William James

William James
We must get by on what truth we have today, and be willing to call it error tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Should A Doubter Hold A Temple Recommend?

The question was put:

"Today I was driving a relative home from church. She has always been sort of luke warm on the church, but she is married to a strong member and has kept her own concerns to herself and went along with him to keep the peace I guess. Well today she was really hitting me with the questions about what the Bible says regarding the 3 degrees of Glory and that she really has a hard time with it. I haven't alot of scripture study experience so in my meagre way I tried to say that we understand the 3 degrees of Glory more fully thanks to modern revelation through the restoration. She holds fast to the Bible as being the supreme source of doctrine so I mentioned that reading The Book Of Mormon and D & C would provide a more accurate description for understanding that doctrine....however she seemed very resistant to the idea of anything trumping the Bible for her. I was sort of surprised at how deeply she feels about this....and I wondered to myself...how does she hold a Temple Recommend? I am not trying to ask to be judgemental....but wondering how the authority would feel inclined to give her the Recommend when clearly she is not totally converted to what the church represents. She likely answers the questions the way she is supposed to, but I know that the Bishop/Stake President can feel whether or not to grant her the recommend. Any ideas?"

To which I responded:

For members who are closet doubters (i.e., who disagree with or reject any significant church doctrines/lore/policies), they often find themselves in a quandry. On one hand, they don't want to stir up trouble or create disharmony in their families; on the other, they may feel extremely uncomfortable putting on pretenses to fit in. Having experienced this myself, I tend to conclude that I should not fault these people for either decision. In general terms, if I had my druthers, the Church would just be more accepting of dissent and disagreement, and allow its members to express their grievances more openly without shame or fear of excommunication. Of course, I suppose there also ought to be a limit on the range of beliefs which are permissible for a member to retain membership and/or qualify for a temple recommend. For example, if they do not even believe in God, or if they are shouting "Death to Thomas S. Monson," they probably should not be considered part of the fold, so to speak. By contrast, if they believe the BoM is an inspired, but historically inauthentic record which mixes true revelations from God and the personal musings of Joseph Smith, that alone should not disqualify them from membership or a temple recommend, in my opinion (any more than a similar belief about the Biblical accounts of the flood, etc. should). In my own case, I have serious disagreements with Church doctrine on various subjects, and I therefore feel ill-at-ease accepting any church calling which pressures me to masquerade as a TBM.

In the case of your friend, I would say let her make her own decision. Members should not have to be religious zealots to be considered worthy to worship in the temple. The chief component of worthiness is a desire to serve God and our fellow men. How closely our personal doctrinal beliefs match up with the Church's official party line ought to be a minor secondary consideration.

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