteous. The unrighteous may, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, and good works, including the acceptance of vicarious baptism, break off the bonds of evil and join a more righteous circle of friendships in the spirit world. Until this occurs they are confined to a certain state.

When we move from the spirit world to the final abode to which we will be assigned following our resurrection, we will all have a fixed dwelling place. Those who merit a fullness of what our Father in heaven has offered through the gospel on earth and in the spirit world will dwell personally with him in the highest kingdom of the celestial glory. Those meriting a kingdom less than this cannot ever dwell in his presence. If our friends are in a lesser kingdom and we dwell in the presence of the Father, we may minister to them, but they cannot come, worlds without end, to where our Father in heaven dwells. (D&C 76:77–88, 109–112.) The finality of the range of associations for those in the lower kingdoms leaves the sobering thought that our attitudes and feelings really possess us. Our deeds condition what we think and, consequently, what close associates we will have in eternity. The feelings we have in this life do not change because we die. Wherever we are, it requires self-effort to build character. There is no royal road to faith, repentance, and good works. (Alma 34:34.) How important this sliver of time is upon this earth!

These confinements or freedoms spoken of by the Lord are natural ones. Our attitudes and our deeds give us a tone or spirit that conditions and determines our state far more than stone walls. This spirit frees us or makes us indifferent or confines us. For example, the prophet Mormon says that the filthy would be more miserable trying to live with the holy and just than they would be in associating with those who are filthy. (Morm. 9:4.) It seems only natural that we would be more comfortable and happy with those with whom we have much to share. This is akin to the sociability we enjoy here on earth. (D&C 130:2.) Astronauts can lumber about for a limited time in uncomfortable circumstances on the moon, but they are always glad to be back on earth.

Christ told us about the tie that binds true friendship. He gave the words to us that day when he was interrupted in a conference with his disciples by an announcement that his mother and brethren were looking for him. “Who is my mother and my brethren?” he said. Then looking at his disciples before him, he said, “Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.” (Mark 3:31–35.) Though we have blood relationships along with obligations to our kin, we do not really become eternal brothers and sisters and, may we add, true friends until we do the will of our Father in heaven. Doing his will is the tie that binds eternal friendships with God and the noblest of his children.

As for families in the hereafter, the family unit is ordained of God and has the potential for the widest circle and highest kind of friendship and love. Only a faithful temple marriage can bring the fullness of friendship. Only through the privileges and obligations of true family life can one inherit the highest degree of friendship and glory in the celestial kingdom. (D&C 132:19–24.) Our Father is our greatest friend. He is the Father of our spirits. We, therefore, have a mother of our spirits and spirit brothers and sisters. To be like him, we too must be fathers and mothers, married in the way he has ordained in his holy temple. Living the way God has told us to live in a family means having the greatest number of good friends and good things to talk about and share eternally.

Friendship, then, is a grand fundamental principle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, designed, the Prophet Joseph Smith said, “to revolutionize the world and cause wars to cease and men to become friends and brothers.” The greatest friend is the one who has something good and eternal that he shares with others. The Prophet said again, “if he’s my friend—a true friend, I will be a friend to him and preach the gospel of salvation to him and give him good counsel.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 316.)

The truth is, none of us can ever be saved or made truly happy or perfect without doing all we can to bring the gospel or the will of our Father to our loved ones and our friends, living or dead. (D&C 128:18.) Part of this doing includes work that we might do only in the temples of God. Think of the ever widening circle of associates we can have in those who overcome darkness and unbelief here or in the hereafter because we brought them faith in the Lord Jesus Christ! What a friend is he who brings good news, hope, consolation, and sound counsel that lead an individual to life eternal with our Father in heaven!

President Provo Temple