If you could revise the temple recommend interview…

Posted by on February 21, 2013 in Policy | 37 comments

We have had some interesting discussions about temple recommend questions here at the Exponent. How much disclosure does it take to be considered honest in your dealings? Is it appropriate for men to ask women about their undergarments? Should women and youths discuss their personal chastity alone with a man? Should someone who admits to lacking a testimony of any of the items in questions 1-3 be kept out of the temple even if they meet all of the behavioral requirements? Does that affiliate question make any sense at all?

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37 Comments

  1. I guess I think the affiliate one makes the least sense because we’re encouraged to have non-member friends. In my town I’d have the be pretty darn cliquey to only have friends who are active Mormons. Also, I have a job at a university. So yes, I associate with people who oppose the teachings of the church. I’m not filming an anti-Mormon film or participating in passing out anti-Mormon pamphlets or anything. I guess I”m not sure what that question is asking.

    I also do wonder about the garments question, simply because I feel that that is a personal covenant you make with God. You are accountable to God for it, but I’m not sure your bishop needs to know. To me it isn’t the same as the law of chastity, which all members are expected to keep (though I also would feel uncomfortable discussing sex with my bishop). I guess I think that the interview for people going through the temple the first time and people going back should be the same. We should all be held to the same standard of righteousness, and the covenants we make above and beyond that are something we are accountable directly to God for doing or not doing.

    In all I’m not sure which I’d click. I certainly hate the interview process because there is nothing personal or meaningful about it, it is a huge hassle involving two different church buildings on different days waiting in line, and it is weird to me to have some random guy who never talks to me suddenly putting on this “I care” face asking me probing questions. So to me it is a little ordeal I go through every other year, forgotten as quickly as possible.

    • In my judgment, the recommend questions should be two:

      “1. Do you love the Lord your God with all your heart, might, mind, strength and soul?

      “2. Do you love your neighbor as yourself?”

      As to the particular questions above, when I have conducted interviews, and the interviewee asks me about how to interpret the questions, I have generally told him or her that s/he is the one who determines whether s/he meets the standard. Exceptions are that if asked about the “affiliate” question, I tell them it really is focusing on polygamist groups, but other than that, they should judge for themselves. And as to strength of testimony, I tell them it is for them to judge, but in my opinion that by giving tithes, living the word of wisdom, wearing garments, etc… a person is expressing a strong enough testimony for me personally.

      • I like this.

    • Maybe we should eliminate “do you sustain the president of the Church as a prophet….” Since it seems clear from many of these posts, and the very question, that the respondents seek to council the prophet on what The Lord wants asked during a temple recommend interview. Clearly you do NOT think the prophet is directed by God to establish these questions unless you are implying we need to instruct God.

      Comments like “why does a bishop need to know” or “interviewed by some random man I never see that ……puts on an ‘I care face’”. Show a shallow grasp of the Lord’s church and his authority given to man that what he binds on earth is bound in heaven. It also shows a lack of understanding of the significance of your bishop being ordained as a Common Judge in Israel.”

  2. Part of me thinks that the only question that should be asked is the one allowing each individual person to be their own judge, the, “Do you consider yourself worthy?” one.

    Another part of me, in looking at the list one by one, would at least greatly question the question of the Word of Wisdom. Not because I don’t think it is good to follow (it is actually one of my single favorite things about the gospel), it is just that I take Joseph Smith’s words to heart, that it was not given for a command, but for a wise suggestion.

    I think I would also like the question directed to those who have previously been to the temple to simply ask, “Do you strive to keep the covenants you made there?” rather than pinpointing a specific covenant, especially one regarding underwear.

    • Actually, there’s no covenant involved with the wearing of garments. This is simply a question about something you were told was a “should do” in the process of receiving them when you first went to the temple, but no promise is or was required of you at that time.
      So this isn’t a specific pinpointing of a specific covenant. As you pointed out, the covenants were all covered in a previous question.

      This is an addendum question about a non-covenant directive.

      • Though it is interesting that the recommend interview question is more specific in it’s delineation of times than the directive that is in the temple ceremony. The temple one is more general. So in regards to that particular question, I vote that the recommend interview reflect the temple directive better.

    • Your comment about the Word of Wisdom just made me thing about how we interpret the Word of Wisdom. I think it’s safe to assume that when this question is asked, we are being asked to answer whether we participate in the “don’ts” of the Word of Wisdom (smoking, drinking, coffee/tea, etc.). However, how many of us are *truly* living the Word of Wisdom, or the “dos”? If we really were accountable to all of the Word of Wisdom, I doubt many of us could affirmatively answer that question. I know I couldn’t, I love junk food too much.

  3. The affiliate question is a holdover from decades past when they were trying to determine who was involved with the breakoff polygamy groups, and seems outdated (or at least needs to be reworded).

    Perhaps adding an open ended question about “how is your temple worship/experience these days?” would be enlightening.

  4. I checked the affiliate, tithing, WoW and garment questions.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking the Affiliate Question, but it’s so ambiguous, and the church is becoming more insular, that ordinary things raise discussion where there should be none. Do I affiliate with people who don’t dress modestly? All the time. What about my cousin/sister/friend who regularly badmouths her bishop on facebook? What does affiliate mean? What does “group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church…” mean? It’s too legalistic and vague.
    Tithing makes it seem like there’s a fee for temple attendance.
    WoW has an ambiguity problems as well and is not always the best marker for righteousness. It’s not hard for me to answer, but I think that people who struggle should be able to have access to the temple.
    Garments? I refuse to discuss my underclothing habits with nice men who I barely know. At most, it should be a yes/no question: Do you wear them or not? The rest of that question should be asked, however. (“Do you [strive to] keep the covenants..?”)

    I like David’s point about the first and second great commandments being included.

    Just my .02 from an opinionated, lowly female servant.

  5. I would change it to 3 questions:

    “Do you try earnestly to love God and your neighbor”
    “Are there any unresolved issues between you and God that you feel you need to discuss?”
    “Granted, none of us are perfect, but do you consider yourself worthy enough to enter the temple?”

    I would also have the Relief Society president interview the women in the ward, the YW president the YW, and the YM president the YM, the EQ president the Elders and the HP group leader the High Priests. There is no priesthood ordinance done in the interview. While the bishop is the “common judge” for the ward – he delegates this to counselors for most interviews anyway. He can also delegate this to other representatives just as easily.

    If there are issues that are more concerning, these things can be “bumped up” to the bishop. He can also meet with first-time temple recommend interviewees. This would reduce demands on the bishop, and could facilitate the relationships between the members and their more immediate leaders. It would also avoid the awkward situation of teenage girls talking about sex with middle aged men (or really anyone).

    • Mike,

      I love your idea on who should conduct the interviews!

    • Love. These are great ideas.

    • I love your ideas! I threw up in the parking lot once after a temple recommend interview. As a sexual assault survivor these interviews are tantamount to a psychological/spiritual assault for me. I don’t know if I will ever subject myself to another one.

  6. I have always disliked the testimony questions, though I can kind of understand why. Most people have periods of time when their faith wavers. Those may be the times they need the temple the most, when they need access to God the most. Aren’t we taught that the desire to believe is enough sometimes?

  7. I would love for the interview to be shorter. I think Mike S and Regina show great examples. I think the other questions can be helpful if further discussion is necessary, i.e. if the interviewee is worried about her or his worthiness or would just like the opportunity to have a deeper discussion about spiritual matters. I like the temple recommend questions because I do feel like they give us an opportunity to have a more complex and individualized discussion about theology.

    I don’t really have a problem with any of the questions. I trust my authority to judge my own worthiness and have always looked at the temple recommend interview as a formality.

    I’ve also always had good luck with leaders interviewing me. They trust my answers and have never made me uncomfortable by asking intrusive or inappropriate additional questions. There have been a few times I have thought, “Well, my conscience is clear with my God answering this question, but I’m not sure that you’d like the specifics of my answer.”

  8. In the 1857 reformation, many of the questions for entry into the Endowment House were about how you treated your neighbor. For example, one question was , “Do you oppress the hireling in his wages?” I suppose that paying someone a non-living wage made one unworthy of the blessings of the temple. On the other hand, one of the questions was “Have you labored diligently and earned faithfully the wages paid you by your employers?” I like the old questions and their emphasis on common decency.

    In addition, I am sure that I could answer the livestock handling and irrigation-related questions without breaking a sweat.

    Here’s the link: http://byteline.blogspot.fr/2007/03/temple-recommend-questions.html

    • What a great document! I especially liked the question about riding your neighbor’s horse without asking first.

  9. I am in favor of having detailed questions in the temple recommend interview. I also think it’s wise to have one man deal with the responsibility of the interviews instead of many different individuals. Hopefully the bishop in each ward has the proper training and instruction along with the Spirit to help determine if people are worthy to enter the temple.

  10. For me, it’s about actions vs. beliefs. I can’t really control my beliefs or testimony- I can influence it but in the end I haven’t found a way to change them altogether. I can, however, control my actions. So I would like to see the faith/testimony ones removed, or at least altered to “do you pursue a testimony in” or “do you read scriptures/pray to strengthen your faith”.

  11. I’d change how the questions are asked before I changed the questions themselves. My biggest problem with the whole process is the power imbalance. The structure of the interview suggests that the ward member *owes* the bishop not only an answer to every single question, but also explanations when the answers aren’t “right.” I think that a lot of that power is about the verbal nature of the questions. In my opinion, these questions should be an opportunity for a member to reflect on their own worthiness. They only should discuss any of that reflection with the bishop if they personally feel there is something not right about their lives, not because they feel pressured into by a power dynamic. So whatever the questions are, the ward member should reflect on them personally. The bishop asks if, after reflection, they have anything they would like to discuss. If there is, they discuss. If not, the only question I think that should be asked is the last one: “Do you consider yourself worthy?”

  12. Thank you for this – a topic I’ve thought about often. The only question I really feel comfortable answering is the one that asks ‘Do you consider yourself worthy to enter the Lord’s house and participate in temple ordinances?’ – and I can honestly say that I do. I don’t have a perfect knowledge or perfect faith but I have hope and desire and keep the commandments to the best that I am able and in a way that rings true to me. I’m not sure sometimes how well that translates to the type of answers my priesthood leaders look for so I find myself saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in the expected way without being really true to my doubts or questioning. So glad it’s not every year now!

  13. Do bishops really have to ask about garments? It always feels awkward to get asked about my undies, even if they are knee length and cap sleeved.

    Plus, for the past several years bishops have been asked to have members read a short paragraph about garments in front of them and then declare that they understand. The reading ends with the statement that the way we treat garments is our ‘outward expression of our inward commitment to Christ’- something I’m not totally sure I buy into.

    I agree that the “Do you consider yourself worthy’ question should trump all, maybe even be the first question asked.

  14. I have two issues with the interview. My first issue is with asking whether a person is a full tithe payer, then denying admission to the temple if they are not, regardless of financial circumstances in the family, and regardless of their answering “correctly” on the rest of the questions. Second, I have issue with there being two interviews required for a recommend. I believe one interview should be sufficient, that with the bishop. I don’t understand, or agree that a second interview with the stake presidency is necessary. You are either worthy, or not worthy. If you “pass” the bishop interview, why is the second interview required? Is it to “catch” those with a guilty conscience that lied in the first interview, and might break down in the second? If that’s the case, it shows that there is no trust involved, and it’s all a power play to subjugate the interviewee. Please enlighten me.

    • I have a dear friend who was married to a man who was physically and emotionally abusive and also very charismatic and a liar. He snowed the bishop on his first temple recommend interview, hoping to bully his wife into a temple sealing, but he failed to fool the stake president.
      So I’m grateful for that second interview.

      • And my friend really appreciates that discernment on the part of the stake president as she had not, as many abused women do not, the courage to speak up for herself yet at that point.
        Knowing that the stake president had not been fooled was a solace to her.

  15. Most of the opinions expressed boil down to whether you think attending the temple is a right or a privilege. If a “right,” then members want to self-assess, feeling they need only answer to the Lord with their conscience. If a “privilege,” then they recognize the necessity of a leader being involved in the process.

  16. Just out of curiosity, does anyone know the procedure for the Bishop? That is, who does his interview? or the Stake President’s? Or do we presume worthiness because they got the calling in the first place? Just wondering.

    • Bishops are interviewed by a member of their bishopric and by a member of their stake presidency. Stake presidents are too, just like the rest of us.

  17. It’s actually a daunting prospect to consider how you’d determine temple worthiness. I really don’t know what I’d do. My pet peeve with the way they are now is the vague generalities–the affiliation question, the family question. I’d revise for clarity and simplicity: Are you a practicing polygamist? Are you a member of a polygamist group? Are you abusing family members–or others–physically, emotionally, or sexually? I would find those questions much easier to answer. As it is, I always say that yes, I affiliate with many people whose teachings and practices oppose those of the church, and yes, there is much in my relationships with my family members that is not in harmony with the gospel. Then the interviewer backtracks and reinterprets. So why not just say what we mean at the outset?

  18. Have you taken the name of Deity in vain?

    I don’t know, but, sometimes calling someone a ,”meanie head,” just doesn’t cut it and a nice cuss word feels good, I just blame it on Tourette’s syndrome.

  19. So many of the questions would have to be different if I were to qualify to go to the temple right now. But, I don’t expect that of the church, and I am comfortable with my decisions and where I am right now.

    However, tithing is discouraging to me. For all of the talks about faith and consecration, I simply cannot afford to pay tithing and I refuse to put myself in a position where I wonder if I am going to have money to buy food and diapers for my children or keep the house heated. (And I’m not comfortable paying tithing only to turn around and ask for assistance from the church.) So, even if my faith were to shift to a place where I thought I could answer the belief questions sincerely in a manner that would be consistent with a temple recommend, I would still be disqualified by economic circumstances.

    Raising my family is my form of sacrifice and consecration right now, yet anything less than a 10% contribution to the church is not good enough for temple attendance. To add to it, given the church’s involvement in real estate development (and yes, I understand City Creek Mall is an investment) and other ventures, I have a hard time seeing the value of my contribution given what it would mean to my family. I know there are plenty of arguments against this conclusion (and I’ve considered them), but there is where I am right now.

    • Have you tried paying a full tithe for a length of time? Put the Lord to the test. Don’t worry that it might require you to ask for assistance. That isn’t a problem. Try to arrange your finances as best you can, maybe sit down with your Bishop or other trusted friend, and then see if you can manage it. Most of us have “been there” and worried how things would work out. This may be a chance to exercise faith in a way that you haven’t done in the past. I don’t believe in “prosperity gospel,” the concept that if you pay tithing, everything will magically resolve itself and you’ll find yourself more wealthy. But I do know you will receive blessings for your effort, often in the sweetest of ways.

      • Idiat,

        Jeannette is right in her assessment. letting others in your ward or branch know your financial business is asking for a world of trouble and I would not recommend it to anyone.

        I couldn’t disagree with you more, I’ve done that and when I needed the assistance because I gave the money that I had to tithe instead of savings, the Bishop refused.

      • Idiat, I can understand where you are coming from, as at other points in my life I would have expressed a similar sentiment. So while I 100% respect your suggestion, it is not where I am now.

        I have certainly paid tithing when it was difficult and required faith to do so, but it really is impossible right now. If my faith and desire to attend the temple were in a different place, perhaps I would try it anyway–I can’t really say–but even if I were able to make a 10% contribution, I would prefer that it not be a prerequisite to temple attendance. I admit that my position is based on my very personal view of what I think God wants of me.

      • I have known several full-tithe payers who were denied much needed assistance from the bishop. It doesn’t always work the way you claim.

  20. I’m conflicted on the whole temple interview process. I value the temple experience far too much to jeopardize my participation, but that gets tricky at interview time. It all depends on the person doing the interview as to how I phrase my answers. Sometimes he and I have really great discussions; sometimes I just give the answer he needs to hear to feel good about signing it, all the while asking myself “Do I feel welcome and worthy in the Lord’s House?” I realize there need to be gatekeepers for the Lord’s House, but I also have trouble imagining Jesus keeping anyone out who wants to come in.

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