Have you cut your hay where you had no right to or turned your animals into another person’s grain or field, without his knowledge or consent?
Have you branded an animal that you did not know to be your own?
Do you wash your body and have your family do so as often as health and cleanliness require and circumstances will permit?
During the Mormon Reformation era of 1856-57, church leaders devised a catechism of questions asked of apostles, bishops, missionaries and regular church members to discover areas of personal attitudes and behavior that could use improvement. These were among the questions asked. These soul-searching questions and others designed to measure spiritual and behavioral commitment to the church had an influence on our contemporary temple recommend interviews.
I renewed my temple recommend this past week, and the experience caused me some useful introspection.
In part because I had to scurry off to Primary to my CTR-B kidlets, I kept to straightforward answers. I could go on (and have in the past) enthusiastically about my testimony of God, the Gospel, the Restoration. I could have mused over some of the intriguing dichotomies of life as a member of the church. However, even without Sharing Time waiting, I have learned that short and to the point is my most satisfying strategy.
But, given this opportunity on Segullah, I’ll share some of my post-interview thoughts with you. This time the question that captured my attention was this one:
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 am married to a lawyer. Loving a lawyer may itself be a reason to make me quake when asked that particular question, but that’s not why I bring it up. Between living with a lawyer and spending much of my own time writing, I have learned that words mean things. Sometimes they mean things that a surface reading of the words doesn’t intend. I wonder if a lawyer phrased that question for the interview.
So what’s the “correct” answer? I know it’s supposed to be “no.”
On the other hand, if you locked Justice and Mercy in a room, who would take who in the fight?
When I read Paul Peterson’s article about the Mormon Reformation era, I found the subtitle fascinating: The Rhetoric and the Reality. He makes scholarly points appropriate to his topic, but I think the phrase is apropos in this circumstance as well.
While I answered with the rhetoric of “no,” here are some of my realities. Perhaps you have similar ones.
I enjoy meals at restaurants where serving liquor to those who want it is a practice of the establishment.
I participate in our area’s Interfaith Organization which hosts, among other activities, non-denominational services at Thanksgiving. One such gathering was held in our stake center. At that event two Muslim boys read from the Koran – one in English, one in Arabic. A rabbi said the opening prayer. Our Stake President gave a talk.
I am aware and grateful that the police are entitled to lie to suspects to get confessions. I support the need for undercover law enforcement officers and others who work in this challenging field. (One member of our former stake presidency, an FBI agent, was called out of a meeting when a criminal he had been pursuing was finally arrested. He spoke to her in her jail cell. Her response to him was, “You’re the first person who has been kind to me in my entire life.”)
Of course I love and “affiliate with” my straight friends who have lived together for years and my gay brothers and sisters. Jesus says love everyone. Treat them kindly, too.
And, while I may not like it, I approve of my rigidly evangelical friend’s right to think I abandoned God when I joined the Mormon Church. That doesn’t mean that I think he’s correct, but I support and agree with his right to believe what he believes. My job is to keep loving and to build harmony where it’s possible.
I don’t feel the need to repent or refrain from any of these situations, but I was glad to have to chew on the words a bit.
I’m also glad I shower regularly, even if no one’s asking.