How Temple Recommend Interviews Impede Temple Worship

I used to love the temple. I was uncomfortable, obviously, with the sexist elements. I felt betrayed when I was required to pledge obedience to my husband (even as a new temple patron, I wasn’t unaware that “hearken” meant “obey”). The unequal sealing language disturbed me from the beginning. But in between the jarring moments when light would cease to shine from my face, there was peace.

Sketch of the Logan Temple (Utah)

I don’t regret my decision to stay away, but I love holy places. My discomfort with elements of temple worship was something I was willing to sit with. I might still be willing to sit with it.

It’s not hard to get a temple recommend. There are thirteen questions that you answer, and you do this before two separate male leaders every two years. In yes-or-no format, he asks you to affirm faith in God, in Jesus Christ, in Joseph Smith, in current leadership. He asks if you pay a full tithe, if you keep the law of chastity, if you associate or agree with people who don’t like the church. He asks if you drink coffee or tea or alcohol, or if you use tobacco. He asks if you wear the sacred underwear they gave you, if you wear it all the time. He asks if you have sinned.

Sometimes he asks you to define or explain the question that is being asked, even though he isn’t supposed to. Sometimes he poses prying questions, on a hunch that you aren’t being truthful. Sometimes he hands you a statement to read about how the garment should be worn – it leaves no room for personal circumstances, for female bodies or health concerns. And you answer, because the temple is a holy place, because your family goes there together, because your temple recommend is essential for your continued employment or social standing. He decides, without oversight, and so you answer.

I would attend the temple. I would sit in a sacred space. I would respect the space for others. I would take the peace home with me. I would wrestle with the bits that jar, that concern. I haven’t, though. I haven’t gone for a long time, and every time I hear women talk about the interview process – “he asked me to define chastity. I’ve been in this church my whole life”, or “he wanted to know if oral sex is a part of our bedroom activities” or “I told him I was uncomfortable. He didn’t believe me.” – I am newly relieved to have spared myself from this process.

I understand why we have interviews. I understand the desire to protect temple worship from prying eyes. But I am not a stranger; I’m a sister. I’m a member – and I am still here, even with all the skeletons I have found in the closet and on the lawn.

If there were no interview, I would go back. If the interview was a single question, I would go back.

Ask me if I intend to visit the temple in good faith (the answer is yes).

Ask me if I desire to commune with God (I do).

Ask me if I want to be there.

I love to sit in holy places.

It’s time to change the recommend process to reflect hope and love and faith. It’s time to stop asking members to subject themselves to possible humiliation or abuse in order to worship in the House of the Lord. Worthiness is a social construct anyway – we are all unworthy.

AdelaHope

AdelaHope used to be a little girl with a microphone, who loved her bicycle. She is now a woman with a family, a laptop, and a ukulele, who has dreams of traveling to beautiful, interesting places. She is currently living the mom-life in New England

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11 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    Thank you for this lovely post, AdelaHope. I vastly prefer the temple rec questions you propose to the ones we currently have. I too can’t bring myself to undergo the interview process as it currently stands.

  2. Roolee says:

    Yes. ❤️❤️❤️❤️

  3. Th. says:

    .

    These are great question suggestions.

  4. Rachel says:

    Although I no longer attend the temple, I understand that it is still a sacred place to members and they want to protect it. Thus the interview process. I think your suggestions are great!

  5. I love the idea of asking one of these uplifting questions, instead of the long list of prying questions now asked.

  6. emilyb says:

    Agreed. A man asking us alone behind closed doors what underwear we are wearing (the garment questions) is abusive sexual harassment

  7. Michelle says:

    I look forward to the day when my heavenly parents look me in the eye to assess my “worthiness”. Until then the process will be significantly flawed. I get that the temple recommend process motivates some people to change and repent, but it also causes a lot of harm. Especially when the judge is always male and always in a position of power. How am I supposed to discuss the temple garment and my menstrual cycle with this person? At one time I wondered if it was my obligation to do so. But then I found my own spiritual authority. Ultimately, we need to be able to look at ourselves honestly and determine whether we need to make changes rather than turning that power over to a flawed human being.

  8. anon for this says:

    Sincere question here, looking for advice if anyone sees this. I am in what I consider a grey area of the law of chastity but what my bishop (and probably most members) would definitely see as a violation worth both removing my recommend and subjecting me to discipline. I have my temple recommend, and I am unsure if I am worthy to use it. My bishop would say I definitely am not. Would it be wrong of me to attend the temple? I might be uncomfortable in the endowment ceremony, standing in to make covenants for another woman to obey the law of chastity when I am not obeying it myself. But would it be appropriate to go do initiatories and/or sit in the celestial room?

    I want to commune with God in the temple, and I know the temple is a place where God wants me to learn. I do not feel a call to repentance inside me when it comes to the law of chastity, but I am new to trusting myself when my feelings oppose the rules. I would answer “yes” to all the questions you pose above.

    Should I go to the temple, or should I wait until/if I feel called to go through the formalized repentance process, or until my circumstances change (marriage) and mean that I am no longer violating the law of chastity?

    • Brooklyn says:

      Here’s my advise. The temple is a symbol: You are the temple. Scripture recounts many people who were able to have a relationship with the Lord while still in this life–who received complete redemption and forgiveness of sins and found the kingdom of God within themselves. They did not do this in a temple (even though a temple can be a sacred place). We LDS have taken a symbolic building, and made it the end all, when in reality, a personal relationship with Christ is the end all. You can do that anywhere. Anyone. Any gender. Any age. Any race. Any denomination. God will be anywhere you invite Them to be.

    • Another anon says:

      I recently attended the temple, and hadn’t been been in years. I had to scramble to get my recommend signed so I could go. Was I living a perfect life? Not at all, not by any definition. Did holding the recommend and going to the temple give me the strength to make a very difficult choice involving the law of chastity? It sure did. There were two ways this could’ve gone:

      1) I could have determined that I was unworthy to go, excluded myself from the positive influence, and I can assure you that I would have made a very different choice in the situation that presented itself. “If I’m not even worthy, why bother trying?”

      2) I could have gone to the temple. I did. And that decision helped me avoid a very different result in the situation I was in. “I’m not perfect, but I’m trying to be, and each step of the way can be a step up or a step down. I’ll choose to step up this time.”

      I hope you find peace and the love of God, however things work out for you.

  9. Becky says:

    This is just exactly how I feel. Thank you for capturing this so well. Your last sentence is especially spot on. Well done.

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