You Make the Call

A friend reminded me of those old commercials featuring a close play in an NFL game, with the tag line “You make the call!.” The idea was for the TV viewer to pretend he is the referee and call the play how he sees it, and then compare the actual call the referee made in the game. So, in that spirit, my friend (who wishes to remain anonymous) offers the following:

You Make the Call: Gospel Edition.

This is a game where we examine a close play, and in the comments section of this blog, presumably without the benefit of guidance by the Spirit, we state our case for the call the official should make.

Brother Bacchus was baptized some months ago, having given up drinking alcohol to qualify. He had been a wine critic by profession, but upon his baptism quit his steady job and began a hitherto unsuccessful search for work as a food critic. Unable to find new work, he has resumed his syndicated wine column, but credibly assures his bishop that he only swishes and spits, which has always been his practice for wine tasting, even when he was a drinker. Furthermore, he wrote a widely-publicized column about his conversion to Mormonism and quitting drinking, in which he explained to his readership that he no longer actually drinks wine, but merely tastes it to be able to pass judgment on it and then spits it out.

He now seeks his temple recommend. All else is in order. You’re the bishop: YOU MAKE THE CALL.

Comments

  1. Given that in a case such as this, it is the bishop’s role to ask a question and receive an answer (rather than embark on a full-blown round of due diligence), if he asks, “do you keep the word of wisdom?” and if that means in this case, “do you drink alcohol?” and if the respondent says “no, I just swill and spit” then I am satisfied and the bloke gets his TR.

  2. He gets the recommend.

  3. This sounds like lying in bed with a naked woman and not engaging in sex.

    On the one hand, the scripture says “any man that drinketh wine” and “strong drinks are not for the belly,” so technically the member is not transgressing the Word of Wisdom. On the other hand, they are advocating the shopping & drinking of wines. If Donny Osmond were the Marlboro Man, would he be entitled to a recommend?

    The temple question refers to the individual’s intake, not what he promotes for a living. There are plenty of members who own restaurants that sell alcohol. If the vessel is clean–and techincally it is– I would give it to them.

  4. I’d give him the recommend. But, considering the publicity involved, I’d be ready to hang up my Bishop’s hat as soon as the SP found out.

  5. Kind of like puffing, but not inhaling.

    I say no.

  6. David, it sounds like nothing of the sort.

    Give him the recommend. I find this much less controversial than say, dealing in a casino.

  7. J. Stapley (#6) I still gave him the recommend. :)

  8. On my mission I knew a man in a very similar position. He worked for a company that imported coffee beans, and his job was to roast, grind and taste beans from each batch to assure quality.

    He was a wonderful latter-day saint who served on the high council. He and his wife spent a week of their vacation every year at the temple in Bern.

  9. The question is “Do you live the word of wisdom?” I assume he said, “Yes.” So he gets the recommend.

    The energy drink addicts get to go to the temple.

    People who do gallbladder cleanses with coffee enemas go to the temple.

    People who drink Nyquil get to go to the temple.

    He’s not consuming it. No one (sane) gets uptight about mouthwash users. There’s plenty of alcohol there.

    The only logical problem is the PR. Can you publically encourage the use of a banned substance and still go to the temple?

    Glad it’s not really my call, but for the game I still vote he gets it.

    JL

  10. I’m reminded of what my 2nd counselor said to me in a recent temple recommend interview: it is my personal feeling of worthiness that is important, not what anyone else feels or thinks.

  11. Steve Evans says:

    He gets the recommend, unless the man says “no” in the TR interview.

  12. Oh yeah, he’s in.

    I’ve had to deal with much wackier calls in interviews, FWIW.

  13. What Krisine’s counselor said. He gets it.

  14. I would say he doesn’t get it, partly for the public relations that could damage the image of the church to members and nonmembers alike, and partly because although not drinking alcohol, by the nature of the job he is supporting recreational alcohol consumption, and there is a temple recommend question about affiliating with groups whose teachings or PRACTICES are contrary to those accepted by the Church.

    As far as whether he’s in violation of the Word of Wisdom, I would think so, too, if not by the strict letter of the law as some have supposed, I would think he is in violation of the spirit of the law.

    Coffee enemas? Seriously? Hmm, I think I’d give that person advice to avoid “alternative medicine,” if not for spiritual reasons, definitely for physical reasons… go visit an allopathic or osteopathic physician….

  15. Norbert: What’s the wackiest call you’ve had to deal with?

    This reminds me of a funny David O. McKay story which I think is in “Adventures of a Church Historian” about David O. McKay. (Forgive me if I screw up the details, it’s been a long time since I read “Adventures”…)

    President McKay is sitting around with some members of the church (general authorities?) at a social function, and the lady throwing the function brings out some delicious cake. Everybody else takes one bite of the cake and then looks at David O. McKay to see what he does. He wolfs the whole thing down and then asks for some more. While the drinkinlady’s in the kitchen getting more, somebody takes him aside and says, “President McKay! That’s _rum_ cake!” To which he replies, “The word of wisdom just says you shouldn’t drink alcohol, it says nothing about eating it!”

    Anyway, I think it’s funny that we get uptight about things like this (reading this situation made me feel uptight and wonder what I would do) because of so many things that have alcohol in them that we use regularly without thinking twice about: the above mentioned cough medicine, vanilla extract, etc.

    I say he gets the recommend. The functional act that he’s performing is exactly the same as swishing with Listerine, which nobody would say is against the word of wisdom. The only border-line thing might be the advocating of drinking wine, but you might even be able to make a good argument that he’s really just advocating the _buying_ of wine, not the imbibing of it.

  16. I’d really work with him to help him find other employment. The recommend is irrelevent as compared to the social problems he is going to come up against.

    That said, I did once talk to an old LDS man in Nauvoo who was a truck driver for Miller Beer and who asked me if that was ok. I told him yes it was.

  17. A. Nonny, see David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, pg. 23.

  18. And, by the way, I think “You make the call” is freakin’ awesome and should be come a regular feature at BCC.

  19. Aaron Brown says:

    I had a companion in the mission field whose father was LDS a professional poker player. My companion claimed that his father had an “understanding” with the Stake President, and he was able to retain his recommend. I don’t remember all the details, but the argument my companion made (and which his father may have made as well) was that because his father was so good at poker (he was truly a “professional”), his playing was in no meaningful sense “gambling”; he made about $70,000 from the practice, consistently and steadily.

    Aaron B

  20. Aaron Brown says:

    er … that’s “LDS AND a professional poker player.”

    Also, “he made about $70,000 ANNUALLY from the practice …”

    Me can’t spell.

  21. A. Nonny (#15)That story is also in “David O. McKay & the Rise of Modern Mormonism.” Nice example. I agree with you about getting too wrapped up in the law. The more I get pulled into meetings with the bishop over this & that, the more I see how much latitude is given for special circumstances.

  22. I don’t see an issue with giving him a recommend.

  23. Ashui,

    My non-LDS massage therapist always relates her training in Utah. Apparently none of her all-LDS temple-attending classmates and teachers would drink coffee but regularly used it as an enema part of a natural cleanse. After about the fourth time she related the story, I did an internet search on the practice and came up with many, many sets of instructions. The practice opens this valve, purifies that system. Coffee the beverage is very toxic. Coffee the enema is very helpful.

    Whatever.

    Jami

  24. I think this largely depends on the SP and Bishop.

    Our old SP would probably never agree to a TR under these circumstances. The new one might.

    I think I lean towards no. But that is not a firm no and would depend on what type of inspiration was felt concerning the matter.

  25. A. Nonny –

    Obviously I can’t give details about what has been said in private interviews, but questions about what constitues chastity can be interesting. Complex family relationships is another area of difficulty, as well as labyrinthine tithing concerns.

    I’ve definitely thought, ‘A simple yes or no will do nicely.’

  26. This is what French LDS people do who go to cooking school. They don’t have any problems that I’m aware of.

    I’d pass the guy.

  27. If I am the Bishop, the recommend is his.

  28. Ronan in #1 seals the deal. People who would deny this guy a recommend are the reason going to church is bad for my blood pressure.

    Certainly the implication that drinking wine is akin to fornication/adultery (#3) must be facetious… Please? Say you’re joking?

  29. StillConfused says:

    I give him the recommend. Just like people in professions that have to work on sunday or other things like that.

  30. I would pray for the wisdom of Solomon and then wonder if cutting anything in half might help.

    Limited-use recommend: sure. Endowment: I lean toward a temporary no until I am satisfied that he is serious.

  31. Paul M (#28) Thank you, yes! I was joking. I had hoped my subsequent back-and-forth reasoning clarified that.

  32. Julie M. Smith says:

    This happened to me! My parents own a winery and my father is fascinated at the prospect of my unspoiled tongue and asked me if I’d swish and spit.

    I said no, not precisely for moral reasons but because I don’t care for the taste.

  33. “He gets the recommend, unless the man says “no” in the TR interview.”

    Steve,

    Does this apply to only this situation? Do you take the view that bishops do not have authority to deny recommends even if a person answers all of the recommend questions “correctly.”

  34. Steve Evans says:

    Mat, unless the bishop or SP has a reason to deny the recommend, my understanding is that they shouldn’t. Obviously if they have knowledge that Bro. Jones is a professional man-whore, they should probably deny the recommend even if he answers things “correctly.”

  35. Kevin Barney says:

    Oh my, Steve, you just conjured up for me an image of Deuce Bigalow in a TR interview!

  36. #25 – AMEN! In many instances, I far prefer a simple yes or no.

  37. I’m of the opinion that TR interviews are an opportunity for the Saints to judge themselves. Unless serious moral issues are suspected, I think bishops should not get in the way of this. The alternative makes me tired just thinking about it.

  38. Jared (30) — what is a “limited use” recommend?

  39. Steve–I agree with that. I’ve heard it argued that people giving temple recommend interviews should not deviate from the language contained in the questions. I know the church instructs interviewers not to add any requirements to those outlined in the temple recommend book. But I am not a fan of the idea that interviewers do not have authority to ask further questions about a person’s understanding of the topics covered. It sounds like you and I are on the same page.

  40. Steve Evans says:

    Kev, that was precisely the image I was going for. Rob Schneider in the Bishop’s office… I love it.

  41. Anybody remember that old Grondahl cartoon? It shows a studly-looking guy sitting in the singles’ ward bishop’s office, and the bishop asks, with a worried look: “What do you mean, technically you’re still a virgin?”

  42. If he’s not conflicted, as his Bishop I would surely be conflicted. What if Bro. Screenits business was shooting p*rn flicks? He joins the church, tries to get some more legitimate film work, and can’t. So he goes back to shooting p*rn flicks, refrains from having sex with the actors, and makes a XXX film where a Mormon character resists sexual temptations. Do I give him a recommend?

    I realize that is overstating this particular situation, as the objectification of women is a much worse moral predicament than enabling snobby wine drinkers.

    If I ask the question, and he answers yes to the WoW question, I probably give him (Bro. Bacchus, not Bro. Screenits) the recommend, and give him the following instruction, which I did as bishop: “I’m signing this recommend to say that I asked you all the questions, and you answered correctly. I am not certifying your worthiness, but you are when you sign this. Now go tell the same story to the SP.”

    I also get him in touch with his EQ President and the Ward Employment specialist, and get him some other work in a hurry.

  43. a random John says:

    David T,

    Most wine is not a “strong drink” and in fact Section 89 actually endorses drinking wine. Ok, port is a strong drink, but most wine is not.

  44. kevinf, for how long does the Mormon character resist sexual temptations?

  45. I have reservations about the job, but I could not deny a temple recommend in that situation. My response is and has been much like kevinf’s – usually couched in terms of intentionally being in a situation of constant temptation.

    I was interested in hearing the opinion of a member who was raised in a very black and white, ultra-conservative household – someone whose immediate reactions to questions like this differ from mine, so I asked my wife. Her response was interesting:

    1) It’s none of my business. That’s between him and his Priesthood leaders.

    When I pressed about what she would do if it was her call, she said:

    2) I wouldn’t do what he does, but if he’s not violating the Word of Wisdom he deserves a recommend.

  46. “I’m of the opinion that TR interviews are an opportunity for the Saints to judge themselves.”

    Ronan–that is correct, but only half so. TR interviews are clearly a forum in which the authorized interviewer makes a determination of worthiness as they are responsible to see that no unworthy person enters the temple. That’s why, I suspect, why there are three signatures on the recommend. Obviously that authority, like all authority, can be abused or misapplied. But it is incorrect to pretend the authority doesn’t exist because the thought of someone making a worthiness determination about us makes us uncomfortable.

  47. GST,

    One or two reels, depending on what the budget is. :)

    I really meant to be facetious, as they are not the same, but there is an underlying issue with obedience and covenants that make it an issue long term. It can’t be good for Bro. Bacchus to continue. For comparison, while my son was on his mission in Northern NJ a couple of years back, a prominent minister of a predominantly black church happened to hear some other missionaries (not my son), ended up taking the lessons from the Mission President, and joined the church. He lost his family, and his job, and never looked back.

    When we are baptized, we covenant to take upon ourselves the name of Christ. I can’t square that covenant with a continuing employment for Bro. Bacchus at his current job, and would move with all haste to help him get out of conflict. Same with the Miller driver.

    There’s no hope for Bro. Screenits.

  48. Mathew,
    I realise that the Bishop is determining worthiness, but I think he should mostly be doing that by asking the questions, staying on piste, and getting answers. If he sees the dude sweating and shaking as he says “yes” (coupled with the power of discernment), then it is his right to probe further. But if I were a bishop, and because I am lazy, I would be content to read the questions and take the answers in good faith, unless the scenario above presented itself, or unless there were serious moral doubts I was aware of.

  49. random John (#43)

    “That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine OR strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father…”

    D&C 89 endorses drinking wine (aside from the antiquated sacrament)? Am I missing something?

  50. Fwiw, if I have an understanding of something that I believe would keep someone from being worthy of a recommend, I will not initiate an interview. Those are situations that need to be cleared up prior to the interview beginning. A temple recommend interview is not designed or meant to be a time to “test” someone’s willingness to confess sin that is known beforehand.

    The only time I have ever gone beyond simply asking the questions is if I felt a very clear sense of unease upon hearing an answer. In every case, I have not known why I felt the unease. In those cases, I felt it appropriate, as Ronan said, to probe a bit further – almost always by asking for the person’s understanding of the question and going from there.

  51. My 17-year-old son said, “He doesn’t drink it. That’s an easy question. If he tried to get a new job but couldn’t, he should be able to do that until he gets a new one.”

  52. As Ray said, sometimes you feel the need to probe a little further. If someone had questions about something in their actions, I would usually respond with another question: “Obviously, if you feel uncomfortable about it, do you think maybe you should re-examine your actions/attitude about…..?”

    That usually would lead to asking for a chance to consider before coming back to interview for a recommend, or a commitment that maybe they should change at that time.

    I would only add that in the case described, Bro. Bacchus would not show up looking for a TR interview unannounced. There would have been a lot of previous discussion about preparing for the temple, making clear what the requirements were, and helping Bro. Bacchus. As Bishop, with a new convert member of just a year or two, you would know before he ever showed up what the situation was. If he was a brand new move-in, you’d call his previous bishop. Either way, you wouldn’t be surprised, or expected to issue up a recommend on the spot.

  53. I wish I could just answer the questions on paper. Something about the situation makes me nervous–I never know where to look (directly in the eyes, for how long? what if I look away? Will he think that’s shifty?) This is especially true when I’m being quizzed by a long term occupant of the office who has long since switched into autopilot mode and stares at me with blank eyes and I strongly suspect he is thinking about golf.

  54. Ronan–I agree. It seems to me that a portion of the membership increasingly objects to the idea of anything more than figurehead authority–so I was responding to that. I’m as uncomfortable as the next guy with an interviewer going on fishing expeditions.

  55. The one question that always makes me clear my throat before I answer is the worthiness one. Regardless of how confidently I fly through all the others, I still don’t feel on solid ground to say I am worthy to enter the House of the Lord. My flaws rush through my mind and I feel like a fraud. Ironically, I’m the temple prep teacher in my ward.

  56. There was a young man in my mission who got baptized and continued in his wine-tasting job for a few months (swishing and spitting), even while preparing for a mission. I say it’s fine.

  57. Constanza,

    Everybody gets nervous about the questions, especially the last one about “are you worthy to enter the temple…?” If you note, there have been minor, subtle changes to the wording of that question to allow for more flexibility. I should also point out that probing about responses never came because of a yes or no answer to a question, but only when someone would start asking questions about their own behavior. You don’t add questions, but sometimes the interview becomes a conversation and a teaching situation.

  58. Perhaps the more relevant question is whether or not he is being honest with his fellow man in all his dealings.

  59. re: 49

    Has that “antiquated sacrament” ever been done away with? Is it in violation of the Word of Wisdom to use wine in the sacrament today?

  60. “Has that “antiquated sacrament” ever been done away with? Is it in violation of the Word of Wisdom to use wine in the sacrament today?”

    The general church hasn’t been using wine in the sacrament for quite some time, but I think the GAs continued using it for a while in sacrament ceremonies in the temple, and eventually discontinued that practice a few decades later as to avoid any appearance of impropriety.

    Anybody got references to back me up?

  61. That’s our job?

  62. just kidding says:

    This question would not give me as much pause as the time I asked the question about there being any other issues that should have been brought up with the appropriate priesthood authority…. And the guy said “Well I’m a Democrat.” Had lots of trouble giving him a TR after that answer. But I did anyway.

  63. If I work at a casino as a Blackjack dealer, but I never gamble using any of my own money, do I get the temple recommend?

    If I work for a casino in the IT department, keeping track of all of the money, but I never go anywhere near the casino floor, do I get the temple recommend?

  64. Mark N. – Yes to both questions, as there are a number of members in Las Vegas who do just that.

  65. a random John says:

    David T,

    My point is that most wine is not “strong drink” and that in Section 89 it clearly isn’t 100% off limits. I’m not endorsing drinking wine, just wondering why people consistently confuse wine (and “mild barley drinks” for that matter) with strong drink.

  66. re: 38

    A limited-use recommend is for baptisms and confirmations only.

  67. Greenfrog (38):
    A limited-use recommend allows the recommend holder to do baptisms only (not endowments or sealings). That’s what the YW/YM get for their temple trips.

  68. #38 – A limited-use recommend allows me to attend whenever my wife tells me to take her to the temple.

  69. I agree with #1 and others. I say OK as long as he considers himself to be living the word of wisdom as stated in the interview question.

    Of course there are lines which can’t be crossed, but for gray-areas like this, I’d say let the member determine his worthiness for himself.

  70. I seriously feel like most Bishops around here would deny a recommend to me because I believe that abortion should not be illegal, that same sex marriage should be legal, and I fervently believe that sex education and birth control are vital issues for public health, and therefore should be freely available. I give money to Planned Parenthood because they do such good work along those lines. I’m a feminist and a social liberal (though fiscal conservative) and usually do vote Democratic. I’m pretty sure those things would keep me from getting a recommend, at least around here. So I’ve never tried so far. The thing is, I can’t give up any of those beliefs because they’re all deeply held moral convictions, and if I did I’d be betraying the light of Christ inside me. So for now I’m kind of stuck here, with a strong faith in the restored gospel, but no endowment. Maybe when I get married…

    As for the wine taster, yes to the recommend, and yes to a big effort to get him a new job. =)

  71. Tatiana, those things probably wouldn’t cause issues in Happy Valley — why should they were you are?

    I have never been asked about any of those things.

  72. Kevin Barney says:

    I agree with Ranbato, Tatiana. There is no reason for those issues to result in you not getting a TR. Indeed, none of them would even come up unless you brought them up.

    Now, if you lack the courage of your convictions and go in with the idea that you want the bishop to put his seal of approval on these things and you affirmatively ask him for such, then all bets are off and you will be subject to the particular views of your particular bishop on these matters.

  73. Answer — I’m not the bishop, so I don’t know.

    Why would my uninspired opinion matter in judging the worthiness of another?

  74. There aren’t any questions in the interview about your stance on abortion or same-sex marriage or even birth control. I pretty much agree with everything Tatiana said and I’ve had a recommend for years. No one has ever asked me about those types of things in an interview before.

    For what it’s worth–I’d give the guy a recommend and work with him on finding different employment.

  75. Tatiana, two things and an example:

    1) I share more than one of those beliefs, and I have conducted temple recommend interviews – and currently have a very visible stake calling. I would never dream of asking about any of those beliefs in a temple recommend interview, so I never did. Not one of those you mentioned is in violation of any of the questions that are asked. Just don’t mention them, and answer the questions honestly.

    2) Too many members avoid interviews because they assume they will be asked about those types of beliefs. I would recommend you go to your bishop, a counselor you trust or a member of the Stake Presidency and ask to see the actual questions that will be asked in the interview. Tell him you want to attend the temple and just want to make sure you know what the qualifications are. Read them carefully and discuss what they mean, without describing your own beliefs, with someone who holds a recommend and whom you trust. If you feel comfortable about your answers to the questions, schedule an interview right away.

    I have a friend in my current ward who is worthy of a recommend. He went into the interview and, when asked the affiliation question, said that he was Libertarian and didn’t think some of his political beliefs were in line with what the Church teaches. Obviously, he wasn’t sure he qualified, so the bishop halted the interview. (It isn’t the responsibility of the bishop to answer the questions the interviewee – to convince him of his worthiness.) My friend then got into a discussion about politics with the bishop and walked away thinking his disagreements with the bishop meant he couldn’t get a recommend – a conclusion of which the bishop wasn’t aware. Luckily, I was able to talk with my friend, help him see that he had derailed the interview, speak with the bishop, help facilitate another interview and watch my friend get a recommend.

    Sometimes, we just think too much.

  76. Brad Kramer says:

    Tatiana,
    I heartily concur with Ray’s recommendations here. I share those beliefs and carry (and regularly use) a TR. You can add to the list that I believe in evolution, am a Marxist by intellectual training and affinity, and always rooted for Brett Favre over Steve Young. I have friends and relatives who share many of these heterodox proclivities as well and are likewise considered (which is to say, they honestly consider themselves) temple-worthy.

    The temple is an astonishing place, more invigorating than even the warmest, most over-the-top platitudes could possibly convey. Work like hell to get there and don’t let any assumptions or slivers of self-doubt keep you away. If you can give the right answers and look yourself in the mirror, you belong there.

  77. Brad, you rooted for Favre over Young? That’s crossing the line – unless, of course, you are from Wisconsin. In that case, you can be forgiven of the almost unpardonable sin.

  78. I am not fully comfortable with it, but I would have to say he gets the recommend.
    A much more common situation is when two unmarried (male & female) members live together. Most often boyfriend and girlfriend. They generally have separate bedrooms and are obeying the Law of Chastity.

  79. #78 – and if they can look the interviewers in the eyes and answer the question appropriately, they should receive a recommend. You shouldn’t be kept out of the temple because of something that only *looks* like sin to some but isn’t a violation of any commandment (unless, of course, you are attending BYU).

  80. Nebraska, in my experience, boyfriends and girlfriends living together typically do not have seperate bed rooms.

  81. Matt W. – Yes, I agree – but it still happens on a regular basis (at least in my ward – not in Nebraska).

  82. It’s none of my business, but having once been a single male, when I read about the boyfriend/girlfriend living together two words spring to mind: time bomb.

  83. Like I said, too much emphasis on the Word of Wisdom and not enough on character.

  84. Some more on Political affiliation and TR’s.

    All 4 of my wifes grandparents and 2-4 of mine held TR’s and were very left wing Democrats their whole lives. In Utah they never had a problem with getting a TR even in the most conservative parts of Utah.

    THERE SIMPLY IS NO POLITICAL TEST FOR TR’S. There is no reason for politics to even come up in a TR interview.

  85. angrymormonliberal says:

    There is a (probably bishop by now) wonderful man in Fort Collins Colorado who is a brewmaster for the Budweiser plant near there. He was the 2nd counselor in the bishopric when I was there a few years ago…

  86. I can see it now. Swish and spit parties popping up throughout the YSA wards around the world.

  87. As far as I can tell, the only thing that keeps you out of the temple after being able to answer all the questions “correctly” is to have a mental illness. At least, that is the only reason two separate bishops in two separate states have told my wife that they won’t give her one.

  88. CS Eric—– what??????? Have you gone further up the food chain? What is your reaction? You can’t just throw that out there w/o a little more exposition….it raises my blood pressure too much.

  89. Temple worthiness is an interesting topic. In a recent stake meeting the question was raised regarding how it is possible to have such a high percentage of recommend holders while attendance, home teaching, etc. are significantly lower. There are many possible explanations, but one may be that both the interviewer and interviewee take the situation too lightly or casually. On the other hand, if perfection were a requirement to enter, the temples would be quite vacant.

    Somehow I think what matters in the Brother Bacchus scenario and for each of us as we consider our worthiness is our hearts. If Brother Bacchus really wished that he could drink but refrained as a formality to “show” worthiness, perhaps his recommend should be in question.

  90. The responses to Tatiana’s post (#70) suggest that there are no temple recommend questions related to one’s beliefs about same sex marriage or abortion.

    I sympathize with Tatiana’s feelings, and I wouldn’t dismiss her concerns so easily. Ultimately, I think I agree with those who responded with encouragement to post #70. But I can see how someone in her position might find it difficult to answer questions such as:

    Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

    or

    Do you sustain [the prophet, apostles, and other general and local authorities]?

    What do you all think? Could a member’s personal beliefs cause troubles in these areas? Would it depend on the member’s level of activism?

    Here’s an analogy that works for me: Suppose a member in the 1960s supported the civil rights movement, and regretted the church’s then-current policy on withholding the priesthood from blacks. Would this have been reason to withhold a temple recommend (i.e., would this represent failure to sustain church leaders or sympathy with groups who oppose church teachings)? I think countless members were in this position. Many prominent leaders and other members have related their joy and relief when the 1978 revelation came. For example, in his PBS documentary interview Elder Holland said that he was loyal to the bretheren, but that he had “anguished” and “prayed” for a change, and he “sobbed” when he heard the news. He continues by saying that his earlier colleagues were probably doing their best to give contect to the policy, but that their well-intended explainations were almost all inadequate and/or wrong.

    It seems that if you personally hope for a change in current church policy and disagree with leaders’ reasons for that policy, it does not necessarily mean you are unworthy for a temple recommend. I imagine you have to hold certain core beliefs in order to be worthy. Members could endlessly debate the scope of these “required beliefs,” but the temple recommend interview only specifically mentions a belief in the Godhead, the atonement, and the restoration.

  91. claire,

    The closest I have seen to an explanation is that her occasionally bizzare behavior has the potential to “bring discredit” to the Church. Not so much a worthiness issue, at least as has been explained to me, but an appearance issue. Much like the subject at hand–can somebody with those problems really be ready to go to the temple?

    It steams me, too. For all the talk about true healing coming from application of the Atonement in our lives, denying someone access to the place where the Atonement really is front and center simply doesn’t make sense. That attitude is part of why we moved to another state, but we just cannot avoid it.

    Sorry for the threadjack.

  92. That’s terrible, Eric. I can’t believe such a thing. It is really disheartening.

    I would give the recommend and help find employment, like so many others.

    fwiw, my last tr interview, the SP (whom I had never met before), asked probing questions that I felt were inappropriate. Namely, when answering “yes I keep the law of chastity” question, he repeated, “do you know what the law of chastity means? I was really taken aback. Like, what was this guy trying to get at??? I’m a married mom in my 40′s. Yeah, I know what it means. It (boo-hoo) kind of even hurt my feelings!!

  93. Meems, that is bizarre. I think it’s innapropriate when asked of 17 year olds as well, but what do you think he was getting at asking you that? What did you say? It’s Plain Weird.

    CS Eric, I’m truly sorry to hear that- so many questions come to my mind but I suppose you are right that it is a threadjack- however, to bring back to the topic at hand, “Br. Bacchus” is a convert/new member. How do some of these questions apply to already endowed members? If this a question of worthiness (as opposed to ability to make/keep covenants), why the difference between limited use and endowment?

  94. Kevin Barney says:

    meems, how old is your SP? There used to be a practice in this Church of very invasive interviewing of married couples regarding sexual matters. The Church wisely has gotten away from that, and that is a big part of the reason that the interviewer is supposed to ask the questions as written and not go off the reservation. Technically he was within his rights to probe about your understanding of a question, but realistically he was trying to sort of do it the old fashioned way.

    That old style of interviewing amounted in many cases to institutionalized voyeurism, with leaders making interviewees describe their sex lives in intimate detail and getting a titillating thrill out of it. It was a terrible practice, and the Church was very wise to put the brakes on it.

    I don’t blame you for being offended at such an impertinent question. If a bishop or SP asked me something that I thought inappropriate, I would tell him it was inappropriate and refuse to answer. Thankfully, none of my leaders has ever tried anything like that. But my leaders have tended to be younger guys with no experience in the old ways; that’s why I asked how old your SP was. I suspect he basically wanted to raise the topic of oral sex, which used to be a huge bugaboo in those old invasive interview practices. If so, he was completely out of line.

  95. Kevin, that is what I suspected as well. I’m interested to hear more from meems. Is that voyeurism on my part?

    I wonder, however, if some of the younger leaders will remember being questioned themselves, and think they have to do the same to be doing their job right. Makes me cringe, sometimes, how little formal instruction our lay leadership is given, and how heavy the responsibilities are (both in reality and in perception).

  96. CS Eric, I’m sure this won’t help with your situation, but my mother has schizophrenia. She has had a temple recommend all her adult life, since she is worthy of one.

    Frankly, I dont’ know enough about the situation to make that decision for your wife, but if it really is a matter of appearance I have a huge problem with it. Have you spoken with your Stake President or a Counselor about the situation? If not, do you know a High Councilor well enough to talk with him about it? I’m not advocating throwing a public fit (never will), but, if her illness is not so severe that she is unable to understand the covenants she will accept and act totally of her own free will, it should not disqualify her for temple attendance.

    I hope it works out for you.

  97. In the Worldwide Training broadcast in 2003 (IIRC), then Elder Eyring specifically told interviewers not to delve into married people’s sexual practices (aside from the simple definition of the law of chastity, of course).

    Unfortunately I can’t find a copy of the talk on lds.org, and I don’t think I have my copy anymore.

  98. YES, he gets the recommend. Bearing in mind that Jesus and Joseph Smith both drank wine, I don’t see the rationale behind keeping someone out of the temple for merely tasting it. Let’s get some perspective, people!

    We could also call this question: “Litmus Test to Determine Whether You’re a Pharisee”

  99. A good friend of mine, and a sitting bishop, works for a Coffee importer. He hedges the price of beans. The whole family are LDS, but the coffee company owners are not active.

    But swashing the coffee around in the mouth, I would not give him the recommend. Perhaps that’s why Im not the bishop.

    -David

  100. Last try — I guess nobody wants to address the notion that, not having the stewardship to judge another’s worthiness to enter the temple, my opinion is irrelevant when it comes to whether they are worthy to enter the temple. I think this is a more important issue than getting into (yet another) piss-fight about the relative merits of various understanding of the Word of Wisdom as a worthiness standard. It’s at least as important as standing in judgment of the people called to be Judges in Israel in how they carry out their stewardships in that regard.

    I don’t suspect that every bishop in every ward in the past 177 years has made every judgment regarding worthiness in strict compliance with the prompting of the Holy Ghost. But neither do I consider their calling, responsibility and stewardship to judge irrelevant, nor do I consider my lack of that calling to be merely formal. I’ve heard missionaries use the phrase “every member a mission president,” and I think that translates just as well to “every member a wanna-bishop,” and it’s an example of where the culture of the Church members goes totally wrong. It’s none of my damn business if the wine taster is worthy to enter the temple or not, and it’s none of my damn business if he’s carrying a recommend or not. It is not my business to judge him with regard to his worthiness nor his temple activity, not even a little bit. His worthiness is between him and God by means of his priesthood leaders, and I’m none of those people.

    I don’t want to be a bishop. Neither do I want to be a Monday morning bishop. I’m glad there are good men to do that job for me, and if they do it badly, they’re still doing it better than I would. Thus, I reject the second to last sentence in the question, and, thereby, the exercise at hand. I don’t begin to have my own stewardships so well in hand that I can dabble in judging the effectiveness of others in theirs.

  101. Blaine. It’s a game. Read the rules.

    You Make the Call: Gospel Edition.

    This is a game where we examine a close play, and in the comments section of this blog, presumably without the benefit of guidance by the Spirit, we state our case for the call the official should make.

    Not only am I not a bishop, I’m not even a priesthood holder. But it’s a game.

    I hate volleyball, but when I go to a game, I don’t yell insulting things to the players for enjoying a game that I detest. I just don’t play.

    Just a thought.

    Jami

  102. Blain, #10, #13, #24, #34, #39, #45, #46, #48, #52, #57, #61, #72, #89, #96 – after a very quick speed-read through the comments again, all of these address your concern. Multiple others mention having direct experience from which their comments were derived.

  103. 102 — Ray, I think you’re not really getting what my concern is, as, from what I can see, 46 is the only one that begins to address it, and only then in your wife’s comment, which isn’t attended to anywhere else by anybody else.

    101 — The fact that it’s presented as a game is meaningless. It doesn’t change what it is at all, and that has nothing to do with volley-ball. It’s not as though what is going on here is remotely new or novel.

    I’ve neither yelled nor said anything (that I can recall) that was insulting. I was a somewhat snotty jerk in how I put some of that stuff, but not actually insulting afaict.

    Aaron — if you’re out there, this is me pissing people off by being too conservative for not liking the consideration of uninspired opinion on a matter of worthiness. It might also be me pissing people off for being too liberal for saying “damn,” although nobody’s on record with that one thus far.

  104. Blain, in matters of temple recommend interviews, I am as conservative as it gets. That’s why I believe the interviewer should conduct the interview as requested by the Brethren – only rejecting a member’s answer if there is some kind of undeniable and unambiguous spiritual prompting involved. Frankly, the Brethren have had to take this position because of the abuse that was occurring with interviewers going beyond the intent of the interview – as was mentioned in a couple of comments.

    Fwiw, I think this is directly relevant and appropriate, since it deals specifically with how we view the temple – both preparation and worthiness. The overall tone has NOT been mocking or dismissive of bishops and their responsibilities, but rather straightforward discussions of what it means to be worthy – *in a generic sense*. If we can’t talk about that, what the Hell can we discuss?

    The only comments that I read that might even seem to downplay an interviewer’s role as a judge (which, btw, counselors are NOT, even though they also conduct the interviews – which your comment completely ignores and which is a *hugely* important distinction that should be made) are those that (rightly) are concerned about interviews straying into areas not covered in the questions – which is explicitly taboo in the instructions interviewers receive.

  105. 104 — I’m not claiming to be more conservative than I ought, or that more conservative is better. That was a reference to a question Aaron asked me at the snacker a month ago today.

    And you’re discussing your point, which I think is an interesting one, but not exactly a new one. My point has to do with the disrespect shown to the process by entering our opinions on questions of worthiness as if they had any significance or relevance, and with my position that they do not have any. To show how much significance I think they don’t have, I could invoke some folksy similes, but I have to go home teaching soon and that’s got to take priority.

    As I said, the only comment I saw that addressed my point was your wife’s one-liner. I can only conclude from that that you’ve married well.

    And talking about extreme and unusual cases is not the way to get a generic sense of worthiness. The generic sense of worthiness is “do your best, and be honest with your bishop.”

    I don’t really care about counselors conducting interviews. When I’ve had questions concerning worthiness, I’ve only talked to my bishop’s counselors as friends, and brought the worthiness issues for resolution to the bishop. As to off-topic questions, I’ve been asked “Do you love your wife,” “Do you watch R-rated movies,” and “Is your house clean.” But those were prior to the FP letter on the matter.

  106. You are right. I did marry well. *grin*

  107. Seems like one could really fall into Pharisism on either side here. If you don’t give him the recommend, you are exalting the appearance of evil over any actual evil done. If you give him the recommend, it seems too technical.

    I myself would probably err on the side of giving him the recommend, with strong admonitions to continue looking for new employment and to be extremely careful.

  108. Thanks for the advice, guys. I do have a hunger for the temple. I will continue praying about it. Maybe I can go soon.

  109. Ray,

    Thanks for sharing your family’s experience. As it happens, the one High Councilor with whom we have worked was called to be a counselor in the Stake Presidency last Sunday. I may bring up the issue wth him.

    As I see it, our situation is really only different in degree rather than in kind with the question posed by the post: In the absence of a worthiness problem, is the perception of such a problem sufficient to deny a temple recommend? The wine taster does not have a WoW problem; his position gives the appearance of one. In our situation, there is no question of her worthiness or her testimony, only the perception of one.

    One question that neither of the bishops who have denied her a recommend has been able to answer is what she must do to qualify for one. She has a tstimony, pays a full tithe, attends her meetings, and in all respects answers the questions correctly. If our bishop could just tell us what his hidden criteria are, she could address them. If she smoked, he could tell her to quit; if she worked as a wine tester, he could suggest she find another job. But she can’t not be mentally ill, any more than an amputee can’t not need assistance to walk.

    This is an issue I feel strongly about, and it has adversely affected the amount of respect I have for our bishop. I think that is what bothers me most–I don’t feel like I can trust him as much as I did before. I appreciate the kind remarks from those of you who have followed my little threadjack.

  110. Name (required) says:

    I agree with most of the posts here, but wonder if there is a disconnect between our understanding of the TR questions and the understanding of the leaders of the church. Elder Oaks in May 2005 Ensign talked about whether pornography should be included as a TR question. His response was that it is already covered under at least five other questions. I’ve never been able to identify the five that he was talking about. The case could be made that it isn’t even covered under the chastity question–since the definition of chastity given in the temple only talks about actual sexual relations.

    So how would Elder Oaks (or another GA’s) make this word of wisdom call? Would they have the attitude that swishing and spitting should produce failing responses to several (‘at least five’) TR questions?

  111. #110 – Right off the bat, I can think of at least 3 questions that a pornography addiction violates. The “swish and spit” example only brings one question to mind, and it isn’t a clear violation of that one, imo.

  112. Name (required) says:

    #111 – While I think that your 3 questions may leave some room for debate, 3 is still distinctly less than 5.

  113. Claire and Kevin, I answered the SP’s question with “Yes, I know what it means,” and he probed no further. Although he did add a question in of his own: do I attend RS? and Do I do all my VT? Yes I attend RS. No, I don’t do all my VT. (blush). He gave me the recommend anyway! Thank goodness visiting teaching isn’t a temple requirement.

    Yes, Kevin, he was an older guy. I couldn’t have guessed what he may have been hinting at, but maybe you’re on the right track!

  114. #112 – You win. I don’t care enough to try to think of the other two.

  115. Name (required) says:

    #114–I don’t really care, either. I was just trying to point out that Elder Oaks reads more into some of the questions than I would. I don’t think that he’d approve of the ‘sip and spit’, and I’d bet that he could find several TR questions that deal with ‘sip and spit’–more than just the word of wisdom one. Maybe I’m wrong.

  116. AHLDuke made the comment about becoming a little too much like the Pharisees (I tried to write pharasaical, but it just didn’t pass muster). In looking at this again, I’ve come to the conclusion that we are missing something here. Bro. Bacchus is a new member, trying to get more of the blessings of the gospel in his life. He’s struggling with his current employment, has tried to make some distinction between his new faith and his old lifestyle, and wants to be better.

    Ray is right, that the bishop is a judge, and should be guided by the Spirit. This individual can’t be judged solely by his former life, and a bishop shouldn’t judge solely from one aspect.

    As I indicated way back in the thread, I’m still of the opinion that I would give him his recommend, continue to work with him on his employment, and hope that his growth in the gospel helps him to make better choices for the future. But that’s all hypothetical as well. Ultimately, bishops should know their flock, be close to the Spirit, and as such should make a correct call. Hopefully, getting to the temple would help Bro. Bacchus in multiple ways.

  117. Ill allow it

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