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BYU Religious Education Student Symposium paper summaries

Matthew P. Wilcox: "The Published Writings of the Young Elder Gordon B. Hinckley"

When President Gordon B. Hinckley rededicated the Hyde Park Chapel in London, England, in 1995, he commented, "Everything good that has happened to me in all the years that have passed I can trace back to my experience here as a missionary."

During that mission, young Elder Hinckley wrote about 25 articles for the Millennial Star, the Church's magazine in the British Isles. Exploring those articles, BYU graduate student Matthew P. Wilcox has sought to identify the changes he went through that influenced his life and later accomplishments.

In his paper presented at the Religious Education Student Symposium at BYU on Feb. 19, Brother Wilcox presented some of his findings.

Already with a bachelor's degree from the University of Utah when he began his mission in 1933 at the age of 23, Elder Hinckley applied his literary talents in his work almost from the beginning.

A Millennial Star article written early in his mission and titled "A Missionary Holiday," was "not all that inspiring as far as spiritual things go," Brother Wilcox said, although it did display his literary talents.

By contrast, an article written in July 1933, titled "Discover Yourself" and written specifically about the Church's Mutual Improvement Association, shows "a change of mind," Brother Wilcox said. It evidences a determination of Elder Hinckley to "use his literary talents to build the kingdom and defend what's going on in the British Isles with the Church."

Still later, he wrote a Millennial Star article called "My Personal Plan," an essay about missionary work. Identifying the article as the best he had ever written, he wrote in it: "My personal plan is directed toward one effort, and it is a terrific task to make the first surrender. My plan is to surrender my will to His; to make my life a God-guided life. I am going to school myself in listening to the Lord. In this way alone, can my light, which is the light of the Church, be made to shine as a beckoning beacon, a tangible evidence of the good that can come out of Mormonism."

In the latter part of his mission, Elder Hinckley was given a special assignment from mission president Joseph F. Merrill. President Merrill had written several letters saying the missionary methods of the day were inefficient, that they were largely inherited, that they had been fruitful 75 years earlier, but that conditions had changed.

At the same time, President Merrill was enamored with slide show lectures he had seen in London. He was persuaded that film lectures would be a good way to present the gospel message.

Accordingly, Elder Hinckley was asked to write scripts for several proposed lectures. These were sent to Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, but were never sent back to the mission.

Returning from his mission, Elder Hinckley was put to work for the Church's newly formed Radio, Publicity and Mission Literature Committee. In that role, he found the scripts he had written earlier and refined them. Eventually, film strip lectures became a widely used method for missionary work in many missions of the Church. This technology was used for many decades.

"This was, in fact, President Hinckley's time of decision," Brother Wilcox concluded regarding the mission. "It molded where he was going to go.… Given this opportunity to write and build the kingdom also given the opportunity to go home and speak with the First Presidency directed his life from then on and put him in contact with some of the great leaders of the Church."


Daniel Becerra: "Jesus and Temptation: If Thou Art the Son of God"

While Jesus was tempted on at least six different occasions that Daniel Becerra has identified in the gospel accounts, on only one of those was he subjected to "internal" or true temptation.

Brother Becerra's paper, "Jesus and Temptation: If Thou Art the Son of God," was among those presented at the Religious Education Student Symposium at BYU on Feb. 19.

He defined "internal" as opposed to "external" temptation as being the sort that appeals to something one desires to possess. By illustration, he said he would not feel tempted to bite into an onion but might feel tempted to taste cheesecake.

Brother Becerra posed two questions: "Why did Jesus need to suffer temptation?" and "What was the nature of the temptations He suffered?"

In response to the first question, he said one reason seems to be that "temptation was inherent in mortality and the experience of being human." He cited Doctrine and Covenants 29:39: "It must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter, they could not know the sweet."

"Another purpose," Brother Becerra said, "seems to be to gain perfect empathy."

He said he believes there is evidence to suggest that Matthew, Mark and Luke wanted the wilderness account to be understood as Jesus being subjected to internal temptation.

"In all recorded scripture, it is the only place where Satan personally tempts the Savior," he said. He added that it is the longest and most detailed such account, that the temptations seem to have been carefully planned out and based on a degree of accurate knowledge of who the Savior was.

Also, he said, the verb translated as "tempted" can encompass both internal and external temptations, and the three authors chose to use the passive form of the verb, as in "was tempted."

Brother Becerra suggested that in the temptations, Satan seems to be appealing to the desire of Jesus to be known as the Son of God, that knowledge by mankind being necessary for them to partake of eternal life.

"I believe it is possible that Satan sought to exploit this good desire by soliciting its expression in an unworthy context," Brother Becerra said. "He perceived that Jesus wanted people to know who He was in order to save them."

He added, "When understood in this light we see that Jesus' reason for being tempted is centered on His care and His love for Heavenly Father's children."


Elicia M. Hansen: "True and Saving Worship"

In a doctrines of the gospel class at BYU last semester, Elicia M. Hansen was startled by a statement made by her teacher: "We do not worship Jesus Christ."

Her resulting questions and study led to a paper she presented at the Religious Education Student Symposium at BYU Feb. 19.

In the presentation, she differentiated between worship in a general sense, meaning "reverence, awe, appreciation and respect," and the sort of worship reserved for God the Father only, which she defined as worship leading to salvation and exaltation.

She cited a statement by President Joseph F. Smith from an article, "Only One God to Worship," published in the Improvement Era in April 1912: "The Father was represented by Christ, and He acted and spoke for the Father, being so authorized and empowered. But the sole object of worship, God, the Eternal Father, stands supreme and alone."

Posing the question, "What is the role of Jesus Christ in our worship of the Father?" Sister Hansen said, "Christ modeled the proper pattern of worship; He is an integral part of our worship of the Father."

Christ could not have done what He did without the Father, she said, adding that He was always careful to give glory to the Father.

"What do we show the Son, if worship is not appropriate?" she asked.

"We reverence God's Son," she said in response, explaining that the Father and the Son filled different roles, the Father being the Creator and Author of the Plan of Salvation, and the Son being the Redeemer who effectuates the plan.

"Because the Savior effectuates the plan, and we worship the Father in the name of the Son, we're susceptible to elevate Him to a place where He begins to eclipse the Father, and that's what we want to be really careful of," she said. "We never want our relationship with Christ to exceed our relationship with the Father."

She drew an analogy: Suppose a king sends a representative to administer protection and relief to a village. The representative can fulfill that directive only by using the king's resources. The representative was taught and directed by the king and follows the king's plan in administering to the needs of the villagers. "It would be improper to credit the representative without acknowledging the king," she explained. "The representative could have done nothing without the king."

Regarding some statements in scripture and from modern-day prophets about worshiping the Son, Sister Hansen quoted Elder Bruce R. McConkie of the Quorum of the Twelve (a General Authority from 1946-1985) to the effect that those statements are speaking of worship in the sense of standing in awe and being reverentially grateful to the Redeemer, not worship in the true and saving sense.


Joseph T. Antley: "Joseph Smith's Providential Youth"

A "medley of spiritual influences and environmental factors" influenced the Prophet Joseph Smith in his early youth, and that influence ultimately led to the first Vision and subsequent visitations from the angel Moroni, Joseph T. Antley said in his paper prepared for the Religious Education Student Symposium at BYU on Feb. 19.

Joseph Smith's family's inherent religious ideology combined with the evangelical revivals that frequented the Palmyra, N.Y., area in his boyhood led him to worry about his salvation and pray about which church to join, leading to his vision of the Father and the Son, Brother Antley said.

"Similarly, I argue that treasure-seeking folklore and a religious atmosphere that encouraged radical departures from orthodox religion spurred the Prophet's visions of Moroni," he said. "My ultimate argument is that Joseph Smith's youth was providential; the Lord placed the Prophet in the perfect family and place in order for him to be receptive to his early visions."

The Prophet's father and mother, Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith, were both religiously minded, and each sought the religion of the New Testament, but they were both disappointed in the sects of the day, Brother Antley noted in his paper.

"Without doubt Joseph Smith's most prominent influence was his family," he said. "He inherited and emulated the spiritual quests and inclinations of his parents and grandparents. Unlike them, Joseph provided the long-sought answers.… Joseph's visions gave purpose to a wandering family and gratified their spiritual hunger. Lucy Smith remembered the visions causing their family 'the sweetest union of happiness … and tranquility reigned in our midst.' The family perhaps even expected the visions. Joseph's cousin remembered their grandfather Asael remarking that he 'always knew that God was going to raise up some branch of the family to be a great benefit to mankind.'"

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