Ask Mormon Girl: I’m nervous about answering the temple recommend interview questions! Help?

First, friends, before we get to this week’s query, an update:  one of the women who wrote in last week asking if there were a place for “liberal female converts” in Mormonism has committed to getting baptized on December 15, and she’s inviting all of us to participate with her on that day by praying for and with her.  She sends her thanks for your beautiful responses and encouragements. As do I. And really, since I ran that post, I’ve heard from at least five other self-identified liberal women who are feeling spiritually led to Mormonism, fully aware of their own deep misgivings about some Church positions on LGBT issues and gender.  And I’m stunned. All I gotta say is, born-and-raised Mormons, get ready–this religious movement is still moving.

Second, a call for your input and maybe help. A public suicide by a junior high school student in Utah who reportedly had been subjected to homophobic bullying has me feeling fervent about the life-saving work of the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University.  Professor Caitlin Ryan studies how family response to LGBT young people shapes their health outcomes–and she has produced an amazing research-based guide for Mormon families who are trying to live the faith and respond in healthful ways when their kids come out of the closet. (Is there someone you know who could use this wonderful guide?)  Here’s the thing that blows my mind: Professor Ryan is an adjunct faculty member who has to raise all the funds required to keep the Family Acceptance Project alive.  She’s saving lives, and she deserves our support.  What can we do?  I’m thinking about putting together an Ask Mormon Girl Family Acceptance Project  Chrismukkah Raffle.  (It will need a snappier name, of course.)  I’m putting together a raffle package with autographed copies of the *now out-of-print* self-published first edition Book of Mormon Girl, as well as the updated and expanded Simon & Schuster edition, two never-before published essays, a “Keep Mormonism Weird” bumper sticker, and a pound of my own secret-recipe homemade Christmas English toffee.  Are you a crafter? Writer? Artist?  Would you like to contribute something to the Ask Mormon Girl Family Acceptance Project Chrismukkah raffle?  Let me know this week by emailing askmormongirl@gmail.com, and if there’s enough interest, I’ll launch the raffle next week so we can raise some money to keep all members of our community healthy, safe and loved.

And without further delay, here is this week’s question–on a subject of perennial concern to unorthodox and nontraditional Mormons.  And readers, I know you’ll have words of wisdom, so I’m gonna let you answer the whole thing yourselves:

I’ve been a member all my life, married in the temple, actively involved and now going through a tough period trying to figure out exactly what I believe.  My oldest daughter married in the temple which was wonderful and I have a son that will probably do so in the next year or so as well as two younger children.  My recommend has expired and I have recently been seriously trying to figure out how I feel about some of the temple questions and whether I can honestly say yes to them as of course I want to be able to attend my son’s wedding when this happens but I also am determined to be fully honest to myself and the Bishop.  Here are the questions which I’m confused/struggling with.

 #1 Do you have faith in and a testimony of God the Eternal Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost?  If God restored the church through Joseph Smith and we believe he’s a prophet he must be pretty hands off with our prophets and general authorities since they have said/done things that seem to contradict each other over time (polygamy, birth control, blacks and the priesthood, etc.)  I recognize that some of this is cultural and has to do with the time period they live in but how does that also fit and include God whose directing them?  I’ve always been taught and understood that God is more actively involved in directing the prophet and church.  As I get older I’m wondering whether that is actually the case as it seems more likely to me that the brethren honestly try to talk through issues, weigh things and decide as a group what they feel is the best course of action.  Are they getting their answers the same way we are through various spiritual feelings and not a more direct revelatory experience that I had assumed was happening with the prophet? That’s ok if that’s the way it’s happening but it’s not what I have been taught or lead to believe growing up in the church.  That raises the concern then about how we would know what things actually are coming from God as his will and what things are the decisions that the brethren have agreed upon.  How do we know what we should accept and support believing it’s God’s will and a requirement he expects of us? If that’s how things work with the prophet and brethren and always has since the restoration then I don’t understand that since we are taught he is our Father.  Why would he be so hands off with his own prophet when in the Bible and BOM it clearly demonstrates he was quite active in guiding those prophets?  It just doesn’t compute with how I feel as a mother to my children and how I handle helping, teaching, guiding them as their parent.  Why set up a system which is so vague that you have so many different religious groups honestly struggling to find the answers and find out the truth as well as people in the restored church itself?  If spiritual feelings/experiences are guiding and directing our brethren just like in our own lives then how do we trust that their spiritual experiences carry any more weight than other religious leaders?  How can we really know what the truth is?

#3.  Do you have a testimony of the restoration of the gospel in these the latter days? – I think this means do I believe that Joseph Smith actually had the first vision, received the keys to claim that he’s a prophet and the authority to organize the church with the necessary ordinances and teachings needed for salvation.  Does that mean I can still have doubts about other things that he did and disagree with some things that he did?  It’s confusing because we are taught that the current prophet won’t lead the church astray and yet Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy is very difficult for me to understand.  Would God allow a prophet to handle that the way Joseph did?  There was definite deception about it not only to Emma but the public.  When I look up on lds.org this is what the official church site quotes from President Hinckley: ” Our entire case as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rests on the validity of this glorious First Vision. It was the parting of the curtain to open this, the dispensation of the fulness of times. Nothing on which we base our doctrine, nothing we teach, nothing we live by is of greater importance than this initial declaration. I submit that if Joseph Smith talked with God the Father and His Beloved Son, then all else of which he spoke is true. This is the hinge on which turns the gate that leads to the path of salvation and eternal life.”  So he clearly says that if the first vision actually happened then all other things he said were true.  That seems to mean I would have to accept/believe that what he said and did regarding polygamy was what God wanted.  This is hard for me to believe so where does that leave me? 

#4 Do you sustain the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator and as the only person on the earth who possesses and is authorized to exercise all priesthood keys? Do you sustain members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators? Do you sustain the other General Authorities and local authorities of the Church?  According to lds.org it says under the topic of prophets:  “We can always trust the living prophets. Their teachings reflect the will of the Lord, who declared: “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38). Our greatest safety lies in strictly following the word of the Lord given through His prophets, particularly the current President of the Church.”  Here again it leaves me confused – it doesn’t ask me do I agree with the President of the church as the prophet, seer and Revelator as well as sustaining the other general authorities and local leaders?  Is asks if I sustain them. What exactly does sustain mean?  The dictionary says it means “to support, hold, or bear up from below; bear the weight of, as a structure.”  If I support someone do I have to agree with everything they say/do?  It’s so vague that I can’t figure out exactly what they are asking??

 #7 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?  I don’t agree with the church’s practice toward LGBT people or its support of Prop 8.  My oldest brother is gay and has been in a committed relationship for 15 years.  I don’t think it’s healthy the way we teach about sexuality in the church or it’s affect on LGBT youth/adults.  So where does that leave me with this question?  Obviously I agree with those that oppose the church’s opinion on this and support their efforts for marriage equality.  So how would I be able to say “yes” to this question? 

 I respect the advice/opinions of the people who read and post on this blog and have so enjoyed feeling the community of people who I feel are honestly trying to grapple with these various things while holding onto the wonderful experiences and feelings they have about the church.  I so need help in understanding how you are dealing and handling these various questions as I feel so conflicted.

Readers, thank you for being the kind of people the author of this letter wants to turn to.  Now, let’s honor her trust.  Comment away.  I am grateful for your insightful, thoughtful contributions.  They do touch lives.  My soul is a witness.

Send your query to askmormongirl@gmail.com, or follow @askmormongirl on Twitter.

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96 Comments

Filed under temple recommend interview

96 responses to “Ask Mormon Girl: I’m nervous about answering the temple recommend interview questions! Help?

  1. Curtis Penfold

    My views on what God is and what a prophet is are very different than the orthodox views presented in LDS.org. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in God (even if I think He might just be part of our psyche, and that Krishna may be one of his many manifestations), that I don’t believe Joseph Smith is a prophet (even if I think that every person is a prophet in their own way), or that I don’t try to sustain the leaders of the Church, as much as I sustain my own bishop (who has some wise advice, but also has some opinions I disagree with).

    I have no clue what the “being part of a group against the Church” means. I’ve always answered that I am part of groups where certain individuals don’t like the Church, and my priesthood leaders always seem unphased by it. They tell me it refers to anti-Mormon groups and polygamist groups. Whatever.

    I love the temple. I love going, and I have no problems answering the questions for the interview, even if I’m a universalist/agnostic. I wouldn’t tell this person what they should do of course. They should answer how they feel they should answer.

  2. I know how stressful getting a temple recommend renewed can be, as I recently with through it again last month. Two years ago, #7 was very difficult for me, but this time around, it wasn’t (perhaps it will be in the future). Two years ago, I felt like disagreeing with the Church was “bad,” or more importantly I didn’t want to think it really applied to me. I knew I was “unorthodox,” but I was not actually willing to make the leap into explicit disagreement. But after much thought, I discovered two things. 1) I DO disagree with the Church on some things (including its positions on LGBTQ issues like marriage), and 2) there are positions of the Church itself that contradict and disagree with itself. I don’t have a list but any organization has diversity and inconsistencies (on the gay marriage thing, I think that the Church’s own positions on charity and agency contradict its stance against legalized gay marriage). When I imagine the leaders of the Church, I don’t think they agree all the time with each other, and our historical documents validate that. Disagreement is not bad, but in fact necessary in a robust organization of people. One of my favorite TED talks ever brilliantly captures the power and value of explicit disagreement: http://www.ted.com/talks/margaret_heffernan_dare_to_disagree.html

    After coming to those realizations, I frame the question this way: am I trying to add value to my Church or am I trying to diminish it? Do I let my frustrations with the organization turn into cause to want to try to hurt the Church’s overall goals? (And if somebody DID have that perspective, I would not think they were evil, I just do not hold or agree with that position myself, and I take that into consideration in answering the question). Sort of like, do I see the Church like I see Wal Mart? I choose to never shop at Wal Mart because I disagree with some of their policies. I keep my opinions to myself mostly, but when asked I never, ever have a good thing to say about Wal Mart. I’m not violent toward them but in no way do I help them succeed as an organization. If I felt that way about the Church, I would answer #7 in the negative (which I guess would be “yes”). I feel the opposite about the Church: more like the way I feel toward my closest loved ones. I deeply love and appreciate the Church, I value the time I spend in it and about it, both the “gospel” and the church, and when I notice faulty lines in my relationship with it, I try rigorously to strengthen it. I try to improve my Church world in the same way I would work hard to improve a relationship. I want the Church to succeed. I want it to improve, but that doesn’t mean I think it is bad now. It means the opposite!

    For me it ultimately comes down to this: do I believe that God is really making sure I have absolutely no opinions that are contrary to whatever my leaders say, or what the Church’s explicit policies are? And that seems to be the biggest inner-contradiction of them all. I believe that God values my honest seeking of truth, my questions, my disagreements, my concerns. I believe that these things make me a more valuable member of the organization, not a less valuable one. I try to be very open with everyone, though, about where I stand.

    And even though I’ve talked a long time, I want to say one final thing about this. In my experience, this stressful recurring thing where I have to sit down with a man I may personally disagree with on some things (at least one man of the two) and subject myself to questions — questions I already know in advance — has been something I am grateful for. I love that the Church provides a “deadline” to come in contact with my own religiosity, and explicitly turn them into 12 or 10 or whatever questions. Even though I always dread it, I actually think it’s really cool that I get to do that every so often. Those are my thoughts! Best of luck. Oh one more thing (really): take your time. I don’t think that recommends should be renewed until the person is ready to make the renewal a true renewal in the bigger sense of that word, no matter when the date happens to fall on.

    • Thanks for your comments. especially the Margaret Heffernan: Dare to disagree TED link. Great talk.

    • Alison

      Thanks Derrick. Great TED talk and thoughts from you.

    • Steve In Millcreek (SIM)

      Question #7 has been the tough one for me. I was in my 30s before I realized the question was asking if I was aligned with FLDS or similar groups. Absent that back story, I don’t know how anyone (except a hermit) could say “no” to the question as written. For example, a thread from question #7 is “Do you affiliate with an individual whose practices are contrary to the Church?” Since our LDS writer said that she has a gay brother, and since she (hopefully) affiliates with him, her accurate reply to #7 would be “yes”. A similar review could apply to each of us. If we affiliate with our largely non-LDS communities, then our accurate reply to #7 is “yes”.

      In retrospect, I wonder if #7 was written to determine if we as respondents are carefully listening to the questions. #7 could be a test question. Perhaps our interviewer is expecting a “yes” from each of us before asking secondary questions, (call them 7a, 7b, 7c,..), “Who are you affiliated with?”, “Do you agree with…?”, “What does that affiliate mean to you?”

      We may all be living under a false assumption that we must give ideal, initial reply to each temple-recommend question in order to receive renewal and never trigger secondary questions. I now feel that I was not carefully listening when I gave the ideal “yes” or “no” to each question and never triggered second-level questions. Comments?

      • Wendy

        Thanks, Steve. That last paragraph helps me as I attempt to organize my thoughts on this topic in preparation for writing an essay or blogpost.

        Great meeting you at Sunstone BTW.

  3. NDM

    You are clearly a very honest person, with yourself as well as others. I’d like to weigh in as a former bishop. Please keep in mind that the temple recommend interview is neither an interrogation nor an oral exam. The questions are meant to help each member reflect on their faith and deeds.

    Any scientist will tell you that you cannot get to the truth if you are never willing to live with unknowns. Indeed, the heart of pseudoscience is refusal to wait for an answer (“If vaccination didn’t cause my child’s autism, then what did?”).

    This is true in matters of faith as well. Our Articles of Faith tell us that we believe what God has revealed, does reveal, and that he will yet reveal many great and important truths. I feel safe in saying that the vast majority of eternal truth falls in this third category.

    What you have written in each of your points tells me that you can answer all of these questions.

    #1. You clearly have a testimony; you simply aren’t entirely clear on the degree to which God allows even his prophets and apostles to be fallible and work their own way through questions that once seemed doctrinally clear, but are being increasingly inforned by science and, well, reality. That doesn’t matter. You can safely answer yes.

    #3. You have a testimony of the Restoration, but are troubled by the polygamy issue and uncomfortable with many aspects of its introduction. That puts you in company with … let me calculate … roughly 100% of Mormon women, not to mention a healthy percentage of Mormon men. Your concerns do not inhibit a “yes” answer to this question.

    #4. Sustaining the authorities. Ask those of us who went through mission and temple interviews when Ezra Taft Benson was still making public speeches for the John Birch Society. Since “sustain” does not mean “blindly follow,” but rather “provide due respect, pray for, be patient with and assume they mean well even when they err, and hear them out but ultimately rely only on the Holy Ghost as the ultimate source of truth,” again, your answer here should be “yes.”

    #7. You’re reading the same thing into this question as a bishop I know of who felt forced to deny a temple recommend to a sister who supported gay marriage. His stake president set him straight, he apologized to the member for his misunderstanding, and she has her recommend. If you are not meeting with or giving money to polygamist groups or other schismatic sects and if you belong to no separatist militias, terrorist organizations, or the mafia, then the answer to this question is “no.” (The reason this question is so intricate is because polygamist-supporting members were weaselling their way through it. It’s not aimed at those whose political or social views legitimately differ from even official Church positions.)

    At least, this is what I would tell you if I were giving the interview and these are the concerns you shared with me. I’m pretty careful about not giving recommends to the unworthy (I don’t want them to endure that condemnation), and I can safely say that nothing you have written would give me a moment’s concern about your worthiness to enter the temple. Respond honestly, but don’t overthink the questions.

    A final word of advice: The best way to tell if you are worthy to enter the temple is to go there. As soon as you are far enough past the recommend desk that the outside world is silenced, stop and ask yourself: Does this feel peaceful to me? If the answer is yes, you are definitely worthy to be there, whatever your personal struggles.

    • DeepThink

      I don’t know who you are, but I love you. You represent the best of our lay leadership.

    • JJ

      Well said, NDM. If you reflect the general future of Church leadership, then I am very heartened. Thank you for sharing.

    • suzanne

      Thank you for this. I needed this today.

    • JTS

      I don’t know who “NDM” is, but his response and advice was perfect in my opinion.

    • “Please keep in mind that the temple recommend interview is neither an interrogation nor an oral exam. The questions are meant to help each member reflect on their faith and deeds.”

      Excellent comment. I think the exercise of meeting with your Bishop and Stake President should be viewed as an opportunity to reaffirm belief/faith, even in spite of those things that aren’t yet clear to you.

      • Wendy

        I think temple-recommend interviews should be considered as an opportunity for dialogue even though the yes/no questions to not foster discussion.

    • Mary

      I learned a lot from reading your words. Sometimes I over think my worthiness and spend to much time comparing my own beliefs to that of other members and wondering who I really am in regards to the church. What you said was very helpful to me. Thank you.

    • Em P.

      As is rather often the case, I feel the Spirit and a sense of unity and love among disparate members of the Church more strongly on this blog than in many an official Church meeting I’ve attended! This is through Joanna herself as a positively inspired moderator, but also the thoughtful, amazing readers and their comments. Thank you, Bishop, thank you. And thank you to everyone else reading or commenting or just struggling along with us, too:)

    • mowglihuff

      I could have written the question this woman asked, although I doubt it would have been as clearly worded coming from me. Thank you NDM. In one reply, you have soothed fears, calmed worries and answered questions that have plagued me for years. Amazing.

    • Wonderful, wonderful response. Thank you so much for helping me and clarifying so many things for me.

    • NewBishop

      NDM, I am newly called bishop still learning the ropes. Thank you for your thoughtful response. This helps me immensely. I intend to relay your wisdom in my interviews in the future.

    • Jamie

      Oh dear. I am in tears. I have been struggling with this exact issue for the past 6 months or so (basically since my RM husband became inactive for these very reasons), and my temple recommend expires next June (and right before the temple marriage of one of my best friends, might I add). I only hope my stake president/bishop will be just as understanding and accepting of my answers as you seem to be, NDM. I felt compelled to come onto this website today (as I frequently do– thank you for existing AMG) in search of an answer to this issue, and I definitely found it. I only wish more church leaders would be like you in the way they approach this ever-growing trend of faith questioning among church members. Thank you again– and to the person who posted this question– you are not alone! Much love.

    • Laraksp

      It makes me so happy to read this comment. So often I am scarred because I am afraid that the leader won’t think I’m good enough. It’s good to hear that it’s based on how you feel. This comment really put my own anxieties at ease. I have anxiety and depression and my head is in a constant battle with my heart as to my own worthiness and questions of faith. Even with all my faults and questions, when I do make it to the temple I always feel peaceful and I agree that is the true test to your worthiness.
      I am so thankful to Joanna , this site, and all the contributors. It makes me feel like I’m not alone and there are other people who think and feel like me, and go through the same issues. I’m a 29 year old mother of two who is still trying to find out who I am and where I fit in the whole scheme of things.

    • Sunny

      Best. Comment. Ever.

    • Hmm...

      “God allows even his prophets and apostles to be fallible…. That doesn’t matter. You can safely answer yes…. Assume they mean well even when they err….” I don’t understand how that addresses the concern of the author of the letter. How would it not matter if a prophet thought he was receiving revelation for the church but in reality he wasn’t? Are you saying it wouldn’t matter if it turned out that polygamy hadn’t actually been revealed to Joseph, but was just a case of Joseph being fallible? You should answer yes because he meant well even though he erred? This seems to be the crux of the author’s question: if prophets are fallible, how can we trust that what they are saying is from God? So I counter NDM’s opinion that “it doesn’t matter” with my opinion that it does matter.

      • If prophets are fallible, when are they not fallible? Do you just pick and choose what you like from religion “a la carte”? If so, then doesn’t that make you the prophet…and are you fallible in your choosing?

    • Teri

      Amen… All of these comments are so amazing. I just had my Recommend Interview tonight. I had a great hour long conversation with my Bishop with all of my concerns. They were mostly the same as the dear sister who has asked this question. He was amazing. We are all imperfect humans working to be better… not perfect.

  4. You will be in complete control of your own honesty in the interview, so there is nothing to be nervous about. When a simple “Yes” or “No” is not a truly honest answer, then reveal the exceptions to your own satisfaction. Speak your truth without reservation and without slanting the truth in any way that is calculated to gain acceptance. Maintain an attachment to your own integrity, not an attachment to a particular outcome. Wouldn’t everyone agree that there is little to be gained by squeezing a false self into a place your true self may not belong?

  5. Ryan

    Pertaining to the third question, do you support or affiliate with any group who opposes the church …
    I had a sit down with my Stake President over this one, as I work in news media which regularly critiques the church. His view on the question was it is meant to ask if you support or work with groups who’s mission it is to undermine the gospel. I don’t think disagreeing with the church on prop 8 would disqualify you from being able to answer no on this question, although the best person to ask is the person interviewing you! Just make sure you speak to the Bishop directly as in my past experience as a counselor in the bishopric we were always told if the answers were anything other than yes and no to refer the brother or sister on to the bishop.
    I think outside of the deadly black or white questions (tithing, word of wisdom, abuse) the questions don’t require perfect answers. Do I have faith? Do I believe? Well, I’m trying, and I’m optimistically moving in that direction, but I have questions …. That shouldn’t (in my experience and opinion) disqualify anyone.

    • Dani

      I do not currently possess a temple recommend. I, too, struggle with issues of worthiness. But in response to Ryan’s comments, above, I’m concerned that any of the questions would be construed as “black or white.” The Word of Wisdom, for example, is practiced in different ways by different individuals — depending on how deeply they read into the text. I’ve known individuals who abstain from eating meat, for example, because of the explicit directions associated with its use. Recently I was surprised to see a case of “5-hour Energy” in a member-friend’s pantry. When I inquired, she replied that the Word of Wisdom says nothing about caffeine, but refers explicitly to “hot drinks.” These are the very situations that cause some of us such intense confusion when confronting our own beliefs and practices.

      I’m ever so grateful for this and other sites that provide us all the space to air these concerns and “work out our own salvation” in good company.

    • Wendy

      Agree with you.

  6. Pam Camacho

    I reframed through a temple recommend twice and the bishop knew I was as I told him, so did the stake president, then one year later the bishop was calling me in and basically asking for my temple recommend back and my membership because I had not paid any tithing and I was going to a church where i felt “spiritually fed”, something that was OK with them some months earlier no longer wan’t. So I calmly gave him both a couple of days later: at that point I was done with the church. I had done my grieving and I didn’t want some man to think he could go and judge my worthiness before God or my worthiness to see my son marry some day, which to be honest was the main reason, I was holding on was that I didn’t want to miss his wedding. Now that day has come, he gets married on Saturday in the SLC temple. I will miss it and it was NOT my choice, as some members including my son might say, even it is a result of having my name removed. No mom would ever willingly choose to miss their child’s wedding: but two and half years ago, I did make the choice to live my life with integrity and walk away from the church. Not everyone will do the same, but it was something I needed to do and I am paying the price now for choosing to live my life with integrity. I still have to hold my head high and smile through it all, cause that is what parents do. I happy for him and that he found his life time companion, even if I don’t get to see them look into each other’s eyes as they marry. There are no easy answers, but you are asking the right questions and thinking what these questions mean to you. That is what is key. In my mind, perfectly acceptable questioning and reframing. No bishop can control our heart, mind or soul, even if they deny us entrance due to their judgement of our worthiness to attend or because of the church’s temple policies. I can only hope and pray that my love and example might someday be of worth to my son.

    • As a convert who married in the temple almost 30 years ago, the question of whether “marriage” and “sealing” should remain a single ceremony still lies heavy on my heart. In our increasingly hetero-religious society, is it necessary to continue to divide families this way on what should be a joyous occasion for everyone? In countries where a prior civil ceremony is required, couples can proceed directly to the temple thereafter. Looking back with the eyes of maturity, I know that if I could do it all again, my wedding venue would honour those who gave me this life, with the sealing to follow whenever Church policy permitted.

  7. HelenTroy

    My dear lady, if Harry Reid can pass the test, surely you can. Political questions can be answered as you see fit. We are free to hold diverse political views as well as social views. For example, ( a benign example admittedly) you may believe it wrong to eat meat or fight in a war. The vast majority of members will disagree with you if you engage them on those topics. You are free to hold such beliefs. You would be part of a minority, but they are yours to grapple with personally and privately. Can you remain a faithful member if you feel in your heart that eating meat, for example, is wrong? Yes, I would say you can. To contine on with this example..You go to church with people who think differently than you do, on something you feel passionately about; on something you have studied iut in your mind (we’re still talking about vegetarianism here).you love them, respect them, honor them, even though they just do t see things the way you do. How can you stand it? Are you being a hypocrite by loving and working alongside people who believe it is okay to kill and eat the flesh of animals even though the thought of it pains you? No, you are not a hypocrite. We agree to disagree every day in a multitude of subjects. So, disagree as your conscience dictates, but allow others that same privilege ( as they say). As long as you don’t condemn others and persecute them for believing it is okay to eat meat, you will not be in the wrong. So, if you believe in liberal political ideologies, including LGBT rights, that is your right. Don’t expect the majority of LDS to agree with you but know that you can vote or join political causes as is your inclination. It is only when you speak out and condemn those that disagree with you, including leadership, that you cross the line.

  8. My approach is to be honest while still trying to convey a desire to believe and attend the temple. Answers don’t need to be yes/no.

    For example, for #7, you could say something like what you’ve already said: “I don’t agree with the church’s practice toward LGBT people or its support of Prop 8. My oldest brother is gay and has been in a committed relationship for 15 years. I love him, and I want him and others like him to be happy. I am fully behind the church’s teaching that we should love our fellow men and have strong family relationships, so I don’t understand this practice. In general, though, I support the church, and I’d love for the temple to be a place for me to think and pray about this issue.”

    Keep in mind that the interviewers want to hear “yes,” and anything other than a straight-out “no,” they can talk to you about until they’re satisfied with your answer.

    A few other points:
    Think of sustain as endorse, like a political candidate. You don’t have to agree with everything they say, but you do have to think that they’re the best person for the job, and do your part to make their life easier. E.g., locally, do you do your best support your bishop by doing your calling?

    For #1:
    Do you want to believe in and know God? That’s faith. Would you be willing to declare you beliefs (even if they’re complicated) publicly? That’s having a testimony.

    For #3:
    You can still doubt later things JS said and give a strong yes–I do. My saying one true thing does not mean the rest I say is true, that’s just bad logic. As church members, we have the right (and arguably the duty) to confirm anything a prophet says through prayer and personal inquiry, no matter how long they’ve been a prophet.

  9. Katy Bettner

    I love Derricks reply. I was baptized at 18, left at 21 and returned to full activity at 29. How frightening must it be for someone who was born and raised in the church to try to separate what you assumed and thought you understood from what you are seeing now. Luckily, I see the questions much the same at Derrick. I see then as a question of my commitment to my relationship with the gospel. Am I committed to working on my relationship with Christ, my Father in Heaven, my church leaders and my ward family? Yes.
    I may get mighty pissy about some things they believe, some things they say and even somethings they do. That’s ok. I have made a commitment to keep finding the common ground, to sharing openly my concerns, to love and support and above all to stick it out. To lovingly question and point out things that do not feel wholely congruent without always believing that those things are deliberate or without any plausible reason. I hope and pray that you find peace.

  10. Cowgirl

    Like you, I recently let my recommend expire. I’m not renewing it right now. I plan to sometime in the future, but not right now. The most important thing to remember is that your answers are between you and God. The person asking the questions, if they are following the directions in the handbook, is there to simply ask the questions and hear the answers. They aren’t there to judge whether or not your answers are accurate.

    1: Your concerns seem to revolve around how other people experience revelation. I don’t think you should worry about the church or leaders or anything else. It’s about your testimony of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. That’s it. In fact, lot’s of non-Mormons can answer this one in the affirmative. I can too. I have a faith in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. I also have some doubt, but faith is about hope. And boy do I hope.
    3: I believe in the restoration of the gospel in the latter days. Of course, what do you call the gospel, or “good news”? This may actually vary from person to person. I believe in the beautiful story that Joseph Smith and later prophets taught us about our eternal lives and our potential. I believe that through the atonement of Christ we can all leave behind our sins and hurts and move forward. I believe that the Priesthood exists and is the power of God on the Earth. That’s the gospel I believe Joseph Smith restored. The rest of it I may accept or reject as I please. Though I do believe in the first vision, I don’t think one has to believe in it, or believe it was accurately conveyed by Joseph, in order to believe that Joseph Smith restored the gospel.
    4: I confess I don’t really understand the “priesthood keys” thing. I’ve heard this concept taught, but I don’t get it. So I mostly ignore that bit. So that leaves sustaining our leaders. We often confuse sustain with obey. Heck, I’ve done that. But sustain does not mean obey or even agree with. We aren’t asked “Do you sustain your leader’s teachings?” We are asked “Do you sustain your leaders?” Sustaining means to support or prop up to maintain or provide for. In our church people hold difficult callings for which they aren’t qualified and don’t have time. So sustain them. Cut them some slack, be charitable when disagreeing, don’t judge too harshly when they get it wrong, love them, pray for them, take them pie or cookies or something.
    7: Hate hate hate the wording on this. I interpret it super-narrowly. If you make this too wide, pretty soon you won’t even be able to vote. I interpret this as “Do you belong to any organization which directly contradicts any other answer given in the interview?” If you answer 1 in the affirmative, you shouldn’t belong to a group for which membership includes proclaiming atheism. If you answer 4 in the affirmative, you shouldn’t belong to a group proclaiming the Pope is the rightful leader of Christ’s church on the Earth.

  11. ecb

    I think the phrase “beyond a shadow of a doubt” that crops up every Fast Sunday has done some real harm in the church. As we hear others expressing vehement certainty and proclaiming to never doubt, never wonder, never feel confused even – then we create a community illusion. An illusion tied more to wanting others to see us as infallible pillars of faith instead of as the well-intentioned, but confused, mortals we are.

    The fact of the matter is, we all feel uncertainty. We all wonder about various aspects of the gospel. And if we refuse to acknowledge that uncertainty, we’re not going to learn and grow as much as we’re able. Every major change that has come about in the church has come in part as a result of people asking Heavenly Father some very difficult questions. Questions about their own assumptions about God and about past revelations.

    My experience has been that folks who refuse to see the nuance and contradiction built into the gospel wind up in one of two situations: somewhere down the road, when reality strikes and they’re forced to face those niggling doubts, they either push aside those questions and catapult themselves into a fervent but oversimplified understanding of the Church that misses the heart of the gospel. OR they leave the church. Either method simplifies the questions, and I’m not about to judge a person for going in either of those directions.

    BUT wouldn’t it be lovely to belong to a Church where we could all be honest with each other? Where someone could raise their hand in a lesson at church and say “You know, I still have no clue after spending my whole life in this church whether I believe in the First Vision,” and then instead of folks jumping on them with fervent assurances or with a simplistic “just pray about it,” everyone else would listen and offer thoughtful, heartfelt responses?

    I believe that type of church is possible within this church, with Heavenly Father’s help, but I also believe that possibility starts small, as we’re willing to make ourselves vulnerable and to help others feel safe and accepted as they do the same. So I hope you feel no shame in your honesty and in your contemplation. You’re not alone, and we need more members to be so honest and thoughtful.

    • Peter Priesthood

      I lover you observation about the harm of the “beyond the shadow of a doubt” testimony meme. I would put “with every fiber of my being” in the same category. Is it really an exercise of faith to act on or testify of something when there is no question about its veracity? Doubt doesn’t defeat faith; It enables it.

    • Ruscov

      What I have figured out in my own discovery is that I don’t know anything as being true. I can only hope that it is true. It was never intended to be knowledge. Plus, even at my weakest testimony moments, I always rely on the fact that I hope it is true. I do hope that for my family and loved ones. But I don’t know. We can’t know. We are such emotional creatures that when we say “I know” we are just really wanting to be right.

      • Dani

        And that’s exactly what Faith is — hope. It is not, nor was it intended to be, knowledge. Therefore if Faith is the heart of the Gospel, then the news is truly good! Wouldn’t that be a marvelous Fast and Testimony meeting, where members stood and boldly stated, “I hope this church is true and I’m committed to spending the rest of my life working towards that hope?” I know my own testimony would grow in such a loving and accepting environment!

    • I love this:

      “wouldn’t it be lovely to belong to a Church where we could all be honest with each other? Where someone could raise their hand in a lesson at church and say “You know, I still have no clue after spending my whole life in this church whether I believe in the First Vision,” and then instead of folks jumping on them with fervent assurances or with a simplistic “just pray about it,” everyone else would listen and offer thoughtful, heartfelt responses?”

      I believe this kind of accepting culture is developing quickly as the church progresses. I see this more as confirmation of God’s continued interest in his true and living (not “perfect” or “infallible”) church, rather than as condemnation of its past. I think of the Israelites and their prophets. We are connected with them by worship of the same God and through the same core beliefs, but my how far we have come as a covenant people since the times of the Law of Moses! Similarly, we have come a long way since the early days of the restored church, or even the Church of Jesus Christ 2000 years ago. Reading the other comments on this blog and the questions posted by this particular sister convinces me we are continuing on the path of revelation that The Lord has planned…I say trust Him and have faith and he’ll lead us to a better place.

      Yes He does it through people who make mistakes, who He sometimes probably has to just have patience with like any parent who puts one of their children in charge of the others for a time. They may not get everything just right. Even when things are revealed, they may not be followed quite perfectly. But we’re all trying, including our prophets, past and present, and forgiving others their mistakes and misperceptions along the way is the only way to help the process along. Blessings to all…

    • Alison

      It WOULD be lovely to have that atmosphere at church where you felt safe to ask about doctrinal and policy things that you struggle with. Often I feel like I can’t express or ask things that are on my mind because I know it will cause discomfort or make the teacher feel awkward (which of course I don’t want to do). That’s the reason this blog is so wonderful :) You can ask heartfelt questions and know that those that respond are going to have really listened to you, thought about what you are saying and are also inquisitive, challenging individuals who are trying to figure out things themselves. You don’t feel “bad” or “apostate” for having the doubts.

      • Christopher

        It is possible that I have lived in especially welcoming places. But I’ve lived in the Mormon belt (20 minutes from where Joanna grew up), the bible belt (where most Mormons are imported Utah medical students), and Rexburg. Yet when a lesson is being taught and I don’t get it, or don’t feel that what is being said makes sense, I ask about it. I’ve never thought to keep it to myself. I am a man, who’s always been active, and held leadership callings, and that certainly gives me some leeway others don’t have, but my guess is we’d be surprised. When I frame my doubts and questions as sincere and nonthreatening, I’ve found sunday school classes and priesthood quorums tremendously capable of handling complex issues. I’ve often heard people comment that the responses to these thought provoking questions provide the most meaningful parts of these lessons.

    • Wendy

      I share our dream for an honest, authentic church.

  12. Marc Bohn

    A few thoughts that I think are generally applicable to the questions the author has raise:

    (1) Members have never been called on to simply agree with everything their leaders have to say and the temple recommend questions don’t require that. In fact, on this subject, Brigham Young once said: “I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful that they settle down in a state of blind self security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purpose of God in their salvation. . . Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not.” (Journal of Discourses 9:150). Disagreeing with our leaders doesn’t mean we don’t sustain them. Rather, sustaining them governs HOW we choose to disagree. I think we should sustain and support our leaders in much the same way we would hope to be sustained and supported if we ourselves held a leadership calling–knowing full-well how imperfect and weak we are, we would nevertheless ask those we’ve been called to serve to sustain, support and help us. Ultimately, our success in any such call would depend on such support. (I think the corollary is also true–we should lead in the same way we would want to be led).

    (2) The LDS Church as a rich history of faithful dissent. When Brigham Young was President of the Church, he frequently had profound differences of opinion with then President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles Orson Pratt. On one occasion, Brigham once came to Orson and told him that certain materials that Pratt had produced and was circulating were not doctrinally sound. Pratt responded that he realized it was not his prerogative “to teach publicly that which the President considers to be unsound.” But he asked that Brigham would “grant me as an individual the privilege of believing my present views” and that he would “not require me to teach others… that which I cannot without more light and knowledge believe in.” Brigham ceded to this. He once said “I do not have it in my heart to disfellowship people who believe differently… I seek merely to correct men in their [improper] views.” With respect to Pratt, he said “I am determined to whip Brother Pratt into it and make him work in the harness…. If Elder Pratt was chopped up in inch pieces, each piece would cry out Mormonism is true.” I think the principle remains the same for membership writ large, we are not required to believe that which has not been confirmed to us. (Leonard J. Arrington’s American Moses)

    (3) Regarding the idea of dissent and alternate voices within the Church, Armand Mauss wrote the brilliant essay “Alternate Voices: The Calling and its Implications”: (Available here: http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2006/05/alternate-voices/). Of note, shortly after this article appeared in April 1990, Armand Mauss received a short unsolicited letter from Elder Oaks that complimented Brother Mauss on his piece and approved of it’s interpretation of Elder Oaks’s conference address. (The original of the letter is now housed in the correspondence file for 1990 of the Armand Mauss Papers deposited in the Utah State Historical Society.)

    (4) Henry Eyring (Elder Eyring’s father) was a world renowned scientist. In his stellar “Reflections of a Scientist,” Eyring recounted his father’s advice to him as he embarked to college some one hundred years ago: “You go over to the University of Arizona and learn everything you can, and whatever is true is a part of the gospel.” Eyring said that this advice guided his entire approach to religion during his lifetime: “The fundamental principle that has guided my religious life is that I need believe only what is true.” This certainly was the case in the 1960s when, while serving on the Church’s Sunday School Board, Eyring prominently disputed then-Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith’s arguments that the earth was only 7,000 years old:

    “When President Joseph Fielding Smith’s book Man, His Origin and Destiny was published, someone urged it as an institute course. One of the institute teachers came to me and said, “If we have to follow it exactly, we will lose some of the young people.” I said, “I don’t think you need to worry.” I thought it was a good idea to get this problem out in public, so the next time I went to Sunday School General Board meeting, I got up and bore my testimony that the evidence was strongly in the direction that the world was four or five billion years old. That week, President Smith called and asked me to come see him. We talked for about an hour, and he explained his views to me. I said, “Brother Smith, I have read your books and know your point of view, and I understand that is how it looks to you. It just looks a little different to me.” He said as we ended, “Well, Brother Eyring, I would like to have you come in and let me talk with you sometime when you are not quite so excited.” As far as I could see, we parted on the best of terms.” (Reflections of a Scientist)

    (5) In 1945, after the Improvement Era printed the troubling claim that “When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done.” President George Albert Smith personally rebutted this overreach. In a remarkable letter to a Unitarian minister who had raised concerns about the claim, Smith wrote:

    “The leaflet to which you refer, and from which you quote in your letter, was not “prepared” by “one of our leaders.” However, one or more of them inadvertently permitted the paragraph to pass uncensored. By their so doing, not a few members of the Church have been upset in their feelings, and General Authorities have been embarrassed.

    “I am pleased to assure you that you are right in your attitude that the passage quoted does not express the true position of the Church. Even to imply that members of the Church are not to do their own thinking is grossly to misrepresent the true ideal of the Church, which is that every individual must obtain for himself a testimony of the truth of the Gospel, must, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, work out his own salvation, and is personally responsible to His Maker for his individual acts. The Lord Himself does not attempt coercion in His desire and effort to give peace and salvation to His children. He gives the principles of life and true progress, but leaves every person free to choose or to reject His teachings. This plan the Authorities of the Church try to follow.

    “The Prophet Joseph Smith once said: “I want liberty of thinking and believing as I please.” This liberty he and his successors in the leadership of the Church have granted to every other member thereof.

    “On one occasion in answer to the question by a prominent visitor how he governed his people, the Prophet answered: “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.”

    “Again, as recorded in the History of the Church (Volume 5, page 498) Joseph Smith said further: “If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.”

    “I cite these few quotations, from many that might be given, merely to confirm your good and true opinion that the Church gives to every man his free agency, and admonishes him always to use the reason and good judgment with which God has blessed him.” (See http://bycommonconsent.com/2009/06/25/when-our-leaders-speak-the-thinking-has-been-done/)

    (6) Finally, I think as we approach and struggle difficult questions, there are a couple of key things to keep in mind. One is that in virtually every aspect of our lives we are forced to confront contradictions, and religion is no different. Henry Eyring, in the above mentioned book, states: “There are all kinds of contradictions in religion that I don’t understand, but I find the same kinds of contradictions in science, and I haven’t decided to apostatize from science.” I would humbly suggest that you can honestly answer temple recommend questions while still searching through and struggling with various doctrinal questions. Ultimately, I think we all have testimonies that are in a state of continual progress and flux, but I think that even on issues where we are still struggling to come to some point of peace or understanding, we can say, as Nephi did, “I know that [God] loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” I think this mindset has carried a lot of stalwart members through in the course of their lives, particularly when grappling with issues such as the denial of priesthood to the blacks.

    • Alison

      These are great quotes and references! Thanks so much for sharing them. Where did you get the ones from Eyring – what is the title of the book? I loved the article by Armand Mauss.

      • Wendy

        I agree that we should honestly answer temple-recommend questions, but I think that we should be open with the bishop about searching and struggling. There should be no shame or fear in that.

  13. John

    I think people have adequately answered how to deal with the temple recommend questions. Here is my beef with the situation as it pertains to weddings. I very much understand a mother’s desire to see her daughter or son’s wedding (or any family member mormon or not). In my mind there is no reason for a temple sealing to be considered a marriage. Can we separate the two? Have a traditional wedding in another venue and then later be sealed with your partner in the temple separately. This issue causes way too much heart ache. That is how early Mormon weddings were performed. I actually think that this would be a good way to eliminate the problem of temple divorce as well. Have the sealing a year after you are married, wait a year to have kids if you want them born under the covenant, but even if you have a child, take them to the temple to be sealed. Just trying to think outside the box on this issue.

    • Naomi

      In England we have a church wedding first, then a sealing in the temple. Non temple recommend holders (family especially) don’t feel excluded from the day and can witness the union of their loved ones. I can’t imagine not having had my family and friends be a part of any of our wedding ceremonies.

      • NDM

        I’ll second that. We lived in England for many years. My daughter was married there and sealed in the temple. The LDS weddings are held in a chapel and treated like a Church meeting – think baptismal service, except the talks are on marriage and temple covenants. The chapel would be packed with non-LDS family, friends, co-workers, relatives. All very tasteful and restrained – no pageantry, no extravagant wardrobing (though in Scotland the groom and best man do wear dress kilts), no silliness like three-year-olds releasing doves – in short, none of the things that make wedding-goers cringe. People were always impressed with the beauty and simplicity of our ceremonies, and they often commented positively on how Mormons view marriage, temple covenants, and family life. I became a convert to the practice.

    • Alison

      I agree that a civil wedding first and then temple sealing would be a thoughtful loving way to have everyone be able to celebrate and not change the importance of the temple sealing. My parents were married this way in Germany and I wish they would allow that here in the U.S.

      • MJW

        I had a friend get sealed first and then had a pretty elaborate reception afterwards for her parents and other non-LDS family and friends. (she was the only member in her family). The stake president said she could do anything she wanted except exchange vows so she did. Her father walked her down the aisle, they had people sing, do readings, etc. The bishop explain that she and her husband had been married and what the temple meant to LDS people. They then exchanged rings, it was really nice. It was a typical wedding ceremony just not vows. Her family liked it.

  14. I think you’re COMPLETELY worthy to go to the temple. Here are my thoughts:

    #1) I loved Elder Eyring’s talk a few conferences ago about the reality of revelation in the Church. However, I do believe even the Brethren themselves know that it’s not a perfect system, because people are open error. Joseph Smith repeatedly taught that he was open mistakes and that people shouldn’t expect perfection from him. I like this quote specifically from Joseph Smith: “I told them I was but a man, and they must not expect me to be perfect; if they expected perfection from me, I should expect it from them; but if they would bear with my infirmities and the infirmities of the brethren, I would likewise bear with their infirmities.”

    Elder Christofferson gave a wonderful talk a couple of conferences ago which I think is especially helpful on this topic. Here’s a slice of it:

    “The President of the Church may announce or interpret doctrines based on revelation to him (see, for example, D&C 138). Doctrinal exposition may also come through the combined council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (see, for example, Official Declaration 2). Council deliberations will often include a weighing of canonized scriptures, the teachings of Church leaders, and past practice. But in the end, just as in the New Testament Church, the objective is not simply consensus among council members but revelation from God. It is a process involving both reason and faith for obtaining the mind and will of the Lord.

    “At the same time it should be remembered that not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. It is commonly understood in the Church that a statement made by one leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, not meant to be official or binding for the whole Church. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that ‘a prophet [is] a prophet only when he [is] acting as such.’ President Clark, quoted earlier, observed:

    “To this point runs a simple story my father told me as a boy, I do not know on what authority, but it illustrates the point. His story was that during the excitement incident to the coming of [Johnston’s] Army, Brother Brigham preached to the people in a morning meeting a sermon vibrant with defiance to the approaching army, and declaring an intention to oppose and drive them back. In the afternoon meeting he arose and said that Brigham Young had been talking in the morning, but the Lord was going to talk now. He then delivered an address, the tempo of which was the opposite from the morning talk. …

    ” ‘… The Church will know by the testimony of the Holy Ghost in the body of the members, whether the brethren in voicing their views are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’; and in due time that knowledge will be made manifest.’ ”

    The whole talk is here: http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/04/the-doctrine-of-christ?lang=eng&query=*+%28name%3a%22D.+Todd+Christofferson%22%29

    #3 and 4) These seem connected with your concerns with #1. Again, the prophets have been liable to error, they themselves have taught that. Even when they have received a revelation, it can be implemented imperfectly (as I believe the case was polygamy and all the messiness associated with it). I wrote an essay about maintaining faith in the face of the fallibility of prophets that might be helpful: http://mahonristewart.blogspot.com/2010/11/expectations-of-prophet-keeping-faith.html . So I think, this being your root concern, you can put that to rest. The scriptures teach this, the prophets have taught this. You evidently have a testimony of the essentials and I think that’s all the interview questions are getting at.

    #7) The Church itself said that it understood when members disagreed with Prop 8. Here’s the part of their official statement that I think is relevant to you:

    “Before it accepted the invitation to join broad-based coalitions for the amendments, the Church knew that some of its members would choose not to support its position. Voting choices by Latter-day Saints, like all other people, are influenced by their own unique experiences and circumstances. As we move forward from the election, Church members need to be understanding and accepting of each other and work together for a better society.”

    I think the Church is sending a clear message here that it understands the feelings of those who oppose the Church’s position on this issue and is telling everyone to be “understanding” to those in the Church who take the opposite position and that they are still more than welcome in the Church’s definition of faithful. I appreciated these clarifying comments from the Church. The full source is here: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/news-releases-stories/church-responds-to-same-sex-marriage-votes

  15. Mark Steele

    The advice above has been so good. I think with the questions you are concerned about, you can generally determine what things like “support” mean and truthfully answer yes, if that’s your determination. As my own views on LGBT and marriage issues have changed and varied from the church’s official or semi-official positions, I have discussed those in simple terms with bishopric or stake presidency during the interview, and it has not been a problem. I still respect, I still believe, I’m not trying to bring the church down because of my areas of disagreement. This leaves me open for entrance to and participation in the temple. God bless you on your journey.

  16. Linda Batchelor

    I appreciate all that has been said, especially about the temple recommend situation. Having gone without a recommend for over 20 years, I am delighted to have it back and to the extent that others in authority thought be worthy to be an ordinance worker. I never thought that would happen….however, that does not prevent me from supporting a member of our family who is gay, or supporting folks who do not agree with me politically. I have finally decided that the bottom line is…..can I look at myself in the mirror every morning and feel good about the person who looks back at me……
    Things in the church are not going to be to everyone’s liking…just as other things in your life are not to your liking, however I learned at AA that to accept the things you cannot change, change what you can and the wisdom to know the difference……that is the key….the wisdom to know the differene.
    Life is too short to worry about the actions of others. Dont know about any of you but it is ultimtely just my life and my decisions I will answer for…not for anyone else but me~~~

  17. Ruscov

    Here is how I think she should do it. Truthfully answer those questions but then say…I have some concerns about ____________________. For example, do you affiliate with? The Prop 8 thing is one issue. Its not all issues. The question is about trying to bring down the church by affiliating with certain groups. I don’t think this person is trying to do that but she may have a disagreement or she is struggling with her opinions. Tell them that. Some of those groups (and I would think Joanna would admit this) want to destroy the church. You may agree with them on Prop 8, but you don’t agree with them storming the temple grounds, destroying church property, etc. I have a lot of friends I disagree with politically or on social issues. It doesn’t mean I declare a fatwa on the church. Tell them these things and in the end it will be a good conversation. Unlike what some on the left (sorry Joanna, even you have implied this) have brought up…even the most pious and “peter priesthood” guys are still really good people. They don’t condemn you to hell for your opinions. And if they do, I truly believe they are few and far between. Being a conservative/republican Mormon doesn’t mean they hate you if you just b/c you disagree with them. Tell the truth. Tell them that you love the church and support your leaders but that you have concerns about their positions and feel that YOU are right. Its okay to have disagreements. I don’t think supporting gay marriage gets your temple rec declined. In fact THAT is not a question and you’d be well in your right to tell them that.

    In the end, the horror stories that people tell about their disagreements are probably more skewed b/c of their perception. For example, when Mitt Romney consulted with the woman about her pregnancy and adoption, I’m sure he was not coming from a position of hate or “you horrible sinner” attitude. The gospel does help these men to try and do what they think is best and most do it in a very loving manner…even if the other person being interviewed doesn’t see that.

  18. Ben

    A very timely discussion for me. I’m a returned missionary, married in the temple, active in the church, but have deep concerns about some historical and current church issues. I love the church, have faith in God and Christ and sincerely hope to make it work.

    Right now I do not hold a temple recommend for reasons very similar to the letter’s author. My little sister’s wedding is coming up in a few weeks and I’ve had to tell her that I won’t be there—an excruciating conversation that, if I hadn’t been dealing openly and honestly with this for the last couple years, could have been even worse.

    I love these thoughtful responses, especially from former bishop NDM. One of my major concerns is with question #7 (the agreement/affiliation question). I’ve heard so many people talk about how this question is all about polygamy, but if that’s true, why doesn’t the church rephrase that question to ask specifically ABOUT polygamy? I am puzzled as to why I should have to understand the historical context around that question in order to be able to answer it.

    About six years ago I had to turn in my temple recommend because I felt so uncomfortable answering that question during the time the church was so heavily supporting Proposition 8.

    Then last year I had to turn it in again because as I worked through some of these historical issues I found myself agreeing quite strongly with some people whose teachings did indeed contradict the historically inaccurate teachings of the church.

    So I ask again: If question #7 is all about polygamy, why is it worded so broadly as to imply that any dissent or disagreement with the church is prohibited for temple-recommend holders? It would save a whole lot of grief and pain for someone like me if they would just reword the thing.

    • NDM

      Because the question is not just about polygamy. We have had members who thought membership in an armed militia preparing to do battle with the federal government was compatible with their Church membership. We have had members join secretive societies that mimic temple rites and teach that the society’s leadership has more authority than the Brethren because God gave them the Book of Lehi.

      What the question ISN’T about is personal disagreements with the Church’s stand on any given public issue.

    • Steve In Millcreek (SIM)

      In response to Ben (12/3/2012) and his comments about Interview Question 7 and the Polygamy component, I now chuckle at my youthful struggle over the same topic. A decade ago, I remember asking myself, “If I help a FLDS member escape polygamy and gain refuge, find work or housing for its exiled male youth, (the aptly-named “Lost Boys”), can I still say that I “..am not affiliated with..” fringe groups? My point is: I was so full of anxiety over 7, that I wanted to be totally honest in my self-review, that I struggled with the interview question at that level.

      In hindsight, I lost forward momentum due to my commitment to exactness; and I think it hurt me.

  19. Peter Priesthood

    I needed to renew my recommend last year and had very similar reservations, particularly regarding sustaining church leaders as per question 4. Here’s the process I went through:

    I was attending a BYU YSA ward at the time. I scheduled an appointment with my bishop. When we reached the “sustaining” question during the interview, I expressed my reservations about “sustaining” church leaders, noting that I disagreed with some statements by church leaders, especially regarding LGBT issues. He signed his portion of the recommend, but instructed me to discuss the issue with the stake presidency.

    I scheduled an interview with a member of the stake presidency and expressed my concerns to him. During the discussion, he seemed concerned about understanding why I desired to attend the temple when I couldn’t offer unqualified testimony about church leaders as prophets, seers, and revelators. I got the sense that he wasn’t sure if my desire to attend the temple was sincere. He asked me to come back in a few weeks so we could both have time to ponder over it. (I didn’t have an active recommend in the interim). At the follow-up interview, I told him I had re-framed the issue as an Abrahamic test in my mind, so I could confidently say I sustained church leaders as an exercise of faith. He was satisfied by that answer, and signed his portion of the recommend.

    Re-framing the issue as an exercise of faith may not satisfy your personal spiritual appetites, and your bishop and stake presidency may approach the matter differently than mine did. Nevertheless, I feel that my experience illustrates that being candid with your bishop/stake-presidency and working with them to address your concerns can lead to positive outcomes, and big steps on your personal spiritual journey.

  20. I have a lot of the same concerns, and I couldn’t go through the temple recommend interview as an honest person. My biggest thing is I stopped paying tithing after they built “City Creek Center” – of which I told my bishop if they have money to pay for that with cash they don’t need any extra from me.

    That said – I don’t think most of us could answer those questions honestly – if you have doubts about #3 specifically. You really do need to believe that Christ’s church was restored through Joseph Smith, and that he really was visited by God, Jesus Christ in the Sacred Grove and that he translated the Book of Mormon as a prophet of God.

    • Curtis Penfold

      Nobody asks if Joseph was visited by God or if the Book of Mormon is historically true or any of that.

      I think there’s a reason for the vagueness and the ability to interpret in these questions.

  21. Alison

    Thanks so much for the comments and advice. It’s helped a lot to read through everyone’s thoughts and realize it’s ok to have questions, concerns and doubts and still attend the temple. I guess when you sit in church you don’t really hear those kinds of things so you wonder if you are just totally out in left field having these thoughts!! As I now think through all of the above questions that I was worried about I feel I have a much clearer picture of how I can contemplate each question and how to honestly answer what they are asking. The area I’m still struggling with is #1. Now that I can get my head around perhaps the idea that God is more hands off with the prophets and leaders that leaves me confused as to why it would be that way? I understand the whole idea of free agency and that we are supposed to choose for ourselves but why would Heavenly Father’s design be this difficult for honest seeking people to find the truth? If he appeared to Joseph Smith and restored the authority to organize the church and priesthood power why would he then back off and have the leaders basically have to search out on their own what they feel is the appropriate way to declare church doctrine and policy? How can he expect the members of the church then to really understand and know his will when we have to selectively choose what we feel good about coming from the leadership? There are so many people in the world trying to figure out what the truth is and searching for it – why would a loving Father in Heaven design it this way? Growing up in the church I always had this reassurance that “Well at least I know that the prophet/leaders are getting their direction from God and speaking for him and so I can completely trust what they are saying to be from God”. If God doesn’t operate that way I’m really struggling to understand what kind of a God he is and exactly how to feel about this whole earth experience.

    • slsdm

      I don’t know if this answers exactly what you’re asking, but I think it relates and may help to offer one perspective on the subject. I came across a testimony on mormonscholarstestify.org by Dr. Philip S. Low that I really liked. Among other things, part of his testimony included this: ” I believe we will never find a verifiable proof of religious beliefs. We learn in the scriptures that faith is a major power that can motivate people to do good (see Hebrews 11). Faith can heal the sick, it can move mountains, it can encourage great achievement, and it constitutes a major component of priesthood power. Indeed, our Savior has repeatedly commanded us to exercise faith and, therefore, we must assume that to emulate Him, we must develop this divine attribute. Because faith cannot arise where proof is present, it seems obvious that we will never find verifiable evidence of the divinity of Jesus Christ or of His resurrection. We will also never discover a stone with the inscription, “Welcome to the City of Zarahemla,” nor will life after death ever be scientifically verifiable. In brief, God will never rob us of the opportunity to develop faith, but instead will provide us with trials and uncertainties that, if acted upon with minimal faith, will lead to growth of our faith. Thus, I believe that any quest for a scientific proof of religion will be futile. Instead, God may provide us with sufficient evidence to enable us to believe, if we desire to do so, but will never provide the scientific proof that would eliminate our need to develop faith.”

      I think this applies even to our leaders. They are human beings being given their mortal time on earth to learn and grow just like the rest of us, albeit with more spiritual responsibility than the rest of us. I don’t think the Lord will allow his plan for His children to be thwarted by man, but He does have to bring about His purposes through them. It’s kind of a glorious plan when you look at it that way. It’s what allows all of us (including those He has chosen to be the leaders of this church) the opportunity to grow and increase in faith and testimony through our righteous efforts to be led by His Spirit. If He didn’t, they (and therefore, us) would have no need to exercise faith and turn to Him personally for guidance and direction through that faith.

      • Alison

        I’ve thought about this as well as I’ve struggled with realizing faith is critical and important for us to learn balanced with a design that also instills confidence if your ability to discern truth. I do believe the leaders in the church are honest people who really seek to know the truth and get inspiration (just like we all do). I also accept that they are regular people like us with their own personal “baggage” and experiences that will influence how they view things. I believe they do receive inspiration for things and I can understand your reasoning that God would also be allowing them to learn and experience faith as leaders so that their experience is also a learning/growing one just like ours. I guess it’s just that makes it so darn hard to actually know what’s really from God. Inspiration through the Holy Ghost is very personal and can be understood/interpreted in completely different ways depending on whose having the the experience.

    • You are right to come back to question #1 as the biggest and most difficult one. I’d like to say that I have an easy answer for how to rationalize that question or to come up with a way to answer it affirmatively with integrity, but if you’re really asking these things, and if you’re really open to the possibility that what you’ve learned all your life is in fact not as true as you thought, then I think you are left with a choice between 1) letting the question slide and putting off the hard answers until some unknown future date, just so you can get the temple recommend (the “put it on the shelf” approach), or 2) follow your instinct and accept that your life experiences and your intuition have led you to conclusions that are in some ways at odds with the very core of the church’s truth claims, and which alter your understanding of the meaning and purpose of life. Option 2 is not fun or easy, especially if you really do want to go to the temple. There is a cascading effect that may not be pleasant for you to contemplate, because it may involve fundamental life changes.

      One thing I will say, though, is that nothing is final until you decide to make it final. You can make a comparison to taking the sacrament on Sundays. You may have had a bad week and you may still have some things that you’d like to put right in your life, so you skip the sacrament that week, because you just aren’t ready for it. Maybe you resolve those issues before sacrament the next week, and maybe you don’t. But no matter how long you refrain from taking the sacrament (whether of your own accord or with direction from your Bishop), you can always take it again when you’re ready. Having some time away from the temple, and some time without a temple recommend, may be what you need to sort things through in your mind and heart. Maybe the experience of being without a recommend will be too hard on you, and you realize that you need to have a recommend, so you strengthen your resolve within the church. Maybe the opposite happens and you decide that you feel more comfortable and more true to yourself on the outside of the church. People of great integrity are found at the end of both of these paths.

      There are many paths through this kind of spiritual exploration. No matter which path you end up on, don’t let fear lead you and dictate your decisions. Fear will make you feel cornered and forced into a certain path. Fear will obscure the most sincere feelings of your heart. Fear will make decisions for you, and this will compound your anxiety and compromise your ability to act with integrity by making your own choices.

      At this point, I would say that the most important question to answer is how meaningful is the temple recommend to you, and how much do you want to have it right now? If having a temple recommend nourishes your spirit in some important way, answer the questions in a way that allows you to retain your recommend, even though you still feel some inner conflict. If having a recommend eats at you and makes you feel guilty and dishonest, then now is not the time to have one, and that’s ok.

      The fact that you’re asking these questions and taking them seriously shows that you are a person of integrity. Follow your integrity where it leads you, without guilt, without fear. The right answer for you is inside of you already, but it’s going to take some time to filter out the distractions and figure out where you want to stand.

    • skim

      I share the same concerns about this dichotomy. I have a lot of thoughts, but one I’d like to lay out there is regarding the allegory of the Tree of Life in Jacob 5: “The roots of the natural branches of the tree which I planted (the true gospel, not the “current” gospel) are yet alive; wherefore that I may preserve them…I will graft in unto them the branches of their mother tree, that I may preserve the roots…that when they shall be sufficiently strong perhaps they may bring forth good fruit…pluck not the wild branches from the trees, save it be those which are most bitter. And this I do that, perhaps, the roots thereof may take strength because of their goodness; and because of the change of the branches that the good may overcome the evil.”
      This allegory is often misinterpreted, or misunderstood. I suggest this perspective: the wild branches are the parts of the gospel that are incorrect, that perhaps our imperfect leaders and culture have allowed to grow (blacks in the priesthood, polygamy, hopefully LGBT issues and women in the priesthood). The Lord is saying to prune out and burn up these wild branches that have grown up. In order to save the good roots of the tree, or the gospel, though, you cannot simply cut off all the branches at once or the whole tree will die. By slowly grafting in the good ones (correct doctrine, some not yet attained…and those good members who question and hope for better), the Lord allows the tree/church to grow as he cuts out the wild/bad branches.
      With regards specifically to revelation and how slow it is, and incorrect beliefs/doctrines asserted by our prophets and leaders, this idea is helpful. The Lord would probably like to say with exasperation, “let’s get it over with, I’ve been trying to tell you that you are wrong on LGBT and gender issues! Let’s get this straight!” But perhaps such abrupt changes would uproot the tree of the church too much, and so in order to help the process along, he often relies on good, questioning, intelligent souls like you and all the others who have commented to be the good branches.
      We cannot pretend that the church does not respond to the thoughts and hopes of its members, it just doesn’t move as a whole until the prophet finalizes something.
      It is a painful place to be, doubting and disagreeing with your full heart, because this process of pruning the tree is a slow one. I am not by nature an incredibly patient person, so when I see and experience injustice or wrong or hurt, I want it to end, I want to fix it – especially in the church that is so much a part of me and in which I see so much potential! I pray so fervently for that change, it is what keeps me hanging on, what gives me a sense of purpose in staying to be that change. Keep fighting the good fight. Love a fellow sister.

  22. Hi There,

    When my brother announced his engagement, my temple recommend had not yet expired. I felt a very similar moral dilemma to the one you are describing. I was struggling with my faith, and didn’t feel right about using my recommend to attend my brother’s wedding if I didn’t know how I would answer those questions.

    I had just divorced my physically and emotionally abusive husband, and I was pondering on what God wanted for me. I remember reading about Helen Mar Kimball and feeling very confused about the whole ordeal. I felt that I had received a witness that God loved me so much, that he didn’t want me in a bad marriage. At the same time, I felt the prompting that God loved Helen Mar Kimball as much as he loved me, which led me to believe that Smith’s marriage to her was not of God, and was of man, just like my marriage was not of God. While I felt the love of God, I didn’t know how to answer the temple recommend questions.

    I didn’t go to my brother’s wedding. I was outside the Los Angeles temple, watching some of the kids. Later on, I was told that someone had asked why I wasn’t inside, and it was said that “I was sowing my wild oats.” I remember feeling very hurt about that, because it was my integrity and my respect for the sacred that kept me outside.

    But, as I write this, I regret it. I ended up losing my faith, but feel very compassionate for free thought in Mormonism. I love a great deal of Mormonism still. The thought that keeps floating around in my head is that, if you are honest with your interviewers, I believe your integrity and righteousness will shine through. If I were to do it again, I would have requested an interim interview, and just answered honestly and let my bishop and stake president decide if I was worthy. I wish I had attended my brother’s wedding. I don’t believe the intention of temple recommend interviews is to catch them at a point in your life that is free of questions and doubt. The pursuit of righteousness, of enlightenment, and of the divine is always about struggle. It was always my impression that the priesthood holders were looking for reasons to grant me a recommend, not the opposite.

    • Alison

      Thanks and I’m sad you missed your brothers wedding because you were trying to be truly honest. There will always be people who make false assumptions in those cases and I really respect you.

    • Wendy

      I, too, respect you. I especially like your last paragraph about choosing honesty.

  23. Don Sherwood

    Last January I was released after 5 1/2 years as Bishop so I have personal experience with the temple recommend interview and process. I am currently the Stake Director of Public Affairs. I was baptized in 1999 at age 38. The following are my thoughts and do not represent the church.

    I believe it is vital to your testimony to ask these questions. That is the purpose of the interview. You are not just being asked questions but asking them of yourself. Someone giving this much thought to the questions has already done much of the answering in my opinion. Remember the restoration of the church is founded on the basis of a young boy’s question.

    Prophets are not perfect. Neither is anyone else in your congregation. With this in mind I fit in well. I do not believe our Father in Heaven is hands off with Prophets. I think our ability to understand and do as the Prophet suggests as much to do with how hands-on we are with Him.

    I believe you can have a testimony as well as doubts and that both can co-exist. I think depending on the day or situation one can outweigh the other. That you have the courage and made the effort to ask indicates your testimony is stronger than you give credit. The Church is a gym and you are lifting some heavy weights. I do not need to know you can lift 500 pounds. I only need to see you in the Gym.

    You can support the President of the Church by doing what he says. Not blindly or without thought and personal revelation. On the contrary. Investigators of the church are asked to pray for confirmation and so are members. If you are doing that then you are doing what they say and at the end of day you are sustaining your Prophet and local leaders.

    There is no question in some ward and branches “the way we teach about sexuality in the church or it’s affect on LGBT youth/adults” is poorly done. There are 18,000 Bishop’s and all are trained on the job. Are you working inside the church to educate, elucidate, and communicate? Do you take your energies and use them for good within the context of your religion and within the organization of the church or are you on the picket lines outside the temple? You get my point.

    Thank you for your well thought out questions.

    • Alison

      I appreciate your thoughts. As far as the question about sustaining the prophets (which means quorum of the 12 as well) and local leaders…. It seems God would have to be somewhat hands off since they have said or done some things in the past that have been since changed, corrected or explained in different terms. Some examples of these are evolution, Adam-God theory, birth control, blacks and the priesthood, mixed-racial marriage, etc. Your comment that “You can support the President of the Church by doing what he says. Not blindly or without thought and personal revelation. On the contrary. Investigators of the church are asked to pray for confirmation and so are members.” is what makes this difficult. That’s the “typical, orthodox, standard” way that we are taught as members but then that doesn’t explain those instances where things were said that were wrong or later changed/corrected/explained. That’s the point of my concern/question. Many of these leaders say things that we know are told are not the official church position. At the time what were the members supposed to do/believe? When exactly are they speaking for God and when are they expressing their own opinions?

  24. Always wondering

    I just want to thank everyone for your comments. I am in the exact same predicament at the moment, so this post could not have been more timely. My concerns go deeper than just the recommend questions; I have some fundamental disagreements with certain things that take place in the temple as well. I am still active and have hope in a loving God and Savior, but the questions never seem to cease.

  25. “Faith,” “testimony,” and “sustain” are open to interpretation, but question #7 is written so as to leave little wiggle room. If “support” is somewhat vague, “affiliate” and “agree with” tie up the loose ends. Membership in a group is not the only possible infraction, as mere agreements with individuals are also pointedly included. As phrased, the question is undeniably a real challenge. Most people DO “support, affiliate with, or agree with” at least some “group[s] or individual[s] whose teachings or practices are contrary to or [opposed to] those accepted by” their church.

    The available options for answering seem to be an unacceptable “Yes,” or offering the interviewer an uncomfortably dishonest “No.” A limited few can honestly say, “No,” by choosing a difficult path in which they set their minds to “agree with” all church teachings and accepted practices and also choose not to “affiliate with” or offer “support” to anyone who does not do likewise. Surprisingly, however, in this discussion so far, the most common solution is something altogether different: answer the question as if it does not mean what it says, but rather as if it means what you need it to mean so you can say, “No.” I can’t help but wonder how anyone’s sense of personal integrity can be satisfied in that way.

  26. I think we all go into a temple interview with the idea that there is a right answer to every question.
    What if there wasn’t? What if they didn’t sound like yes or no questions? What if these were merely used as you would one of those “conversation starter” games I’ve seen for sale?
    Why don’t you have a discussion with your bishop instead of treating it like a test?
    I hope he’s open minded and doesn’t mind this interview taking a bit longer than others.
    I hope he knows, as I do, the temple isn’t for people with all the right answers, it’s for all of us who want to be there, and who are doing the work it takes to get there.
    You’re doing the work by asking the questions.
    Keep on it.

  27. Christopher

    A couple of thoughts on your questions. I answer yes to question seven every time. My bishop then asks that I elaborate. I do. I get a temple recommend. This is a poorly worded question, because everyone should be able to answer yes to it. If I have a friend that drinks coffee the answer is yes. In my experience, private doubts and political activism have never been a problem. And it’s been explained to me that largely this is concerned with groups opposed to the church (I don’t know at times this would probably include publishing in Dialogue and things like that, I don’t know how they would respond now, probably depends on the bishop.)

    As for sustaining. I have generally kept a rather liberal idea of sustaining, and have always felt comfortable with it. Sustaining is support. Support can come in many ways from obedience, to service, to criticism, and I think this question wisely gets to your motivation. Do you want to help move the work forward? My guess is yes, so don’t bog yourself down with the ways you do it

    • Christopher, why do you assume that #7 is a “poorly worded” question? It is written purposefully, the way lawyers write, with a clear intent to sew up the escape hatches. If it were concerned with groups opposed to the church, then did the word “individual” just somehow slip in there accidentally, never noticed subsequently by the authorities? Or could it be that the intent here is a reinforcement of group-think, a mind control that makes members feel guilty (and therefore spiritually inadequate and needy) for common “transgressions” such as picking up the tab when your dinner partner has a cup of coffee during the current meal…or even going “Dutch” with someone who ever had coffee, or acted on homosexual desires, at any time in the past?

  28. Karen

    I think this is a very personal and difficult decision you have to make. But I would avoid black and white thinking. In life I think there are good secrets and bad secrets and only we ourselves can decide what they are. The church itself represents things with economical truth – such as not promoting the 1832 version of the first vision, but sticking to the more convincing 1838 one. I believe they think they are doing this for the greater good – I am not in their shoes so do not judge. In the USA you cannot attend a temple marriage without a recommend. If you have to keep the secret to get your recommend to be with that family member at their marriage then I would say – so be it! But with the added sentence – as long as you can live with it. A glorious merciful God would say, do what you need to do, my grace is endless and sets you free. There is in my view no right or wrong answer here, be kind to yourself, you shouldn’t be put in this situation as we all should have more freedom and space to believe what is right in our own hearts in our faith traditions. I hope in time the LDS institution will see that, and recognise the benefits of diversity – putting charity above faith and loving all it’s members unconditionally. If you are honest you put yourself at the mercy of the opinions of your priesthood leaders and deal with their narratives and beliefs. It is a lottery – protect yourself!

  29. JC

    In the Guide to the Scriptures (https://www.lds.org/scriptures/gs/sustaining-church-leaders?lang=eng) under ‘Sustaining Church Leaders’ it says it is ‘To pledge support to those serving in general and local Church leadership positions.’ I agree with NDM that to sustain means ““provide due respect, pray for, be patient with and assume they mean well even when they err, and hear them out but ultimately rely only on the Holy Ghost as the ultimate source of truth.” Our leaders should not expect blind obedience, but rather they should follow the admonitions given in D&C 121:41-42: “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—.” When you disagree with a leader, you should speak with him, in a loving manner, explaining the concerns you have and invite a conversation where you can both understand one another better. Hopefully you will both be edified and uplifted and unified through this experience – even if you don’t end up in full agreement.

    Regarding revelation and how it is received by our leaders, I believe that all men/women here on this earth are blessed with the opportunity to grow in faith and exercise our free agency to accomplish much good. I also believe that God knows what must be done and how and He will inspire His servants to do these things. My experience while serving in a leadership position in our ward is that generally most decisions are arrived at through much counsel, pondering, and prayer. Thus it is often ‘hands-off’ in that regard. However,I also know from personal experience that there are times when God will inspire His leaders directly for those whom he has stewardship over, without leaving doubt about it being a communication from Him. Such experiences haven’t come often for me, but enough that I have confidence that God is watching out for us and does communicate with His servants when necessary.

    When you are learning truth, your ‘soul will be enlarged’ and you’ll be ‘edified’. One of the difficult things in this life is to learn to recognize when the Spirit is communicating with you, so that you can have that ratification of words spoken by our prophet/leaders and know that is the will of God you’re hearing. When you have concerns about something you are learning, seek further light and knowledge, and be open to modifying your understanding/opinion as you do. While I don’t understand all of the reasons for past issues with church history, etc. I believe we all have need of the atonement and repentance in our lives, even and especially our leaders. I try to forgive them of their weaknesses, and be grateful for their strengths, as I hope others will do for me. Regardless of the doctrine surrounding many difficult topics of our day – all of God’s children deserve our love and compassion, and I’m gratified to see such a wonderful discussion as this. May we all continue striving to be Christian, in doing our best to ‘succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.’ (D&C 81:5).

  30. Steven

    I think the best advice you’ve received is to council with your Bishop. The Lord’s sentinels aren’t just gatekeepers that either let us in or don’t. Your Bishop is there to help prepare you so that you are indeed ready and worthy to enter the Lord’s house. Know that God is real, and that he loves you immensely, and with that love He wants you to understand Him. There’s a lot of great advice here, and i only hope to add to it.

    Chapter 6 of this year’s Priesthood/RS manual (George Albert Smith) is called ‘Sustaining Those Whom the Lord Sustains’, and it basically discusses what it means to sustain who (whom?) the Lord had called (page 57 if you have the physical manual). I think it’s a wonderful lesson on the subject. The Lord’s definition of sustaining is sometimes different than the world’s, and a prayerful study on that lesson might be useful in finding the answers you need.

    Also, it’s helpful to remember that there is a distinction between doctrine and policy: doctrine never changes, but policy will change depending on the circumstances of the time. Polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, and other organizing elements of our history are policy and the Lord can change such things as He needs to, but doctrine will never change. (And i am unaware of any such changes. It’s possible that the examples you’ve given above have been statements taken out of context. I’m willing to address each of them, but i want to stay with your main point.)

    It’s true that prophets and apostles are imperfect human beings, but you can trust what is said in general conference and published in the church magazines and other formal settings like that as revelation and council from your Heavenly Father through His servants (vs, say, something an apostle said at dinner sometime that someone forwarded you an email about).

    I testify to you that you can always trust the living prophets. They are there to guide us. Sometimes their council contradicts popular opinion or even some of our own personal beliefs. There are many false creeds (even some that are well intentioned) that are untrue, and one of the purposes of prophets is to provide us with a standard to measure against, even our own personal revelations; the Holy Ghost will never instruct us counter to what the prophets have said. This Church is not founded on reasoning, it is founded on revelation. I promise that the living prophets receive revelation instructing them how the Lord wishes to council and organize His people. This is Jesus Christ’s Church, and He leads and guides it personally.

    I’m sorry this is so long. I really hope I have helped you and not said anything confusing. Even though i don’t really know who you are, i know that you are my sister and i love you. Know that God loves you and wants the best for you. Also know that Thomas S. Monson is the Lord’s servant, and that he is bound to advise the world as the Lord has commanded him to. I promise that he wants each of us to know the Savior the way he knows Him. Once again, my apologies for the length. God bless you, dear sister. We are all in this together.

  31. Howarthe

    Lots of good answers already I just want to say that yes, the leaders of the church get their answers the same way we get ours: through various spiritual feelings. I became convinced of this while reading about the experiences of President Kimball and the apostles who recieved the revelation to lift the priesthood ban. Their feelings seemed clear to them: the ban must be lifted, but the Lord did not provide them with a lengthy document describing the origins of th ban or the reasons for the ban or even how to navigate the change. They struggled with all of that for months. The Scriptures often describe revelations as something more like telegrams, the struggle is seldom recorded, but I imagine that is because the experience is being describes so many years after the fact. I imagine myself (or my mother or my grandmother) as an 80-year-old woman, writing my memoir, describing answers to prayers in similar ways.

  32. Theo

    I empathize with this post. As a convert I wanted to join without compromising on truth. I was raised Catholic and spent many years agnostic. While investigating, I struggled with how the LDS use some terms and I even wished they had different titles, like just using President instead of Prophet (too presumptuous).

    However, upon deeper study I found the problems melted away. My understanding of Prophets and Prophecy was defined by Cecil B DeMille rather than what ‘The Word’ actually said. Prophets are among us and it’s natural they would rise to lead the church, getting the LDS President title in addition to exhibiting the gifts of the Holy Spirit they already possessed.

    My reply is intended to improve understanding and thus ability to support our LDS Prophet. Now for copied material from non-LDS sources:

    The gift of prophecy edifies, exhorts, and comforts (I Corinthians 14:3); helps us build up or strengthen; and should lead us to the Word of God. It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to convict of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment to come (John 16:8-11).

    Prophecy is divinely inspired and anointed utterance; a supernatural proclamation in a known language. It is the manifestation of the Spirit of God – not of intellect (I Corinthians 12:7), and it may be possessed and operated by all who have the infilling of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 14:31)

    Intellect, faith, and will are operative in this gift, but its exercise is not intellectually based. It is calling forth words from the Spirit of God. The gift of prophecy operates when there is high worship (I Samuel 10:5-6), when others prophets are present (I Samuel 10:9-10), and when hands are laid on you by ministers (Acts 19:1-6).

    COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT PROPHECY

    The gift of prophecy (I Corinthians 12) and the office of the prophet (Ephesians 4:11) are not the same thing.
    There is a ministry of the prophet, but not everyone is a prophet. For example, a boy may wear a Cubs baseball cap, but that does not mean he plays professional baseball for the Chicago Cubs. You may prophesy, but operating in the simple gift of prophecy does not qualify you to stand in the office of a prophet, much like wearing a Cubs hat does not qualify you to play baseball for the Chicago Cubs – you must be gifted. To stand in the office of a prophet, one must have a consistent manifestation of at least two of the revelation gifts (word of wisdom, word of knowledge, or discerning of spirits) plus prophecy.

    Prophecy is not the interpretation of tongues.
    The Bible says that “greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues” (I Corinthians 14:5), even though both are inspired utterances. Tongues, of course, is inspired utterance in an “unknown” tongue. The interpretation of tongues is inspired utterance telling that which was spoken in tongues. Prophecy, on the other hand, is inspired utterance in a “known” tongue. The difference between interpretation and prophecy is that interpretation is dependent upon tongues, whereas prophecy is not.

    Prophecy is not prediction (HUGE MISPERCEPTION)
    People sometimes think that “prophecy” means to predict (foretell) what will happen in the future. Actually, the simple gift of prophecy is essentially forthtelling; it is a ministry to make people better and more useful Christians now. Prophecy in the New Testament church carries no prediction with it whatsoever, for “he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort” (I Corinthians 14:3). Notice that there is no mention of the word prediction here.

    Prophecy is not the same thing as preaching..
    The words preach and prophesy come from two entirely different Greek words. To “preach” means to proclaim, announce, cry, or tell. Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world, and PREACH the gospel..” (Mark 16:15). Note that He didn’t say to prophesy the Gospel.

    The word prophecy means to “bubble up, to flow forth, or to cause to drop like rain.” Teaching and preaching are preplanned, but prophecy is not.

  33. Ally

    I am currently investigating the church but have many misgivings -Especially concerning the couldn’t view on LYNN issues, women, and race. The comments here and this article have given me a lot of comfort. Thank you all so much.

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