Sunday, May 2, 2010

Doctrinal Questions from the Youth

Several years ago (in 2000) for the first time I was asked to field questions from the youth of our ward in a fifth Sunday presentation to the combined Young Men and Young Women.  I asked their leaders to have the youth submit their questions in advance in writing and to give me a week to consider the answers. 

What is going to follow in subsequent blog posts in serial form will be their questions and my answers.

The disclaimer:  My answers are not to be considered as anything official from the Church.  Except where others are quoted and scriptures are cited, I alone am responsible for the content. 

From that first experience there followed two more such sessions, the second in 2005, the third in 2008. 

I hope their penetrating questions and my answers are useful now to a broader audience.  Readers of this page are encouraged to contribute their insights and perspectives in the Comments section below on the topics under consideration.

Questions from the Youth of the Ward

December 31, 2000


In my opinion, these questions are awesome. They are proof of how deeply the youth of our ward think about gospel topics, and the nature of the questions suggests to me a desire to learn. I have grouped the questions under topical headings for convenience in answering them.

The best answers to gospel doctrine questions always come from the scriptures – the four “standard works” – the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. The next best source is from the writings and sermons of the Presidents of the Church. All other sources, while they might be enlightening, should only serve to confirm the answers you have obtained from these primary sources.

Brigham Young once taught, “Study the word of God, and preach it and not your opinions, for no man’s opinion is worth a straw. Advance no principle but what you can prove, for one scriptural proof is worth ten thousand opinions.” (History of the Church, vol. 3, 395-96).

The Doctrine of Diety:

What does it mean to be a god of your own world?

The Lord himself answered this question in D&C 132. In verse 19, he says to us, "And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory." Now, listen to this, "[And shall have] a continuation of the seeds forever and ever."

The Prophet Joseph Smith said it meant those who are married in the new and everlasting covenant of marriage in the temple and were true to their covenants, that after they passed through the resurrection they would be able to live together again as husband and wife and have what the Lord calls “a continuation of the seeds.” What does that mean?

Here is the answer in D&C 131:1-4: "In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; and in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; and if he does not, he cannot obtain it. He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom;" now notice, "he cannot have an increase." Increase of what? Increase of posterity. In other words, through obedience to His divine command, we here in mortality as human beings are given power to cooperate with God in the creation of human souls. Then beyond the grave, we have the promise to have eternal increase in a family relationship in the resurrection. That is what is meant by the phrase “eternal life.”

Brigham Young said: “The kingdoms [God] possesses and rules over are his own progeny. Every man who is faithful and gets a salvation and glory, and becomes a King of kings and Lord of lords, or a Father of fathers, it will be by the increase of his own progeny. Our Father and God rules over his own children. Where ever there is a God in all the eternities possessing a kingdom and glory and power it is by means of his own progeny.” (JD, 11:262).

Will God accomplish his work of bringing to pass not only the immortality, but also the eternal life of all men? (See Moses 1:39).

This would be an easier question if the word “all” hadn’t been included. All will be resurrected (immortality), but will all receive eternal life? No. “These all [those who inherit the telestial glory] shall bow the knee, and every tongue shall confess to him who sits upon the throne forever and ever; for they shall be judged according to their works, and every man shall receive according to his own works, his own dominion, in the mansions which are prepared. And they shall be servants of the Most High; but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end.” (D&C 76:110-112).

Because Lucifer’s offer to save every soul while implementing the plan of salvation in our pre-existence was rejected, he will undoubtedly take some prisoners in the ongoing war for the children of God. Hence, all will not inherit the celestial glory. Since that moment of rebellion in the pre-existence there has never been a guarantee that all would be saved in the plan of salvation. Lucifer said, “I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.” (Moses 4:1). He thus “became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto [the Lord’s] voice.” (Moses 4:4).

Amulek tells us that if “the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you. . . this is the final state of the wicked.” (Alma 34:35). Christ, as all-powerful as he is, only has power to offer “an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you. Yea, he saith: Come unto me and ye shall partake of the fruit of the tree of [eternal] life; yea, ye shall eat and drink of the bread and the waters of [eternal] life freely.” (Alma 5:33-34).

Because of moral agency, there exists an immutable right to make choices, “they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” (2 Nephi 2:27-28). In June, 1829, David Whitmer was told, “If you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.” (D&C 14:7). That’s a big “IF.” In the days of judgment, the Lord has said, “I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.” (D&C 137:9).

But there is provision made in the plan of salvation for giving all of God’s children an equal chance to hear and embrace the gospel, whether in this life or the next. “For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. . . Thus was the gospel preached to those who had died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets.” (D&C 138:10; 32-35; 1 Peter 4:6). Further, “all little children [who have died before reaching the age of accountability] are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law [for example, all those with serious mental deficiencies]. For the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law; wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent; and unto such baptism availeth nothing.” (Moroni 8:22).

Clearly, God didn’t go to all this work only to save a few of his children. There may be far more heirs of celestial glory than we might otherwise suppose.

Is it so hard to comprehend that God's mercy and love extends beyond the grave to give ALL his children the maximum opportunity to embrace and accept the provisions that apply to the highest degree of the celestial kingdom?

Can you be sealed to more than one person?

While she is alive, a woman may be sealed to only one man. While he is alive, a man may be sealed to only one living woman at a time. “For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none. . . For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people [to have more than one wife]; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.” (Jacob 2:27-30).

However, after her death a woman may be sealed to another man if she had also been his wife during her lifetime. The second sealing would require her to choose between the two in the eternal worlds that lie ahead.

Among the living, we may only be sealed to one living person at a time. However, a man may be sealed to more than one wife if the plural wives are deceased. Such was the case with President Harold B. Lee, who was sealed to three women. President Howard W. Hunter was sealed to two women. Elders Dallin H. Oaks, Russell M. Nelson and L. Tom Perry are also sealed to two women. There is no revealed answer about why a woman cannot have more than one husband at a time.

Official Declaration One in the Doctrine and Covenants, commonly known as “The Manifesto,” dated October 6, 1890, officially ended the practice of “polygamy” (more accurately "plural marriage") in the Church among the living. The Church offers no sympathy to splinter groups that continue the practice of polygamy today, and excommunicates those members who insist on ignoring the mandates of the Manifesto.

Is the name you receive in the temple unique to you, or does everyone that goes through get the same name?

Go to the temple, and you will learn the answer to this question for yourself. Everything that is given to us in the temple is contingent upon our faithfulness. If (and that’s a big “IF”) we are true and faithful to our covenants in this life and eventually inherit celestial glory, all the promised spiritual blessings of the temple will become realities. Outside the temple, we only discuss the principles and truths we can find in scripture (and, by the way, most of what you learn in the temple is in the scriptures).

This question is in reference to “the white stone” mentioned in Revelation 2:17 that will be given to those who inherit the highest degree of the celestial kingdom. We learn in D&C 130:10-11 that this white stone “will be a Urim and Thummim.” Also, that this “white stone will be given to each of those who come into the celestial kingdom whereon is a new name written, which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it. The new name is the key word.”

In our future resurrected state, the new name will be unique to each individual who proves faithful in this life and endures in faith to the end of mortality. Like all the ordinances of the Lord’s house, many symbols are used to teach us these eternal truths, but we must never assume that the symbol IS the promised blessing, because the symbol merely points forward to the ultimate fulfillment.

How did the dinosaurs fit into the timeline of the creation?

The answer is: I don’t know and you can quote me on that. The answer hasn’t been revealed. But I can think of lots of similar questions, and once you start down this path there could be no end to great questions to which there are no revealed answers. Anyone who attempts an answer at something the Lord did not reveal to his prophets in the scriptures is engaging in speculation.

Joseph Smith did give us a hint that perhaps dinosaurs and other anomalies in the fossil record may not be part of this Earth’s history at all. He said, “The world and Earth are not synonymous terms. This world is the human family. This Earth was actually organized, or formed, or created out of other planets which were broken up and remodeled and made into the one on which we now live.” (Discourses of Joseph Smith, 207).

It’s obvious that God didn’t tell us everything in the scriptures, only the principles of the gospel that we need to know to become like him someday.

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