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Question and Answer 16

"And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things." (The Book of Mormon; Moroni 10:4-5)

by W. John Walsh

Visitors are invited to send any Questions via EmailWe try to respond to questions as quickly as possible, but are limited by time constraints.  Therefore while we will eventually answer every letter we receive, there may be a period of delay due to the amount of research required and/or our personal circumstances.

The questions answered in this section concern the basic beliefs and practices of the Latter-day Saints. Answers to accusatory questions are given in the Response to Criticism section. Answers to Frequently Asked Questions are maintained separately.

All questions concerning Family History or Genealogy should be addressed to The Genealogy Lady at the New Jerusalem web site.

NOTE: Dates are posting dates

Please note that the answers given are not official statements of doctrine, but interpretations of the author for which he is alone responsible.

409: On 04/13/98, Velda asked: "What happens with a child that dies in the few minutes after he's born? How can God know if he's a good person or not? what has he learned from life? In my opinion he needs another life, what do you think?"

The Church teaches that all children who die before they reach the age of accountability [i.e., age 8] are automatically saved in the Celestial Kingdom. (See Salvation of Children) Apparently, between the knowledge they acquired in their premortal life and what they will learn in the postmortal spirit world, these blessed children know enough to live in celestial glory. (See Teachings About the Afterlife home page)

408: On 04/13/98, a visitor asked: Why are there so many chapters in the Book of Mormon that resemble the chapters of Isaiah in the Bible?

When visiting the Nephites, the Savior said:

"And now, behold, I say unto you, that ye ought to search these things. Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah." (3 Nephi 23:1)

The Lord instructed the various authors of the Book of Mormon to include the writings of Isaiah in their records. In many instances, the Book of Mormon authors quote Isaiah and then give extensive commentary on the quotation (i.e., explain the meaning of Isaiah's words). Why does the Lord consider the words of Isaiah so "great" that they are included so extensively in the Book of Mormon? The prophet Isaiah gave many important teachings, especially regarding Jesus Christ and the scattering and gathering of Israel. We need these teachings emphasized to prepare for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

407: On 04/13/98, Rachel asked: The web page on Remission of Sins says that you get rid of sins by discontinuing to do whatever bad you are doing.  Later it says that you lose pardon for your sins if you continue to do it.  People are always making mistakes.  If you keep committing sins, then does that mean that you stop being forgiven for a sin you've committed and asked for forgiveness on?  That seems scary that you would have to be responsible for every sin in your life that you've committed.  I wonder, was Jesus Christ's death to take the guilt of our sins so we can be forgiven?  What else could it be for?  I'm just really curious about Mormonism.  Thank you for taking the time for answering all my many questions.

The Atonement of Jesus Christ is the foreordained but voluntary act of the Only Begotten Son of God. He offered his life, including his innocent body, blood, and spiritual anguish as a redeeming ransom (1) for the effect of the Fall of Adam upon all mankind and (2) for the personal sins of all who repent, from Adam to the end of the world. The Doctrine and Covenants teaches:

"For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit--and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink--Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men. Wherefore, I command you again to repent, lest I humble you with my almighty power; and that you confess your sins, lest you suffer these punishments of which I have spoken, of which in the smallest, yea, even in the least degree you have tasted at the time I withdrew my Spirit." (D&C 19:16-20)

We receive remission of sins when we enter into a state of repentance and Christian discipleship. Jesus applies his redeeming ransom to us as long as we are doing our best to follow him and keep his commandments. He understands that we will contunue to sin and make mistakes along the way. If we are doing our best to grow in spiritual maturity, then he forgives us our mistakes through his grace and love. However, if we willingly turn away from Christ, then his atoning blood does not apply and we remain unredeemed as far as our personal sins. A very scary thought indeed.

406: On 04/13/98, John asked: I was reading in the Doctrine and Covenants section 7 about the apostle John.  From the first three verses, it sounds as if he is still alive--until the Lord comes again.  Does LDS doctrine hold that the apostle John is still alive and is bringing souls unto God?  Thank you for your help.

President Joseph Fielding Smith taught:

"John was given the privilege of remaining on the earth with a translated body until Christ shall come again." (Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.3, p.152)

(See Translated Beings)

405: On 04/13/98, Rachel asked: The web page on the Godhead says that the "constant companionship of the Holy Ghost" can only be achieved by laying on of hands, so that even though you can have the "convincing power of God of the truth of the gospel" before baptism, you must have laying on of hands as the final way of the Holy Ghost always being with you. Could you explain to me how laying on of hands works, but mainly, how does it affect whether the Holy Ghost is with you?

The gift of the Holy Ghost is the right or privilege of receiving divine manifestations, spiritual gifts, and direction from the Holy Ghost. This gift is conferred upon members of the Church by the laying on of hands following baptism (See Confirmation). It is considered one of the essential ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ and an absolute prerequisite of salvation. The Prophet Joseph Smith explained:

"There is a difference between the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Cornelius received the Holy Ghost before he was baptized, which was the convincing power of God unto him of the truth of the Gospel, but he could not receive the gift of the Holy Ghost until after he was baptized. Had he not taken this sign or ordinance upon him, the Holy Ghost which convinced him of the truth of God, would have left him. Until he obeyed these ordinances and received the gift of the Holy Ghost, by the laying on of hands, according to the order of God, he could not have healed the sick or commanded an evil spirit to come out of a man, and it obey him; for the spirits might say unto him, as they did to the sons of Sceva: 'Paul we know and Jesus we know, but who are ye?'" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Four 1839–42, p.199)

(See Teachings About the Holy Ghost home page)

404: On 04/13/98, Karen asked: Hello, something is wrong with the internet here at the college I go to but I hope this gets to you because I would like you to email me more information on your church, and more to the point information on what you do with unwed mothers, someone I use to know said Mormons wouldn't let you join their church if you had had a child out of wed lock, is that true, can you please give me more information.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that premarital sex is sin and counsels its members to abstain from it. Repentance and forgiveness are available for people who have strayed and desire to return into fellowship. (See Remission of Sins) Those who wish to join the Church are urged to begin living an LDS lifestyle. This includes striving for Christlike attitudes and behavior in all circumstances, including abstaining from any sexual relations outside of marriage.

If someone is willing to repent and abstain from any future violations of chastity, then they are allowed baptism into the Church. However, if they are unwilling to abstain from violations of chastity, then they are not offered baptism. Couples who live together outside of marriage are required to a) get married, or b) cease living together and engaging in premarital sex before entrance into the Church. (See Teachings About Sexuality home page)

403: On 04/13/98, Edward asked: What explaination can you give for Pauls letter to the corithians seventh chapter where he seems to say that it is better for a woman to stay unmarried but if she can't contain herself then she should get married?  He goes further to say that a someone  who has been married thinks about the world and one who is not married care about the things of the Lord.  How can scripture go from saying this to saying that marriage is indeed necessary for exaltation?  There are a few Jst's but it doesn't make the issue much clearer so what is the exegisis for this passage of scripture?

In discussing these verses, Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote:

"Paul then gives it as his opinion (plainly saying that it is a personal view and not the voice of the Lord) that certain persons should not marry. It may be that he was referring to some particular persons for whom it would have been unwise to contract marriages. Knowing what he did about the doctrine of celestial marriage and exaltation, it is unthinkable that he would have counseled against marriage, except in some peculiar circumstance. There might be cases today in which individuals should not marry, but it is not the general rule, and the principle of not marrying is not the doctrine of the Church now any more than it was in his day. (Inspired Version, 1 Cor. 7.) If we knew the situation about which Paul wrote, and had a full transcript of his actual words, there would be no ambiguity as to his meaning and doctrine.

Indeed, it is to some of Paul's other writings that we turn for direct confirmation of the everlasting principle of eternal marriage, as for instance his epigrammatic statement, "Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord." (1 Cor. 11:11.)" (Mormon Doctrine, p.120)

(See Celibacy)

402: On 04/13/98, Mindy asked: LDS members are commanded not to drink coffee.  If I understand correctly, they aren't supposed to drink other hot beverages.  I was wondering what it was about coffee that they are not advised to drink it?  Is it the caffeine? If so, isn't there caffeine in hot chocolate? also, what makes it okay to drink Coke?

Active Latter-day Saints abstain from drinking coffee. This practice derives from an 1833 revelation known as the Word of Wisdom. The main chemical in coffee that has caused health concerns is caffeine, a cerebral and cardiovascular stimulant. A large number of other substances are also found in coffee, and their effects on health are not yet well understood. Should Latter-day Saints avoid other caffeinated beverages like some hot chocolates and cola drinks? Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught:

"Certainly the partaking of cola drinks, though not included within the measuring standard here set out, is in violation of the spirit of the Word of Wisdom." (Mormon Doctrine, p.845)

(See Cola Drinks)

401: On 04/13/98, Carl asked: Besides, the reason that God commanded it, What was the reason that Polygamy was practiced?

The Book of Mormon teaches:

"For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people [to practice plural marriage]; otherwise they shall [not]." (Jacob 2:30)

The purpose of plural marriage was to provide every woman with an opportunity of fulfilling the measure of her creation by becoming a mother to righteous posterity.

400: On 04/13/98, Carl asked: Usually when any religious discussion comes up among my co-workers they always bring up the topic of the last days and the "mark of the beast" and "666". And how this mark will limit you in your buying and selling and how this mark will distinguish you in the last days and will be dependent upon your going to heaven or hell. They wanted me to watch a video about this "mark of the beast" which shows how this mark is already placed on such things as bar codes and other such common things, but I declined on the fact that I could not understand a Heavenly Father who would base my salvation on the placing of things that I had no control over. But other than that I did not have much else to say on the topic since I have never heard this brought up in LDS teachings, I have also found no information on the Church's stand during my searching. Any help you could give on how this "mark of the beast" fits into the last days will be greatly appreciated.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught:

"As the servants of God have their calling and election made sure when they are "sealed. . . in their foreheads" (Rev. 7:2-8), so the Great Imitator places a mark in the right hand or foreheads of those who follow him. Figuratively, this means they receive blessings -- if his rewards lawfully may be so named -- from under his hands. In the literal sense, we have, of course, seen marks and signs which identify and set apart those who adhere to religious systems that are not of God and which use economic sanctions as a tool to force adherence to their system of worship. It will be interesting -- interesting? nay, fascinating! -- to see what the future holds as the full meaning of this passage unfolds and the identity of the actual "beast" is revealed." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Vol.3, p.525)

399: On 04/13/98, Donna asked: In the D&C 130:11-15 it says that God told Joseph Smith that if he lived to be 85 he would see the face of God.  Why did God not return in 1890?

The Doctrine and Covenants states:

"I was once praying very earnestly to know the time of the coming of the Son of Man, when I heard a voice repeat the following:

Joseph, my son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years old, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man; therefore let this suffice, and trouble me no more on this matter.

I was left thus, without being able to decide whether this coming referred to the beginning of the millennium or to some previous appearing, or whether I should die and thus see his face.

I believe the coming of the Son of Man will not be any sooner than that time." (D&C 130:14-17)

The Prophet Joseph makes it clear that the answer he received to his prayer was very ambiguous. He was "left thus, without being able to decide" what the answer meant. He did not know if it meant the millennium would begin before that time, he would receive a private, personal visitation, or he would die and enter the kingdom of heaven. Since very few men lived to the age of 85 in that time period, the advanced age the Lord mentioned was important to the answer. The Lord was simply trying to encourage Joseph to stop worrying about things that were not within his stewardship by saying, in effect, "it doesn't matter when I come again, what matters is that if you are true and faithful and endure to the end, we shall be together again." (See Second Coming of Jesus Christ; Prayer, Fasting, and Revelation home page)

398: On 04/13/98, Jack asked: Why do you insist on using an obscure form of English in presenting the Bible, the Book of Mormon, etc.? Protestant fundamentalists did this for a very long time. Even they have a "New" King James version.

In our scriptures and prayers, Latter-day Saints prefer to use the language found in the King James Version of the Bible. Our Heavenly Father chose this dignified language because it is easier for us to remember that discussions about sacred things should be done with reverence. While some words may not be used in modern English, the LDS version of the Bible has footnotes providing explanations. (See The Language of Prayer)

397: On 04/12/98, Jon asked: I have a question about conference, in the Sunday afternoon session Elder Scott gave a talk about Following Christ before Cultural Traditions and Heritages. What did it mean and what made it come about?

I don't know what specifically caused Elder Scott to be prompted to give his talk. However, he appeared to be encouraging members to abandon any cultural practice that conflicts with Church teachings. While the Church encourages members to respect their cultural and family heritage, the teachings of God take precedence whenever there is a conflict. For example, let's say that it was culturally acceptable in a particular country for a man to beat his wife when he was unhappy with her. The Church teaches that a man who abuses his wife is guilty of great sin. In this case, while his culture may find spousal abuse acceptable, the man should embrace Church teachings and work out family difficulties in ways that are acceptable to God instead. (See Removing Barriers to Happiness by Elder Richard G. Scott)

396: On 04/12/98, a visitor asked: Could you please explain the expression "sealed".  I see this in genealogical records but don't understand what it is saying.  Thank you.

The LDS Glossary and Vocabulary page states:

sealing (1) Through the power of the priesthood, making valid in heaven an action performed on earth; (2) the temple ordinance joining husband and wife or children and parents for time and eternity.

In the context of family history, I believe "sealed" means the person has been united into an eternal family. (See Eternal Marriage; Temple Sealings)

395: On 04/12/98, Kent asked: I am under the impression that the Lord loves all his children equally. That as long as they believe in him and hold on to and abide by his commandments, then they will have be saved. So why is it that I am constantly hearing that the only way a person can truly be saved is if he is baptized into the LDS church?  

The term salvation has several different meanings. If a person defines salvation as freedom from death, then all men are saved through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. If a person defines salvation as a glorious state of existence and eternal fellowship with Jesus Christ, then all honorable men [regardless of religious affiliation] will be eventually saved. If a person defines salvation as having all divine attributes and doing as God does and being as God is, then only faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are saved. Since only the Church teaches all the laws and ordinances of the gospel that are necessary to become Christlike in the ultimate sense, it naturally follows that only those members who have received this necessary knowledge can enter into exaltation. (See Do you believe only Mormons go to Heaven?; Have You Been Saved? by Elder Dallin H. Oaks; Teachings About the Afterlife home page)

394: On 04/12/98, Arlana asked: Where does someone stand who was married to someone who is Mormon, but they themselves are not?  We were married out side the LDS church, is it considered valid?

The Church recognizes the legal validity of non-temple marriages. However, while temple marriages extend beyond death [if both parties are faithful], non-temple marriages are only "until death do you part." (See Teachings About Marriage home page)

393: On 04/12/98, Kent asked: In the days that Jesus was alive he had twelve apostles. He had twelve individuals who had the authority to perform special ordinances. But today in the LDS faith there are millions who apparently are worthy of performing these same ordinances. How is it that there were so few in Jesus' days, but so many today? Why is it that those same individuals in Jesus' days were of great experience (age wise), and those today who perform the special ordinances can be of such little experience?

The sixth Article of Faith states:

"[Latter-day Saints] believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth."

A careful reading of the New Testament shows that there were actually many men granted authority during that time period. In addition to the Twelve Apostles you mentioned, there were the seventy (see Luke 10:17), bishops (see 1 Timothy 3:1), deacons (see Philippians 1:1), elders (see Acts 14:23), and many others.

As far as the age and experience of Church leaders, the Bible does not mention the ages of the apostles so we don't know how old they were at the time of their call to the apostolic ministry. However, you may be interested to know that the men whom the Lord has chosen as apostles today are men of sound experience, all of whom have been tested and tried after many years of Church service. Their ages run from the 50's to the 90's. (See Church Leaders home page)

392: On 04/12/98, a visitor asked: I have wondered why Mormons fold their arms when they pray.  As shown in the picture of Moroni on this web site, he has his hands folded.  When I was growing up, I was taught to fold my hands when praying. 

While folding your arms is not required when praying, many Latter-day Saints acquired the habit when they were small children. Time and experience has shown that it is easier to teach small children to pray with reverence when their arms are folded and not available to do other things (e.g., play with things, bother other children, etc.)

391: On 04/08/98, a visitor asked: Let's say someone converted to the Church at age 17 or 18, would they go on a mission? Even if they wanted to? Is it possible to go later or is it absolutely mandatory that you are on your mission between the ages of 19-21? Thanks for the time.

President Ezra Taft Benson taught:

"The Lord needs every young man between the ages of nineteen and twenty-six, worthy, prepared, and excited about serving in the mission field." (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p.178)

If a young man joined the Church at the age of 17 or 18, he would be eligible to serve a mission approximately one year after his baptism. He would be encouraged to do so by the Church. (See Missionary Work home page)

390: On 04/08/98, a visitor asked: I am doing a great deal of studying of the LDS faith. I am strongly considering converting to your faith. But one question I have concerns the validity of the temple. I understand that in order to enter the temple, and have certain ordinances performed, a person must be issued a temple recommend. But in order to receive this recommend, a person must be considered "worthy." In all my  past studies I have never come across any scripture in the bible that states that Jesus had a temple that only "worthy" individuals were permitted to enter. As a matter of fact the temple in Jerusalem was actually open to all pilgrims to enter. So how can the Mormon Church declare such a place only available to those who are worthy?  

You are incorrect to assert that everyone could enter the ancient temples. In reality, only Jews [i.e., the covenant people] were allowed to enter the temple. In addition, while all Jews were able to go to the temple, they were required to go through a purification ritual first [i.e., had to be worthy]. Also, the Holy of Holies [i.e., presence of God] could only be entered by the High Priest.

In LDS practice, only Latter-day Saints [i.e., the covenant people] are allowed to enter an LDS temple. In addition, they must hold a temple recommend [i.e., have to be worthy]. Also, only those men who hold the High Priesthood are allowed to enter the Celestial Room [i.e., presence of God]. Therefore, while there are differences between ancient and modern temple worship, the admittance criteria are quite similar.

In the temple, we learn sacred spiritual truths. The Savior himself taught that it was not always appropriate to teach sacred things to those who would mock them:

"Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you." (The Holy Bible, Matthew 7:6)

"And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? [Jesus] answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given." (The Holy Bible, Matthew 13:10-11)

(See Teachings About Temples home page)

389: On 04/08/98, a visitor asked: I read that The Church opposes misuse of all drugs including prescription drugs, I have Asthma, I oppose misuse of all drugs, I am completely against alcoholic beverages, tobacco, and all other drugs, However, does the Church oppose the use of controlled medication for a condition like asthma?  I treat and keep asthma under control with prescription medication.  I also have tried certain herbal vitamins, is The Church opposed to that?

While the abuse of drugs is contrary to LDS teachings, the Church advises members to seek medical assistance from competent licensed physicians, generally believe that advances in medical science and health care have come though the inspiration of the Lord. The Church has no teaching against the wise and judicious use of prescribed medication or herbal vitamins. (See Medical Practices)

388: On 04/08/98, a visitor asked: Do Mormons eat red meat?

While the Word of Wisdom instructs Latter-day Saints to eat meat sparingly, we face no absolute prohibition on red meat.

387: On 04/08/98, a visitor asked: Are Mormon women allowed to wear makeup?

Most LDS women wear some form of makeup depending upon the culture in which they live.

386: On 04/08/98, a visitor asked: How would I convert?

A person becomes a member of the Church by entering the waters of Baptism. The Church usually requires you to take six lessons which are taught by missionaries to ensure that you are aware of the responsibilities assumed by membership. (See Joining the Church; Membership)

385: On 04/08/98, Denise asked: In the Mormon religion, are there any symbols or artifacts like crosses or statues that I could show in a presentation about the Mormon religion? For example, Jewish men wear skullcaps, Catholic's wear crosses, Buddist's have the statue of Buddah.  What is a symbol of the Mormon religion?

Latter-day Saints believe that our lives and the way that we live them are the only meaningful expression of our faith and, in fact, therefore, the symbol of our worship. However, for the purposes of a presentation, I suggest that you use pictures of Jesus Christ, in whom our faith centers. (See The Symbol of Christ by President Gordon B. Hinckley; Symbolism; Cross; Teachings About Jesus Christ home page)

384: On 04/06/98, Amelia asked: To who ever it is that is nice enough to answer all these questions: I am a new member.  I do not understand how plural marriages apply to the eternal marriage.  I understand that plural marriages has been taken from the earth and I have read Doctrine and Covenants 132. I greatly appreciate any help which you might be able to give me. 

Latter-day Saints believe that couples can be married not only "until death do you part," but throughout eternity as well. We call this principle eternal marriage. Plural marriage is simply a marital practice where a man is married to more than one woman at the same time. The Church does not presently practice plural marriage. If a man entered into an eternal marriage with more than one woman and all parties were faithful to the covenants involved, then he would be married to each of them in eternity as well. (See Teachings About Marriage home page)

383: On 04/06/98, Banyan asked: HI! I'm just wondering where the tradition of shaking the dust off you feet in testimony against people comes from.  I've read a few cross references on the scriptures, but I'd like to know the history behind it.  Thanks

Shaking the dust from the feet is a sacred priesthood ordinance. In the New Testament, the Savior taught:

"And whosoever shall not receive [the servants of the Lord], nor hear [their] words, when [they] depart out of that house or city, [they shall] shake off the dust of [their] feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorra in the day of judgment, than for that city." (The Holy Bible, Matthew 10:15)

The purpose of the ordinance is to seal up the enemies of Christ against the day of judgment. Due to the extreme seriousness of the ordinance, it should only be used in the most extreme of circumstances and when prompted by the Holy Spirit. (See Priesthood Ordinances home page)

382: On 04/06/98, Gloria asked: Here is my historical question, at what point did we get away from kneeling during prayer and why. Whether it be in church, during home visits my the missionary's , home teachers, and such. Or did we ever do this and if not why.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught:

"As a token of reverence and respect, when occasion permits, [prayers] should be made from a kneeling position." (Mormon Doctrine, p.581-7, See Prayer for full text)

This teaching is as true today as when Elder McConkie originally taught it. In the Church, certain prayers are always made from a kneeling position (e.g., the person blessing the Sacrament). The family prayer is also usually made from a kneeling position. President Spencer W. Kimball taught:

"When should we pray? The answer: always. But to be more specific, the Church urges that there be family prayer every night and every morning. It is a kneeling prayer with all or as many members of the family present as possible." ( Faith Precedes the Miracle, p.200 - p.201)

However, sometimes it is more appropriate to say a prayer in a standing or sitting position. Prayers are usually said in this manner when they are short prayers and excessive movement would disrupt the spirit of the occasion. For example, most families say the blessing on the food when everyone is sitting at the table. (See Prayer, Fasting, and Revelation home page)

(See Question and Answer home page)

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