Temple recommend interviews and "testimony"

Public forum for those seeking support for their experience in the LDS Church.
User avatar
SamBee
Posts: 5343
Joined: 14 Mar 2010, 04:55

Re: Temple recommend interviews and "testimony"

Post by SamBee » 31 Dec 2018, 08:28

Don't get me onto Star Wars - I could do a whole book on who it stole from.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

Roy
Posts: 5640
Joined: 07 Oct 2010, 14:16
Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Temple recommend interviews and "testimony"

Post by Roy » 31 Dec 2018, 10:44

I have not had a recommend for nearly a decade. We lost our daughter in stillbirth thus setting off my FC specifically around tithing and the blessings related to this topic. Some months after the stillbirth we met with our bishop for tithing settlement and I answered that I hadn't paid tithing because of these issues. My bishop told me that as a man and a father he had great sympathy for my situation. As an administrator for the church, however, it was his duty to confiscate my TR.
Part of the reason that I do not want a TR is that if I were to have one, I would feel a constant threat of taking it away. Life for me as a non-TR, non-temple attending member is much more chill in relation to the church.
This has not made for a carefree existence. As my children have approached the age for certain ordinance milestones there is some additional uncertainty and prep-work to be done surrounding who will perform the ordinance. Thankfully, I have received permission to baptize my two living children (the handbook specifies that the baptizer need not be strictly temple worthy but still the final determination is left to the bishop).
In a meeting with my bishop before the baptism of one of my children he asked about my testimony of the plan of salvation. I responded, "I find the plan of salvation so beautiful that I hope for it to be true and I am willing to act on that hope. That, to me, is the definition of faith."

Incidentally, had I held a TR at the time my bishop would likely not have asked me such a probing and open ended question. That is one of the pitfalls of not having a TR and wanting to perform an ordinance. To have a TR there are very specific yes/no questions you must answer to determine assumed worthiness. To not have a TR but wanting to perform an ordinance, the bishop is left largely to his own intuition and discretion.

Those are my reasons for doing as I have done. I may some time in the future try to receive a TR. I believe that the only question that currently impedes me is the tithing question (we all have our own stumbling blocks - this just happens to be mine). DW has said that she would be open to something less than gross as a full tithe so at least there is some flexibility there when the time comes.

Specifically in regards to the TR testimony questions, my response would be "I find the ______ so beautiful that I hope for it to be true and I am willing to act on that hope. That, to me, is the definition of faith." or simply shortened to a "Yes."
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

User avatar
Heber13
Posts: 7103
Joined: 22 Apr 2009, 16:37
Location: In the Middle

Re: Temple recommend interviews and "testimony"

Post by Heber13 » 31 Dec 2018, 11:14

The way I see it, you have a couple options...

Be ok with not going to the temple, or honestly feel worthy and see the vagueness of the interview questions on the mystical religious ideas and concepts that you can honestly answer them affirmative to go to the temple...even if you are a piccolo in the orchestra and the interviewer is a violin and see the questions from a very different point of view.

You can be honest in both options. Just do what you feel is right.

God is judging how you handle the situation, not the answers to the test
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."

Curt Sunshine
Site Admin
Posts: 16541
Joined: 21 Oct 2008, 20:24

Re: Temple recommend interviews and "testimony"

Post by Curt Sunshine » 31 Dec 2018, 11:19

Just for perspective, we have had this same general conversation many times since this site began. The following is from a comment I made in February 2009 - nearly ten years ago:
I am a firm believer in not lying to get into the temple, but I'm also a firm believer in creative honesty and the principle of KISS. (Keep it simple, stupid.) I know that sounds deceptive to some people, but if you can construct a reasonable way to answer the questions in your own mind such that you aren't lying but you are able to give the answers that the interviewer expects to hear ("yes" or "no") - I have NO problem with that. For example, if you have lower expectations of prophets than many members, it's perfectly fine, imo, to answer "Yes" to the question about accepting and sustaining the prophets and apostles. Read what valoel has said here about how he looks at prophets. I think he is honest, consistent, and totally within acceptable parameters for temple attendance on that question - but his take is radically different than many who hear a simple "Yes" would assume.
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

User avatar
Heber13
Posts: 7103
Joined: 22 Apr 2009, 16:37
Location: In the Middle

Re: Temple recommend interviews and "testimony"

Post by Heber13 » 31 Dec 2018, 11:19

SamBee wrote:
31 Dec 2018, 08:28
Don't get me onto Star Wars - I could do a whole book on who it stole from.
Please...someone...start a thread on this!! :D
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
Posts: 120
Joined: 17 Feb 2017, 12:51

Re: Temple recommend interviews and "testimony"

Post by squarepeg » 01 Jan 2019, 00:26

Heber13 wrote:
29 Dec 2018, 10:05

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.
Thank you, Heber. I actually tell my kids the truth about Santa really young. My teenage daughter told me the other day that she wishes we would've waited until she was older to tell her, so that she could've prolonged the magic. But for me it's like lying to my kids and it feels awful and isn't justified in order to help things feel more magical. There can be Christmas magic without believing a man comes into your house in the night. And my parents told me when I was very young, and it made me feel mature and respected and valued, like they trusted me. So I wanted to have that same kind of honesty with my kids. I actually think that despite what my daughter said, I made the best decision. She tells me all kinds of things I've done "wrong" as her parent lately, like, that we haven't taken her on exotic-enough vacations...we never leave the country. And we have never taken her to to the opera. And we put limits on how much time they can spend staring at their phones. Sigh. We are horrible parents. :crazy:

When my spouse asks me if he looks fat in this dress, I tell him he looks drop-dead gorgeous. :lol: But seriously, I will find the kindest words I can in order to respond truthfully. If I lie and say someone doesn't look fat when they do, they can't trust me. Whether they realize I can't be trusted is beside the point.

Heber13 wrote:
29 Dec 2018, 10:05

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.
Absolutely, it's never helpful to be bitter or blaming. But surely we would say that the church did play a role in a person's disqualification to attend the temple when that person answered "no" to a question based on what they believed to be the official interpretation of that question. Phew...if that makes any sense...!

mom3 wrote:
29 Dec 2018, 16:25
Realize, depending on how you present your lack of belief/testimony, you could put all those other things that you desire in jeopardy. Those alone are good reasons to have a recommend. Especially attending family events like baptisms and sealings.

No one is asking you to lie. As Heber pointed out, if you have no desire to tear down the church or secretly record the temple stuff, then you are as valid as anyone to attend it. Even if you only attend to support family.

I know super jerk leaders and people who have recommends. I wonder what their testimonies are anchored in all the time. Cause they seem miles away from Christ and Godliness as I can find, but because they don't drink coffee, and they pay tithing - they get in.

Important to remember that the questions are supposed to be between you and the Lord. I believe we still read that to each interviewee at the beginning. The Bishop or Stake President is just a guy. As you imagine your life with Jesus or God, do you think they would be okay with you going to the temple?
The thing is, if the church meant for us to knowingly interpret those questions in a manner at odds with the way most members of the church and the leadership would define it, I don't think they'd bother with the interviews at all. Instead it would just be, "Do you think you're worthy? Ok then!" The fact that awful people can have recommends and many good people don't seems to support the idea that we should scrap or significantly truncate the interview process. But if we keep just giving our priesthood leadership the idea that we have a TBM testimony (which I think is what we do when we answer "yes" to everything), we do nothing to bring about the change that I think needs to take place, namely, letting worthiness be between the individual and the Lord. I actually think that a loving Father in Heaven and a loving Savior would want alcoholics and those who don't pay tithing and those who are in all other ways sinners to enter the temple more than anyone else. Those are the people who need to be in His presence most in order to help them repent and be healed. Jesus chose to spend his time with sinners over the pious. Why would he want his house to be different? If the questions were truly meant to be between the individual and the Lord, then why do we bother asking them?

dande48 wrote:
29 Dec 2018, 21:24
If we protest, make a scene, etc, we'll get exed. If we participate, everything will carry along, with positive statistics in the Church's record book. There will be no change. But when people maintain partial participation, "I'm doing this, but I won't do that", that's when we can raise some real red flags, without painting a target on our back.
This is a big part of why I stay LDS!! It's uncomfortable and difficult for us to be "halfway in" but if we can remain in that uncomfortable place, I think that's when we can effect some significant positive change. The more of us who are willing/able to stay in that awkward space, the quicker those changes happen. But it's a fine tightrope to walk...dangerous. I don't blame anyone who doesn't want to, or feels they can't, do it.

Curt Sunshine wrote:
30 Dec 2018, 08:42
What we have said is that the questions are "Yes" or "No" questions, and most of them simply ask if you "have a testimony" of something, which is a VERY ambiguous, amorphous phrase. It literally can mean any one of MANY things.
I don't know that testimony is terribly ambiguous. It looks kinda narrow and specific to me. https://www.lds.org/topics/testimony?lang=eng

It's really interesting to recognize the wide range in where people draw the line between honesty and deception. Some of us would draw a very definite line somewhere along the spectrum, but others would shade in a whole gray zone rather than a line. When I read the Bible as well as various accounts of Jewish culture I get the feeling the Jews would consider many things within the realm of honesty that most Christians would consider outright deceptive. I personally think hyperbole, which is found abundantly in both Old and New Testaments, is deceptive and dishonest when the the writer knows that the reader might interpret the verse literally. It's really about intent, IMO. We seem to all agree that in TR interviews we should not be deceptive. Where we all differ is in whether our obligation to avoid deception is to our Priesthood leaders, or just to God. The reason I feel I'm obligated to avoid deception with the Priesthood leadership, and not just God, is that I assume that if the church meant for worthiness to be between the individual and the Lord, they'd not bother with interviews. I may be misunderstanding.

Regardless, I'll keep y'all posted on whether my definition of a testimony flies with my bishop. Thanks so much for everyone's thoughts. I welcome any additional ones. Happy New Year!

User avatar
dande48
Posts: 1443
Joined: 24 Jan 2016, 16:35
Location: Wherever there is danger

Re: Temple recommend interviews and "testimony"

Post by dande48 » 01 Jan 2019, 10:43

SamBee wrote:
31 Dec 2018, 08:28
Don't get me onto Star Wars - I could do a whole book on who it stole from.
...like... from the sealed portion of the Golden Plates? :D
nibbler wrote:
31 Dec 2018, 07:43
"You're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our point of view. Especially when your point of view is based entirely on what I told you, which was deliberately misleading language to throw you off the scent because I didn't feel like you were ready to handle a less filtered version of events." :angel:
The Church uses this logic ALL THE TIME. With Church history, Church policy, GA compensation... and everytime they can say, "Well, technically, we didn't lie to you." And yet, I still feel lied to! I feel this sort of deception, these devilish half-truths and "technicalities", makes me trust them even less than if they had straight up lied to me. Because they don't feel they are lying, I can't trust them to be straight with me.
"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

Roy
Posts: 5640
Joined: 07 Oct 2010, 14:16
Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Temple recommend interviews and "testimony"

Post by Roy » 01 Jan 2019, 10:49

I actually think that a loving Father in Heaven and a loving Savior would want alcoholics and those who don't pay tithing and those who are in all other ways sinners to enter the temple more than anyone else. Those are the people who need to be in His presence most in order to help them repent and be healed. Jesus chose to spend his time with sinners over the pious. Why would he want his house to be different?
The honest truth is that I do not view the temple as God's house or in any way necessary in order to repent and be healed. I feel that JS started to develop layers of exclusivity within the church especially in the Nauvoo period. In the modern church there are boundaries that divide and exclude membership from certain privileges and ordinances.
When I interact with the bishop, I am managing my relationship with the bishop to keep my options as open as possible. If I reveal too much then he may impose additional hurdles if I ever decide that I do want to attend (or he may decide that I do not get to baptize my kids which is an immediate real world consequence for these hypothetical belief questions).
dande48 wrote: ↑29 Dec 2018, 21:24
If we protest, make a scene, etc, we'll get exed. If we participate, everything will carry along, with positive statistics in the Church's record book. There will be no change. But when people maintain partial participation, "I'm doing this, but I won't do that", that's when we can raise some real red flags, without painting a target on our back.
I think this gets to the heart of it. The church will trundle on with or without me, but I may only get one opportunity to participate in my kids "coming of age" milestones such as baptism. My goal is to participate to the degree that I feel is sustainable for me personally and that greatly informs my approach.
I am really not trying to change the church. That is too lofty a goal for me and one that carries more risk than I am comfortable with. I honor and respect people that stick their neck out and make (non-violent non-aggressive) waves for positive change - that is just not me.
I view church as a construct to help us deal with the challenges of mortal life rather than a construct to help us prepare for a post-mortal life. My goal is to raise my family to be as happy, healthy, and reasonably well rounded as I can. Therefore I manage my relationship with the church to maximize the supportive benefits while at the same time attempting to minimize any negative impacts. It is all about cost vs. benefit.
There is no single motive or right way to StayLDS. We each have managed some nominal success in navigating this "middle way". By sharing our stories we gain perspective and validation but not everyone else's approach to staying LDS will fit quite right for us. Ultimately we make the adjustments and decisions that we think necessary and carry on as best we can. May God bless each of us in the endeavor.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

User avatar
mom3
Posts: 3958
Joined: 02 Apr 2011, 14:11

Re: Temple recommend interviews and "testimony"

Post by mom3 » 01 Jan 2019, 15:21

But if we keep just giving our priesthood leadership the idea that we have a TBM testimony (which I think is what we do when we answer "yes" to everything), we do nothing to bring about the change that I think needs to take place, namely, letting worthiness be between the individual and the Lord.
This very point gets discussed again and again. The only part that is important to be aware of is that the Bishop and Stake President have no ability to change the outcome of the questions. Even if an entire ward boycotted the Temple Recommend experience.

The thing you want changed has to come from the top. The Bishop may even agree with you. He may let you have the recommend. After him, you have to do the same questions with a member of the Stake Presidency. I can't guess what they may do.

This is why I asked, what your most important objective in getting a recommend is? If it is to see your family events - then just go ahead and get one. If you are looking to make a statement or impact a change - this is not the time or place or way to do it. That takes a lot of street cred and effort.

You mentioned seeing your boys do baptisms. If it were me, I would want to see the baptisms over missing out because I wanted to change something that no one I talked to could change. Your mileage may differ.

It sounds to me, like your most important desire is changing the interview process. If that is the case, I would be surprised if you get a recommend. No matter how well your phrase your faith transition. Our lay clergy just isn't skilled at nuance. Even the good guys.
"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

Curt Sunshine
Site Admin
Posts: 16541
Joined: 21 Oct 2008, 20:24

Re: Temple recommend interviews and "testimony"

Post by Curt Sunshine » 01 Jan 2019, 16:22

There is the specific, narrow definition of testimony the Church has chosen to highlight as its official view, and there is testimony in and of itself.

You don't have to narrow testimony to one aspect of it. It is like "modesty". The word, in its fullness, means "moderation" and applies to how we act, how we talk with and about others, how we dress, how we spend our money and time - and how we define words. Eliminating all but one specific meaning of a complex word is immodest (extreme), so what I am saying is that it is okay to be modest in how you view a testimony.

How is that for a Mormon answer? :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
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

Post Reply