258: Question 7

bishops-interview-for-entering-the-templeIn the LDS temple recommend interview, Question 7 reads: “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?” This question came into public consciousness this past week when, in the wake of the midterm elections, an LDS bishop from southern California celebrated on his blog the rise of a new Republican majority in the U.S. Senate, which also meant the demotion of LDS senator Harry Reid from his position as majority leader. In his exultation, this bishop suggested that Reid is “not a man of serious religious faith,” for if he were, as a Mormon he’d not be able to be a leader in a political party that had in its platform support for the ERA, a woman’s right to choose whether or not to continue a pregnancy, and same-sex marriage–all stances this bishop feels are out of alignment with core Mormon teachings and values. For these reasons, this bishop suggested he’d disqualify Reid from receiving a temple recommend based upon Question 7. LDS Public Affairs was quick to suggest that in writing what he did, this bishop was in error. Spokesperson Dale Jones: “Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are, of course, entitled to express their own political opinions. However, publishing such views while using a title of a church officer, even if only as a leader of a local congregation as in this case, is entirely inappropriate.”

In this episode, Claudia Bushman, Jeralee Renshaw, and Devery Anderson join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon for a discussion of Question 7. What do we know of its origins and the intent behind it? Should it be applied to specific things such as one’s political opinions or support for various governmental policies? In their own lives, how do they as panelists approach Question 7–and, even more so, the temple recommend process as a whole? How disclosing are they about the various nuances of their own beliefs and practice? Do they believe the intent of temple recommend interviews is “worthiness,” or might there be better framings for what this process is all about?

We hope you will listen and then share in the comments section below your own experiences with and reflections on Question 7 and temple recommend process!

________

Links:

Mark Paredes, “Good Riddance to Harry Reid, Mormon Senate Leader,” Jewish Journal blog, 5 November 2014

Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Harry Reid Not a Worthy Mormon? LDS Church, Dems Cry Foul,” Salt Lake Tribune, 7 November 2014

Comments

comments

36 comments for “258: Question 7

  1. JoeJoseph
    November 12, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    The LDS Church objected to the Bishop’s publishing the document and using his official title. They did not object to his main thesis.The former US Representative Jim Hansen here in Utah’s First District said the same thing when he retired from the United States House of Representatives. No one in Utah objected to his comments then. This unworthiness if you are a Democrat is tacitly accepted by the Leaders of the Church. I have often heard Mormons talk about other Mormons and they would add the “Oh he’s a Democrat” and they would summarily be dismissed from the discussion.

  2. TE
    November 13, 2014 at 4:15 am

    Enjoyed the podcast. Quick FYI, Nelson, Ballard and lots of others were in Sigma Chi at the University of Utah. Myself as well. So surely the question could not have had anything to do with that!
    http://www.dailyutahchronicle.com/2007/11/07/greek-row-the-power-of-sigma-chi/

  3. Jess W
    November 13, 2014 at 5:46 am

    Good discussion and very important. Having spent two years in a bishopric myself, and thus having conducted many of these interviews personally, I would just like to add a few thoughts from a different perspective (although I agree with most of what was said). I personally liked to refer to them as covenant interviews because I absolutely agree that calling them worthiness interviews gives the wrong message. We are never, and can never become unworthy of God’s love. We do not become unworthy to attend the Temple, but we can however disqualify ourselves from participation by not taking our covenants seriously. But as long as we are “in the covenant” as I call it, we are invited to attend the Temple.

    I do however disagree with Claudia that these interviews are meaningless. The Temple is the bridge between heaven and earth, and just as heaven is a place of love, holiness and purity, so must the Temple remain such a place so far as possible here on earth. It is significant that the Temple is the only place in the church that has covenant restrictions in order to enter. This is a “type” of the covenant requirements that will someday allow us to dwell in our fathers presence. The importance of the covenant in this sense is that it is not just a series of promises, but rather is a “covenant relationship” with our savior. And it is he, through this relationship that purifies us such that we can enter God’s presence as well as the Temple which signifies God’s presence on earth. It is important that we witness to the Bishop (keeper of the aaronic priesthood keys) and the stake president (keeper of the melchisidek keys) that we are keeping our covenants. Since the Temple itself is a place of ordinances and covenants that can only be performed under the direction of the proper priesthood keys, it is also essential that we be authorized to participate by those with the necessary keys.

    However the interview experience should be uplifting as Gerri described with her stake presidency member. The interview should not be an interrogation but should be an opportunity to discuss the benefits and blessings of both covenant keeping and Temple work. As was pointed out, leaders are not authorized to add any extra questions, and leaders should believe and accept the members responses and even generally the members interpretations of the questions should they even come up. In many ways the final question “do you consider yourself worthy to enter the Temple?” is the most important question. Even though members often cringe and hesitate with that question, the point is, do you want to go and participate? Do you want to keep your sacred covenants and help those on the other side make similar covenants? Finally I would usually ask members if they felt the spirit and God’s love in the Temple. If they said yes I would tell them that this is an indication that they were in the covenant and that God wants them there.

    Overall, great discussion and insights. Thank you!

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      November 13, 2014 at 12:46 pm

      Jess, I think you’re exaggerating in saying that Claudia thinks the interviews are “meaningless.” My sense is that she and I both lean toward their being more of a ritual that allows us the opportunity for self-reflection than they are actual inquiries into the specifics of belief and praxis. But if you’ve ever heard me on ritual in past MM episodes, I find rituals anything but meaningless!

      You write:”It is important that we witness to the Bishop (keeper of the aaronic priesthood keys) and the stake president (keeper of the melchisidek keys) that we are keeping our covenants. Since the Temple itself is a place of ordinances and covenants that can only be performed under the direction of the proper priesthood keys, it is also essential that we be authorized to participate by those with the necessary keys.”

      Great insight here! I hadn’t heard or thought of that before. That definitely adds an extra element to consider when looking at the TR interview, and I can understand why you put it in the same paragraph when talking about perhaps Claudia (and me) leaning too far toward the angle we took. Thank you!

      • Jess W
        November 13, 2014 at 2:47 pm

        Thanks for the response Dan,
        I am well aware of the importance you place on ritual and I completely agree that the recommend process is a ritual of sorts, much like the ritualistic process we have in the church of being called, sustained and set apart for a calling. And then there are the essential rituals in the form of what we would call the essential ordinances. In terms of its relative importance I would place the recommend ritual somewhere in between the former and the latter.

        I had no problem with anything you said Dan, and perhaps I misheard Claudia, or perhaps she just said something in passing that I made too much of, but it seems to me her words were along the lines of “oh it’s just a ritual that doesn’t really mean anything.” Again perhaps I misunderstood her but it seemed to me that she drove this point home by saying that they (the leaders) just want to hurry up and get you done and out in less than ten minutes. It seemed to me that she was portraying both leaders and members as not really caring about the process. Undoubtedly this is true in some instances but based on my experience this is far from the expectation or the norm.

        I really don’t mean to harp on Claudia, I have enormous respect for her and all she has done. Perhaps I just misinterpreted her points but I loved and agreed with what everyone else said but some of her comments put me at dis-ease.

        Thanks again for the podcast and the response!

    • JoeJoseph
      November 13, 2014 at 9:16 pm

      Jess W wrote:
      “It is significant that the Temple is the only place in the church that has covenant restrictions in order to enter.”

      It is significant that it is also the only place that the LDS Church charges a monetary admission. If I attended a worthiness session with the Bishop and I acceded to everything the Bishop asks for me to avow and accede to EXCEPT the tithing requirement I would not pass the worthiness test for entrance to the Temple ,even if I “felt the spirit and God’s love in the Temple”.
      The LDS CHurch has constructed Temples all over the world in honor of their wealth. When Jesus returns He will clean them out as he did before.

      • Mark
        November 21, 2014 at 11:28 am

        That is incorrect, the question asked is “are you a full tithe payer”? If a person has no income, and thus pays no tithing, they would still answer in the affirmative to that question and be permitted to enter.

        • JoeJoseph
          November 21, 2014 at 9:03 pm

          If the question is Are you a full tithe payer: how can a poor person answer in the affirmative. If he has NO money he doesn’t pay tithe. You are being misleading because the Church explains to all, college students alike, that all members have to pay regardless of their economic status.

          • Lilli
            December 28, 2014 at 4:09 pm

            I would ask the Bishop where Christ taught anything about ‘tithing’, let alone where He taught ‘to pay it to men or church leaders’, especially able-bodied leaders who seem to use the money on everything ‘but’ the poor, or even pocket some of the money themselves & live high on the hog off the widow’s mite, while ignoring the cries of the fatherless.

            LDS leaders expect the poor to support them, not the other way around.

            Last time I read ‘Christ’s real words’ (not men who put words in His mouth) he said to give 100% of our excess funds & property ‘directly’ to the poor (to make sure it gets to them), not just 10% and not to church leaders at all.

            Though I realize man’s law of 10% is much easier & thus much more popular then Christ’s law, but tithing or 10% is just a precept/commandment thought up by men, not Christ, and thus not a true principle, though every little bit helps the poor, if it ever makes it to them.

            The LDS Church at least teaches that if anyone (including their own prophets) teaches anything ‘contrary’ to Christ then we will know it’s surely wrong. Unfortunately they just don’t practice what they preach, shocker.

            Christ (and true prophets) never asked the poor to give up 1 cent and make themselves & their families suffer more, for the whole idea of religion & Christ’s teachings are to relieve the ‘suffering of the poor & afflicted’ not to add to their suffering and make them even ‘poorer’.

            It seems very few people put Christ ahead of prophets (for prophets usually preach a much easier Gospel) & thus they don’t listen to Christ’s warnings to beware of prophets who preach & practice ‘contrary’ to him.

            Christ commanded us to only trust & follow him, not any man, for even the best of men or prophets have proven very fallible and often wrong and will always lead people astray.

  4. LiLo
    November 13, 2014 at 9:35 am

    For a long time I’ve wondered why so many Mormons think the Republican party goes along with our gospel doctrine and the Democratic party goes against it. In my mind, it is the other way around. Yes, there are some specific issues which the Republican ideology is against(abortion, gay marriage), but the Democratic philosophy seems to me to be more in line with the central and most important tenets of our gospel (caring for each other, helping those in need, becoming a Zion people).

    These central tenets were emphasized by Christ and are reinforced throughout our scriptures. A few of them are:
    Alma 34: 27-29, Mosiah 4: 16-19, Moses 7: 18, Jacob 2:17 -19, Ezekial 16: 49, Matthew 25:37-40

    The whole concept of Zion, which is central to our church, is that we all work together for good of everyone, not each man for himself.

    • Today
      December 15, 2014 at 6:14 pm

      Another good scripture is Jeremiah 5:25-29. He refers to wealthy as “waxing fat”. Warns of loud chatter that deceives many to helps the wealthy but doesn’t consider those with needs. Says these sins surpass other sins.

    • Lilli
      December 28, 2014 at 4:11 pm

      But force & stealing from one’s neighbor in order to help the poor was not the way Christ wanted it done and is opposite to his teachings. You can’t break one commandment to keep another.

  5. CC
    November 13, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    Thank you for this episode! My bishop just called to schedule a temple recommend interview this month and I’ve been dreading it. This discussion has given me a lot to think about, and has helped me to feel more calm overall.

    I think we are taught in Mormonism (and other religions as well) to have our authority placed outside ourselves and so I, for one, look for external validation A LOT. But as my faith has been expanding and morphing, I am coming into a new sort of validation that comes from within but also comes from a conviction that God/the Universe is good with the kind of person that I am. I never felt “good enough” in my previous paradigm, but now I feel like God’s love is beaming in and through me. With that conviction comes a greater responsibility for me to act in accordance with my own beliefs and values, which oddly enough are pretty Mormon after all. But I’m abiding by those “commandments” for my own reasons and not because it will be pleasing to my local leadership or to a punitive god. Rather, I have a desire to up my game when it comes to life. The commandments have now become shortcuts for me towards principles that will make life more meaningful.

    Anyway, what a great episode. And perfect timing to boot!

  6. Dave
    November 13, 2014 at 4:12 pm

    This was a great episode. It is interesting to hear how much anxiety sometimes goes into answering the temple recommend questions. I recently served as a bishop, and spent much more time in Temple Recommend interviews helping people talk through their personal feelings of inadequacy than flagging deal-breaking behavior. In fact I can only think of a few examples of the latter (and those were very black and white issues where the members were using the interview to start the repentance process.) As such I disagree with Dan’s conclusion that one shouldn’t discuss the inner struggle of worthiness with priesthood leaders. One of my greatest joys as a bishop was helping people worry less and enjoy the gifts of life and the atonement more. And talking through personal struggles was a great way to know and love the members more. I would hate to see those opportunities to build faith, testimony and confidence lost to too much silence.

  7. SCOTT
    November 15, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    I recently had my TR interview, and I started out by telling the stake president YES on question 1 and 14, and I didn’t like the questions in the middle. After that he said just think about the other questions, and its between you and the Lord. So I played it out with a long pause on each of the questions, saying I didn’t like each question,2 thought 13, but giving the appropriate answers that he wanted. And he still gave me a recommend.

    • JoeJoseph
      November 19, 2014 at 8:34 am

      I had a Mormon friend that told his Bishop he didn’t drink or smoke. After the Temple Interview they both went out for a few beers and a smoke.

  8. DP
    November 16, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    Thank you for this… It was timely. Not so much for the TR interview, but upcoming “Tithing Settlement.”

    I know this isn’t exactly the topic here, but it is closely related as someone already pointed out. My concept of tithing has changed recently… Especially with the way the Church invests money, uses it to start businesses, which then make money and then justifies buying property, real estate speculation, and mall building saying “it isn’t tithing money.” Yes it is! It is money that has come as a result of tithing… to me, it is all tithing.

    And so, with that, I have been reticent to pay an official full “gross” tithing. My wife and I have decided to give some of that money instead to charitable organizations we believe in, that will help the poor, and help with women’s issues across the globe, and help stop sex trafficking etc. To us, we still be a full tithe, even though it isn’t all going to the church.

    I’d really enjoy and feel the need for a “robust” discussion on Tithing and the covenant to consecrate all of our time talents etc. to the building of the kingdom. Is the kingdom the LDS institution? Or is it broader?

    It is especially hard for me to pay tithing when I am not allowed to understand and know how the funds are used. The lack of transparency disturbs me hugely. I consider myself to be heavily and deeply ‘invested’ in this church and am therefore a stockholder and I have a right to see the inner workings of the institution I have invested in. The church has a DUTY to let me know what they do with the money and to hold themselves accountable to the saints of God.

    So… Tithing settlement is coming. Our total is about half of what it normally is because we have redirected funds to other causes we feel build the kingdom of God better by helping the poor… And the one thing that scares me is how to answer the question. And what happens if I lose my TR? That stresses me out a bit.

    I wish I could just give my full 10 percent to Fast Offerings to help the poor and count that. But I’m pretty sure my bishop wouldn’t approve.

    Thanks again for the discussion.

    • Maddy
      November 17, 2014 at 12:28 pm

      If you have questions as to how your tithing is used by the church, you should be equally cautious as to how your fast offerings are used. There is no transparency regarding fast offerings either. For example, what happpens to fast offerings (and other humanitarian donations) in excess of local needs? When the excess is sent to UT, what happens to it? Some charitable organizations do make public financial statements ( and in some countries, the UK, for example requires it). If I am not mistaken, it would be legal under tax law for the church to hold fast offerings and lend it to profit-making activities as long as sometime in the future those funds are used for charitable activities.

      As long as God relies on mortal men, we ought to follow the maxims, “sunlight is the best disinfectant” and “trust, but verify.”

      • JoeJoseph
        November 19, 2014 at 8:37 am

        I remember when a fast offering for Operation Smile netted the Mormon Church $9,000,000.00. The Church bragged about it. They also wrote a check to Operation Smile for $900,000.00. Now that’s transparency ?

    • hope_for_things
      November 18, 2014 at 4:59 pm

      I’ve recently had the calling of financial clerk, so just a couple insights. The church can use any charitable donations for any causes. It’s in the fine print and basically says that you can designate a donation as “humanitarian aid” on your donation slip, but that’s not always where the funds go, the church has sole discretion on the use of the funds.

      You can now donate funds directly to the church through most banks as electronic fund transfers, just like online bill pay with my bank. I started doing this, and my local printout does not show any donations other than fast offerings that I give to the deacons each month. You will get your tax statement in the mail from the church offices. You can also donate stock, which is something I try to do because you get the extra benefit of not paying capital gains on the stock you donate and you get the tax deduction as well.

      If you call the church office building and ask for the finance department, they will email you the instructions on how to set this up with your brokerage account or with your bank. Good luck on the tithing settlement.

      • JoeJoseph
        November 19, 2014 at 8:30 am

        Jesus said when he cleaned out the Temple, “Follow the money”. The Mormons have adopted the theory of a capitalistic heaven. Pay up front and you’ll get in. Cheat others as long as you get the credit. Not one word in “hope for things’s” comment about charity. It’s all about the money and seeing that the American taxpayer takes the hit.

        • hope_for_things
          November 19, 2014 at 1:00 pm

          In fairness to the church, this is how most charitable organizations, governments and businesses function nowadays. The church is trying to be transparent that they can’t guarantee your designated funds will be used solely for the purpose that you elect on your donation slip.

          I don’t understand where anti capitalist conspiracies have any relevance to this topic.

          • Maddy
            November 19, 2014 at 8:56 pm

            People can (and should) check out charitable organizations at charitynavigator.org. when deciding where to donate. Some organizations choose to be more transparent about how funds are used. The LDS Church keeps records of everything–from membership activity rates to financial records, however, I don’t know how anyone can think the LDS Church is “trying” to be transparent with financial matters. There are no numbers published about how much money is collected–no matter the category. There are no numbers published about how much money is disbursed on a yearly basis. Why should they not say we collected x amount in fast offerings in 2013 and disbursed % or dollar amt of that total? I don’t think people have a problem so much if their fast offerings aren’t spent in their own area, but I think the Church has a duty to report how much of those contributions are spent for charitable/humanitarian purposes on a yearly basis. Probably great care is taken with contributions–but then, people who have nothing to hide, hide nothing(?)

          • JoeJoseph
            November 19, 2014 at 10:34 pm

            “The church is trying to be transparent that they can’t guarantee your designated funds will be used solely for the purpose that you elect on your donation slip.”
            hope_for_things quote.

            Oh I get it . The Church is being transparent by not being transparent. Drink some more cool aid will ya!!

          • JoeJoseph
            November 19, 2014 at 10:35 pm

            “The church is trying to be transparent that they can’t guarantee your designated funds will be used solely for the purpose that you elect on your donation slip.” Oh I get it . The Church is being transparent by not being transparent. Drink some more cool aid will ya!!

          • hope_for_things
            November 20, 2014 at 1:52 pm

            Agreed Maddy, that there needs to be much more transparency about where the money is spent. I probably shouldn’t have used the word transparency when talking about anything financial because that is such a charged term. The church has disclosed that they can use any funds donated for any purpose, but that doesn’t mean they are being transparent about where they are spending the money. Two different issues.

      • JoeJoseph
        November 19, 2014 at 8:31 am

        My comment was not a duplicate comment!!

    • Finding
      December 15, 2014 at 6:07 pm

      The question does not specify to whom the full tithing is paid. Christ said “If ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

  9. Sue
    November 24, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    “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?”

    Wow, as a non-LDS I had no idea questions like that get asked in your church: This strikes me as really dangerous and divisive. It kind of implies that you can’t support or affiliate with anyone outside TBM circles or, possibly, undecided individuals outside the church. It could be easily construed to eradicate all meaningful and respectful interfaith dialogue and cooperation…

    I have yet to listen to this podcast, I was just so gobsmacked by that question in the preview I made this little post. Will be listening shortly.

    • Steve In Millcreek
      December 13, 2014 at 1:12 am

      Sue, thank you for your candor as a friendly outsider.

      Question 7 seeks reply to a topic that is narrower than worded. I’m active LDS; and each time Church leaders ask me this question, I waffle whether to answer the question asked or the question that (hearsay says) was the intended question, (which is about involvement in the FLDS or modern polygamy.)

      My answer is “no” to the narrow question and “yes” to the question as written. For example, one thread asks if I affiliate with anyone whose practices are contrary to the Church. My barber, college teachers, attendants at the eateries and shop I visit: most are not LDS, so I answer “yes”. Only a hermit could honestly say “no”.

      As a young and naive missionary, I would answer “yes” to Q7, requiring the interviewer to ask further questions that resulted in a final “no”, which is the answer he wanted to hear in the beginning.

      Words have meaning; and I am frustrated when I must interpret questions differently than worded. It is an interpretive slippery slope when questions mean something different from the words comprising them.

      Thanks again for your comment.

  10. Laura
    December 7, 2014 at 12:21 am

    Couldn’t of had better people on this podcast. What a treat. Claudia talking about this in another forum was what gave me so much relief in the temple interview process. What an interesting story from Jerilee.

  11. annegb
    December 20, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    Basically I just say whatever they want to hear. Its between God and me.

    • bob
      January 19, 2015 at 8:18 pm

      That is what my wife and i have decided to do as well. We view the church more as a culture than religion. And to keep peace with family and friends we just tell them what they want to hear. We as lds are really not interested in any more truth or diologue. All is well in zion.

  12. Lilli
    December 28, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    If one is an active member of the Church I don’t believe there is a way to answer “No” to question 7.

    The honest answer is “Yes, I support & associate with the LDS Church”, which preaches & practices ‘contrary’ to it’s teachings of Christ, and thus is therefore ‘apostate’.

    But no point in telling them what they don’t want to hear or accept.

  13. Jeff
    February 10, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    Temple recommend questions are discussed privately in a bishops office. They are personal to each individual and require personal thought and honesty. To discuss them in a public forum is to alter the intent for which they were designed. This would be true of any similar private religious content between individuals.

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