Temple Recommend Questions? By Guest Aaron Reeves

February 16, 2009
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This morning I was listening to one of the Mormon Stories podcast and there was a brief comment in it about some of the old Temple Recommend questions. This led to me to think about the Temple Recommend Interview and what its purposes are or were and what may change in the future: but first some preliminary comments.

Temple Recommend Interviews were not formalised until the 1880′s. In the 1856-7 Mormon Reformation when ‘Home Teachers’ were asked to visit the saints and recommit them to live the gospel they would also ask a series of questions (much like the Catholic Cathecism) about worthiness or behaviour. This was the beginning of such a practice.

Some of the early questions were: Have you Murdered anyone in Cold-Blood? Have you knowingly branded another persons cattle or livestock? Have you plowed or harvested grain from a field that was not your own? Do you, and your family, wash or bathe as regularly as you are able?

Before this time people going to the temple were recommend by the Bishop and one other (usually the Prophet – Wilford Woodruff changed this when he had to do 3,000 in one year). Tithing was made a requirement in the 1880′s. The Word of Wisdom was made a strong recommendation, around the 1890′s and in the 1930′s a requirement. Sometime after Polygamy was stopped the question about affiliating with groups that are against the Church’s teachings was added and the question about the living Prophet. The 1970′s brought the question about being honest in our dealings with our fellow man (there was some serious fraud scams happening in Utah at the time). The 80′s brought sexual abuse questions and also the caring for dependent children question. The requirements have been changed as well, i.e. the wording of what is expected and how strictly.

I note all this because I want to think about what are the core parts of temple worthiness or the temple recommend questions? What are the questions that might change in the future (new one’s or drop one’s)? For example, new barcoded temple recommends are being brought in to protect the sanctity of the temple I know this has been in the States for a time but it is new in the UK. What other changes might come? (The image is a copy of old recommend from 1879).

What are the one’s that might change in the future (new one’s or drop one’s)? For example, new bar coded temple recommends are being brought in to protect the sanctity of the temple.

What other changes might come? (The image above is a copy of old recommend from 1879).

30 Responses to Temple Recommend Questions? By Guest Aaron Reeves

  1. James
    February 16, 2009 at 1:34 am

    It looks like back in 1857 alot of questions were related to farming

    Have you cut hay where you had no right to, or turned your animals into another person’s grain or field, without his knowledge and consent?

    Possibly in the future recommends may ask us if we have down loaded software game or movies illegally or uploaded files for our own personal use and gain from our employer?

  2. steve w
    February 16, 2009 at 5:08 am

    I think that the idea of downloading software is already covered by the being honest in dealings with fellow man.
    I think there may well be changes – as to what they are I have no clue

  3. Benjamin O
    February 16, 2009 at 8:08 am

    Looking at it in some ways, the questions now are fairly principle-based, while the 1857 questions seemed to be rule-based. The difference between ‘Are you honest?’ and ‘Have you branded someone else’s cattle knowingly?’ is one of specificity. The cover the same territory, but the first one is broader and is more enduring in nature. It is also less likely to need revision over time. A question like, ‘Do you pay your tithing?’ is fairly straight forward, but has an attendant set of assumptions that are pretty useful. It means that we are essentially willing to make some sacrifice to put the Lord and the Church ahead of material things, regardless of circumstances.

    I’m not expecting to see specific questions about copyright violations (that’s what downloading software without a paid license is unless the software is free), nor do I expect to see certain other questions, but it’s entirely possible that we could see questions about same-sex marriage or something along those lines come up.

    I know that at one point SOME areas of the church were asked about oral sex (though I’m not certain if this was universal), and of course this has been discontinued.

    Point is, we should not take these questions as the universal markers of what is right and wrong, but as guides. They do help navigate, and can be seen as what is currently vexing to the church in terms of larger social problems.

  4. February 16, 2009 at 9:00 am

    I was kind of wondering something. Since you need a temple recommend to get into the temple, and you need to be temple-worthy to get in the Celestial Kingdom, and you need to be doing certain things to get the temple recommend…

    Doesn’t that mean we really do believe we are “saved” by works, and not by faith – like Robert Millet and Stephen Robinson have been asserting?

    • Matt
      May 16, 2012 at 10:25 am

      Thepulsiphyer, though your comment is plain and simple, do you not see why non-LDS have a problem with the Church?  Simply saying “NO” offers no understanding.  Know your faith.  Often the Church simply asks the person who earnestly is searching for the truth to simply stop looking at the problem.  That keeps many LDS week in that they don’t understand, but are simply obedient.  God is Truth.

  5. James
    February 16, 2009 at 9:13 am

    “I know that at one point SOME areas of the church were asked about oral sex (though I’m not certain if this was universal), and of course this has been discontinued.”

    Their were a lot of complaints from what I heard to Salt Lake on this and it was knocked on the head

  6. February 16, 2009 at 9:25 am

    I suppose, Seth, that the definition of ‘saved’ really matters here, doesn’t it? I believe the scriptures and modern revelation make clear that we are redeemed from the fall and made eligible joint heirs by the Grace of the Savior. That is the nature of the great and beautiful Plan. But to *become* what we can–to be like Him, to realize the full opportunity offered to us–requires changes to body and soul that are only effectuated by habits of muscle and mind.

    The label “works” may be placed on such heart-changing habits, to be sure. Satan tries to twist our understanding of such opportunities. I have observed Satan twisting these vital processes by falsely placing them as antonymous to Grace, or substitutions for Grace, or as end-all-be-all checkboxes that we fail to perform or overperform. As was noted in passing in Sacrament meeting yesterday, this life is not so much about doing as it is about becoming. Becoming is a process that requires both grace and works.

    In that context, obtaining a temple recommend involves both a recognition of grace (the question about one’s testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Redeemer) and of works (are you doing those things that are likeliest to help you develop a changed heart through sacrifice, humility, service, and studying it out in your mind?).

  7. February 16, 2009 at 9:28 am

    Seth, I’m going to say no. We are not “saved” by works, we are “exalted” by works.

    James #5, bad phraseology there buddy…lol…

  8. James
    February 16, 2009 at 9:59 am

    TJ Shelby 7 – Thanks for pointing that out :) but I’m not that witty!!

  9. February 16, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Shortly after either (a) the California Supreme Court rightfully overturns Proposition 8, or (b) Proposition 8 is eliminated by a further voter initiative, I expect the LDS church will revise their simple “Do you live the law of chastity?” question, as well as the related endowment covenant, to explicitly condemn sexual relations within legal marriages between partners of the same sex. As it is now, the LDS “law of chastity” only restricts sexual partners to “your husband or wife,” to whom you are “legally and lawfully wedded.”

  10. hawkgrrrl
    February 16, 2009 at 11:16 am

    Nick may be right. In general, I agree with Benjamin O that the questions are much better worded now to the point that future revision will be less necessary.

    It is interesting that the church’s stance is that we don’t excommunicate for beliefs, just for behaviors. TR questions start by covering beliefs and end on behaviors, but of course, this is to obtain a higher tier of membership. I don’t agree this is a focus on works over grace – “by their fruits, ye shall know them.”

  11. Jen
    February 16, 2009 at 11:23 am

    It seems that questions about involement in pornography would be a possible one added. Also, in my opinion it would be nice to have a question about gossip and if the person is involved in creating it and/or spreading it. It may help some think twice about spreading things they hear about others in their ward.

  12. Jen
    February 16, 2009 at 11:24 am

    *involvement* (sorry on spelling)

  13. Aaron Reeves
    February 16, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    I think the suggestions so far are interesting.

    I guess the idea of specificity is important. As benjamin O points out, there are rules and principles. Maybe the addition of questions around pornography wwould be an example of specifying in relation to a broader principle, as I interpret pornography as part of the chastity question. Interestingly i see the variations around the temple recommend questions evidence that there is not a check-list to be saved because the Lord seems to be moving the goal-posts. I think on another blog I read that if Joseph Smith was a member of today’s church he would be excommunicated. This to me indicates that temple worthiness is not necessarily linked with being able to enter the celestial kingdom.

    I wonder if Nick’s suggestion will become a worldwide criteria. In England we have civil unions, kinda like marriages but not quite. So the quetion may have application here but not elsewhere. Is there the possibility that temple recommend question become increasingly culturally diversified?

    TR questions start by covering beliefs and end on behaviors (Hawkgrrrl)

    I wonder about the order and the implicit message. Some might argue that they start with the most important, it could be vice versa. But they are distinctly grouped and are fairly specific in one sense and ambiguous in others, if behaviours are all that matters why have these questions at all? (i am not suggesting that hawkgrrrl is arguing that behaviours are all that matters…)

  14. Russell Stevenson
    February 16, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Seth:

    I am firmly of the school that these so-called “works” are simply steps to become like Jesus. And that thought is classic American Protestantism (see Charles Sheldon’s “In His Steps”). Granted, the temple recommend questions are anything but encompassing. I would suggest that there are some temple recommend holders who find themselves in the terrestial kingdom. It doesn’t ask half of the questions Alma asks in chpt. 5 of the BOM. “Are ye stripped of pride?” And trust me…I know some prideful people *pointing to self* who attend the temple.

    So I would suggest your line of reasoning has some gaps…namely in your connection between temple worthiness and celestiality.

  15. February 16, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    Jen (11. & 12.)–

    Every temple recommend interview I or my wife have been in (and other LDS people I’ve talked with have said the same thing) in the past 6 years has included a “clarification” question about pornography–I had understood that was standard now: After asking if a member lives the law of chastity, the SP asks some variation of “Do you understand that the law of chastity also applies to pornographic material?”

    Is this not what everyone here has experienced? Perhaps I have weird SP’s (3 of them in the past 6 years).

  16. Jen
    February 16, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    Scott-

    That has not been my experience or my husband’s but we will see when the recommends come close to renewal if that has changed.

  17. February 17, 2009 at 7:48 am

    Scott, I’ve never heard that gloss. Just got my recommend renewed.

    Do you, and your family, wash or bathe as regularly as you are able? Part of the famous excommunicate en mass and not allow rebaptism until people agree to bath portion of LDS history that has faded from memory.

  18. Greg
    February 17, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Can an illegal immigrant have a Temple Recommend?

  19. Ray
    February 17, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Yes, and can serve a mission – as long as s/he doesn’t have to obtain a VISA in order to do so.

    There are no “civil rights” granted by a Temple Recommend or a mission, and there is no public money used in granting the “religious status” in either case. Ironically, those who argue most forcefully for a strict separation of Church and State are the ones who have the weakest argument against granting a recommend to an illegal alien.

  20. MH
    February 17, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    I have had a stake pres ask me about pornography, and masturbation when getting a temple recommend. Most do not ask these questions. I have also had a different SP ask a question about Coca Cola and the Word of Wisdom.

    Most of my SP’s just ask the standard questions. I have to say I was pretty surprised by the masturbation question, and felt it was GROSSLY inappropriate.

  21. Hawkgrrrl
    February 17, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    Greg – “Can an illegal immigrant have a Temple Recommend?” Good question. Sounds like a case of not being “honest in your dealings with your fellow man.” But of course, you could have a TR from your originating country that is still good when you arrive. Since this is all self-reported, my guess is that it probably comes up in some cases, but not others.

  22. February 17, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    My understanding is that leaders are instructed NOT to “ad lib” with their own questions for the temple recommend, though they may probe deeper where a person’s response seems to call for it.

    On the pornography issue, who gets to decide what constitutes pornography? BYU has banned world-renowned works of art as violations of “modesty,” which would suggest that someone there has a very different idea of “pornography” than most LDS members would. Then again, aren’t BYU art students still prevented from using nude models in their classes, when they’re supposedly learning how to draw the human body?

  23. hawkgrrrl
    February 17, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    Nick – “Then again, aren’t BYU art students still prevented from using nude models in their classes, when they’re supposedly learning how to draw the human body?” Perhaps they could draw the cadavers in the Widstoe. Apparently, dead naked bodies are OK for docs, just not live ones for artists.

  24. James
    February 18, 2009 at 2:18 am

    Perhaps they could draw the cadavers in the Widstoe. Apparently, dead naked bodies are OK for docs, just not live ones for artists.

    Good proposal for the BYU’s dean of ART!!:)

  25. john
    August 12, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    does the law of chastity apply to masturbation? i grew up a member and no one has ever clarified.

    • Wendell Pulsipher
      August 13, 2012 at 5:33 pm

      yes John it does.. perhaps it may help to remember this quote by President Kimball ”
      The world may countenance premarital sex experiences, but the Lord and his church condemn in no uncertain terms any and every sex relationship outside of marriage, and even indecent and uncontrolled ones within marriage”. If we carefully consider the phrase “every sex relationship outside marriage” we will understand that masturbation is, most definitely a “sex relationship outside marriage” with ourselves. I can assure that if you were to ask your bishop he would tell you that any individual who has difficulty with this sin cannot be issued a temple recommend until the Holy Ghost confirms to Priesthood leadership that the problem has been eliminated.

      • Ss
        September 10, 2013 at 9:42 pm

        Maybe he was speaking as a man. After all, I find no mention of masturbation in canonized scripture.

      • W Paul Pulsipher
        September 10, 2013 at 10:47 pm

        in response to the post below.. he was not speaking as a man.. the quote i posted below is from General Conference Oct 1980… so it counts as official doctrine

  26. Scott
    August 26, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    On the topic of Temple recommends and the questions that we are asked during the interview process, I have a question regarding that. If you come into the states illegally, can you get a recommend? This question has been brought up a lot in my area.

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