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.
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.