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Ask A Mormonish Girl: Part 7 - Temple Recommends, Joseph Smith, and Social Work School Beliefs

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Happy Sunday! We're back for another "Ask A Mormon-ish Girl" post! For anyone new, this is a series where I talk about my feelings on religion, being member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka "Mormon"), and reconciling all of this with democrat/liberal values. My goal of these posts is to help you know you're not alone with your questions and concerns AND to actually talk about them and create some conversation past "just have faith and it will work out". Overall, I believe in imperfect relationships, both with people and institutions. This series documents my very imperfect relationship with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  

(P.S. Please subscribe via email to be notified of future posts!)

If you don't see your question answered this week, please keep submitting it! I will get to all of them eventually! Every Sunday I post a question box on my Instagram (@emmycoletti) and I will save it in the highlight "Ask A Mormon-ish Girl". If your question is too long (or you don't have Instagram), feel free to email me instead at emmycoletti@gmail.com.

What is a temple recommend?

So, we have our temples, just like other religions. When they are first built, you can actually go in and tour them, even if you're not a member! It's kinda a cool thing to do, if you have any being built in your area. However, once our temples are built and tours are over, we do a "temple dedication" where we dedicate the temple to being a house of God and from then onward, only members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints who have a "temple recommend" are allowed in. 

A temple recommend is a little document that allows you to enter the temple. . You get one by talking with the local clergy (a "bishop" or one of his assistants "the bishopric"). They ask you a bunch of questions about your lifestyle/beliefs. You do have to meet a criteria to get one and to be able to go into the temple. Once you have a temple recommend, it is valid for 2 years before you have to do another interview and get it renewed. 

You can read the list of questions they ask here, but basically they ask: 

  • If you believe in God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost
  • If you believe in the atonement of Jesus Christ and his role as your savior
  • If you believe in the restoration of the gospel 
    • I believe this is referring to Joseph Smith: Our first prophet who translated the Book of Mormon and who we believe restored the gospel after it was gone from the earth for a bit.
  • If you sustain/support the prophet and other leaders of the church
  • If you obey the law of chastity 
    • So, no sex before marriage and no cheating on your spouse if you are married
  • If you follow the teachings of Jesus in your private and public behavior 
  • If you support or promote and teachings or practices opposite to the church
    • Ex: There was a woman who got kicked out (aka "excommunicated") because she started a movement to ordain women with the priesthood, and that was a teaching/practice opposite to the church. You can read more about it here
  • If you try to keep Sundays holy and attend church meeting as requested
    • We don't shop, eat out, work, etc. on Sundays. So, if you know a Mormon who skips out on stuff you hold on Sunday, now you know why haha. 
  • If you try to be honest in all you do
  • If you are a full tithe payer 
    • We pay 10% of our income to the church.
  • If you obey the word of wisdom
    • We don't drink alcohol or coffee, smoke, do drugs, etc. But we do slam a 90oz soda at 8:00am lmao
  • If you have financial obligations to a former spouse/child and if you meet them
    • Basically do you pay your child support/alimony
  • If you wear your garments
    • Our religious under clothing. You can read my thoughts on all things garment related here
  • If there are serious sins that need to be resolved
    • So, let's say you had sex with your bf/gf and you're not married. If you already talked about this with the bishop and repented, then you don't have serious sins that need to be resolved, because it had already been resolved. But, maybe you didn't tell him until now. Then, they probably wouldn't give you your temple recommend and you would have to go through the repentance process and meet with him again in a month or so. 
  • If you consider yourself worthy to enter God's house aka the temple

The thing with temple recommend interviews is that even thought the questions don't vary, what your bishop will do with them does haha. Like, with the garments. If I was like, "I don't wear them at night because they are uncomfortable." One bishop might be like, "Ok that's fine" and give me a recommend, while another bishop might be more strict and like, "Well you need to make more of an effort." hahah. Or with keeping Sundays holy. If someone has to work on a Sunday, they would probably still get their temple recommend. Or like if you drank coffee once, that would most likely be something they would just be like, "Don't do it again" but still give you your temple recommend. So, just note that there is a lot of nuance in the above questions and it's not like a total cut and dry thing.

Anyway, if you pass all those questions then you are deemed "temple worthy", given your temple recommend that is good for two years, and able to go any Mormon temple. 

Your feelings on Joseph Smith? Realizing he isn't as perfect as the church portrays him.

I've never been one of those members who thinks the leaders/past leaders are perfect or idolizes them. I've always believed a lot in humans being flawed and why would leaders of churches be any different haha. I'm kind of like, ok yeah, they are leading us, but that doesn't mean everything they do or say is going to be inspired by God and/or right per say. So, all that being said, I haven't ever been in like, shock about anything I hear about Joseph Smith. I also think we forget to put religion into context with history, and there was a lot of racism, sexism, etc. in history haha so when I hear things I'm like, "Yup! Sounds about like everyone else at that time haha." 

I do really want to read the book Rough Stone Rolling, though! 

The church seemingly trying to cover up/hide some its controversial history.

I'm not sure I understand the question here. Does it bother me? Yeah. Do I think it's right how they handle it? No. Do I wish there were more open conversations about it all? Yes. Do I think people are jumpy about any sort of criticism against things they love? Yes. 

How do you face cognitive dissonance with religion?

I talk about it a lot in the first question here and the second question here, but basically I am ok with an imperfect relationship with religion. I don't need everything to make sense. I don't need to agree with everything. I'm fine having little bumps where I'm like, "Oop, don't love that" without feeling like I need to love that thing or leave the religion. 

How will you answer the garment question in the temple recommend interview? 

I'll answer with whatever I am currently doing with garments haha. 

I am curious whether you have had any periods of identity crisis with regard to former beliefs instilled through your upbringing being shifted through your education and experience as a social worker?  (Example: Abortion is sinful, homosexuality is sinful, everyone exists cognitively as their assigned biological sex, etc.)

I think my answer to this would be: no, I haven't had many periods of identity crisis with my beliefs being shifted though my social work education. My beliefs were pretty liberal already as a teen, and my education didn't shift a whole lot of them. I'll break them down a bit more: 

"Homosexuality is sinful": Even as a teenager this didn't make sense to me. I remember wondering why, if it was a choice to be gay, would anyone want to choose that?? At the time I had friends who were LGBTQIA+ and was hearing stories about how they (and their other LGBTQIA+ friends) were treated. And I don't think anyone would "choose" to be LGBTQIA+ and treated like that unless it was truly how they identified. Lol so I never really thought it was a choice, or that it was sinful. I was more shocked by how these religious parents were so quick to kick their kids out of the house/disown them... a very ironic choice given the fact that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints focuses so much on families and staying together. 

"Everyone exists cognitively as their assigned biological sex": Same thing. I always felt like... Why would someone choose to go through all the discrimination, judgment, etc. of being transgender, unless it was truly how they identified? So, social work school didn't shift any beliefs about this I didn't already hold. 

"Abortion is sinful": This is probably the only area in which I have flipped around a bit from when I was a teenager to now. I was reading a journal from my teenager years and had written, "I am against abortion" lol. However, since entering adulthood, I've realized that the situation is a lot more complicated than that.
The church's policy on abortion is that it is a "no" unless in the case of rape or incest. However, from a logistical point of view, how are you able to make people prove their pregnancies are a result of rape or consensual sex? If you know anything about sexual assault, you know how traumatic those experiences are for people and how even in the most proactive situations, rape kits aren't able to be completed and/or the perpetrators walk free. So, you can't really enforce proving whether a pregnancy was caused by consensual sex or rape. 

When all the Planned Parenthoods were getting shut down and when people are like, "abortion should be illegal", it's like... Well... You don't have to support abortion, but if you're aligning with the church's viewpoint on it, you do still need it to be legal and accessible for people who have become pregnant as a result of rape or incest. And since you can't really prove what the root cause of a pregnancy was (consensual sex or rape), you kinda have to accept that there are going to be people getting abortions who you, personally, would not support in doing it. 

So, at this point, I'm fully in the boat of "Who am I to make a decision on what someone else should do with their pregnancy?" Like, these are human lives we are talking about. These are going to be kids growing up in neighborhoods with high crime rates, in poverty, high risk for abuse, etc. I don't see the logic in being pro-life, but then against so many of the government programs and initiatives that would help that baby's life be safe and good quality. I think the truth of it is, for a lot of these pregnant people, they're not in situations that would be safe to bring a child in. And they know that. And they opt to terminate the pregnancy instead of raising a child in a situation that would not only not be good for the parent's mental health/wellbeing, but also not a good situation for the child. 

Also, if I don't like abortion in some cases... well then let's make it easier for people to prevent unwanted pregnancies! Let's get accessible healthcare, free birth control, good education, etc. etc. And yes, even with all of that, there are still going to be cases of abortion I see on TV/in movies where I'm like, "Well I personally wouldn't choose that in that situation", but that doesn't change the fact that IT IS NOT MY DECISION to make haha. I'm not going to sit over here, in my young, White, able bodied, upper middle class comfort and be like, "aBoRtIoN sHoUlD bE iLlEgAl", because I can't possibly know everyone's situation and it's not my place to make that call. 


Alright, that's it for this week! If you have a question you want answered next week, check my Instagram stories (@emmycoletti) around Friday/Saturday for a question box!

Your Mormon-ish Internet Friend,
Emmy Coletti


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