Remember when the Ensign, and before that the Improvement Era, had a regular feature where readers could write in and ask gospel questions that were puzzling them? I always wondered if those were genuine questions, or whether the feature was only a sneaky way for the editor to preach a sermon on a topic of his own choosing.

Questions sent to the Juvenile Instructor in 1894 and answered by, or with answers at least approved by, George Q. Cannon suggest what was on the minds of Latter-day Saints that long ago. Would these same questions be asked today? Would the answers be the same?

A young lady in one of our Sunday schools informs her teacher that an Elder had rebuked her for using consecrated oil to rub her own throat with. His reason for doing so, as he said, was that she had no right to use oil in that way; it must be used only in the hands of the Priesthood.

It seems incredible that any Elder should utter such a rebuke, and we think there must be some mistake about this statement; for such a rebuke would be nothing less than bigotry. A man must be densely ignorant who would make any such remarks – that is, if this were all that the young lady had done.

Is it proper for young people to congregate in neighbors’ houses on the Sabbath and indulge in games of play?

The Sabbath is ordained as a day of rest and a day on which the Saints should specially devote their attention and turn their thoughts to spiritual matters. It is expected that the Saints will refrain from seeking amusement, as well as to avoid work at this time, and it is not right for young people to spend their time in games of any kind on the Lord’s Day, though meeting together and engaging in elevating, interesting and instructive conversation is not at all improper. The Saints should not put on a sanctimonious air and long face, which at one time were thought to be necessary to the proper worship of God, nor should they be more anxious on the Sabbath to serve God than they are upon any other day. But there is an appropriateness of conduct and of action which all Latter-day Saints should adopt on Sunday which will cause them to refrain from light-mindedness and folly, and prompt them to make it indeed a day of worship and of rest.

It would be quite proper, indeed advisable, where Sunday evening ward meetings are not held, that the Mutual Improvement Associations should hold their meetings. The result would doubtless be gratifying in the increase of attendance of the young men and women.

Have Bishops’ Courts the authority to hear and render judgment upon the official acts of a president of an Elders’ quorum?

Elders’ quorums are Stake organizations and directly under the control and direction of the Presidency of the Stake; consequently the official acts of a president of an Elders’ quorum should be considered, when investigation is necessary, by the Presidency and High Council of the Stake. The ward Teachers, as such, have not the authority to investigate the official actions of the president or officers of any quorum of the Priesthood.

Should not a man who has been appointed by the Bishop of the ward to preside at the Teachers’ meetings have counselors ordained or set apart to assist him?

The person so asking evidently holds the erroneous idea that the ward Teachers form a quorum of the Priesthood, to be presided over by three of their number. We are of the opinion that, in the present state of the organization of the wards, the appointment of a president of the ward Teachers is undesirable. There may possibly be a few wards where perhaps it is necessary, but as a general rule the duties performed by that officer can be better done by the Bishop himself than when delegated to another. Indeed we have heard of one case in which a conflict of authority arose, the presiding Teacher having assumed the position that rightly belonged to the bishop, and ignored the latter in dealing with the standing of members of the ward.

A friend makes the inquiry whether the earth is to be cleansed by fire before or after the Millennium.  There are a great many passages of both ancient and modern scripture which go to show that the purification and change in the condition of our planet is to occur after the thousand years of peace, and when Satan has made his final and determined effort to conquer the hosts of heaven. The most pointed scripture, however, on this subject and a conclusive statement is that found in section twenty-nine of the Doctrine and Covenants, verses 22, 25:

And again, verily, verily, I say unto you, that when the thousand years are ended, and men again begin to deny their God, then will I spare the earth but for a little Season; and the end shall come, and the heaven and the earth shall be consumed and pass away, and there shall be a new heaven and a new earth, for all old things shall pass away, and all things shall become new, even the heaven and the earth, and all the fullness thereof, both men and beasts, the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea; and not one hair, neither mote shall be lost, for it is the workmanship of my hand.

We have been asked by several different persons whether in ordaining a brother, it is right to confer the Priesthood first and then ordain him to the particular office to which he is called, or to directly ordain him to that office in the Priesthood. That is, in ordaining a man an elder, should the one officiating say: I confer upon you the Melchisedek Priesthood and ordain you an Elder, or, I ordain you an Elder in the Melchisedek Priesthood, or whatever the office conferred may be?

So far as we know, the Lord has revealed no particular form, or words to be used in the ceremony of ordination to the Priesthood, as He has done in the rite of baptism, neither has He given any direct instructions on the point presented by the enquirers. Certain it is that both forms have been and are being used by those officiating, and it is equally certain that the Lord recognizes and honors those ordained in either way. consequently, we are of the opinion that both are acceptable to Him, and will be until it pleases Him to give the Church further light on the subject, either by direct revelation or by inspiring His servants of the First Presidency of the Church to direct exactly what shall be said.

We are requested to give information as to how many members there are in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It is difficult to answer this with entire accuracy; but from the best information, there are two hundred and fifty thousand who are in full fellowship in the Church in these mountains.

But this is scarcely a fair way of estimating the number of people who are believers in the doctrines of the Church, and who pass as Mormons and hold themselves as such. As we have said, there are probably a quarter of a million communicants – that is, members who can meet and, being in fellowship, can partake of the sacrament; but there are very many thousands who are what would be called non-communicants, who remain in the various lands where the gospel has been preached, and are scattered all over the Pacific slope and in the Mississippi valley and elsewhere, who have lost their standing through carelessness or indifference, or other causes, yet who believe the doctrines of the Church, and if asked, would say that they were Mormons. such are to be met with in surprising numbers. How numerous they are it is difficult to estimate.

[A] correspondent … asks if the negro race formed the third, or neutral, party in heaven at the time of the great rebellion.

There is nothing written as the word of the Lord upon this subject; but many of the Elders have indulged in the supposition that this was the case.

[Note: This false notion has, of course, been repudiated in terms far stronger than this; I include it here as an indication of how long this speculation has muddied the waters of our culture, and of the less-than-valiant efforts to stamp out a supposition that was and is not "the word of the Lord."]

If an aged man is brought up before the Bishop and his council to be tried, and he is a man that is not fully capable of explaining his own position, is there anything in the laws of the Church to prevent his having a man belonging to the Church act as his spokesman at the trial?

There is nothing in the laws of the church against one of the brethren acting as spokesman for another in a case of this kind. but, of course, there would have to be great care taken in granting permission of this character, for the reason that there are so many would-be lawyers who would like to get an opportunity to argue cases before the Bishops’ Courts, and make themselves disagreeable and perhaps offensive. But for one man to speak for another in the spirit of the Gospel and in a way to explain fully to the Bishop’s Court the position of the other man who is up for trial, there can be no objection to it – that is, if the accused is a man not fully capable of explaining his own case.

In consecrating oil, which hand should we hold the oil in, and which should we hold up and connect with our brother by the elbow?

The oil is generally held in the right hand and the left connects with the person standing next; but we may ask, in reply, would the holding the oil in the left hand by those holding the priesthood invalidate the consecration? Certainly not.

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