(April is a health educator and mother of three young children.)
Years ago, someone asked me how Mormon bishops figured out who was worthy to enter the temple. How did bishops monitor the members to catch them in wrong-doing? I explained that it wasn’t like that at all. The bishop simply asks us a prescribed list of yes/no questions. We judge ourselves and report our own worthiness to the bishop.
As I judge myself, I pass many of the questions with flying colors, especially those regarding my conformity to gospel rules. Law of chastity? Check. Word of wisdom? Check. Tithing? Check.
Other questions trip me up a bit. My testimony fluctuates, but I give myself the benefit of the doubt during the testimony-related questions. After all, Alma gave credit for merely having a desire to believe, right?
Although I know it is coming, one particular question always tosses itself at me like a nasty curve ball: “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?”
I try not to growl at the bishop when he asks me such an impertinent question. It is not his fault. He did not write the questions.
But really, how do I answer that? If I have friends who smoke or have premarital sex or (heaven forbid) drink coffee in the morning, aren’t I affiliating with individuals whose practices are contrary to those accepted by the LDS church? Do I have to disregard apostolic counsel to fellowship people of other faiths to be temple-worthy?
That doesn’t seem right to me. Maybe the affiliate clause is not the most important part of this loaded question. If I don’t “support” these sinful acts, am I worthy to enter the temple? A closer look at the question reveals that the question is not about supporting the sin, but the sinner. Do you support any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary…” Certainly, merely offering moral support to imperfect people wouldn’t disqualify me from temple blessings, would it? Aren’t we supposed to comfort those that stand in need of comfort?
Maybe they are referring to financial support. If that is it, I fail again. I do subscribe to newspapers and magazines that occasionally criticize church policies. I donate to my political party, whose platform complements church teachings in some ways but in others opposes them. That brings me back to affiliating. Political party membership is a much more formal version of affiliating than friendship. Yet, although no major political party copies its platform directly from the church handbook, the church encourages members to be politically active.
Thus far, it looks like “yes” is the winning answer to this trick question. People who are conforming to scriptural and apostolic guidance will support and affiliate with groups and individuals with a variety of teachings and practices.
Then I consider the last clause. Do I agree with these groups and individuals whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the LDS church? Sometimes I do, but I really doubt that improves my temple-worthiness.
In the end, my usual tactic is to internally rewrite the question like this: “Are you involved in an organized effort to destroy the Church?” So I answer, “No, of course not.”
That seems to be the right answer, because I pass and get my recommend signed. I am relieved to have found the right answer, but I am left wondering if I asked myself the right question.