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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : Temple Recommends – Are They Needed? » Temple Recommends – Are They Needed?

Temple Recommends – Are They Needed?

Don - April 23, 2010

I’ve been going to the temple for a number of years now. I’m always stopped at the “recommend desk” where my recommend is checked for ????? To see if it’s expired!

The first time I went to the temple I was a scared young missionary. I was worried that the temple worker would be so inspired that he would know if I was completely worthy. What about that cuss word I said when I tripped on my way up the stairs, or that fight I had with the jerk companion I was assigned to….or whatever. I kind of expected the temple worker to “catch” those elders who hadn’t repented, or seen the mission president to straighten things out. I thought they’d be found out and not allowed in.

Obviously my recommend doesn’t really tell the temple worker whether I’m currently worthy to enter or not. I was worthy when the recommend was issued (unless I lied in my interviews), but it says nothing about my present worthiness.

I know, I know – if I’m not worthy then I shouldn’t be going to the temple until I am. But wouldn’t it be scary if the temple worker really could tell and every once and a while someone was asked not to attend until they straighten things out.

I guess I like the system as it is, at least I can work on some of those areas when I’m inside and hopefully the spirit can work on me.

Just a thought.

31 Comments »

  1. If you get right down to it, none of us is worthy. I meet the low bar, and then I go so I can work on being better.

    Comment by Tracy M — April 23, 2010 @ 1:36 pm

  2. I’ve always heard stories that sometimes temple sessions are stopped because one of the temple workers gets prompted that someone in attendance isn’t worthy to be there. They announce this to those in attendance and then they wait for a while until that person realizes it’s THEM that is being referred to then that person leaves and the session continues.

    I’ve never seen this actually happen. I’ve always wondered if it really ever does, or if it’s one of those stories that’s invented to scare you into not going if you’re not worthy. If it really ever did happen, it seems to me that the danger would be that nearly everyone would think it was them and the whole session would empty out.

    Comment by MCQ — April 23, 2010 @ 2:55 pm

  3. I’ve heard those stories too. I’ve always suspected it was the beard, tatoo, or multiple ear piercing that gave the culprit away.

    Comment by Seldom — April 23, 2010 @ 3:04 pm

  4. “I’ve always heard stories that sometimes temple sessions are stopped because one of the temple workers gets prompted that someone in attendance isn’t worthy to be there.”

    My hope is that this is not true, because if it is, it is very disturbing. Of course, most faith-promoting rumors about the temple (seeing those on the other side) bother me more that they help.

    Comment by Chris Henrichsen — April 23, 2010 @ 5:21 pm

  5. Although your post is a bit lighthearted and whimsical, I think you have touched on a subject that I have been feeling uneasy for quite a while: the Gift of Discernment.

    I was quite disappointed during my last temple recommend interview and I was lead to strongly suspect the Gift of Discernment is a rare if not absent gift in the Church. My Bishop was very confused about my answer to one of the questions, and I could tell he has absolutely no clue of the history behind the question and why it was implemented. The question was the following:

    Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

    The “correct” answer for this question is “no.” Unfortunately, the question is outdated and in some particular cases, it may contradict certain activities we are entitled to do as Christians and remain worthy to attend the temple.

    I am involved in the support of many groups in my community at many levels, and I provide voluntary and moral support to many groups, some of which perpetuate teachings and practices “contrary and opposed” to those accepted by the Church (including groups like the Catholic Church that teaches and practices the baptism of infants).

    He made of my answer a really tedious argument that clearly showed his inability to discern and understand the true intent of my actions. He began a line of questioning that clearly questioned my temple worthiness.

    After answering all of his questions, I finally I said I was tired of arguing with him and that if he didn’t feel I should have a temple recommend that he shouldn’t give me one, but that I was not going to continue trying to tame his attacks. I told him it was his judgment at the end of the day, that I had answered the question honestly, that I felt I was worthy to enter the temple, that he has stewardship over me, and that he should make a decision whether or not he thought I was worthy or not. With clear frustration on his face, he signed the recommend, placed it in my right hand and let me go.

    Had he exercised true discernment, he would’ve not had to rely so much in an silly outdated questionnaire with black and white right or wrong questions that are limited to a simple “yes” or “no.”

    So, although temple workers will never be able to tell if the person presenting the temple recommend at the entrance are really worthy to be there or not; more troubling to me is the fact that discerning by the Spirit to know whether the Saints should be able to attend the temple or not is in my opinion been replaced by a government application style list of questions.

    Comment by Manuel — April 23, 2010 @ 6:53 pm

  6. Those “stop the session until the unworthy one leaves” were a whispered staple of pre-1978 days when, of course, the “unworthy” one was someone who looked white but had black blood somewhere back in their ancestry. I hadn’t realized that the story had been adapted to generic unworthiness. These monsters just won’t die.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 23, 2010 @ 7:21 pm

  7. Manuel,
    I affiliate with a LOT of individuals whose practices are contrary to those accepted by the Church. To me that question is a lawyerly way of asking, “do you flirt with apostasy?” and that is the Spirit in which I understand it. When I used to conduct temple recommend interviews I always asked it the way it was worded, but if there was any confusion (or a yes response) we would discuss it in greater depth and pretty much everyone ultimately understood the intent of the question.

    Comment by Rusty — April 23, 2010 @ 8:40 pm

  8. Rusty,
    Not all leaders are created equal… hehehe.

    Comment by Manuel — April 23, 2010 @ 10:26 pm

  9. Actually, Rusty, the question is asking about whether you’re sympathetic to and/or practicing polygamy. Unfortunately, it’s so “lawyerly” that most people don’t know that, and get unnecessarily nervous about it.

    Comment by Kristine — April 23, 2010 @ 10:32 pm

  10. It may have originally been intended to ask about polygamy, but I think it’s intent is broader than that now. For example, back in the ETB days, I heard it said that this question was designed to weed out communists.

    Comment by MCQ — April 24, 2010 @ 1:10 am

  11. more troubling to me is the fact that discerning by the Spirit to know whether the Saints should be able to attend the temple or not is in my opinion been replaced by a government application style list of questions.

    Why ask any questions at all, Manuel? Why not just have the interviewer discern the answers?

    Comment by MCQ — April 24, 2010 @ 1:13 am

  12. They ask to see your recommend not just to see if it has expired (gasp!), but to see if you have one at all. One can be asked to turn a recomend over to a Stake President, Bishop, or Branch President for several reasons related to worthiness. I know of an example of a sister who’s neice was getting married in the temple, but the sister was engaging in flamboyant adultery.

    Comment by Former Bishop and Recommend Desk Worker — April 24, 2010 @ 4:18 am

  13. [...] example.  There is a plain example of this in the first comment at a recent post over at 9 Moons here.  What often seems to be missing is the acknowledgement of the gap between worthy and perfect. To [...]

    Pingback by The Gap Between Worthy and Perfect « Small and Simple — April 24, 2010 @ 6:16 am

  14. Re: the question about affiliating with people whose practices are contrary to our faith. I know in N. Ireland this is interpreted as ‘Are you associating or agree with the practices of paramilitary organisations like the IRA?’ I guess there is local meaning that has now shifted outside of its narrow beginnings.

    Comment by Aaron R. — April 24, 2010 @ 8:54 am

  15. 5, Sounds like a case of interview overshare. What your Bishop meant was “Say ‘No,’ so I can go home; if you make this complicated for me, I’ll make it complicated for you.”

    Comment by Latter-day Guy — April 24, 2010 @ 10:55 am

  16. The affiliating question was explained to me that we should not support groups like the Klan. And this was by someone who knew my parents live in southern Utah.

    Comment by el oso — April 24, 2010 @ 5:36 pm

  17. Affiliation questions are to determine if one is a polyg.

    Comment by Former Bishop and Recommend Desk Worker — April 25, 2010 @ 5:07 am

  18. Temple recommends are one of the most doctrinally significant parts of the LDS faith. The Church teaches that in order to obtain a fulness of blessings in the eternities one must at some point live up to a celestial law or standard of behavior.

    The temple recommend establishes in the here and now what that standard is. Being able to participate in temple ordinances is deeply symbolic of having met that standard. It makes the temple a proper symbol of heaven itself. No unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God. Not just theoretical purity alone, but active / involved participation in the type of things that Christians worthy of the name actually do, in a divinely established framework established for that very purpose. Service that actually sanctifies.

    If there were no temple recommends, the Church would unravel at the seams. More and more it would be a true church, but less and less a living one. The pressures of the outside world would likely lead to a gradual diminishing in the activity and participation level of church members. The temple ordinances would become more a formality than an actual indication of serious religious commitment, etc. The temple itself could easily devolve in a building with all the significance of a church history museum, a non sacred space, some sort of tourist attraction.

    Comment by Mark D. — April 25, 2010 @ 2:40 pm

  19. MCQ @ 11,

    I am not sure if you are being sarcastic. I don’t think the questions should be discarded, I don’t think the gift of discernment is manifested as if the interviewing leader suddenly becomes a seer and doesn’t need any input from the interviewee. What I am saying is that some of those questions may have to be updated, that in my experience the leaders rely too much in the actual questionnaire, and that in my perception the gift of discernment has been replaced by this strong dependence on the questionnaire.

    Latter-day Guy @ 15,

    What your Bishop meant was “Say ‘No,’ so I can go home; if you make this complicated for me, I’ll make it complicated for you.”

    That is exactly what I am talking about. The “government application style” of “just tell them what they want to hear and move on.”

    Also, the attitude of “If you make this complicated for me, I’ll make it complicated for you,” I mean, what does that attitude say about the leader? Is that even Christlike? Isn’t the member in question supposed to be able to be completely honest with him, and isn’t the leader supposed to provide guidance?

    This is absolutely disheartening and I don’t believe this is the proper way to handle temple recommend interviews. If any leader is doing this, they surely need to repent.

    I believe the Temple is of utmost importance in our lives. It defines us and help us get in tune with our true divine nature. I think temple recommends are important and necessary. But the process needs to be carried in a Christlike and Christ centered manner. What you described in your comment is terrible.

    Comment by Manuel — April 25, 2010 @ 3:25 pm

  20. Mark D, I have no idea what you are talking about. Temple recommends are a piece of paper that say that you have met the minimum standards necessary for entry into the temple. That’s it. They aren’t proof that you are living any sort of celestial standard, or perfection or anything close to it.

    The Church teaches that in order to obtain a fulness of blessings in the eternities one must at some point live up to a celestial law or standard of behavior.

    Please tell me where the Church teaches this. I’ve been a member all my life, served a mission, and have never heard this before.

    Comment by MCQ — April 25, 2010 @ 4:34 pm

  21. #20 church culture teaches that having a temple recommend is the marker of a celestial individual. its implied in a few comments by GAs here and there, but thats about it. its not really doctrinal, but it is decently prevalent.

    as for my own experience with this:
    when my Bishop found out that only my fiancee and my parents were invited to our sealing he blew a gasket (I wish i were exaggerating). he expressed discontent at our (my) decision, and threatened our recommends. His attitude was that discernment told him I was being selfish in that course (which was never my intent). I grant that he has his opinion on the matter, but to take that as the Spirit and impose your will on others doesnt edify. i wish him the best, but it did represent a divergence of viewpoint on the matter.

    as for those called to administer such interviews, i leave this reference: 2 Chronicles 19:5-7
    And he set judges in the land throughout all the fenced cities of Judah, city by city,
    And said to the judges, Take heed what ye do: for ye judge not for man, but for the Lord, who is with you in the judgment.
    Wherefore now let the fear of the Lord be upon you; take heed and do it: for there is no iniquity with the Lord our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts.

    Comment by ANONYMOUS — April 25, 2010 @ 9:07 pm

  22. Church culture doesn’t teach anything, anonymous. Church culture is crap. Anyone who thinks that having a temple recommend is a “marker” for anything other than the fact that they are allowed into the temple is deceiving themselves.

    As the OP states, TRs are not even “markers” for actual, present worthiness; just your worthiness at the time of the interview. Your present worthiness is a matter between you and the Lord, and is not affected by holding a TR in any way whatsoever.

    Comment by MCQ — April 26, 2010 @ 12:14 am

  23. The first time I was approved for a temple recommend, I was quite enamored by this idea that I was *worthy*, but I got over that after actually going few times and feeling not contentedly worthy, but confusion and kind of clueless. Over the years I have picked up a lot more understanding, and I agree with Tracy M, the bar is set pretty low if they let me in. Besides, its not so much about worthiness as it is about preparation. We all can fairly easily meet the minimum standard of preparing to go there, but the better prepared we are, beyond the minimum, the more we get out of our temple experience.

    Comment by Mommie Dearest — April 26, 2010 @ 12:39 am

  24. MCQ:

    And they who are not sanctified through the law which I have given unto you, even the law of Christ, must inherit another kingdom, even that of a terrestrial kingdom, or that of a telestial kingdom.
    For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory. And he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory.
    And he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide a telestial glory; therefore he is not meet for a kingdom of glory. Therefore he must abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory. (D&C 88:21-24)

    Comment by Mark D. — April 26, 2010 @ 11:18 pm

  25. Nice scripture, Mark D!

    But here’s what you said:

    The Church teaches that in order to obtain a fulness of blessings in the eternities one must at some point live up to a celestial law or standard of behavior.

    I thought you meant that we had to live a celestial law at some point in mortality. D&C 88, by contrast, is talking about the law we can abide after the judgment. Obviously, we must be able to abide a celestial law in order to inherit the celestial kingdom, but where is it said that we have to live a celestial law in mortality? Or that the temple recommend establishes a celestial standard? I have always understood that the temple recommend standard is a minimum worthiness standard, not a celestial standard and not perfection.

    If you tell people that they have to live a celestial law in order to obtain a temple recommend, not only will you be inaccurate, you’ll have a lot fewer people attending the temple.

    Comment by MCQ — April 27, 2010 @ 12:05 am

  26. Manuel,

    Sorry you (and several others) have had bad experiences with your bishop. That’s really disappointing, but I hope it is not a univeral experience. I haven’t had it.

    My understanding is that the temple recommend interview is a self-declaration of our worthiness. The interviewer can (and if properly instructed to do so) may state that he is representing the Savior, and respondents should answer as if they are answering the Savior.

    The question you cite is problematic for its legalistic wording, and I have had to explain it more than once in an interview. My explanation has been about general loyalty to the church (not specifically polygamy, though the question implies that connection). I once had a member ask me if supporting a political party that supported abortion rights would trigger a positive answer to this question. I said I did not think so, but offered to check with our stake president who confirmed my initial impression.

    It is true that a recommend is a point-in-time statement of worthiness. And it is also true that some unworthy people attend the temple without having the temple gates crash closed before them (as I imagined in my childhood — I don’t know why). In the end the Lord will sort out those issues of judgement, and we’ll continue to do our best to be as worthy as we can to attend the temple. And hopefully interviewers will also do their best.

    Comment by Paul — April 27, 2010 @ 7:16 am

  27. Paul,

    Oh, don’t worry about that experience. My Bishop is not perfect (nor do I expect him to be), but he is still a very special and a very remarkable good man, and I love him, and I have a testimony he has the characteristics necessary to have spiritual stewardship over me at this point in my life.

    I was just bringing my experience up, just as a reminder to everyone who reads this post, leaders, future leaders, past leaders and people who deal with leaders, that it’s not all about the questions. Anyone can figure out what the right answers are. It’s about the Spirit, and it’s about helping God’s children be prepared to experience a ceremonial ascension that will nourish their spirits and help them get closer to God.

    I thought it was in tune with the post (and I wanted to get it out of my chest of course).

    Comment by Manuel — April 27, 2010 @ 10:53 am

  28. Obviously, we must be able to abide a celestial law in order to inherit the celestial kingdom, but where is it said that we have to live a celestial law in mortality?

    I don’t think I made that claim. I said “The temple recommend establishes in the here and now what that standard is.” Not what the standard will be, but what the standard is now to have the ecclesiastical endorsement of the church, as an individual who is doing the fundamental things that the church maintains are necessary to qualify for salvation in the celestial kingdom.

    At a minimum, the church teaches that if you don’t do those things, you will not qualify for an inheritance in the celestial kingdom until you do. There are innumerable scriptures that could be cited in that respect.

    Or that the temple recommend establishes a celestial standard? I have always understood that the temple recommend standard is a minimum worthiness standard, not a celestial standard and not perfection.

    I didn’t make that claim. I also don’t think that perfection is a requirement to inherit anything. Sanctification is a much better term.

    Comment by Mark D. — April 27, 2010 @ 5:23 pm

  29. MCQ, I suspect (by the way) that my idea of a entry level standard for the celestial kingdom is much closer to the temple recommend standard than yours is.

    Or in other words, I believe that the vast majority of sincere temple recommend holders, at the end of a lifetime of service, and who have repented of their sins, are more than amply qualified to receive an inheritance in the celestial kingdom, and to continue to progress and improve there in association with the other members of such a heavenly society. Not to exclude many others who are not currently members of the church.

    They are they…who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true. (D&C 76:51-53, emphasis added)

    Comment by Mark D. — April 27, 2010 @ 5:37 pm

  30. If you didn’t say those things that you now disclaim, Mark D., then we have no disagreement, so I don’t know what you mean when you say that your idea is much closer to the TR standard than mine. I certainly have no quarrel with what you say in your final paragraph, but note that just holding a temple recommend does not mean you have engaged in a lifetime of service and have repented of your sins. But certainly if you do those things you would presumably qualify for the celestial k. That really obvious truth is not what we were talking about, but thanks.

    Comment by MCQ — April 28, 2010 @ 1:13 am

  31. I don’t know what you mean when you say that your idea is much closer to the TR standard than mine

    You used the word “perfection”. Hence my supposition.

    note that just holding a temple recommend does not mean you have engaged in a lifetime of service and have repented of your sin

    Agreed. Never said otherwise.

    Comment by Mark D. — April 28, 2010 @ 6:36 pm

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