Temple recommend interviews and "testimony"

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squarepeg
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Temple recommend interviews and "testimony"

Post by squarepeg » 28 Dec 2018, 09:05

We can't define "testimony" as "granting the possibility of truth" or "hoping that something is true," can we? I'm trying to determine whether I can have a temple recommend after years of it having expired with my current "testimony" now that my whole conceptualization of truth is different from TBMs. I don't know that Heavenly Father, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost are real. I feel like Jesus probably is, but I really don't have a whole lot of confidence in the other two. Is hoping that they're real enough to say I have a testimony? I want to say it is, but it probably isn't!

And what if I believe that Priesthood keys are something we made up? I'd say they exist, because we invented them (the same way occupations like "doctor" and "secretary" exist because we needed someone to do a certain thing and we applied a label to it) but not as the exclusive authority to act in God's name, because people without Priesthood authority do amazing and wonderful things in God's name. I don't believe Priesthood authority is required for anyone's exaltation. I think anyone with a broken heart and contrite spirit, who repents of her sins and strives to be Christlike will be exalted. This disqualifies me from a temple recommend, basically, right?

Thank you, lovely forum friends.

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Temple recommend interviews and "testimony"

Post by Curt Sunshine » 28 Dec 2018, 10:05

Yes, we can, no matter how many people define it as knowledge. Testimonies don't have to be black-and-white statements of divine, eternal truth - in any setting.

In a courtroom, character witnesses testify about their subjective impressions of people. Expert witnesses testify of their general knowledge of issues and topics, even if they have never met the people involved. Even people directly involved in providing testimonies about the specific case are held ONLY to one standard: they don't lie on the stand (which means they don't say something they know to be untrue). In scriptural terms, they don't "bear false witness". They don't have to give exhaustive explanations of their answers; they don't have to answer questions they are not asked; they simply need to answer the questions they are asked in a way that they believe to be true.

Testimony, at the most fundamental level, simply means "what I honestly believe". If your testimony of the Godhead, for example, is that you hope they exist and are willing to keep that possibility alive and live according to how you construct that hope, you can say, "Yes," to that question. If your testimony of tithing is that you pay 10% of your income (gross OR net) or "increase" (as you honestly and sincerely define it), you can answer,"Yes," to that question - even, I beleive, if you don't pay all of it to the LDS Church. The actual question does not ask about who receives your tithe; it only asks if you pay it. You can answer THAT question; you don't have to answer a different question just because most people assume it is a different question. As long as you can answer each question honestly with the required "Yes" or "No", even if what you mean by that answer is different than someone else's meaning, your testimony is legitimate for that setting.

Your Priesthood example is perfect. You can answer that question "correctly", based on what you said in your post. Just don't share all of the explanation with the interviewer. There is no need, and the actual question does not require it. Just say directly and confidently, "Yes," and leave it at that. If pressed, you might say, "It isn't a perfect testimony, but it is a testimony. It took serious effort to gain it, and it is my testimony." If pressed further, which I doubt will happen, you might say, "My testimony is deeply personal. I can answer this question sincerely and honestly."

In conclusion:

"Do you have a testimony of . . ." can be answered with a simple "Yes" or "No". In fact, the questions are worded in such a way that the grammatically correct answer is NOT a detailed explanation of why you answer "Yes" or "No". The questions are not meant or structured to elicit long, comprehensive explanations; they are meant to elicit "Yes" or "No". Period. Anything else, from the interviewee or the interviewer, is "going beyond the mark".
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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mom3
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Re: Temple recommend interviews and "testimony"

Post by mom3 » 28 Dec 2018, 12:01

Why do you want a recommend?

This isn't a judgement question, it's a way for you to examine the why in your choice. If it's to attend the temple with family. Then go ahead and answer the questions to get the recommend. Same goes for if you just miss being in it.

You are on a spiritual journey. Have a talk with your spirit about what you are looking for and what it means to you.

As Curt said, don't explain any answers. Just answer as is needed to get the recommend. Get it. Then if you still feel unsure about using it, tuck it away and don't worry about it.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

Minyan Man
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Re: Temple recommend interviews and "testimony"

Post by Minyan Man » 28 Dec 2018, 18:24

This is a link to a discussion we had earlier: viewtopic.php?f=6&t=6117

It helped me a lot & I recommend it again.

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dande48
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Re: Temple recommend interviews and "testimony"

Post by dande48 » 28 Dec 2018, 18:25

squarepeg wrote:
28 Dec 2018, 09:05
We can't define "testimony" as "granting the possibility of truth" or "hoping that something is true," can we?
I'd say we can't define it as the first, by definition. If you could, baring testimony in a court of law, you could say practically anything, and it would count for practically nothing. For the second, "hoping that something is true" is part of the definition of "faith" as defined by Alma in Alma 32. I'd give it a pass.

You can definitely answer a nuanced question with a straightforward (but also filled with nuance) answer. Personally, I don't. I feel it goes against the intent and spirit of the TR interview. But if you disagree with the premise of the TR interview (as many on here do, myself included), I can see people reasonably justifying saying whatever they need to, to get the TR. Short answers lead to assumptions that things are a certain way, when they really aren't, and can land you the TR.

Then again, I don't. I don't feel right about it. I feel like getting it would be compromising my integrity. I feel like it'd be perpetuating the same cycle, by maintaining the status-quo, and preventing any real change to the whole TR interview process. I do not submit myself for judgement to the Church, even if I could pull off a "worthy" conviction. But that's just me. I don't hold it against anyone who chooses a different path.
mom3 wrote:
28 Dec 2018, 12:01
Why do you want a recommend?
I think this is an important question. It's also one, since yours has been expired so long, that the Bishop will ask you. I wouldn't be surprised if he goes off-script, and pries into the details of why you've let it expire for so long. If you choose to get it renewed, be prepared. Chances are, a "Yes" or "No" response won't cut it all the way through.
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
-Lemony Snicket

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Heber13
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Re: Temple recommend interviews and "testimony"

Post by Heber13 » 29 Dec 2018, 01:28

Based on what you have shared so far, you have not disqualified yourself from a recommend unless you want to disqualify yourself.

You have the faith necessary to answer affirmative.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
We will not know the answer to things until we die. In the mean time, we hope for things we do not know. We believe. We can go to the temple continuing to seek the Divine. We do not need to limit ourselves because we don't feel perfect now.

We do not need to limit our definitions of things that are likely made up by others to represent or symbolize good things. Things like the priesthood, and temples, and scriptures, and definitions...they are all made up to try to help us live our religion. They point us to ideas greater than cold facts of this world. They elevate our thoughts.

Minyan man provided the correct link. We should spend time reviewing those threads and bumping them if we wish to add to them. There is great wisdom in those thoughts by others.

If you hate the church and wish to mock it by tearing down the beliefs and what the temple teaches...you are not qualified to enter.

If you hope and are clean, you should go and seek an experience with the Divine in the quiet, sacred and holy rooms the temple can offer us.

It is between you and God. God is within you. The person asking the questions in the interview is not the person who you have to satisfy interpretations and definitions to be worthy.

It all depends on how literal vs being deeply spiritual you feel you can go with the process.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

squarepeg
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Re: Temple recommend interviews and "testimony"

Post by squarepeg » 29 Dec 2018, 09:42

Thank you, everyone. It sure is tremendously helpful to read your thoughts and insights and the linked thread. I can see this more clearly now.

I can kind of see both sides of this: the side that says we can interpret the interview questions however we like and answer according to whether our conscience tells us we are worthy to enter the temple, as well as the side that says its deceptive to answer questions according to our own subjective interpretation that we KNOW is NOT the same interpretation that the interviewer intends when he asks it. My conscience tells me that the interviewer and I need to have a shared understanding of the questions in order for my answers to have validity; to do otherwise would feel dishonest to me, because if the interviewer found out later that I had answered "yes" using my own arguably "creative" or "unorthodox" interpretation, he would feel I had deceived him.

It would be like when your kid asks, "Where is my old stuffed teddy bear?" And you, having donated it to the thrift store because you thought your kid had outgrown it, but not wanting to deal with the fallout of telling him you gave it away, reply, "I don't know." You literally don't know, so in one sense you could convince yourself you're being honest. You know you gave it away but you don't know whether it's still at the thrift store or whether it's in a dump somewhere or in the home of another child... BUT, when you say "I don't know," you are knowingly giving your child the impression that you had no part in the teddy bear's disappearance in the first place, in order to get the child to respond in the way that benefits you most favorably. To me that feels kind of dishonest.

I do believe that whether we are worthy to enter the temple should be personal and between ourselves as individuals and God. But the institution doesn't concur. And if we take the passive route of answering with an interpretation that we know is different from what the church and the interviewer intended, I kind of worry that that will just perpetuate the status quo of the church believing it's perfectly okay to make the matter of temple worthiness the business of third parties (outside of the individual and God). So, dande48, I think I really relate to what you're saying.

I'm going to ask my bishop whether he thinks my hope of things being true, and my willingness to live as if they were true, counts as testimony...and risk him denying me the recommend.

The reasons I want it are, first, the bishop wants me to have it, and he being a very spiritual guy, I believe he genuinely wants ward members to be temple worthy because he wants us to be a holier people...a pure motive, and so I want to be cooperative. Second, my two oldest kids keep doing baptisms for the dead and I have never been able to go with them, and I would like to share that experience with them. Third, if I am card-carrying, it gives me more sway, more credibility, as I try to change the problematic or less-than-ideal aspects of church culture and policy from within. Fourth, if I attend the temple again, I will be able to form stronger bonds of love and charity with my fellow ward members and other temple-worthy family and friends as I'll once again have that temple perspective salient and fresh in my mind. Fifth, I miss the profound feelings of peace and mind-opening I had from time to time while in the temple.

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Heber13
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Re: Temple recommend interviews and "testimony"

Post by Heber13 » 29 Dec 2018, 10:05

Thank you for your thoughts and insights. I like what you said.

The most important thing is that you do what feels right.

It would be like when your kid asks, "Where is my old stuffed teddy bear?" And you, having donated it to the thrift store because you thought your kid had outgrown it, but not wanting to deal with the fallout of telling him you gave it away, reply, "I don't know." You literally don't know, so in one sense you could convince yourself you're being honest. You know you gave it away but you don't know whether it's still at the thrift store or whether it's in a dump somewhere or in the home of another child... BUT, when you say "I don't know," you are knowingly giving your child the impression that you had no part in the teddy bear's disappearance in the first place, in order to get the child to respond in the way that benefits you most favorably. To me that feels kind of dishonest.
This makes sense to me.

On the other hand...how do you handle Santa Clause and Christmas?

How do you handle your spouse asking.."Do I look fat in this dress?"

I would not advocate for dishonesty. I also believe it is important and even critical with these sacred things.

I just think brute honesty must be weighed with other values and sometimes we find the kindest part is to withhold because others cannot see inside our soul to know what we mean or intend.

However...this part is something I probably put little emphasis on ...
My conscience tells me that the interviewer and I need to have a shared understanding of the questions in order for my answers to have validity; to do otherwise would feel dishonest to me.

I am not disagreeing with you. Your point of view is perfectly valid. And feels right to many.

However, I care less about the interviewer than I do about God, or my soul.

Something we all have to work through in our journey.

There are no wrong ways to do it, unless you intend to do harm.

Follow your heart. Let your soul be your pilot.

Just avoid limiting yourself to only one way to answer and then blame the church for restricting your access to the temple when you are choosing your actions and answers in a way that allows them to restrict it. Don't choose the path of blame or bitterness when there are options to open our minds to truth. That's all. Just my point of view. There is a good chance I'm wrong and will change my mind later...things just aren't black and white and the gray gets complex which is why many prefer the illusion of monochrome for their peaceful landing spot.

You are certainly not black and white or simplistic in your view in any way. I'm just discussing it as I learn from you.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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DarkJedi
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Re: Temple recommend interviews and "testimony"

Post by DarkJedi » 29 Dec 2018, 10:49

I think the most important things to remember in a temple recommend interview are that the questions are precisely worded vaguely and that they require nothing more than yes or no for answers.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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Curt Sunshine
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Re: Temple recommend interviews and "testimony"

Post by Curt Sunshine » 29 Dec 2018, 12:45

I will make only one point:

Believing we have to conform to the view of the interviewer means, in many cases, we have to change our view to get the recommend - because many Bishops and Stake Presidents don't share the same views.

I think that is an important thing to realize. I do not believe we are obligated to confirm our views to the views of other individuals. "According to the dictates of their own conscience" is critically important to me.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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