Your Sunday Brunch Special: Temple Recommend Interview 1856 Style

Want to pass muster back in the day? Here’s a list of [real] questions for you:

1. Have you committed murder by shedding innocent blood or consenting thereto?
[If you say yes, this probably means you’re going to spend significant time in hell. Just FYI.]
2. Have you betrayed your brethren or sisters in anything?
3. Have you committed adultery?
[This question was actually more detailed. I felt it wisdom to summarize.]
4. Have you taken and made use of property not your own without the consent of the owner?
[This one gets repeated in various ways, it must have been a common problem.]
5. Have you cut hay where you had no right to or turned your animals into your neighbors grain or field without his knowledge or consent?
6. Have you lied about or maliciously misrepresented any person or thing?
[Do blogs count?]
7. Have you borrowed anything that you have not returned or paid for?
[Work pens don’t count, right?]
8. Have you borne false witness against your neighbor?
[Is this the same as lying?]
9. Have you taken the name of the deity in vain?
10. Have you coveted anything not your own?
[Questions 9. and 10. may border on the unfair in my opinion. I think more explanation is needed.]
11. Have you been intossicated [sic] with strong drink?
[I wonder about alternate meanings here.]
12. Have you found lost property and not returned it to the owner when you could do so?
13. Have you branded an animal that you did not know to be yours?
[Maybe a cat or two.]
14. Have you taken anothers horse or mule from the range and not returned it?
[Never done that one.]
15. Have you fulfilled your promises to pay your debt or run into debt without prospect of paying?
[I know these people. Should I turn them in? Also, there’s something wrong with this.]
16. Have you taken water to irrigate with when it blonged [sic] to another person at the time you used it? [hmmm]
17. Do you pay your tithing *promptly*? [No comment.]
18. Do you teach your family the gospel of salvation?
19. Do you speak against your brethren or against any principle taught us in the Bible, Book of Mormon, Book of Doctrine and Covenants, Revelations given through Joseph Smith the Prophet and the Presidency of the Church as now organized? [Sneaking in polygamy here I bet.]
20. Do you pray in your family, night and morning, and attend to secret prayer?
21. Do you wash your body and have your family do so as often as health and cleanliness and circumstances will permit? [Iffy.]
22. Do you work 6 days and rest the seventh or go to meeting?
[Five days, sorry.]
23. Do you and your family attend ward meetings? [Dang. Most people didn’t go. After 1858, attendance was typically around 11%. Meeting houses were generally tiny anyway. People might come, find the building bursting at the seams, and leave.]
24. Do you preside over your household as a servant of God and is your family subject to you? [Dang.]
25. Have you labored diligently and earned faithfully the wages paid you by your employer?
[I think this is open to interpretation.]
26. Do you oppress the hireling in his wages?
[Yes. I assume this refers to my kids.]
27. Have you taken up or confined any stray animal to your own use or in any way appropriated one to your benefit without accounting therefore to the proper owner? [Does taking strays to the pound count?]

The Old Testament-ishness of this is pretty typical of Mormonism in Nauvoo and Utah. Here are two questions for you: got any good substitute questions for urban life? Are more questions better or worse? Got any favorites? These could double as home teaching questions. Try them out next visit.


  1. Have you parked in a spot reserved for another without permission?
    Have you ridden solo in the car-pool lane?
    Have you used anothers WiFi without permission?
    Have you ridden public transportation without paying your fare?
    Have you kicked a pigeon?
    Does your family spend hour upon hour intoxicated by TV? Internet?

    Is that a good start of “urban questions”?

  2. Doubt number nineteen was a specific reference to polygamy considering the number of life-long monogomists who went to the Endowment House. Temple in 1856?

  3. The polygamy bit was humor, but in fact there was a requirement concerning *belief* in polygamy (you didn’t need to be in a polygamous relationship–single people were eligible).

  4. Jax, very thoughtful.

  5. Polygamists in your *faith*. That quote is suspect. Look for an upcoming article.

  6. J. Stapley says:

    This has been called the catechism of the reformation. I’ve wondered about that title. Who named it that? More interrogation than catechism.

  7. J. Stapley says:

    Also, didn’t BY confess that he struggled to live up to the bathing expectations?

  8. Number 26. We fail.

  9. Rebaptism was pretty much a requirement too after being catechized, right? I think excommunication was in the offing if you refused rebaptism. At least in some places.

  10. Do you use adequate deodorant every morning and as often as needed throughout the day?
    Do you keep your pets properly leased when outside? Do you cleanup their do-do droppings when left on others’ property?
    Do you listen to yo mamma [sic]?

  11. I was interested in the bathing thing. Doctors of the era complained about patients not bathing more than once a year. Romance had different expectations I suppose.

  12. John f., very true. Oddly enough.

  13. Did they have 2 sets of questions? Where’s the questions for the women folk?

  14. Did women get questioned? Were they considered moral agents in their own right apart from their husbands?

  15. (Remember, single women couldn’t get endowed back then.)

  16. “single womenn couldn’t get endowed back then.” True enough. However, these questions were, as J. pointed out, a kind of sorting tool to see which Mormons were still in the faith. “Teachers” and missionaries went round the church with them, so it’s conceivable that single women were catechized. Don’t know of a case off hand. But the church population in Britain was significantly reduced in the process. See Charles Penrose journal ca. 1857, for example. There are a couple of articles out there too.

  17. These are fun to think and talk about. But source?
    The Nauvoo temple was destroyed by arson fire in 1848 and tornado-force winds in 1850. The St. George temple, completed in 1877, is the oldest operating temple. In 1856 endowments and sealings were taking place in authorized locations, including the Endowment House on Temple Square in Salt Lake City (from 1855). It is unlikely that anyone was using the term “temple recommend interview” in 1856.
    From The History of LDS Temple Admission Standards (Edward L. Kimball, Journal of Mormon History Vol. 24, No. 1, 1998): “There were no standard interviews [at the time]. In March 1856, a year after the Endowment House opened, the First Presidency instructed local leaders in Iron and Washington Counties that candidates for the endowment ‘must be those who pray, who pay their tithing from year to year; who live the lives of saints from day to day; setting good examples before their neighbors. Men and women, boys and girls over 16 years of age who are living the lives of saints, believe in the plurality [plural marriage], and do not speak evil of the authorities of the Church, and possess true integrity towards their friends.[Parowan Historical Record, 13, 16 March 1856, quoted in Buerger, Mysteries of Godliness]’

  18. christiankimball, these questions were not specific to temple admission (though in a way, they were a kind of preliminary). Essentially they functioned as a charter meant to weed out the lukewarm among church membership. “Temple Recommend Interview” was fodder for discussion! And thanks for referencing the Kimball and Buerger work. It’s fundamental for early Utah gatekeeper practices.

  19. Do you save seats at Stake Conference in spite of being asked not to?
    Do you leave voice mail for a sister asking if you can come on such a date, never hear back from her, but count that as a phone visit when you report to your supervisor?
    Have you ever organized a pool on who will be called as the new bishop?
    Have you ever made an obscene gesture to someone who cut you off in traffic?
    Do you have songs on your playlists that use unsavory language or promote unwholesome practices?

  20. Two more and I promise to quit:

    Have you ever checked the score of an NFL game while sitting in Sacrament Meeting?
    Did you ever add the name of your favorite sports team to the Temple Prayer Roll before a big game?

  21. Tina, that’s the spirit!

  22. Conversation:
    “Ben, I’d like to turn Bessie into your vegetable patch. That ok? Her milk’s been a bit bland lately.”
    Noise of six gun ratchet.

  23. Christiankimball, I forgot to answer your source question. This version came from the journal of a southern Utah mission clerk. Distributed from SLC.

  24. Did you complete your home teaching/visiting teaching last month?
    Do you or your children wear sleeveless shirts or shorts that strike above the knee?
    Have you participated in a multi-level marketing scheme without sure knowledge that there is a real product at the core?
    Have you spoken out or contributed money in opposition to a known Church position, in politics, legislation, or government action? (Does Mitt Romney count as a ‘known Church position’?)
    Have you used prescription drugs in excess of prescribed dose and use?

  25. Excellent.

  26. Source?

  27. *Do you drink Coca-cola.

    Our stake president added that one in 1974 until the brethren stopped him from doing it.

  28. FYI, the list can be found in Paul H. Peterson’s article The Mormon Reformation of 1856-1857 in the Journal of Mormon Studies (pg 70).

  29. I think I messed up the html formatting. Let me try again: Journal of Mormon Studies, Vol 15, Issue 1. If that doesn’t work, just do some searching. The issue is freely available.

  30. Keeping it basic:
    1) Do you love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength? [No, but I want to.]
    2) Do you love your neighbor as yourself? [No, but I want to.]

  31. If a list of particularly urban questions is desired, may I suggest:
    1) Do you walk left and stand right?
    2) Do you let people off elevators and trains before attempting to get on?
    3) Do you take the elevator to the second floor when you are capable of using stairs?
    4) Do you smoke in spaces where smoking is forbidden?
    5) Do you cause congestion by stopping in the middle of the sidewalk?
    6) Do you yield to pedestrians?
    7) Do you engage unwilling strangers in conversation on buses and trains?
    8) Do you comment on the facial or bodily attractiveness of strangers?

  32. Thanks for the Petersen ref. Jared*. My version was from a journal I was reading for other research. Just happened onto this. John Turner has some useful background for the situation in his Brigham Young bio.

  33. “Have you been intossicated [sic] with strong drink?”

    Perhaps the author of this question was at the time he wrote it.

  34. Glenstorm says:

    My favorite?

    “Do you wash your body and have your family do so as often as health and cleanliness and circumstances will permit?”

    This question implies that you have your family wash //your// body often, not their own!

  35. If you are looking for references, WVS, you might be interested to know that before Paul Peterson wrote that nice JMH article, he wrote his dissertation on the history of the Mormon Reformation. It’s interesting to look through the dissertation’s table of contents (“Reformation Violence,” anyone?) and index (not as many pages about Jedediah Grant as I would have expected, but he died in 1856).

  36. Thanks for the link, Jennie. My interest in the Reformation is more accidental than anything. I was looking into something quite different when I happened onto this journal that contained these questions. But it’s fun stuff.

  37. John Mansfield says:

    A chance to plug the value of the Church History in the Fulness of Times: A reproduction of a printed sheet with these questions appears in chapter 28, Utah in Isolation. Pedestrian church manuals have their uses, not to be overlooked.

    It is headed “QUESTIONS TO BE ASKED THE LATTER-DAY SAINTS.” After the questions is the note “in answer to the above questions, let all men and women confess to the persons they have injured and make restitution, or satisfaction. And when catechising the people, the Bishops, Teachers, Missionaries and other officers in the Church are not at liberty to pry into sins that are between a person and his or her God, but let such persons confess to the proper authority, that the adversary may not have an opportunity to take advantage of human weaknesses, and thereby destroy souls.”

  38. #2 is particularly interesting, given that belief in polygamy later became a thought crime. Rat out your neighbor for belief in The Principle, watch him go to jail, then go over to Sister Hawkins and offer to buy the back 40 from her for a fraction of what it was actually worth.

    #15 is also a good one. I know a temple sealer who still owes my family for hay purchased in 1982. We were grateful for gleaned potatoes that year, and were blessed with a couple of roadkill deer as well.

  39. IM NOT INTOSSICATED you sonnuvabish

  40. “Have you participated in a multi-level marketing scheme without sure knowledge that there is a real product at the core?”

    I think this is a fantastic question.

  41. Couple of current questions:
    “Do you floss?”
    “Do you toggle between your LDS Gospel Library App and the Bloggernacle during Sacrament Meeting?”
    “Do you spend more time in First Person Shooter games than in scripture study?”

  42. “Are you honest in your Facebook status updates posted to your fellow men and women?”

  43. eponymous says:

    Can someone help me understand exactly what this means, quoting WVS,

    Essentially they functioned as a charter meant to weed out the lukewarm among church membership.

    If it’s not used as a temple recommend – the basis for gatekeeping most “active” Saints today, how exactly did those questions function? Were they to be used by local Church leaders who visited with members? Was there some deliberate form of winnowing going on? Were there regular intervals for checking back in or was this more of a one time activity during a certain period such as this 1856-57 reformation?

  44. please post the full, unedited version!

  45. * Do you refuse to pull out into the intersection while waiting to make a lefthand turn, thus causing the person behind you to have to wait for another green light?

  46. Do you believe you are superior to others, inasmuch as you belong to the ‘one and only true church’?

    Do you believe you are superior to others due to intelligence, skill, talent, wealth, dashing good looks, or anything else with which the Lord has blessed you, or with which he may bless you?

    Do you shut off your mind and heart and blindly follow your Priesthood leaders, trusting in the arm of flesh and abdicating your God-given responsibility to search your own soul and wrestle with the powers of heaven for divine wisdom and guidance?

    Are you guilty of worshipping Church leaders, imputing God-like infallibility to these mortals, including the institution of the Church as a whole? (iow, do you assume higher callings in the church indicate superior worthiness?)

    Do you shun or avoid beloved children of our Father in Heaven whose beliefs or inclinations are not in harmony with current societal or religious norms?

    Do you believe trials, sicknesses, poverty, or other maladies to be indicative of God’s disfavor? And do you refuse to help such souls in need because you believe they deserve such conditions?

    Do you nurture victimhood, believing all contradictions to your beliefs to be affronts or assaults on your freedom?

    Do you seek to force, by law or mandate, others not of our faith to follow your own religious, moral, and ethical codes of conduct?

    Are you a respecter of persons in any way – black, white, male, female, bond, free, smart, dumb, short, tall, fat, thin, in the church or out of the church – by or through any labelling or objectifying of others?

    Do you seek to silence or shun dissent, disallowing independent thought and free inquiry?

    Do you seek wealth, fame, power, or any other worldly endeavor that would diminish the glory of God and add to your own pride and accomplishment?

    [If you are a leader] Do you abuse, misuse, dictate, or derive pleasure from your power and authority rather than seeking to serve, love, listen to, & understand those entrusted to your care?

    Do you consume large amounts of sugar and hold regular BBQ’s? [‘All God’s creatures, fresh off the grill.’]

    …I could go on, though I’m afraid I’ve already revealed too much of the chip on my shoulder.

    I did have a bishop in High School (mid 1980’s) who asked us if we drank caffeine-free Coke or Pepsi in TR interviews. He thought it was the appearance of evil, and would lead us to the caffeinated stuff, if caffeine-free wasn’t available.

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