Thursday, May 3, 2007

What if?

This is a question I posed over at FMH in a comment. It really was a threadjack, so I thought I'd ask it here.

What if an active member of the Church went in for a TR interview. S/he could answer most of the questions satisfactorily. S/he paid tithing, obeyed the WoW, served in the Church, followed local leaders. But to the questions about HF and Jesus, to the questions about Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, s/he could only say, “I don’t know. I’ve prayed about it, and I haven’t received an answer.”
Do you think s/he would be worthy of a temple recommend? Should the Bishop let this member go?


Anonymous said...

Good questions, but I don't have answers, just a story: A few years ago, I was the hypothetical member you describe in your questions - active by all outward measures, but when I was asked in a temple recommend interview about my faith in Jesus Christ, I answered honestly, "I don't know. It's difficult. I try to have faith." The bishop said, "I know. I know you try." and then renewed my temple recommend. He also recommended I read Jesus the Christ.

Téa said...

I wonder if it would make a difference whether s/he was attending for the first time or was renewing a recommend?

I would definitely hesitate in encouraging someone to make covenants with God if s/he hadn't yet had a witness of the reality of God and Jesus Christ. Can one be worthy before God but not yet ready to make those covenants? I would say yes.

Mark IV said...

Do you think s/he would be worthy of a temple recommend?


Should the Bishop let this member go?


JohnR said...

I worked with three bishops and a stake president on these very questions. One bishop struggled with the question and eventually passed the buck to the Stake President, who decided against it. Another bishop eventually decided that the temple was where I could get the answers I needed and let me pass. They were good, spiritual men, all of them.

Bored in Vernal said...

My gut reaction was to say yes, they should pass. But Tea makes a good point. I don't know if someone with even a non-traditional testimony of these points is ready to make these covenants for the first time.

I would say there is a definite difference between the first time attender and the renewer.

onelowerlight said...

IMO, the temple is not for perfect people. It is a place where we take huge steps and make very important covenants, and we need to be prepared to make those covenants, but we don't need to be perfect in everything in order to go there. When I first went through the temple, I was struggling with some doubts, but I was trying very hard to live the gospel and to grow my faith. And it worked. I've gotten past the things that used to bother me and I really feel uplifted every time I go to the temple. When I was struggling, I was working very hard to grow my faith, and I think that was what was important. I'm glad I went through the temple when I did and I don't regret it at all.

I think that the deciding criteria should really be whether or not you're ready to make and keep the temple covenants, inwardly and outwardly. You don't have to be perfect to be able to keep the covenants; that's putting the cart before the horse. You do, however, have to be committed to the gospel, inwardly and outwardly. And even if you feel you lack faith, you can still exercise the faith you have until your faith grows to that point. And if you're trying, that's what's necessary, not that you're already there. In my opinion, at least.

I think it really should be a personal decision, though. You don't want to put too much on your plate before you're ready, and if you're struggling to believe even the basics, you may want to postpone making those temple covenants until you feel your faith can handle it. But you shouldn't wait until you're perfect in everything before you enter. It really is something that varies from individual to individual, when it comes down to it.

JohnR said...

Belief is just one part of temple readiness. I wonder if even a firm conviction in basic gospel principles is enough to say that someone is ready to enter into those covenants. I believe that many--perhaps even most--first time temple-goers have no clue what they're getting into. I know that I didn't, and I was an on-fire convert who had taken the temple prep course and had studied the gospel with great focus before going through.

Ann said...

I just flipped over to a FAIR site that lists the temple recommend questions, and I just listened to them recently. I think it's really interesting that there's not a word about the Book of Mormon in the temple recommend questions. The closest thing is:

Do you have a testimony of the restoration of the gospel in these the latter days?


Do you sustain the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator and as the only person on the earth who possesses and is authorized to exercise all priesthood keys? Do you sustain members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators? Do you sustain the other General Authorities and local authorities of the Church?

The words "Joseph Smith" don't appear anywhere.

Bored in Vernal said...

Thank you Ann, for that clarification.

Ann said...

I hope it didn't sound like I was saying your question was pointless, but it's a VERY interesting question. I was just thinking that there are all these things we think we have to agree to believe to go to the temple - but some of those things are never brought up. Who would have thought that the Book of Mormon wouldn't rate even a mention in the TR interview? You don't have to assent to the Articles of Faith, or anything that we think of as core elements of the faith. Everything is pretty vague, which is a Good Thing, imo.

But to answer your question, I think the person should get the TR, but that will never, ever be my call :)

Bored in Vernal said...

Ann, I know! Isn't it interesting, when I have been in for a TR interview at least 25 times, that I would mistakenly remember that a testimony of JS and the BoM were part of the questions? (maybe just my interpretation of "having a testimony of the restoration).

Téa said...

If you take the restoration aspect out of the equation, that still leaves the questions about God and Jesus Christ. For a first-timer I would want s/he to take it slower because I have a hard time understanding why someone who didn't have any answer(s) to that question would want to go.

In my experience it was only my faith in God that gave me the strength to enter the temple in the first place. I'd heard so many disturbing things about the ordinances & covenants and when I talked to people who'd been there/done that their response was "you'll understand when you get there."

I agree with John that few people who enter the temple are sufficiently prepared for what happens therein.

kel said...

Hi... I've been eavesdropping on your blog today after noticing some of your comments on my friend Loyd's blog. I've really enjoyed what you and your friends have had to say on so many of the important topics you've examined. I hope you don't mind my trespassing.

This particular string of comments has made me wonder about a few things. Tea said "...few people who enter the temple are sufficiently prepared for what happens therein." You know, I have yet to hear anyone ever tell me that they have been sufficiently prepared to enter the temple. In fact, I almost always hear people say, "I'm not sure what I just agreed to" after finishing their first session. This makes me uneasy. Is it possible to be sufficiently prepared, or are all first-timers destined to feel ill-prepared as they look back on the experience?

I ask with somewhat selfish motives. I myself and trying to "prepare" to go through the temple for the first time in the (relatively) near future, and lately I've really been stewing about being "prepared." I've had lots of in-depth conversations with close friends who have been going to the temple for some time now. I feel that I probably have a better idea about what goes on there than most people who haven't received their endowment. Yet I'm still nervous about being unprepared and having something rattling me; I'm afraid of getting caught like a deer in the headlights.

So, how does someone become "sufficiently prepared'? I'm beginning to believe that it's just not possible.

...I realize I'm leaving this comment a few weeks after this post has become dormant, so I might not hear back. In any event, thanks for all of your other enlightening posts, BiV.

Bored in Vernal said...

Kel, It's good to have you here. I think it's almost impossible to predict who will have a hard time with their first temple experience, and who will not. I went to the Temple a year after joining the Church, and in preparation for a mission. The things I experienced in the Temple did not shock me, and the covenants were not difficult to make. But I have had plenty of experience with different religious traditions. Many Mormons who were born in the Church find the ritual very different from what they are accustomed to.

The only advice I think I can give is just to accept the fact that there will probably be some things that will bother you. You have plenty of time to think about them and come to terms with them. Go back frequently at first, and let it all soak in, and don't make any hasty judgements.

Lately those I've talked to about their first experiences in the Temple have all said it was the clothing that bothered them (especially the men's headwear). Ha! This didn't bother me. But if you haven't seen it before, just look at lots of pictures of OT high priests on the internet, like this and this and this!