Tuesday, November 26, 2013


This is an old post I rediscovered in my drafts while looking for something else. Enjoy.

1 Thus saith the Lord, verily, verily I say unto you my son, thy sins are forgiven thee, according to thy petition, for thy prayers and the prayers of thy brethren have come up into my ears.
 2 Therefore, thou art blessed from henceforth that bear the keys of the kingdom given unto you; which kingdom is coming forth for the last time.
 3 Verily I say unto you, the keys of this kingdom shall never be taken from you, while thou art in the world, neither in the world to come;
 4 Nevertheless, through you shall the oracles be given to another, yea, even unto the church.
 5 And all they who receive the oracles of God, let them beware how they hold them lest they are accounted as a light thing, and are brought under condemnation thereby, and stumble and fall when the storms descend, and the winds blow, and the rains descend, and beat upon their house. (D&C 90)

The Lord makes a distinction between the keys, which he says remain with Joseph, and the oracles, which he says (at the time will be let us assume) are given to the church.

Oracles are answers from God to men.

Joseph Smith said, ``What Constitutes the Kingdom of God Whare there is a Prophet a priest or a righteous man unto whom God gives his oracles there is the Kingdom of God, & whare the oracles of God are not there the Kingdom of God is not, In these remarks I have no allusion to the Kingdoms of the earth we will keep the Laws of the Land, we do not speak against them we never have & we can hardly make mention of the State of Missouri of our persecutions there &c but what the cry goes forth that we are guilty of larceny Burlary, arson treason & murder &C &C which is fals 3 we speak of the Kingdom of God on the earth not the Kingdom of men, The plea of many in this day is that we have no right to receive revelations, But if we do not get revelations we do not have the oracles of God & if they have not the oracles of God they are not the people of God But say you what will become of the world or the various professors of religion who do not believe in revelation & the oracles of God as Continued to the Church in all ages of the world when he has a people on earth I Tell you in the name of Jesus Christ they will be damned & when you get into the eternal world you will find it to be so they cannot escape the damnation of hell'' (Words of Joseph Smith, 22 Jan 1843)

The cleaner version: "Where did the kingdom of God begin? Where there is no kingdom of God there is no salvation. What constitutes the kingdom of God? Where there is a prophet, a priest, or a righteous man unto whom God gives His oracles, there the kingdom of God is not....The plea of many in this day is, that we have no right to receive revelations; but if we do not get revelations, we do not have the oracles of God; and if they have unto the oracles of God, they are not the people of God." (TPJS p272)

We talk of keys, we rejoice in keys, we preach of keys, we prophesy of keys, but perhaps we should be talking of oracles, rejoicing in oracles, preaching of oracles, and prophesying by virtue of our possession of the oracles.

I was reading the Sunday School manual and this topic cropped up. From the student manual:

The members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are latter-day prophets, seers, and revelators. They continue to receive revelation to guide the Church. This lesson discusses a few examples of continuing revelation to guide the Church.
•Read Our Heritage, pages 117–19. Why is it important to understand that Church auxiliaries, programs, and activities exist to support the family? How have Church organizations and activities strengthened your family?
•Read Official Declaration 2. How has this revelation been a blessing to the Church? What can we learn from the process President Kimball went through before receiving this revelation? (See Our Heritage, 126.)
•What are the responsibilities of the Seventy? (See D&C 107:25, 34.) Read D&C 107:93–97. How does the creation of additional Quorums of the Seventy comply with the instructions in this revelation?

The third bullet seems to be an oversight, as (and it even says this) the expansion of the Seventy is already provided for in D&C 107, a revelation received by Joseph Smith, and so I don't see how this can be considered modern revelation.

I sat in on a missionary discussion a few months ago and the Elders said that we need a living prophet to give us guidance for our day. The student manual tells me the two best examples of that since the death of Joseph Smith almost 200 years ago are the creation of "The Family: A Proclamation" and the rescinding of the priesthood ban.

The Family: I am not aware of a single statement describing the Lord dictating that document. I am aware of a committee of apostles drafting and revising and finally signing the document as their creation. Am I ignorant of the authorship process?

The ban: As recently officially admitted by the church (see new version of the scriptures, heading to official declaration 2), but privately expressed since David O McKay (see Prince's biography), church leaders have known for decades that there was no evidence for thinking the ban came by revelation. Do you need a revelation to overturn a policy instituted by a man? Even so, the accounts of the brethren in the temple that day (who were 13 of the 15 if I remember) vary wildly. What did NOT happen is that President Kimball did not say, "thus saith the Lord" and dictate what God was saying. What did happen is that they all prayed after months of discussion on the subject, and all felt it was the right thing to do (well, except the two people who were gone on this planned occasion). The brethren did not produce a written revelation that was sustained by the church, as was done in Joseph's day. Instead, they reported a policy change based on how they felt when they prayed, and the church sustained the policy change.

From the teacher's manual:
President Spencer W. Kimball declared that the Church continues to be guided by revelation:

“We testify to the world that revelation continues and that the vaults and files of the Church contain these revelations which come month to month and day to day. We testify also that there is, since 1830 when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized, and will continue to be, so long as time shall last, a prophet, recognized of God and his people, who will continue to interpret the mind and will of the Lord. …

“Expecting the spectacular, one may not be fully alerted to the constant flow of revealed communication. I say, in the deepest of humility, but also by the power and force of a burning testimony in my soul, that from the prophet of the Restoration to the prophet of our own year, the communication line is unbroken, the authority is continuous, a light, brilliant and penetrating, continues to shine. The sound of the voice of the Lord is a continuous melody and a thunderous appeal. For nearly a century and a half there has been no interruption” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1977, 115; or Ensign, May 1977, 78).

I am confused by the above statement. The "vaults and files of the Church" were open for 10 years. Shockingly, these included the minutes of the meetings of the quorum of the 12 and the 1st Presidency. Historians dug through them. I have yet to find any of them reporting finding a written revelation. What they did find, however, was very many discussions among the 15 about significant doctrinal issues, all of which ended in a vote that not frequently unanimous. I wish President Kimball were here so I could ask him what he meant by "revelation." Perhaps his definition is different than mine. (For those who would like to read a few case studies of the minutes around matters like the overturning of the priesthood ban, see Quinn's "Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power." Since the church reclosed the archives, you can only find the minutes in excerpts in history books.)

I am also perplexed by the portion I italicized. President Kimball is explicitly saying that (at least up until 1877), that the brethren had the oracles that Joseph had. I would assume that that would mean they received the same type of revelation and perhaps even the same quantity. However, our Sunday School manual does not make that case. Again, I wish he were here to ask him.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A History of the Temple Recommend Interview Questions

NOTE: This is a very popular post. If this is your first time on this blog, please check out some of the other posts. If you are interested in church history, check out my free e-book (also available on Amazon for print cost).

The book "The Development of LDS Temple Worship: A Documentary History" is indispensable. I highly recommend owning it if historic modifications to temple worship interest you. Most of this information was found with the help of that book, but it's not the only resource.

1856, Mar 2: "The persons who can get their endowments must be those who pray, who pay their tithing from year to year; who live the lives of saints from day to day; setting good examples before their neighbors. Men and women, boys and girls over 16 years of age who are living the lives of saints, believe in the plurality [of wives], do not speak evil of the authorities of the Church, and possess true integrity towards their friends, can come up after their spring crops are sown, and their case shall be attended to." (First presidency letter to Stake Presidents and Bishops in Iron and Washington Counties, Mar 2 1856, in Parowan Historical Record, Mar. 16 1856, 13.)

1856, May 19: "These men and women whom you recommend, must be individuals, who pay their tithing from year to year; who pray in their families, and do not speak against the authorities of the Church and Kingdom of God; nor steal; nor lie; nor interfere with their neighbors things; nor their neighbors wives or husbands; who attend strictly to meetings and prayer meetings, and those who pay due respect to their presiding officers, and Bishops and those who do not swear." (1st Pres Letter from HCK to David Evans May 19, 1856)

1877, Nov 15: "Those desiring to receive the benefit of these ordinances must obtain a recommend from the Bishop of the Ward or settlement in which they reside, or in the absence of the Bishop, the recommend may be signed by the President of the Stake....No person will be eligible to receive these blessings except they have been rebaptized." (John Taylor to Angus M. Cannon, Nov 15, 1877)

1886, Nov 30: "The Word of Wisdom as originally given was sent not by commandment or constraint; but 'by revelation on the the [sic] Word of Wisdom, for the temporal salvation of all Saints in these days,' and no rule has been formulated, nor law proclaimed, nor counsel given since that time which makes its strict observance, necessary to receive ordinances of life and salvation in the temples. There are many cases where people may violate the strict letter of the Word of Wisdom, and yet be following its spirit in doing so.....and yet...we are opposed to the common use of these articles by Latter-day Saints. A man or a woman who disregards the Word of Wisdom and still profess to be a Latter-day Saint ought to be ashamed of their conduct. A judicious bishop will not give a recommend to such a person without first taking up a labor with him or her against the indulgence in the habits mentioned in the Word of Wisdom. No person who flagrantly violates that word should ask for a recommend." (John Taylor to John D.T. McAllister and David H. Cannon, Nov 30, 1886)

1909: Abstinence from tobacco, alcohol, coffee, and tea is decided to be a criteria for entrance. Oddly, the 12 had, until 1906, used wine in the sacrament in the temple quarterly. The order was not strict: it was explicitly not a "rigid rule." For example. elderly people were exempt. (See "LDS Temple Worship" by Anderson)

1905: President Joseph F. Smith instructs that sealings for the dead cannot be performed except for those who were married in life. Also, ordinances for the dead are not to be performed for those who committed murder, suicide, or were excommunicates except by permission of the temple president. (See "LDS Temple Worship" by Anderson)

1934: "It is important that all those who may desire to enter the temple for endowments or other ordinances, should observe the law of tithing. The applicant should also observe all other principles of the Gospel, should keep the Word of Wisdom, not use profanity, should not join nor be a member of any secret oath-bound organization and should sustain without reservation the general and local authorities of the church." (Handbook of Instructions 1934)

1944: "[Recommends] are not to be issued to persons who do not sustain the General Authorities of the Church; who are not honest tithepayers or who do not undertake to become honest tithepayers, as distinguished from part tithepayers or token payers; who do not observe the Word of Wisdom or express a willingness to undertake to observe the Word of Wisdom; and who are not otherwise fully worthy by believing in and living the gospel..." (Handbook of Instructions, 1944)

1954: "Considered a letter...about issuing temple recommends to non-tithe payers. I explained that people who go to the temple should be full tithe payers and should observe the Word of Wisdom; that as a matter of fact, it is a question of their faith. Men who have a testimony of the Gospel and believe it should contribute to it and if they fail to keep their promise to observe these commandments the Bishop has a right to withhold the recommend, not wholly on the failure to pay tithing but because of their lack of faith in the Gospel. Their failure to pay tithing would indicate their lack of faith in the Gospel." (David O. McKay diary, July 9, 1954)

1960: "No person should receive a recommend for any purpose unless he is believed to be worthy in every respect. Unworthiness disqualifies him. Before issuing recommends bishops will assure themselves by searching inquiry that the recipients are free from all kinds of immoral practices; that they have no affiliation, in sympathy or otherwise, with any of the apostate groups that are running counter to the established order of the Church; that they sustain local and General Authorities of the Church; are full tithepayers, or will covenant to become such; that they observe the Word of Wisdom, abstaining from tea, coffee, tobacco, and liquor; and that they are fully worthy as evidenced by their observance of the whole gospel law including abiding by all conditions of their temple obligations." (General Handbook of Instructions, Number 18 1960)

1963: "No person should receive a recommend for any purpose unless he is believed to be worthy in every respect. Unworthiness disqualifies him. Before issuing recommends bishops will assure themselves by searching inquiry that the recipients are free from all kinds of immoral or unchristianlike practices; that they have no affiliation, in sympathy or otherwise, with any of the apostate groups that are running counter to the established order of the Church; that they sustain local and General Authorities of the Church; are full tithepayers, or will covenant to become such; that they observe the Word of Wisdom, abstaining from tea, coffee, tobacco, and liquor; and that they earnestly strive to do their duty in the Church, to attend their sacrament, Priesthood, and other meetings, and to obey the rules, laws and commandments of the Gospel, including abiding by all conditions of their temple obligations." (General Handbook of Instructions, Number 19 1963)

1963: "...until they have satisfied their bishops that they have thoroughly repented, and have shown their repentance by living righteously for a prolonged period of time. Mere sorrow is not repentance." (General Handbook of Instructions, Number 19 1963)

1964: "Consideration was given to the suggestion that a Temple card be prepared for the General Authorities and their wives to be signed by the First Presidency, indicating that they are entitled to the privileges of all Temples. This card could be presented at the Temple gate indicating that the General Authorities and their wives have an authoritative Temple card of admittance, thus eliminating the necesssity of presenting a Temple Recommend. It was suggested that provision be made for the signature of the holder to appear on the back of the card for identification, and the card would not need to be renewed. I indicated my approval of this proposition." (David O McKay diary, Feb 14, 1964)

1966: 1st Presidency Letter allows proxy work to be performed for all except those of known "Negro" blood without consideration of worthiness or any qualification. (See "LDS Temple Worship" by Anderson)

1966, Aug 30: 1st Presidency announces to stake presidents and missions that those who work at casinos are not to have administrative callings or temple recommends.

1971, Feb 12: "A searching interview should be conducted by the bishop and also by the stake president to determine whether or not---1. The applicant has a testimony of the Gospel. 2. He supports local and General Authorities. 3. Accepts and follows the teachings and programs of the Church. 4. Keep[s] the Word of Wisdom, uses drugs. 5. He is morally clean---free from adultery, fornication, homosexuality. 6. He is in good standing in the Church. 7. He is free from legal entanglements." (1st Presidency letter)

1976: "Before issuing a recommend the bishop will assure himself by searching inquiry of the worthiness of the applicant in relation to the standards and principles of the Church. These may include the following questions: 1. Are you morally clean and worthy to enter the temple? 2. Will you and do you sustain the local and General Authorities of the Church, and will you live in accordance with the accepted rules and doctrines of the Church? 3. Do you have any connection, in sympathy or otherwise, with any of the apostate groups or individuals who are running counter to the accepted rules and doctrines of the Church? 4. Are you a full tithe payer? 5. Are you honest in your dealings with your fellowmen? 6. Do you keep the Word of Wisdom? 7. Do you wear the regulation garments? 8. Will you earnestly strive to do your duty in the Church; to attend your sacrament, priesthood, and other meetings; and to obey the rules, laws, and commandments of the gospel? 9. Have you ever been denied a recommend to any temple? ...10. Have you ever been divorced? ... 11. Has there ever been a major transgression in your life that has not been confessed and adjusted?" (General Handbook of Instructions 1976)

1982, Jan 5: "Married persons should understand that if in their marital relations they are guilty of unnatural, impure, or unholy practices, they should not enter the temple unless and until they repent and discontinue any such practices....The First Presidency has interpreted oral sex as constituting an unnatural, impure, or unholy practice." (First Presidency letter)

1982, Oct 15: "Under date of January 5, 1982, we addressed a letter to you which outlined procedures to be followed in conducting worthiness interviews. Since then, we have received a number of letters from members of the Church which indicate clearly that some local leaders have been delving into private, sensitive matters beyond the scope of what is appropriate. In conducting worthiness interviews, you...should never inquire into personal, intimate matters involving marital relations between a man and his wife. You should never deviate from or go beyond the specific questions contained in the temple recommend book..." (First presidency letter)