Mormonism and temples/Worthiness to enter
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Worthiness requirements to enter the temple
- The authors of the anti-Mormon book Mormonism 101 make the following remarks:
When they are first built, Mormon temples are opened to the general public in an "open house" format for a short time. After this, the temple is then dedicated by LDS general authorities and reopened only to worthy members. A member is considered worthy if he or she holds a "temple recommend." The recommend is an identification card, which is renewed annually by the individual's bishop. Qualifying criteria include full payment of tithes, regular attendance to ward meetings, wearing temple garments under regular clothing, and an agreement to obey the Word of Wisdom.
To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here
There are a couple of important clarifications that need to be made in response to this paragraph. The authors, unintentionally perhaps, distort the nature of temple worthiness as viewed by members of the LDS Church.
- First, having a "temple recommend" does not make a member worthy. It is possible to have a "temple recommend" and yet not be worthy to participate in the ordinances of the temple. The recommend is an identification card which is carried by the member, and which expires after two years, and which is then renewed by the member as the member desires. Cards are used because of the number of members in the Church worldwide, and the number of temples. The process to get a recommend involves two interviews (not one)-one with your local leader (a bishop or branch president) and the second with your regional leader (a Stake President or Mission President or their counselors).
Temple recommend questions
- Both of these interviews consist of a series of questions, and depending on how the questions are answered, a recommend indicating temple worthiness is issued. The questions are as follows (the questions themselves, as provided here are in both instances taken from a 'recommend book' which contains blank recommends, and also instructions for giving the interview):
- Do you have faith in and a testimony of God the Eternal Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost?
- Do you have a testimony of the Atonement of Christ and of His role as Savior and Redeemer?
- Do you have a testimony of the restoration of the gospel in these the latter days?
- 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?
- Do you live the law of chastity?
- Is there anything in your conduct relating to members of your family that is not in harmony with the teachings of the Church?
- 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?
- Do you strive to keep the covenants you have made, to attend your sacrament and other meetings, and to keep your life in harmony with the laws and commandments of the gospel?
- Are you honest in your dealings with your fellowmen?
- Are you a full-tithe payer?
- Do your keep the Word of Wisdom?
- Do you have financial or other obligations to a former spouse or children? If yes, are you current in meeting those obligations?
- If you have previously received your temple endowment: 1) Do you keep the covenants that you made in the temple? 2) Do you wear the garment both night and day as instructed in the endowment and in accordance with the covenant you made in the temple?
- Have there been any sins or misdeeds in your life that should have been resolved with priesthood authorities but have not been?
- Do you consider yourself worthy to enter the Lord's house and participate in temple ordinances?
Baptismal interview questions
- Now, compare these questions with the following set of questions-used to determine a convert's readiness for baptism. (If the candidate for baptism does not respond affirmatively to these questions, baptism may be postponed until the individual is better prepared to accept and live the Gospel of Jesus Christ.):
- Have you prayed about the gospel? Have your prayers been answered?
- Do you accept Jesus Christ as the literal Son of God?
- What are your reasons for knowing (or believing) that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God?
- Will you sustain the President of the Church as a prophet, seer, and revelator and as the Lord's representative on earth?
- Are you now living each of the Ten Commandments?
- What is your understanding of the law of tithing? Will you live this law?
- What is your understanding of the Word of Wisdom? Will you live this law by abstaining from tea, coffee, alcohol, tobacco [or other harmful drugs]?
- What is your understanding of the law of chastity? Will you obey this law?
- Have you repented of all past transgressions?
The same standard continued
- Effectively, the questions amount to the same standard. The bar for entrance into the temple is simply that one continues to keep the commitments that they made in baptism, and that were clearly explained to them. As the authors point out, one of the qualifications necessary to enter the temple is "an agreement to obey the Word of Wisdom." When was this agreement made? When that individual was baptized into the LDS Church. What I want to demonstrate by this is that temple worship requires nothing more than that a person is actively living the gospel of Jesus Christ and fulfilling the covenants he made to God at baptism.
- It is also relevant to note that for the most part, these requirements are based on the member's understanding of the gospel, and not a pre-determined list of rules regarding compliance to these questions. Taking tithing as an example, a good summary of the Church's position on this teaching is found in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism:
- By revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord stated that members should pay "one-tenth of all their interest [increase] annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever." (D&C 119:4) Present Church policy specifically states that no one in the Church has any authority to interpret this revelation for another person (See Financial Clerk's Handbook). This prohibition applies to everyone, including Stake Presidents and Bishops. If a local Church leader instructs you how to calculate your tithing, then he is in violation of this policy. It is up to the agency of each individual person to determine what constitutes a fair interpretation of the revelation.
- In other words, even in complying with these requirements, the compliance largely hinges on a members understanding of the gospel principle. It is for this reason that some of the questions overlap, so that there is no question as to the requirements in specific instances-staying up to date on child support being one of those areas where it was decided that being more specific was necessary. Further, it is implied in this process that the person who goes unworthily into the temple is doing so both willfully and with a personal recognizance of their lack of worthiness. While God does not 'strike them down', they certainly do so to their own condemnation.
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- Howard D. Swainston, "Tithing," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 4:1481.