Temple Recommend Assumptions

April 5, 2010
By

Maybe it was an upcoming family wedding.  Or maybe it came out some other way.  Have you ever been in a situation when you became aware that someone who had been endowed no longer had a Temple Recommend?

Generally, in LDS culture, when you determine that someone doesn’t have a TR, it’s human nature to automatically assume you know why based on reasons you think are most common; it’s also a little awkward to ask, which is why most people skate by on assumptions.  (Just because you assume a reason does not necessarily mean that you attach a judgment to that reason).  Do you assume they are behind on paying their tithing or that they have committed some serious sin?  Or do you assume they are being too self-critical in how they answer the questions?  Do you consider some reasons more “acceptable” than others?

[poll id="145"]

In your opinion, are some of these bigger issues than others (actually more important to temple admittance), in your opinion?  Here’s my ranking (I put these into groups that denote their importance).

 Definitely out:

  • Adultery or fornication.  Kind of obvious.  I can’t imagine too many people disagreeing with me on this one.
  • Not paying a full tithe.  If I quit paying my Lifetime Fitness membership, they won’t let me in either.
  • Abusive family relationships.  Of course, the trick is whether someone admits it.  It assumes that an abusive person has the sociopathy to abuse people, but also is enough of a good guy to admit it.
  • Polygamous affiliations.  Unless you are a recurring character on Big Love.
  • Embezzlement / fraud.  Again, provided you are confessing such a thing. If you’re willing to commit fraud, what’s a little lying?  But I suppose if you’re imprisoned for fraud, you’re not getting an R&R pass to go to the temple anyway.

Subjective areas:

  • Recently resolved issues related to those on the definitely out list, once restitution is made
  • Struggling with porn or masturbation
  • Emotional affairs
  • Struggling with WoW, but intending to follow
  • Failure to pay child support, but intending to pay it
  • Affiliations with groups whose ideologies conflict (other than polygamous sects)
  • Doubting, struggling with belief
  • Intermittent garment wearing
  • Church activity intermittent but recently improved

Not a TR issue:

  • sexual thoughts, no actions
  • struggling with anger in family settings, no abuse
  • disliking but obeying the standards
  • things not on the list like drinking Coke, playing face cards, being a Democrat, gambling, or opposing Prop 8
  • church activity intermittent due to work commitments or health reasons

My own lists indicate that I view it as subjective based on your intentions and how long your intentions have been temple-ready.  So, how do your lists differ from mine?  Do you somehow avoid making these types of assumptions?  Discuss.

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33 Responses to Temple Recommend Assumptions

  1. me
    April 5, 2010 at 5:44 am

    Mine expired in December and I haven’t renewed mostly due to procrastination and a little bit due to apathy relating to a weaker testimony of temple work. Anyway, I live 5.5 hours from my assigned temple and 3.5 hours from the closest temple, so I don’t plan on making the trek any time soon. It’s just not a priority in my life.

  2. April 5, 2010 at 6:48 am

    Well, the temple recommend interview is private for a reason. It’s between the temple recommend holder and his or her bishop and/or stake president.

    Clearly the list you post in the “serious” category are valid reasons not to hold a recommend. I remember a talk from Elder Oaks years ago where he counseled those who thought they could not qualify for a recommend to go for an interview anyway, presumably so they could get started on the repentance process or so they could learn that they are being too hard on themselves. (As an interviewer, I’ve experienced both.)

    Having sadly known the circumstances for some who don’t hold recommends, I find that now that I don’t need to know, I don’t want to know.

  3. April 5, 2010 at 7:01 am

    – Failure to pay child support, but intending to pay it — how does that happen with the way automatic withholding works?

    On the other hand, procrastination, I see that all the time.

  4. Michael
    April 5, 2010 at 7:47 am

    I would suggest that the non-renewal of Temple recommends can be divided into two sub-sections:

    1) Those that live far away from a Temple are usually just procrastinators. This is due to what “me” say in his or her comment about the distance and the frequency of attendance.

    2) Those that live within an hour or two of a Temple definitely fall into one of the big three – limited or no testimony of Temple work; lack of payment of tithing; or sexual sin. All the other choices are minor things and do not have a significant impact on renewal.

  5. Jeff Spector
    April 5, 2010 at 8:34 am

    Procrastination as it relates to time management or enjoyment of the temple experience are probably the two biggest ones in my view. Tithing might be close behind that. The other issues probably manifest themselves in other ways, not just on renewing a TR.

    When I did interviews, I was always surprised at how much people wanted to embellish on their answers, both good and bad. Never had someone I had to stop and refer to the Bishop. But I did gently counsel many times that a yes or no was sufficient.

  6. April 5, 2010 at 8:45 am

    Mostly I avoid assumption, but if one is made it is exactly what the first commenter stated: that it isn’t a priority in the life of the person.

    Hah! The abuse question also assumes the person knows what abuse is.

    And Michael: interesting that you consider abuse of one’s spouse or children as a “minor” thing that doesn’t significantly impact recommend renewal.

    Or word of wisdom issues for that matter.

  7. Henry
    April 5, 2010 at 9:01 am

    If I ever come upon that situation, I would prefer to stay out of it. What am I going to give, advice? Advise that is not asked for, in general, is advice that is not wanted.

  8. April
    April 5, 2010 at 10:31 am

    Depends on how I came about knowing that they don’t hold a recommend. Usually when you find out there is a reason… ie if someone is wearing a tank top it would be obvious they aren’t wearing garments. Why not? Doesn’t really matter.

    Sometimes losing a TR is because someone is doubting the truthfulness of the Church, not that they have gone apostate. My own mother couldn’t attend my wedding because she was having a crisis of faith and wasn’t sure that JS was a prophet… she still attended church and was struggling to hold onto her testimony… losing her TR did not help the situation.

  9. Mike S
    April 5, 2010 at 10:43 am

    An interesting thought came into my head when I looked at the results of the poll (my results included). As a thought experiment, what if we were getting temple recommends in Christ’s time, using what we know from the New Testament.

    - I think all of the sexual sins would be the same and equally condemned
    - I think gross apostasy would be equally condemned
    - It seems like Christ talked A LOT about honesty, integrity, etc. Interestingly, at the time of this comment, there are ZERO votes for “not being honest in one’s dealings”. I think Christ might have an issue with that, at least more than how much we seem to weight it
    - I think Christ would probably also have an issue with wine. He set up the sacrament using wine in His time, among the Nephites, and in our time. There are a lot of significant reasons for that in my opinion – the grape press, the color (assuming red wine), parables, etc. It has been used in temples in ancient days and in modern days. Yet in our poll, we have changed it so much that we all think it should now keep you out of the temple. We would even probably be uncomfortable drinking the wine that Christ made from water for His first miracle.
    - Doubting – even “doubting Thomas” was an apostle
    - Procrastination – the ten virgins

    So, I think in some areas we are in good company. I look at these as eternal truths. They seem to be the same across ages, cultures, countries, etc. I do personally feel we are on the wrong track with the over emphasis we seem to place on a couple of verses in the WofW, while at the same time ignoring hundreds of verses on honesty, integrity, and being true.

  10. Thomas
    April 5, 2010 at 11:35 am

    #9: “- Doubting – even “doubting Thomas” was an apostle”

    Call it doubt, or call it “due diligence.” I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that what is praiseworthy in one context (making sure of your facts) is damnable in the context of religion.

  11. Cowboy
    April 5, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Who knows why a person doesn’t hold a recommend. First I think we have to condense our conversation down to those who don’t hold recommends, but that we expect should. After all, there is good evidence to suggest that well over half of the recently quoted 13.8 million members are not actually active. If they are taken into consideration then the best answer is probably lack of belief, and therefore lack of concern. Regarding the seemingly active members, I still think that the reasons for any one person can be as diverse as the number of them there are, though I would guess that the mode is probably procrastination. I am still wondering what the perspective about me will be when it is discovered by family/friends/neighbors that I haven’t attended the Temple in over three years.

  12. Dblock
    April 5, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    wow o Wow. this is a loaded topic for me for many reasons.

    I was a seminary teacher back in October of 2009. One of my students came to class with homework from school. I asked her to put it away as I and my teaching companion had been told by CES not to let students have any other work but scriptures be in the room. she complained to her mother who then complained to the Branch President. I was called into a meeting because the both of them were trying to pressure me into apologizing for not allowing any material in our class. The mother justified it by saying this was acceptable behavior. Mind you this girl is 15years of age, and there is nothing wrong with her physically, mentally, or emotionally that would prevent her from participating. What’s even more interesting in this discussion is this girl attends catholic school and because she does has to attend CCD classes, which are the eqivolent to seminary. I know for a fact having grown up as a catholic had she tried the same crap a catholic ccd classes the Nuns would have sent her to the principles office for insubordination.

    But anyway I wouldn’t back down and as a result my BP took my temple recommend away from me in front of them. Which goes against procedure.

    I think its’ a joke considering the emotional, spirtual abuse that I’ve had to put up with from an older woman and brother in the branch and he didn’t even want to get involved.

    As a result I’ve have not stepped foot back in church because of the hypocricy( i know i spelled it wrong)behind it as I have attempted to for the past seven months get the stake involved to straightened out the situation. They have refused as well. I don’t think I will be going back any time soon

  13. Michael
    April 5, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Silver Rain,

    You are misreading my comment. It is not that I don’t consider those things significant (the WoW much less significant than the abuse part) but I was commenting on the reasons why most recommends go lapsed not on the severity of the items. In my experience in the Elders Quorum Presidency, it was not abuse or WoW that were the factors for the lapses.

    As a side note, the word “abuse” is entirely too general to use in this scenario. It is such a loaded word and subject to strange interpretations. Especially in a patriarchal society such as ours or in situations where strong & firm parenting is used by parents. It needs to be qualified. Sexual and physical abuse are most grievous while “verbal” or “emotional” abuse are very subjective terms.

  14. geb
    April 5, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    It isn’t any of my business. Speculating about it is something I should not even entertain.

  15. Mike S
    April 5, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    #14: I agree that it isn’t something we should speculate about. To be honest, I couldn’t tell you who in my ward does and does not have a temple recommend. And even on a family level, my only brother couldn’t go to my wedding and to be honest, I still have no idea why. He said he just wasn’t at a point in his life where he felt comfortable going (RM for around 3 years at that point) and I just left it at that.

  16. April 5, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    Dblock that sounds just terrible. What state are you in?

  17. April 5, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    I certainly agree with those who say it’s nobody’s business. Yet I became aware when I first lived in Utah that people did naturally have an assumption about it, sometimes even a personal judgment, whether they expressed it or not. I have also heard many folks express fear about what others will think of them if they do not carry an active TR. So it has kind of become a litmus test for something. I’m with Pres. Uchtdorf, though – we are all sinners, and there’s no point to thinking we are better than anyone else, TR or no TR.

    I also often wonder if those who let it lapse due to doubts are sometimes just too self-critical. Everyone doubts. You can doubt while observing the practices of the religion.

  18. Cowboy
    April 5, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    I was interested when President Uchtdorf recited the famous Romans verse, that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Given the high call for tolerance this conference, I wasn’t sure whether that comment was intended to be somewhat of a subtle directive towards ecumenicalism, or if I was just reading too much into it. On a side not, I couldn’t help but notice how little the restoration and Joseph Smith played into the various talks.

  19. Mike S
    April 5, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    To be honest, the main reason I keep my recommend is actually for the reason mentioned in #17. I may be asked to go to a wedding or something else, and not being able to go would invite the same judgments that sparked this post. Keeping enough of the commandments to maintain a temple recommend isn’t hard, as they’re generally things I’d be doing anyway.

    On a personal basis, I’ve probably only been to the temple once in the past 2-3 years, even though I have 5 within 25 minutes of my house. I’ve been many, many times over the past 20+ years, but it’s all been a “buzz kill” in many ways. I’ve always expected to have some great feeling or inspiration or something from going as I hear so many people talk about. I always come away with a feeling of “that’s it?”. Perhaps some big flaw in me? And in the past few years, I have come to respect so much more in so many other religions that I think they have as many truths as we do. We have some truths they don’t have, but they also have some truths or ways of approaching God and our fellowman that we don’t have. Without the exclusivity of the “one true Church”, I just don’t really have that burning desire to go to the temple anymore.

    So, if I were true to myself, I suppose I would let it lapse out of apathy or procrastination more than anything else, or perhaps I fall in someone’s interpretation of apostasy. I don’t know. But I keep a recommend for societal reasons.

  20. Dblock
    April 5, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    PA

  21. meggle
    April 5, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    Mike (19)- I actually think there are a lot of us out here who don’t necessarily feel super inspired when we attend the temple. I think some elements of the gospel “speak” more clearly than others to different people, especially at different points in our lives, so I guess I don’t really see it as being some big flaw in you. Maybe at some point in your life you’ll have greater appreciation for it, and maybe you never will- I think it is like spiritual gifts- everyone’s are different. I don’t think that invalidates the importance of it, however- but cut yourself some slack.
    I definitely think that other churches have some “ways of approaching God and our fellowman that we don’t have”- not because they are not in keeping with our beliefs, but because they are downplayed or even discouraged by our “church culture”. For example, I have a good friend who is very interested in energy healing, etc. In learning along with her, I have found that many of the ideas have made gospel concepts like prayer much more accessible to me. Because of the way these ideas are worded, however, I think many members of the church would run screaming the other way because it sounds like “voodoo” to them. To me it is just a different way of expressing truths that I know, and I’ve found them very enlightening, and a help rather than a detriment to my faith.

  22. JB
    April 5, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    I’m with GEB 14 and Mike S 15. This stuff is super complicated. Assume nothing.

  23. el oso
    April 5, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    The most common reason to not have a TR is likely procrastination, but how would you find out? If a mission/marriage was upcoming, they would get a TR. I would assume something else.

    Dblock – That is harsh. The SP or other stake officer should at least hear you out. A BP who goes against procedure should be corrected. That is the SP’s job. This is especially true in areas where you cannot just go to the next door ward like several people are doing here where I live (for whatever reasons).

  24. April 6, 2010 at 7:24 am

    Michael–Ah, I see.

    I would like to point out that without the emotional aspect, there is no abuse, only attacks. Physical and sexual abuse wounds heal much more quickly than the wounds from emotional abuse.

    It’s only subjective because fewer people understand it, not because it really is subjective.

  25. April 6, 2010 at 10:08 am

    As I went through the possible reasons someone might not have a TR, a couple of them really stood out to me as ones that people probably would not readily admit, even to themselves:
    - conduct toward family members / abuse (as discussed above – although the word abuse is not specifically used probably because abusers don’t admit that even to themselves); which also is why I think they added the question about child support specifically
    - honest in all your dealings. Again, if someone is blatantly dishonest, they are just going to lie anyway, so for most of us, this question is probably more about our intentions as everyone may have occasional lapses of self-deception or diplomatic lies. I suppose it is the striving that is important.

  26. Mike S
    April 6, 2010 at 10:26 am

    #25

    I agree about not being honest about honesty. My most baffling experience was teaching EQ one time. The lesson was on honesty. I gave an example about a prominent church leader who blatently cheated someone I knew out of several thousand dollars, stating that they could either accept that as payment in full, or take them to small claims court as the amount was carefully designed to be the amount it would cost to recover the money in small claims court. I used this as an example of dishonesty.

    The response of the class astounded me. At least half of the class tried to logic that business was different that “real life” and that is just how things are done. You couldn’t expect to be totally honest in business because no one else was. And these were active, TR-holding (I assume – although I’d been to the temple with at least some of them) members.

    So, honesty doesn’t carry much weight in the church (also as evidenced by the poll). Yet heaven forbid any of these people have a glass of red wine with dinner. It’s a bit ironic to me.

  27. susanna
    April 6, 2010 at 10:32 am

    One reason I have not seen listed for not renewing a temple recommend is divorce.

    I didn’t hold a recommend for years after my divorce because I felt guilty because of the divorce and also felt hopeless – I thought the temple was for couples. I eventually worked through those issues (after about 20 years) and returned to the temple.

    Now I no longer care, as I no longer believe, so once again am recommendless.

  28. April 6, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    Mike S #26 – fascinating! Your example, to me, is alarming. I’m surprised people would side with the business practice you described. A good friend of mine answered “no” to the honesty question when she met with the SP. She said, “I can’t be honest; I work in HR.” He said there were things in business that sometimes precluded our being honest. Now, the HR example feels a little different to me than deliberately screwing someone out of money (not that HR has never done that), but I think it’s an interesting question nonetheless.

    A few years ago, there was an episode of Frasier in which he ditched his amoral talent agent for a Mormon guy. The Mormon guy (who at one point literally showed up for a salary negotiation in a Boy Scout uniform) was at a total disadvantage because he wouldn’t lie and was so open and “okely-dokely” in negotiations that Frasier fired him and went back to Phoebe, the other agent. I thought it was a ridiculous dig at Mormons at the time – and silly. Your job may require you to be an agent of a company or an individual, and in that role, you are acting in their best interests. You act according to the law, but you do have to use strategy, persuasion, politics, etc., at the negotiating table, and everything is a negotiating table in business.

    I think this could be a good idea for a future post & poll. What is meant by honest in all our dealings?

  29. Thomas
    April 6, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    #28:

    “Honest in our dealings,” in the context of business (or law) means that once bought, you stay bought. :)

  30. Dblock
    April 7, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    @23

    I know that’s the SP job but he has been blatenly (I know I spelled it wrong) passive aggressive about saying he wants to set up a time to speak with me to talk about the situation. He says he wants to talk to me to resolve issues, but then he doesn’t take the initiative to actually do it. At this point I have composed a letter that I’m sending to salt Lake, because it shouldn’t take seven months to get this situation resolved. I’m so angry even now that if I sat down with my BP I could probably slap him and not feel guilty about doing it.

  31. domestic goddess
    April 7, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    #30, you might want to not waste your time. Salt Lake will just send the letter back to the SP. Your situation seems ridiculous. It appears to be more of a power issue w/ some people. I have found that usually the SP backs the Bishop right or wrong, My heart breaks for you and I hate to see you further hurt by SL ignoring your plea for help.

  32. el oso
    April 8, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    I think a letter to your Area President would be helpful. As dg says, they will probably send it back, but there might be an accompanying letter or follow up phone call to make sure that the SP actually does his job. Unlike many situation where letters are written in disagreement with the SP, this one is to request that he do what he is supposed to do. I know that there are some stakes where SLC is more concerned with the local leadership and may take a more active role in certain situations like this.

  33. Jake
    April 21, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    Being Democrat is a very offensive (and scary) suggestion. I can only imagine what damaging emotional distress people like you pose on politicians who are doing us a great service to out country sufficient of their political affiliation. Shame on you.