Guest Post: The Temple Rec Interview and the Affiliating Question

by April

(April is a health educator and mother of three young children.)

temple recommend interviewYears 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.

April Young Bennett

April Young Bennett is the author of the Ask a Suffragist book series and host of the Religious Feminism Podcast. Learn more about April at

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144 Responses

  1. Keri Brooks says:

    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.”

    I think that’s a perfectly fine way of going about it. I agree that the question is worded awkwardly, but your interpretation strikes me as the right one. I’ve heard (and somebody correct me if I’m wrong) that this question was designed, post-manifesto, to keep polygamists out of the temple.

  2. April says:

    Wow. If that was the original intent of this question, they should change the question to, “Do you support polygamy?” Then I could easily shout an emphatic, “No!” (But I might be tempted to shout, “Hell, no!” which could be an inappropriate thing to say to a bishop.)

  3. ZD Eve says:

    This is one of the questions that gets me every time. I’ve always wanted to respond, “Every time I go to a family reunion.” Maybe next time, I will.

  4. Whitney says:

    I was also told this question was basically asking people if they were practicing polygamy. And I agree with April. Why not just ask the question you want to ask? Or maybe this is one of those things that institutions have that are purposely so incredibly flexible and vague that it gives them power to basically do whatever they want with people they don’t like.

  5. charlene says:

    Huh. Is it a separate question, or is this the same one, when they ask if you are affiliated with another religious organization? At least, I was under the impression there was a question that I was told was interpreted as “are you a member of another church?” and I think this was the one, but I’m not sure.

    Anyway, I now have to answer yes to that one (I’m a member of my husband’s Lutheran church, even though I go to the Mormon church every week and only go to the Lutheran one once a month or so), so I haven’t even bothered going to a temple interview in years (this is not even to get into my testimony, but I once got a baptism recommend with a really shaky testimony because the interviewer sympathized and thought going to the temple would be good for me). That always makes me a little sad.

    • Keri Brooks says:

      I just renewed my temple recommend last week, and there wasn’t a question about being affiliated with another religious organization. The only related question was the one that April used as the subject of this post.

      • charlene says:

        Thanks! I think someone must once have told me that other church affiliation was what that question was for. But since so many people are saying it is polygamy, maybe I will try again sometime.

  6. Caroline says:

    Thanks for this post, April!

    I too thought this question was quite the head-scratcher when I first was getting interviewed. Of course I affiliate and support people and orgs whose views are contrary to that of the church’s. Who doesn’t? But my husband’s take, when I asked him, was much like that of the above commenters — that
    that question is code for “Do you support or affiliate with Mormon polygamists?” That explanation makes sense to me.

    But I do wish they would just change the question to say that. I imagine there are all sorts of LDS out there who are concerned because they affiliate/support people whose views oppose that of the church’s.

    And you’re right to point out the very real problems of taking that question too literally. We should absolutely be active in our communities and making friends with people of other lifestyles and faiths.

    • Debbie says:

      What about being affiliated with “members” who say we have a fallen prophet and try their best to get other members to believe it? I think apostate groups fit into this category.

    • Candas says:

      I always thought that it applied to MORE than just the polygamy. It can apply to any organization that supports pedophelia, human trafficing, drug cartells, money laundering, intentionally dis-honest practices etc. Now you might say that those people aren’t members of our church, but in some peoples minds, it’s simply a “job” and they categorize in their minds “work” and “home” whereas we are a whole human, not 2 parts. So I guess when I am asked that question, I think within myself, is there anything that I am hiding from the Lord? Am I a whole person within the church and without?

  7. Amelia says:

    I’m with you, April–this question is just a bit bizarre when it’s taken seriously. I have heard from lots of people that it’s meant to disqualify people who affiliate with Mormon splinter groups, specifically those that practice polygamy. But I think we’d be very naive not to recognize that it is, as Whitney suggests, that the question is purposely flexible (to such an extent that every single one of us could conceivably be required to answer “yes” and faulted for not doing so were certain undesirable affiliations to come to light) so that the church leaves itself enough wiggle room that it can give the boot to members of whom it disapproves. The church’s official definition of apostasy is very much the same way.

    Personally I find it a little disgusting that the church uses what I consider underhanded tactics to cover their backside when they want to give someone the boot. Just points to how fuzzy the issues so often are when someone is disciplined for reasons of apostasy, whether the discipline is simply denying access to the temple or full blown excommunication. I can only explain the need to push out people whose believes lie on the borders of Mormonism as a manifestation of fear. And I take the scriptures pretty seriously when they explain fear as having no place in the gospel or in the hearts of its followers. Makes me mad when I see fear directing policy and practice of the church.

    • karene says:

      Why do make this kind of judgemental comments? 99.99% of the time we do not have all the facts of what goes on in these cases and yet we talk as if we know everything.

    • Heather says:

      I asked the first counselor of the stake presidency, who was doing my stake interview at the time, what exactly did that mean. I find it strange that people don’t just ask. A lot of people are disgruntled, mad, enraged, etc, but it doesn’t sound like they ever even asked why that question is there. From the answer I received, I understand this question to be talking about anti-Mormon groups, or other groups that are openly opposed to the church. The word ‘affiliate’ does not mean knowing someone and being friends with them. Nor does it refer to family members, etc. It actually deals with branches or organized groups and belonging to them, being a member of a group. So, basically, this question is not there to weed out those who are friends with people that don’t live by the gospel teachings, it is not there to weed out those who are friends or who have family that are homosexual, it is not to weed out those the church simply doesn’t like or to cover their backsides…it is simply to make sure the members are not involved with organized groups that are directly opposed to the gospel teachings and doctrine. That’s it. Plain and simple.

      • Heather says:

        I’ve also never heard of the polygamist reason. I think that is someone’s interpretation that spread around like Mormon myths tend to do.

      • Cami says:

        I, too, have asked for an explanation when being interviewed. I got the same type of answer – that affiliated means actually belonging to a group that teaches very anti-Mormon ideas. Also, I would think that this question is worded ambiguously so that it can raise a dialog with your Priesthood leader. If you have a question about it, it’s a good time to discuss it with your Bishop or Stake Presidency member. This way, we can be fully honest in accepting the responsibilities of a temple recommend.

      • Caren Nelson says:

        Well-said! I absolutely agree with everything you said, starting with if you don’t know, ASK.
        I have always thought it meant anti-Mormon groups as well, never once heard polygamy either.
        Interesting to see what others have thought/believed.

      • Justin says:

        I agree. At my first ever recommend interview, having recently returned to activity after 10+ years, I asked my stake president what this question meant. His explanation to me was the same as you have stated.

        The whole rec interview is a time for self evaluation. None of the questions should be answered without truly considering your worthiness. The interview should not be as simple as walking in giving split second answers… These questions aren’t designed to restrict anyone…. They are there for you to consider whether or not you are worthy to enter into a House of God.

  8. Mike H. says:

    …this question was designed, post-manifesto, to keep polygamists out of the temple.

    Back in the 1930’s, my grandparents lived in the New Harmony area of Utah. When they had moved in, it turned out that the infamous Ervil LeBaron, The Church of the Firstborn Leader one (Plural Marriage forever type of group), was teaching the adult Sunday School in that Ward! My grandfather raised a fuss about it. Eventually, LeBaron was released as teacher. I think that some members there being in awe of LeBaron’s knowledge was a really bad reason to let him be teacher.

    Now, I do have a problem with being hostile to the LGBT community. Some members imply that being hostile to them is being “valiant”, but I disagree with that.

  9. Lisa says:

    When the counselor asked that question in my last temple recommend interview (around the time of Prop 8), I said, “I’m not really sure how to answer that question…” The counselor was quick to say, “They’re not asking about Prop 8 or anything like that – they just want to know whether you are a polygamist.” So, I just said “no” and we moved on. I also wish they would change that question. It’s very unclear.

  10. Hilary says:

    This question hasn’t been hard for me — but the ‘honest in all your doings’ one . . . dang, I feel like a liar every time I answer it! Who’s honest ALL the time? Do white lies count? I told the telemarketer on the phone we already had bought that product, when I hadn’t, ’cause I’m too wimpy to just say I’m not interested. I don’t steal or scam or do anything big like that, but I probably say stuff like, “Oh, sorry I didn’t answer your call, I must’ve missed it,” at least a couple times a day!

  11. Diane says:


    Amen to that

    I also have a hard time when I was a member answering the questions, okay, do I pay tithing on disability payments. I don’t think so, that’s like the government double dipping, that’s money as far as I’m concerned has already been tithe on. I’ve actually had someone I should have payed on that. Its’ just so ridiculous at times

  12. Chloe says:

    Great post. The older I get, the less comfortable I feel with answering that question and the one about honesty. I have not met too many people who are totally honest, and those few I have met who seemed honest were also very judgmental and outspoken. I wish the temple recommend questions included: Do you try to be kind to others? Do you try to follow the Savior to the best of your ability?

    I answer the honesty question by qualifying my answer. I say, “I try to be honest to the best of my ability.” I’ve never been turned down for a recommend yet 🙂

    • Kevin Black says:

      “I wish the temple recommend questions included: Do you try to be kind to others? Do you try to follow the Savior to the best of your ability?”
      = That is asked (do you strive to … keep your life in harmony with the laws and commandments of the gospel?)

  13. Moriah Jovan says:

    Around here (KC metro area, Independence, Liberty, MO), that question makes a helluva lot more sense when there are a gazillion splinter groups that all claim to be The True Church Descended From The Prophet Joseph, all of their leaders claiming to be prophets in their own right. They may or may not practice polygamy, but they do certainly preach that the Mormon church is a pack of lies.

    I never even blinked the first time I heard the question because I knew exactly what it was asking.

    • Karen Zea says:

      I am glad you brought that up. I think it means a lot more than polygamy. I don’t hesitate with this question either. My take on this question is “are you on the Lord’s side, or not?” In other words…are you working against the building of the kingdom of God by your actions or your affiliations. Of course, associating with friends and being able to share the gospel with them would not be considered unworthy of the temple. Several of the replies on this thread make me very uncomfortable. I think this question is to make us reflect on our own progression and affiliation. If the Lord wanted the bishops to ask if we were polygamists he would do that! Certainly that is included, but so are SEVERAL other issues. Is it really a good idea to be suggesting that the Lord should change the wording to the temple interview? I would rather ask why I feel that way, and what I can do to change my attitude so that my will lines up with the Lord’s will.

      • Meghan schwanke says:

        I agree with Karen- the question is broad on purpose to embrace all possible iterations of “afiliating”. Like Black Swans, we really cannot conceive of all the future or presently hidden-in-plain-sight groups or persuasions against the Lord’s side . They may even be inside our wards decorated as political ideologies: anti-others – “I have mine and to h with anyone who wants my tax money to help anyone else”…..i.e. schools (my kids are grown), health care (we already do in the e.r.) etc. My LDS neighbor can quote raucous conservative talk show actors better than she can the living Prophet, I am convinced that we need to study the scriptures with the influence of the Spirit, pray with sincerity to the living God and then be as upfront with ourselves about our progress as we can . We know the standards. Yes,willing, as we covenant in the sacrament. In fact we are answering to our Heavenly Father and He knows our imperfections and intents and still WANTS us to learn and improve and counts that as progress. He does not expect perfection . We know when we are trying despite all the telestial boulders. I take the recommend interview seriously but realize the questions are at the same time broad and specific as the Spirit reveals.

      • April says:

        While I agree with a good deal of what you say, Karen, I think it is important to recognize that with the exception of Moses and the ten commandments, the Lord rarely writes stuff out for us. Joseph Smith received revelation from God, but it took him several drafts to write the revelations out in English words. I propose that this temple recommend interview question may need a few more drafts before it matches its inspired intent–there is a great deal of clumsiness in the way it is written now, which I attribute to humans, not the Lord.

    • Kathi says:

      Moriah, I loved your response. It is the best one yet so far. There are many who would decieve us, and the first step in that is affiliating and agreeing with false doctrine.

      Follow the Prophet! He knows the way!

      • Lynn says:

        This is really in response to Meghan, who sounds like she’s also not a far-right, Glenn Beck worshiper. One of last times I had a temple recommend interview was during this past presidential election moment and I actually asked the bishop if it was OK if I did not vote Republican, if it was OK if I affiliated with Democrats and if I voted for a Democrat could I still be counted temple-worthy! (He said yes.)

    • Andrea S. says:

      This is certainly an interesting discussion. I never thought of this question to be asking about polygamist affiliation. My take on it has always been ‘do I support groups or organizations that are contrary to, or fighting against, the church publicly or privately.’ For example: Planned Parenthood, The Masons, or even Proposition 8 supporters (which if you support, then maybe you shouldn’t be going to the temple anyway). I thought the polygamist thing was kind of a given.

      • Sharon says:

        I’m not sure I agree with these organizations. My father was a mason and a local LDS leader for years…He finally gave up free masonry because of time constraints (only to be called as a Bishop a year later).

        And prop 8? There are many states that didn’t require the solmenization of marriage until the mid 1800’s. Personally, I would have loved to just gotten sealed, I’m not sure why the state needs to get involved.

        And dont forget it was a Republican that catapulted Planned parenthood into a nationwide organization supported by our taxes.

  14. jks says:

    I think many people need to be more honest. I wonder how they answer the honesty question because I was raised to be honest but I notice how others are not quite as honest.
    I try not to be judgemental about it. I try to chalk it up to “cultural ettiquette” making it ok to lie in certain situation. I wrack my brain trying to find ways that I might be technically dishonest so that I can understand the rampant dishonesty I see around me. I have managed to come up with the fact that I sometimes automatically say “fine” when asked “How are you?” rather than thinking about the question and answering it honestly.
    However, in having to love and excuse the little white lies of those around me, I think I might be slipping. It makes me a little sad. Honesty is such an easy black and white issue but people are so willing to turn it into a big gray mess.

    • momto4ls says:

      AMEN! I am not saying that I don’t struggle with honesty, but I am saying I know that lying is wrong. Making excuses for it doesn’t help. Not saying a word can give a false impression – that is still dishonest.

  15. Eric says:

    During my last interview, I answered something like this: “If I were to give an overly literal interpretation to that question, I’d have to say it would preclude me from being either a Republican or a Democrat, among other things. But in the spirit of what the question means and where the question came from, the answer is no.”

  16. kelly ann says:

    I read a post at FMH a couple years ago, that I liked. It essentially focused on saying “yes, I try” or “yes, I do my best” without necessarily vocalizing the latter – although doing so if comfortable. And this was in the context of the first three belief questions. If I remember correctly the writer also focused on honing on those listed beliefs. It was mentioned that it is not asked if one believes in joseph smith. At the time I felt it gave me room not to like him or his practice of polygamy or all the other things I had issue about the church but still consider returning to the temple.

  17. YvonneS says:

    That question used to read sympathetic with any group, etc. You can imagine how confusing that was. Affiliate is better.

    The really important question though and the toughest one IMO is the one that goes do you feel worthy in every way. That is the one that always makes me stop and think.

    • Maureen says:

      That reminds me of a time when I was clinically depressed and it was physically impossible for me to feel worthy. I already had a recommend from before but had forgotten to bring it on a ward trip. My then bishop asked me that question and I couldn’t honestly answer yes, though I could have really used hearing him tell me that yes I was worthy regardless of my current unalterable feelings. Instead he just smugly denied me the opportunity to enter the temple that night while everyone else went in without me.

      Is it really wise to deny people the blessings of the temple if their “feelings” of worthiness (or lack thereof) do not reflect the actuality of their worthiness?

      • Ursula says:

        Nope. Not if it’s caused by a mental condition. I wish he’d known what was going on in your head. If he had, he might have acted differently. Our Branch President has in a similar situation.

      • LJacobson says:

        Bishops aren’t mind readers, you need to tell them what is troubling you, or they aren’t going to be able to understand, or help. If you tell a Bishop you don’t feel worthy to enter the temple, he can’t give you a recommend — that’s pretty much a deal breaker. With enough time, you might have been able to explain that it was your depression, not your behavior, or your beliefs that made you feel unworthy, but it sounds like you were in a rushed situation with little time for explanations.

      • Maureen says:

        That Bishop was neither new to his calling nor unaware of my condition. As I already stated I had a recommend from earlier, but simply forgot it at home. And I had a recommend after that, as he did not revoke it. I don’t presume to understand fully why he just denied me that temple night or condemn him for it, though he did go on later to show more hurtful prejudice towards those with mental illness.

        But the situation itself shows that temple recommend interview questions can and have been worded and interpreted badly. I was worthy, and not feeling worthy should not be a “deal breaker”. It was wrong to deny me that (however ignorantly or unintentionally done), your assumptions LJacobson were unkind, and defending that wrong hurtful.

    • Nan says:

      Hasn’t the wording on that one even softened over the years?

  18. alex w. says:

    I’ve never heard the polygamy interpretation of that question, but then again, I haven’t put a lot of thought into temple recommend questions in general lately, either. I don’t understand why it would sound like one thing (like others, I wonder if I’m a ‘bad Mormon’ on that front for supporting gay friends, loving my nonmember mother, and being engaged to an atheist.) but mean another. Could someone explain it a bit more for me? Or does anyone know why they say it one way but mean polygamy?

    • momto4ls says:

      Read my reply to Moriah Jovan above. I believe that they say what they mean.

    • LJacobson says:

      They don’t ask if you are affiliated with polygamous groups because the question isn’t limited to polygamy. You aren’t a “bad Mormon” for being kind to gay friends, loving your non-member mother, or having an atheist fiancee. But if you are given to carrying placards that say, “Mormons Will Burn in Hell” down at Temple Square every Easter… it’s probably unrealistic to expect a Bishop to give you a temple recommend.

  19. jks says:

    “does anyone know why they say it one way but mean polygamy?”
    While polygamy may have been the main reason to add the question, they broadened it so that anyone who joins a group that is anti-Mormon in purpose can be denied a recommend, or anyone can take stock of their affiliations and whether they are working against the kingdom of God.
    Just like honesty, you can draw the line wherever you want I guess. Individuals might draw them differently but I believe there should be a line. Unfortunately some people might whine and beg for an exact line, but do we really need one from SLC or can people figure out for themselves if they are trying to destroy the church of God? Asking the question is a good check for people to think about it.
    Sometimes a temple recommend interview is like a patriarchal blessing. You’ve read it before but suddenly something jumps out at you. You may have answer the question dozens of times, but now you need to actually think about it and determine if your priorities are where you intend for them to be.

  20. el oso says:

    Around where I live the affiliated groups also include communists, white supremacists and other fringe groups.
    Of course if anyone is known to be on the state or national Obama ’12 campaign they might have some trouble in this area. We never hear politics at church, but the voting patterns of my county are well documented to be very conservative.

  21. Amy says:

    Wow! Interesting. I didn’t know the history of that question in regards to polygamists, but I guess it makes sense. I always took the spirit of the question to be whether I was affiliating with groups who were trying to basically destroy the church and it’s principles. I am sure that it has nothing to do with loving and caring about those who do not believe in the same way we do. And I really don’t think it means if you are affiliating with your family- even if they are anti-mormon. Thanks for all your thoughts!

  22. Erin says:

    My Bishop clarified this for me when I first got my recommend. It does mean the same thing you are asking yourself. Are you in an organized effort to destroy the church.

    • Kathi says:


      • Mike says:

        Whenever I was asked to explain this question in a recommend interview, polygamy never entered my mind. I explaned exactly what you state…are you sympathetic to any group who’s mission is to destroy or undermine the church and do you support their efforts? Do I agree with my gay relatives life style? No. Am I there when they need my help and do I support them and love them as members of my family and include them in every family activity they wish to attend? 100% YES.

  23. Monica says:

    I actually like the tough questions like this because they cause a lot of self-reflection and make me think about what is being asked in ways that I would not have otherwise. That can be a good thing, I think. It allows me to be self-corrective, accountable, and self-aware of where I stand on different issues.

  24. Karen says:

    If you don’t affiliate with those opposed to the church you definitely cant be a missionary of the gospel. If I hide in church pew, who hears me? That’s not the purpose of this question. In other words, do you support those that seek to destroy the church. Like, did you give $50 to so-and-so to hand out anti-church propaganda. To me, it doesn’t mean don’t have any association because then you lose the missionary part of the church which is key. So here’s my question: if I am a member and others seek to destroy me, isn’t that an affiliation with someone who seeks to destroy the church, because they seek to destroy me? Hmmmmm…..

  25. clau says:

    The “poligamy matter” as an implicit quiestion behind is very strange for lds in Europe wth no poligamy ties at all, because the temple recommendation question is the same, even in Spain, so if thats the case I suggest a more clear question (even poligamy is not the issue behind the cuestion, I¨ll change it)

    Anyway, I dont support or agree with individual with practices and teachings against the church´s. I may be affiliate with a group that sometimes does -a political party, for example-, but those times I don´t agree with it. Of course I don´t think that my own family is a “group” to be “affiliate” with, they conduct as almost every one around me, openly, and freely thinking, teaching and doing opposing to my believe. So we can agree to the right to express ideas freely and not agree to the matter expressed.

  26. LJacobson says:

    I’ve never had a problem with that particular question. I have to do a bit of soul searching on the treating family members correctly (does grouchiness count?), but the affiliation question has always been a no-brainer. Can I associate with someone who doesn’t believe what I believe? Of course I can. The question has nothing to do with being kind to a relative with moral problems, or friendly with an atheist neighbor. Can I donate money or volunteer time to an organization that teaches doctrine/practices/morals that are directly opposed to church teachings? Well, I can, but I shouldn’t ask for a temple recommend if I do. Honestly, I don’t understand why anyone who rejects church doctrine would even want a temple recommend. What are they going to do with it? Go to the temple and spend time listening to more doctrine they don’t like? If you really resent the temple recommend questions, then don’t ask for a recommend… problem solved. If you just find the questions confusing, find out who teaches Temple Preparation classes in your ward, and sign up to take the class.

  27. Arnold says:

    The question on honesty is:

    “Are you honest in your dealings with your fellow man?”

    Some have interpreted this to mean strictly in business dealings. In other words, “Do you cheat others in business?”.

    Priesthood leaders need to be careful in how they interpret the questions asked, as evidenced here with several divergent interpretations of the same question.

    I agree with April’s understanding that this is a self evaluation. I believe it is also an opportunity for us to declare our faithfulness to the Lord through His representative.

  28. Nan says:

    I once read a talk by a general authority who said that they call them “general” authorities because they are only allowed to speak in generalities. (He was addressing a group of college-age LDS women majoring in science and engineering. ) I think the purpose for the question’s continuation in the interview, and its vagueness, is so that we can assess our own spirituality by listening to the Holy Ghost. I remember once, in the past year or so, feeling that my continued (though rather cursory) affiliation with a certain group was causing me to lose the Spirit, and the words of this question came to me, unexpectedly and rather forcefully. When I first began with the group it hadn’t even occurred to me. I took the prompting with those specific words to mean that it was time for ME to get out. Most of the people in the group are LDS. Does it mean THEY should get out? Not necessarily. It means that we are all in a different place and what is right for one may not be right for another when it comes to things that don’t pertain directly to our salvation (like participation in politics, donations to certain groups, our choice of reading materials, for example). I think I am with those here who believe that while the question may have originally been geared toward polygamy-sympathizers, it has stayed in the interview for a reason and can’t be easily explained away.

    • Jen says:

      This is very well put, and captures what I believe to be the spirit of the law in the question, rather than us getting hung up on what the letter of the law is with the wording. Thanks for sharing!

  29. Paula says:

    This is a Faith & Works question. This question is not solely about polygamy, that is just one of the examples. This question is about Covenants. We Covenant throughout our lives to do certain things and God Covenants to bless us for our obedience. We are then ask if we affiliate or support (financial) any organization that is in opposition of the covenants we make with our Father in Heaven. Basically, you agree (make a covenant) to do one thing (Faith), then go do something else (Works). This question is asking if you are living up to your covenants – are your Works in line with your Faith. This may apply differently to each person, based on their individual covenants with our Father in Heaven & their circumstances. It does not encourage us to hate, disassociate, or shun anyone. It is about OUR beliefs and OUR actions based on our covenants with our Father in Heaven. Just because you have a friend of a different Faith or different life style; go to another church with a spouse; or help your coffee drinking neighbor, etc. , you are not going against this question. This is about living and acting our belief – not saying one thing and believing another.

  30. Marcia says:

    If you don’t understand the question, why not ask your bishop or stake president. I’m sure that they would be glad to expound on the meaning.

  31. Mellie says:

    I have learned and thought about much as I have read and pondered the article and “all” of the replys, many different, yet good thoughts and interpetations of the Temple Recommend questions. I totally agree with LJacobson ” If you find the questions confusing, find out who teaches Temple Preparation classes in your ward, sign up to take the class”. It couldn’t hurt if you are questioning. Make it a matter of prayer. As you attend the temple, ponder the questions, make your expereince a rich experience and the opportunity to feel of the spirit. The spirit of the question will be come clear-the honesty question is one that needs to be deeper thought about. I have answered yes, I am trying to questions, and I feel good about it. I’m grateful for the opportunity to attend the temple, I’m not perfect…but each time I go I feel refreshed and happy that I went.

  32. Anna says:

    I just had my recommend renewal interview this past Sunday, and it was this question that gave me pause also. For the past three years I have attended a local women’s bible study at another church. More than half of the 120 people who attend are from churches other than this one, where it is held. Since we also hold to the bible, I don’t see it as conflicting with the LDS beliefs at all.

    More than that, this has been a fantastic outreach to people of other faiths, in increasing understanding about the LDS beliefs. I am open about what church I attend, and each year my group is amazed that I read the same bible they do, and find nothing conflicting as we study its precepts. There has previously been some hard feelings toward our church in the community, and many of the people in my groups had major misconceptions about our beliefs. My “affiliation” with people of other faiths has done much to increase understanding and has even brought some people to attend LDS church functions, who previously would never have set foot in our building.

    • Nan says:

      Good on you, Anna!

    • Maureen says:

      Ditto to what Nan said.

      I had a similar experience shortly after I joined the Church. At one point they were even reading anti-Mormon literature to me (not a fun evening). But I stood my ground and they ended up kinder towards me in the end.

  33. Robin S says:

    I struggled with that question even as a preisthood leader asking it. But at the end of the day it comes down to what direction I think you are going in your life. I know that as my wife and I have tried to follow the apostolic call to get involved in the community(local scouting committees) we have been chastised and called out by local church leadership for not being involved solely in church and that we shouldn’t be involved in the community. So as was said earlier we don’t bother with a recommend and just try to live by the standards and teach them to our family

    • Debra says:

      That’s terrible! In the Raleigh area, we are encouraged to serve and be involved in the community in addition to our church callings. We are well known in the community.

  34. Christian says:

    The question IS primarily about polygamist splinter groups but it’s not limited to that. I think most people here that have commented so far could give an honest “no” as an answer to this question. You don’t have to feel bad for not socially ostracizing those who identify as LGBT or that you have a friend who smokes and you haven’t rebuked them yet, or plan to ever rebuke them. It really IS about if you are secretly (or not secretly) trying to counter the Church’s mission. Historically, another part of the issue is that some of the fundamentalist groups still believe that the LDS church has some truth and some authority to it but that you have to go to the (the fundamentalist groups) for higher ordinances. So, the Church (the only true and living church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) wants to make sure it doesn’t have fundamentalist-sympathizing welfare leeches or that it doesn’t provide ordinances to somebody who thinks a superior organization is out there.

  35. Rick Casady says:

    This question can also pertain to political extremists, described in this article about Brian Mitchell and Wanda Barzee’s influences: I knew the Mitchells personally when they were active in the church. Some folks have flocked to the John Birch Society and survivalists/domestic terrorists sympathetic with the likes of Tim McVeigh, Bo Gritz, Eric Rudolph and white supremacist factions. I believe Glenn Beck and his followers, channeling the conspiratorial theories of W. Cleon Skousen, partakes of this tradition. Some splinter groups have also evolved from study groups. I tend to see the Sunstone Symposia as a public way to share controversial ideas with LDS and non-LDS outside the faith, some use them as an excuse to attack the church directly. People who get excessively into esoteric speculation and extreme piety are also those who tend to leave the church and recruit adherents.

  36. Rick Casady says:

    This question can also pertain to political extremists, described in this article about Brian Mitchell and Wanda Barzee’s influences: I knew the Mitchells personally when they were active in the church. Some folks have flocked to the John Birch Society and survivalists/domestic terrorists sympathetic with the likes of Tim McVeigh, Bo Gritz, Eric Rudolph and white supremacist factions. I believe Glenn Beck and his followers, channeling the conspiratorial theories of W. Cleon Skousen, partakes of this tradition. Some splinter groups have also evolved from study groups. While I tend to see the Sunstone Symposia as a public way to share controversial ideas with LDS and non-LDS outside the faith, some use them as an excuse to attack the church directly. People who get excessively into esoteric speculation and extreme piety are also those who tend to leave the church and recruit adherents.

  37. Peter Boysen says:

    I am sure you are all thinking too hard. That question means do you agree with and follow the teachings of any group, whose teachings are contrary to those of the LDS Church. Most of us should be able to answer “No” to that question without any problem.

    • karene says:

      Finally somebody who can give a simple direct answer. I just don’t understand the big fuzz about the question to me it is straight forward. Peter have it right.

    • Nan says:

      I don’t think there is anything wrong with thinking deeply about something and taking your answers to the recommend interview very seriously. Just because something is straightforward to you doesn’t make it so for others. People brain’s process things differently, their personalities and backgrounds come to bear on their understanding, etc. The Lord can work with all of us. I think the post here is encouragement to thoughtfully consider our worthiness to enter the temple. I’m not sure that such a thing can be “overthought.” Perhaps it should always be in our thoughts. Nor is there anything wrong with the question being straightforward and easy for you. Mormons aren’t made from the same cookie cutter. . . or even the same dough for that matter.

    • Moriah Jovan says:

      Mormons aren’t made from the same cookie cutter. . . or even the same dough for that matter.

      I am sugar cookie dough. My aunt is pfeffernüsse. My mother is chocolate chip. Oatmeal raisin is clearly of the devil.

  38. SilverRain says:

    According to my understanding, there is absolutely no way that this (or any) temple recommend question is created to let the Church kick out whomever they don’t like. The temple recommend questions aren’t qualifications for membership AT ALL.

    They’re not even created to keep people out of the temple, since all anyone has to do is answer “yes” or “no” appropriately. It’s easy as pie to lie, or even delude oneself.

    The questions are there for two main reasons. First, to give each of us who have made covenants in the temple a chance to examine our own testimonies, to weigh ourselves as journeyman disciples of Christ. Secondly, the questions are asked by a member of the bishopric to open the floor to any questions or concerns we might have. They give us a chance to discuss things with our bishopric that might be weighing on our minds.

    That’s all they are for. Whether or not they are answered truthfully or fully, whether or not we use the opportunity to discuss things that may be bothering us, is completely between us and the Lord. The bishopric are only representatives of Him in absentia.

  39. Janet N. says:

    There are some good posts here and I agree that if you don’t understand a question in a temple recommend interview, that is the time to talk to your bishop or stake president about it. They are the ones you should clarify this with, not some magazine article. the person who teaches the Temple Prep. class can be a resource, but the person signing the recommend is the best source. I received my first temple recommend in southern California back in the 60’s, and I interpreted that question to include sympathizing with any anti-mormon groups because I knew people who had left the church and were actively working to take other members with them. Check with your bishop! And if you have a desire to attend the temple but are afraid of the questions in the interview, talk to your bishop or stake president! I find it really sad that people are willing to live their lives without temple blessings because they are not willing to “live” according to temple covenants which require a strong committment to emulating the Savior. Again, talk to your bishop or stake president!!!

  40. H.G.C. says:

    Thanks for this post – I came to it because it was linked in the LDS Living Mormon Report – Best of Blogs page today.

    I have always interpreted this question as sympathizing with Anti-Mormon groups who may be trying to get into the Temple “undercover”. The only time it has made me pause is when I was actively reading Dialogue and attending Sunstone. But then I thought about why I read Dialogue and remembered the faith-promoting articles and stories I had read. I pondered my experiences at Sunstone and I remembered how I felt the Spirit there as much as in some church testimony meetings and lessons. So I answered “no” and moved on to the next question.

    The ones that do give me pause now are the honesty and family ones as mentioned in previous comments. I look the Bishop in the eye and reply that I’m doing my best. He usually smiles and moves on to the next question.

  41. Martin says:

    For me it is straightfoward, do you affliate/support?

    Translation: Do you agree with and think that you should too?

    Do I think I should smoke? no Do I support the act of smoking? no
    Do I think I should have premarital sex? no Do I support the act of premartial sex? no

    Like I say, seems straightforward.

  42. Kevin Black says:

    Oh brother. As someone who does these interviews rather often, I’d like to offer a few responses to the original article (but of course these are just my personal thoughts and/or guesses).
    1. The obvious thing to do is to answer truthfully the actual question asked! That’s the whole premise behind this interview, after all. If your answer isn’t what the interviewer expects, then he will ask what you mean and follow up as appropriate. After all, many if not all of the interview questions allow more than one initial answer, e.g. do you owe child support? If you do, you say yes, and then you’re asked if you’re current etc. Ditto if you say no when asked if you consider yourself worthy to enter the temple, the interviewer will ask why and discuss that with you. If you feel your bishop holds an adverse, idiosyncratic interpretation, he or your stake president will likely be glad to discuss it with you. I’ve had several frank but comfortable conversations with members about this and other questions in the interview.
    2. I would guess that these questions were probably initially written by a lawyer (one of the Twelve, I mean). I read somewhere that lawyers don’t write with the intent to make understanding easier but rather with the intent to make misunderstanding impossible. In other words, I think if you are on the cast of Big Love and you’re trying to sneak a recommend, but you’re not willing to outright lie about it, then the question is worded in a way that makes it impossible for you to honestly answer the question in the negative. To switch to a medical metaphor, I’d guess this question was meant to be a screening test, i.e. it should have high sensitivity but not necessarily high specificity.
    3. I think the details of the wording are important. First, I think April is right that “affiliate with” in a religious setting traditionally means to be a (formal or informal) member of a church. Similarly “agree with.” Second, the question talks about “teachings or practices.” I think in context it is not irrational to conclude that that refers to religious beliefs and rites. Third and more important, I don’t read “contrary to or oppose” as equivalent to “differ from”.
    4. Despite my frustration with the approach April takes in her post, I believe her private interpretation is mostly in line with the question’s intent. To support that conclusion, I cite the recent re-issue of the Temples magazine, in which Pres. Packer briefly summarizes the recommend interview as follows: “The person must certify that he or she is morally clean and is keeping the Word of Wisdom, paying a full tithing, living in harmony with the teachings of the Church, and not maintaining any affiliation or sympathy with apostate groups” (emphasis mine).

  43. I enjoyed your post, April. I’d also like to read more insights on the temple inteview as well.

    Questions to check a member’s worthiness come out of a specific necessity. During the Mormon Reformation, people were asked how often they bathed and if they stole their neighbors’ cattle.

    It’s always great when someone put things into a historical context. Keri Brooks has it right: the question was originally designed to detect people with Fundamentalist leanings within the church. It didn’t mean only plural marriage though, but a lot of doctrinal issues such as Adam-God, for example.

    It’s kind of fun to think that if that questions doesn’t have a clear meaning today to most members the same it true to most bishops and stake presidents.

    As we do with many things in the church, we tend to adapt and take them out of their context so that they may still have a current relevance. So where I live in Brazil that question could mean “are you friends with the drug dealers?”. Depending on where one is and who is in charge, it could possibly mean “do you support same-sex marriage?” or “do you attend Sunstone simpposia?” etc.

    Five years ago, I saw a bishop saying that people should be asked who they voted for in the temple interview! Too bad, right? But such a question can lead to that kind of open interpretation.

  44. Ken H says:

    Many years ago, the question was phrased “Do you have any affiliation with apostate groups of the Church?” When I was a Youth and asked this question during an interview, I had never heard the word apostate, and since it sounded like apostle, I thought it had a good meaning, so I answered the question in the affirmative, since I was active in the Church at the time. After the counselor in the bishopric picked his jaw off the floor, he then proceeded to instruct me as to what the word “apostate” meant. Needless to say, I was a bit embarrassed.

  45. Michael D. says:

    I think that at least some of the issue might be clarified by pointing out that “affiliate” and “associate” are two different things. Associating with people of other faiths is one thing, but affiliating with them is another.

    When I looked up the word “affiliate” in the dictionary, I found the following definition: “be intimately united in action or interest.” That sounds like more that just merely associating with someone. It sounds more like you are one of them or aligning yourself with them.

    I agree that one of the main reasons for the question originally was that fundamentalists (who had no temple of their own) were trying to sneak into our temples and take out their endowments so that they would wear the temple garments, etc. It seems obvious that the wording on the question is intentionally broad in order to cover other forms of apostasy as well, other than just polygamy.

    Those who attribute the broad wording of the question to some sort of nefarious scheme on the part of our Church leaders to give them some way of excommunicating people that they don’t like is just plain silly. Why would we send out 50,000 missionaries to bring people into the Church just so that we could excommunicate them?

  46. Rachel says:

    I think it is a clear question, however I see a distinction between the word affiliation and association. To affiliate myself with a particular group or person means that I am a member of, a subordinate of, or a connected supporter of that group. To associate myself with a particular group or person means I am a friend of, spend time socially, keep company with, and sometimes even a partner or member of the same organization.

    If a particular gym was owned by a Catholic, an Atheist, or a Polygamist – I can still be a member of that gym without affiliating myself with Catholicisim, Atheism, or Polygamy. If the owner of the gym chooses to take a portion of his profits and donate them to one particular organization or another, that is his business… not a question of my affiliation. If the gym is owned by the Catholic Diocese and publicly advertised they use a percentage of member fees go to support that endeavor, then I am affiliating myself with the Catholic Diocese by knowingly giving them money to further the Catholic organization.

    If a particular neighbor is a Catholic, an Atheist, or a Polygamist (just as examples… not that these are the only belief systems contrary to the LDS Church) — I can still be friends with, associate with, have a barbecue with, or go on a camping trip with those people. If they also hold Sunday School in their home each week. If they invite me to a seance or a plural marriage ceremony and I am an LDS Church member, I have the agency to say “No thank you, that is not in keeping with my beliefs or standards.” If they invite me to a barbecue where the plural wife, the Catholic Priest, or the White Supremacist is present, that is associating with people, not affiliating myself with polygamy, Catholicism, or beliefs contrary to LDS Church teachings.

    If you work for a company owned by a practicing Muslim or Jew, are you affiliating yourself with those opposing Church doctrine? No. You can even attend the Bat Mitzvah of your boss’ child. But you probably shouldn’t send your tithing check to support the local synagogue.

    Sadly, as a child in a polygamous family, it was my Mormon friends whose mothers told them not to play with me because I had two Moms. It was the Mormons who believed associating with me and befriending me or treating me kindly somehow made them “dirty” and “unworthy”. It was also the one Mormon family in the neighborhood who treated us kindly, even equally, who we watched fireworks with every fourth of July and enjoyed Christmas Eve celebrations together every year that kept me realizing that not all Mormon’s were prejudiced bigots who singled out polygamists in their intolerance. And for the Linton Family, I am grateful to them for being Christlike in their approach and in their friendship.

  47. Rachel says:

    Ah, just realized an error. I didn’t finish a thought. It should read

    … “If they also hold Sunday School in their home each week and want me to participate in it, then it is a choice of associating with them to understand their perception better by attending once or twice… or affiliating myself with them by continuing to attend and lining my belief system up with theirs… or of simply saying “No, Thank You, that’s not for me.” …

  48. Julie says:

    I personally don’t think the question has to do with associating with other faiths (that would be rather silly, wouldn’t it, when we are open to unifying efforts with i.e. Catholic Charities and all of the wonderful interfaith work the Church does). I think part if it has to do with pro-gay marriage groups, joining up with those kinds of things. I know so many of my friends who are pro-gay marriage/gay militant and don’t agree with the Lord’s stance on gay marriage/homosexuality, and they say they wouldn’t be able to answer that question in the interview. They are involved with very active pro gay marriage groups that are vehemently and angrily against God’s teachings and the Church’s stance on gay marriage (not gays per se, the marriage and adoption thing). Could be any sort of fringe group not in harmony with God’s teachings. Not the little nit-picky things that previous people had suggested (not affiliating with people who drink or smoke? Come on folks, that’s looking way too beyond the mark and is just plain silly).

    I can totally see why this is a wise question in the interview. If you’re on the fringes and support these things (gay marriage only one example, not the only) you aren’t in harmony with God’s teachings. If this bothers you, you’re probably already going down a different path as it is.

  49. Julie says:

    By the way, Kevin, you totally nailed it. Good response.

  50. Charles W. Thompson says:

    With all due respect, this is a really mushy headed article. The question is not this difficult. We know we must be “in the world, but not of the world.” Can you associate with your cousin/relative/friend who smokes, drinks, or whatever? Of course you can and still go to the temple as long as you don’t also smoke, drink, or whatever.

  51. Gloria Purcell says:

    Wow, kind of concerns me that so many would question how Temple recommends are handled. We are blessed to be members of a Church that is guided by Jesus Christ through a living prophet who speaks for God. If we answer yes to the first question in the Temple recommend interview, then why would any of the others pose a problem? These questions weren’t pulled out of thin air, they are from the Lord.

    • Jennifer says:

      I didn’t like the post or many of the comments after. I find that people still get too defensive, like it’s “Big Brother” (1984-George Orwell) asking me to snitch on myself and the friends/politics/groups I hang out with. I don’t believe that is the attitude befitting those questions.

      Instead, they are questions for me to check on myself out loud, including the one about affiliating. And the truth is, if I am “affiliating” with groups or people who teach against the principles of the gospel, then maybe I’m not in good company. After all, as a member of the kingdom of God, I hope I am spreading the good word (through example, word, deed, etc.) as opposed to allowing the world that opportunity while offering no alternative to people.

      All the questions are meant to reveal, to the one being interviewed, is if there is a need for guided repentance-and the Savior died to give us that opportunity; it is meant to be a help. Regardless of that, however, the final question is always about how I personally see my worthiness to enter the Temple, and that is the one that matters most.

  52. Josh Donat says:

    I’m with Sis. Purcell. I’m astonished you would trifle over such matters. The issue here isn’t about befriending those who aren’t perfect; the issue is whether or not, if an argument were to be had, you would be on the side of the stated Church policies or if you would argue and nit-pick, begging for change.

    And yes, it does matter. This question measures our level of apostacy – are we seeking to build the Kingdom of God, or the kingdom of us? Do we believe our worldly learning makes us more wise than the inspired leaders the Lord has selected?

    Herein lies the real issue…. Perhaps you ought to re-think your thoughts. Or, perhaps, your thoughts simply weren’t communicated clearly enough.

  53. EmilyCC says:

    April, thanks so much for outlining how you think about the temple recommend questions. I often do the same as I prepare to renew mine, and I wish I had some insight into what others are thinking as they answer. There have been times when I have blindly gone in and answered the questions quickly and left with my recommend, but I feel more spiritually-fulfilled and worthy when I carefully assess where I am before responding to each question.

    I am very troubled by what I perceive as some judgmental attitudes in the last few commenters’ responses to your post. Thinking deeply and seriously about the temple recommend questions does not seem trivial to me. I would argue that’s what is required of us each time we answer those questions, and for many of us, that means thinking about the nuances of the language used in those questions.

    Many of us will, from time to time, struggle to answer these questions. That doesn’t mean we don’t belong in this Church–I would say it means quite the contrary.

  54. MarkH says:

    The question should be rewritten:Do you support fundamentalist mormon groups that practice polygamy? That was the original intent of the question when it was added to the interview list in the early 19th century.
    My whole family is non-mormon, and they hate the church. Does that disqualify me from going to the temple? Of course not.

  55. Dan Forward says:

    I have never looked at that question that way. In my mind, it is clearly addressing apostate religious groups, such as those that support polygamy or those that believe you must first be baptized and endowed LDS, then join their “higher” order. You cannot believe them and the LDS Church at the same time. This question and the question about the president of the church being the only person who holds all keys catches those who used to weasel by the other questions.

  56. Annette Curran says:

    I, too, struggled with that question for a while. My husband is a non-member and has some beliefs, that to me, are strange. Since I definitely affiliate with him and support him in many ways, I discussed it with the bishop when answering that question. He said that question means do we personally support that belief (such as reincarnation etc) or groups that believe that particular way and try to further their cause. The answer for me was a definite no.

  57. Edward A. says:

    Just Stop Reading More Into The Question That’s Not There.–Just Answer The Question For The Value It’s Addressing.

  58. Sharon says:

    I always answer yes. I think they should change the question.

    Do I stay at Marriott Hotels? Yes.
    Do they have bars? Yes
    and porn? Yes.
    The marriott hotel bar in Cairo is THE place to find prostitutes…

    Do I live in Vegas and work for a casino? Yes.
    In the HR department, but I am deeply affiliated with the Gambling Industry.

    Political affiliation aside…The US govt and many state Govt do many things contrary to the teachings of the Church. (Secret bombing of Campbodia, sex education moneys, etc, etc)

    I think this is a oddly weird question. Relevant. Yes. And a good indication of those moving down the road of apostasy.

    Flip the question around:
    “Do you denounce, disaffiliate with, or disagree with groups or individuals whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?”

    What happens if you don’t vote? Is it a sin of omission? To do nothing….to not stand up or get involved.

    good article. good thinking. kudos

  59. Ray says:

    While the article is interesting in its style, I would just remind everyone who is nit-picking at this to study Matthew 23 and the message the Savior was trying to get across to us. Are we “straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel”?

  60. spunky says:

    This is a great post! Thank you! I always answer “yes” when asked the question, and it opens into a good discussion, mostly with the bishop saying that my involvement with certain groups does not preclude me from attending the temple. I have yet to be denied a recommend and feel better in answering honestly.

  61. Elizabeth says:

    I appreciate Emily, Sharon, and Ray’s comments. Pondering the questions for a deeper introspection definitely is far from being labeled as “nit picky” in my opinion.

    I have to admit I’ve had mixed feelings about when my children and I visit my parents in CA and I see my mother allow my sister to drink coffee in front of the kids and my older brother has get-togethers with several gay friends in their home. How do I reconcile that? I’m torn in many directions as to whether or not my parents are allowing “affiliation.”

    My brother respects my asking him to not show any affection (including hand holding) in front of my 8 & 6 yr. olds, but my sister thinks I should simply “get over” the coffee drinking. Do I tell her my son was in tears asking “Why?” and “Doesn’t Aunt — know it’s wrong?”

    Some members may think I’ve become too rigid, but I’ve decided to be careful how often we visit (usually 3 times a year) so we can avoid some desensitization. My kids will have plenty of exposure to the “big world” when they’re older.

    Drawing a line in the sand is a matter of personal prayer and revelation. I try to remember my parents attend the temple every week and they are entitled to revelation for their home as I am to mine (as a single mom).

    I just haven’t been able to ignore the deteriorating pace of our moral society continuing to evoke the nagging question, “Am I justifying behaviors and attitudes by continuing to say, it’s the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law that matters?”

  62. Eric says:

    Very thoughtful and enlightening post. I’ve thought about this in particular, especially with respect to political parties, and without naming specific ones, I have recently considering using a recent move to update my party affiliation to a certain third party that I feel would be clean from the stains of both the major parties.

    I’m not sure if this was the question, but I remember my mom telling me that the first time she went and got her temple recommend, she got tripped up by a certain question, and she flat out said, “Bishop, I don’t commit the sin that question is referring to, but I can’t tell from the way it’s worded if I’m supposed to say yes or no!” And the Bishop just responded, “You’re right, it’s not a well worded question.”

    Similar instance – when I was interviewed for my worthiness to serve a mission, and I was asked the question about believing the President of the Church being the only man to hold all the keys of the priesthood, and I said yes, and then I was asked about the members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve holding all the keys of the priesthood, and I said, “Wait a minute, didn’t you just say that the President of the Church was the only man to hold all the keys of the priesthood?” The Bishop took a moment to explain the difference, and I accepted it, and we moved on.

    As to certain responses, expressing concern over a temple recommend question doesn’t automatically equal finding fault in the gospel. It can just as easily (and I think in this case, it does) mean, “this doesn’t make sense to me. I need help understanding it.”

    • Mahala60 says:

      Many of the questions asked during the interview should be pondered and as indicated from previous post, it is a way to judge ourselves. I have asked the Stake President at one point what this question and the one regarding ‘anything amis with family members’ and what that was really meaning. But I will never forget the very first time I had the interview after being married and they asked the question about being moral clean and I looked at the Bishop and said “But Bishop, I am married now it is okay..” He smiled and then explained what that question meant when married… I had no idea grown-ups would struggle with that issue as I felt as a youth it was just for us..

  63. Gary says:

    We have compasion for the sinner but we wallow in rhe mud with them.

  64. Daxten Bowen says:

    I believe this can be summed up as whether we are supportive of the views and practices of those who go against the church or not. As for the seemingly conflicting counsel, it reminds me of the adage to ‘be in the world but not of the world’ and ‘love the sinner not the sin’. Elder Oaks taught in conference that there is a fine line between love and law; essentially, we shouldn’t in any way embrace what the sinner is doing, yet we should not shun them at the same time, whether this be as personal as a family friend or as broad as political or extra religious involvement. Our ideal should be make our allegiance to the values and views of the Lord’s church our own . We should activate ourselves in supporting the best that is of the world, while working for change in that which goes against the where the Lord and the brethren stand.

  65. Martin says:

    Now i really know what is wrong with me. I guess i do not feel really bad cause i am not alone anymore. I have been a member all my life and only now i found out. i did not know a things about the church which i testify of everyday, all these years i thought i was smart and listen to smart people, and now i find out what smart people do.. Just look at Washington DC..All smart peoples does not a Grap. Now i just need to learn about my curch.

  66. Frank says:

    I share April’s ambivalence with that particular question. When asked, I replied, “Yes, I’m a member of the (city name removed to protect the guilty) 4th Ward.” The shocked Stake President’s counselor was all ears as I attempted to explain. Over the pulpit in Sacrament meeting I’ve been taught that Obama is the anti-Christ and the white-horse “prophecy” is continuingly taught to affirm the state of the U.S. today. (Even after the First Presidency’s 2010 disclaimer.) So, yes, I do “Do support (sustain leaders), affiliate with (them), but don’t agree with a group or individual(s) whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?” I AM an active member of the ward! I still got my recommend.

  67. Bill Belamy says:

    “I am very troubled by what I perceive as some judgmental attitudes in the last few commenters’ responses to your post.”

    You have perceived them wrong. Everyone is blowing this question out of proportion.

  68. Kevin says:

    I married a good Catholic girl after my mission, and wondered about that question for a few years before finally asking my Bishop to help me reconcile it. Obviously, marriage to someone outside the faith qualifies as ‘support’ and ‘affiliation,’ right? I think April is correct in assuming that the question is more along the lines of apostacy, and not friendly association.
    My wife is still Catholic, and I currently serve as 1st Counselor to my Bishop, placing me in the position of asking that question of others to determine their worthiness where my Bishop’s answer years ago is confirmed and re-affirmed to me each time.
    If you hesitate to answer any of the questions, it’s appropriate to ask for clarification and counsel. I feel it would be much better for members to discuss these type of sacred questions during the private and sacred interview than on a web site for the whole world to see.

  69. DefinitionMan says:

    I found these definitions at –

    1. to bring into close association or connection: The research center is affiliated with the university.
    2. to attach or unite on terms of fellowship; associate (usually followed by with in U.S. usage, by to in Brit. usage): to affiliate with the church.
    3. to trace the descent, derivation, or origin of: to affiliate a language.
    4. to adopt.
    5. Law . to fix the paternity of, as an illegitimate child: The mother affiliated her child upon John Doe.
    6. to associate oneself; be intimately united in action or interest.

    I’ve understood this temple recommend question to use this word according to either definition #2 or 6… For #2, I gained further insight by looking up “fellowship” at – I think it must be meaning one of these two definitions –

    community of interest, feeling, etc.


    an association of persons having similar tastes, interests, etc.

  70. Kmillecam says:

    Bill Belamy, your comment doesn’t add to the conversation. If you can’t engage civilly, then you will not have commenting privileges on The Exponent.

  71. Elizabeth says:

    In my most recent TR interview,with a member of the Stake Pres. in relation to this question, I expressed my deep concern at the Church’s political involvement in the Prop 8 saga. I expressed my concern that were such calls for political campaigning, fund raising etc come over the pulpit in my country, as have done in California, I would need to voice my concerns openly. I would speak to building on a common belief in the importance of marriage as a public commitment, of the importance of legally protecting those who form families. I would call on my friends and neighbours to focus on the things we have in common, to judge not, and to seek their own personal revelation before participating in a process that in the USA has been hateful, devisive and cruel.
    I got an “I have to talk to the Stake Pres. before I issue a recommend” as a response. And weeks later in follow up I have received a handful of photocopied articles about ‘Following the Prophet’ and an unsubtle remark about the path to apostacy. The Pres. member agreed with my assertion that a belief in the prophet is not a belief that the prophet is infailable. He agreed that to sustain someone may be to offer heart felt prayer that that person seek and receive new revelation for their area of responsibility. He spoke against blind following.
    He told me there was no appropriate place at church for me to discuss my concerns or answer my questions, certainly not RS or Gospel Doctrine class. He agreed with my observation of the white washing/ dumbing down of Church History as presented at Church over the last 30 years. He had no explanation of that process’s motivations.
    So here I am. Weeks later. No recommend.
    Because I expressed a concern, in private interview.

    I’m really not sure how I should respond. On the one hand I’d need to travel interstate to attend a Temple, and havent got the financial resources to go, on the other hand, I’m sure I’ve read some where on the Blogernackle an official statement that you can support gay rights without loosing your recommend, I just don’t remember where to look.
    I don’t want to quietly roll over that’s for sure.

    • Caroline says:

      Elizabeth, I’m so sorry to hear that this was your experience. I too have heard that temple recs were not supposed to be pulled because of not supporting Prop 8, but I forget where that was. I hope that your leaders see reason soon…

    • Chibby says:

      I noticed there are 2 Elizabeths commenting… so now I’m Chibby, and I’m the recommend-less Australian…

  72. connjohn says:

    I always say yes — and I always get the recommend. I have two children who are actively anti-Mormon. I definitely affiliate with them, on the deepest level. The question is absurd and my honest answer often gets a chuckle, or at best a decent conversation about what it means to be a Latter-day Saint in the world, but not of the world.

  73. Lori says:

    I don’t understand why the concern for “affiliating” with those that aren’t living the gospel standards. Didn’t Jesus eat with prostitutes and publicans?
    As far as supporting gay rights, Jesus said that His disciples will be recognized by how loving they are to others. Whether or not the church is opposed to gay marriage, we still treat everyone with the same love and respect as they are our brothers and sisters. The church isn’t trying to discriminate, but preserve our temples and church buildings from being used to perform marriages that our against our beliefs. I’ve always taken the question to mean “apostate” groups and/or individuals, so it’s never occurred to me to worry about it I guess. If I remember correctly, it used to be worded that way before.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Prop 8 was never about ‘preserving our temples and church buildings from being used to perform marriages against our beliefs’. There was no risk of this happening, and claiming there was is just scaremongering.
      Religious freedom laws protects the Catholic Church’s stance against performing marriages where one party had previously been divorced. They protects us from the obligation to marry non recommend holders in our Temples. Religious institutions have the right to chose who they will perform weddings for. The right under civil law to marriage is in no conflict with this.
      Perhaps the whole thing would have been a non event, if, as is the case in many European countries a civil commitment recognized by the state was a required prerequisite for a religious service, clearly differentiating between the legal and religious state of marriage.
      Just as I believe the marriages of my friends in churches, gardens, beaches etc are no threat to my Temple marriage, I believe gay marriage is no threat.
      In fact I feel great support from those who also believe, as I do, that marriage, publicly and legal recognized, and families where the rights and responsibilities and obligations of all parties are recognized under law is an important, even central core to our community. A state where only some families have value is a threat to all families.

      • Chibby says:

        and this Elizabeth is really Chibby too 🙂

      • amelia says:

        Beautifully said, Elizabeth. The fear mongering about how allowing legal gay marriage would threaten our ability to marry people in temples drives me bonkers. There is absolutely no merit to that argument at all. Just as in European countries, civil marriage in the U.S. is distinct from religious ceremonies. Where we differ is that, for convenience, we’ve granted religious authorities the power to also perform civil ceremonies. But that conflation does not require every religious authority to perform any marriage for any person. If it did, we’d already have a major problem on our hands.

        If we’re really concerned about this, the best way to make sure the church never had to sanction marriages of which it did approve would be to make civil marriage and religious marriage two completely distinct things, removing all civil authority from religious figures. People could go to the courthouse and get civilly married, then to the church of their choice and have their religious ceremony.

  74. Alan Beste says:

    It’s really kind of a silly, illogical blog. My response is simple: “I love my mother who was in two polygamous relationships before her death, but I don’t agree with her.” I still go to the temple… 3 times in the last 2 weeks.

  75. mtnight says:

    A couple of thoughts:

    1. Virtually all us associate with people whose practices are contrary to or oppose those of the church. Sadly they are often our own siblings or children. We still love them and still associate with them, but we do not subscribe to their practices or beliefs. I think the adversary would have us begin to sympathize. We sympathize, then we sanction, and then we advocate. We have to be careful not to begin thinking the church is out of step rather than our associates being out of step.

    2. There are a number of comments here about the church stand toward gay marriage. I think the first two paragraphs of Chapter 36 in the “Gospel Principles” manual are very clear and concise statements on why the church assumes the position it does. When you look through an eternal lens you get a very different view. But that does not mean we should stop associating with, loving, and showing Christlike kindness to those who don’t understand or agree.

    • Amelia says:

      in re: your point #2

      Nor does it mean we cannot advocate for the fair treatment and equal civil rights of our gay brothers and sisters.

      I lived in CA during the Prop 8 debacle. I loudly and publicly opposed Prop. 8. I told church members straightforwardly that I disagreed with Prop. 8, that I would not only do nothing to support it but everything I could to defeat it, and that I thought the church was wrong to be so publicly advocating for Prop. 8. The church’s whole involvement in that campaign to this day horrifies me and offends the very deepest beliefs I hold as a result of the church’s own teachings. I was greeted with condemnation and judgment by many church members. But both my bishop and my stake president had absolutely no problem with what I had to say. And they knew what I had to say because I renewed my temple recommend two weeks into the church’s advocacy in favor of Prop. 8 and I told them what I thought just as directly and bluntly as I told everyone else. Because I was doing nothing wrong and had nothing to hide. They both gladly signed my recommend and encouraged me to believe as I saw fit according to my conscience and to feel free to speak my mind.

      There is nothing in this particular temple recommend question nor in being a practicing member of the church that requires us to agree with everything the church teaches. Gay marriage is not an exception to that reality. If there were such a requirement, we would every single one of us be screwed because none of us agrees perfectly with everything that gets pronounced upon by church leadership.

      • Elizabeth says:

        Great, so you were there, at the time, spoke freely and had your recommend endorsed.
        I am on the other side of the world, expressing private concern in an interview situation about my potential response to a hypothetical future situation, and my recommend is withheld?

        Does anyone have an ‘official’ statement about temple recommends and gay rights issues?

      • amelia says:

        I’m really sorry that’s been your experience, Elizabeth. I wish I had some practical advice for you. I don’t know of any official statement from church headquarters that says that this issue should not prevent you from having a recommend. You could write a letter to church headquarters asking the question. If you do, you should understand that they’ll likely refer the issue back to your local leadership. Knowing that they’re likely to do that, if I were you I would indicate at the end of the letter that you’ve sent a cc to your stake president already. And, if I were you, I’d say right in the body of the letter that you’ve raised the issue with your local leaders and they are giving you a different answer than other people you’ve talked to get from their local leaders so you are seeking more specific guidance from church headquarters. Of course, you shouldn’t write the letter at all if you’re not comfortable with your SP and/or bishop reading it. It’s standard practice for church headquarters to send letters back to your SP so you really can’t avoid him reading it, even if you don’t send him a copy yourself.

      • amelia says:

        Elizabeth, I put this question to some Bloggernacle friends. One referred me to this article:

        From that article: “Latter-day Saints are free to disagree with their church on the issue without facing any sanction, said L. Whitney Clayton of the LDS Quorum of the Seventy. ‘We love them and bear them no ill will.'”

        Whitney Clayton, who lived in Southern CA for much of his adult life, was pretty heavily involved in the Prop 8 thing.

      • Chibby says:

        oops, this Elizabeth is Chibby too, how confusing!
        Thankyou so much for the Clayton reference amelia!

  76. Diana says:

    Too often we ‘over-think’ the issue and that’s usually when we have a guilty conscience. If you have to justify something, you start skating on thin ice. If you aren’t doing something you shouldn’t, you don’t have to think about the question. While I know most people will think this is a simplistic outlook, the gospel is built upon basic principles, when we start to move away (justify) from them, we are allowing ourselves to question the church’s moral code.

    • Moriah Jovan says:

      Too often we ‘over-think’ the issue and that’s usually when we have a guilty conscience.

      I hear that a lot. Over-thinking happens by people who are confused between what the church actually teaches and what a) individual volunteer leaders believe and b) what church culture demands of them.

      After all, I’d not want to have my “associations” judged by a bishop who demanded his teenage son wear a white shirt and tie every waking minute of every single day from the time he was 17 until he went on his mission and then, when he didn’t for a day, refused to allow his son to go on aforementioned mission because he’s disobedient. (Said son left the church the minute he left his father’s roof at 19 after aforementioned refusal. Quel surprise.)

      Oh, wait. I did refuse to be judged by that bishop. Went to a different ward for three years. So did half the rest of that ward.

      Over-thinking? No. Trying to navigate vague questions in the face of vastly differing opinions of a revolving door of men who bring their own baggage to the table.

      Being constantly confused is not a sin. Don’t make it about sin.

      • Amelia says:

        Amen, Moriah.

        It really bugs me that church members automatically jump to the conclusion that anyone who sees shades of gray, or who seems improprieties in the behavior of church leadership (whether local or central), must have a guilty conscience. That conclusion is a result of deeply flawed logic and indicative of an unwillingness to engage with the complexities and vagaries of life in a fallen world full of flawed human beings.

        And here’s my experience: I didn’t allow myself to question the church’s moral code. I performed mental gymnastics for years to find ways to justify it and make it mesh with my conscience. I refuse to perform such mental gymnastics any longer. I wholeheartedly embrace those aspects of the church’s moral code with which my conscience is easy, I slightly more tentatively embrace those that sit a little uneasily, I examine and abide by some on a case-by-case basis, and still others I reject. It is my right as a thinking agent (and please do connect that word to the central principle of the gospel, agency) to do so.

        Galileo once said: “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forego their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them.”

        That is a code I can embrace wholeheartedly and live by. It would be nice if the church overtly encouraged all of us to do so. Because at the end of the day “the church told me to do it” is no better a reason to do something (even something good) than “satan told me to do it” is a reason for doing something.

      • Moriah Jovan says:

        Well, I came to this because I have generally been overwhelmed by irrational guilt my entire life by things along the lines of accidentally taking a pen from an establishment where I wrote a check, never realizing that the REASON they have dozens of pens with their names all over it is advertising.

        I have gone to bishops who, when they ask, “Have you been honest with your fellow man?” and I confess to such things, have had to counsel me that that’s not what they’re asking.

        Likewise, when they say, “Do you feel worthy to enter the temple?” the auto-response is NO. In my logic, why would it EVER be YES? And again, counseling ensues that THAT is not what the question means.

        I’ve even confessed to my high-protein, low-carb diet, for cryin’ out loud, because so many members accuse me of not keeping the Word of Wisdom. (But hey, copious amounts of sugar’s okay.)

        So when people say, “You just have a guilty conscience,” my question is, “You mean you DON’T? Why in the world NOT?”

    • Kmillecam says:

      I do the same thing Moriah, I over think, feel guilty, have anxiety. It doesn’t help to hear things like “well, then you’re doing something wrong because otherwise you wouldn’t be feeling that way”. Hmm. First of all, that’s circular and non-falsifiable. So there’s that.

      And, possibly, I am an anxiety-prone person living in a perfectionistic church society which feeds my irrational fear and guilt, and when I gain enough self-confidence to look inwardly and outwardly to gain self-awareness, I am able to see my triggers and question the moral code in the church. Could be that too.

      • Moriah Jovan says:

        @kmillecam I am of the opinion that, as you suggest, this is a response to a long-term perfectionist environment and possibly a symptom of PTSD. In my circumstances, the church was less perfectionist and more–dare I say it, forgiving and freeing–than any other area of my childhood and adolescence.

  77. Kathy Nielsen says:

    The church does expect perfection. We are in a learning mode while we are on this earth. That is why the Atonement was so important to our lives. So we can repent and start again.
    As you have read above even Bishops are fallible. And maybe they received that calling so their congregation could learn humility and kindness, because he has a lot to learn.
    I agree with many who stated that the questions presented to us are for our reflection. So we can look within ourselves and see where we need to improve and learn more.

  78. Moriah Jovan says:

    The church does expect perfection.

    Ah, no, it doesn’t. It expects progress toward Christ’s example. Expectation of perfection and preaching the need for an Atonement are mutually exclusive philosophies.

    It seems to me that people expect perfection of everyone around them while claiming fallibility and thus, the Atonement for themselves.

  79. chev says:

    umm, have you tried asking these questions to your bishop?

  80. noni says:

    There is a simple answer for the original question. Do you support with time, money, affiliate or endorse and allow your name to be used in support of any organization or group that is in opposition to the LDS teachings? Everybody has their free agency to pick and choose. Our conscience will make it known between right and wrong. It is wrong to hurt people who choose to be evil. These people have made their choice. It is not our position to judge, even if it’s family members. Show them by your example—good—so that they can pick between good and evil.

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  82. David says:

    As I sit and count donations with bishopric counselors, we discuss all kinds of things. We one day discussed this affiliate question as is relates to Beehives seeking a temple recommend. Most Beehives don’t understand the question at all, and many “guess” at an answer (i.e. say “yes” and then look at the interviewer, hoping that was the “right” answer). The counselors often wind up re-phrasing the question in a way so that it makes more sense to the Beehive. After one such re-wording, a certain Beehive answered as follows: “Well I love my brother and he doesn’t like the Church at all”. The wise counselor moved on to the next question.

  1. April 1, 2012

    […] following, linked to my final guest post.  By the end of the day, thousands of people had read my thoughts about the temple recommend interview, including many who left comments indicating their none-too-flattering opinion of me.  So, now […]

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