A recent comment prompted a post for discussion and speculation on the new bar coded-temple recommends that have been issued. In case you haven’t heard, all temple recommends will need to be converted over to the new versions. The temple will no longer accept the old recommends starting relatively soon. So, we are left with the question of what prompted the change.
I have come up with two possible explanations, but neither of which seems completely satisfactory.
1) The new temple recommend is supposed to provide greater security for the temple. The bar code will somehow prevent those who are not supposed to be there from getting in.
The problem with this theory is that I don’t see temple security as that big of a problem, nor does this seem to be that big of a solution. Are there really that many people trying to sneak in to the temple with old cards? If so, the very fact that we know that this is a problem is evidence that the current system seems to be working. While it might prevent the reuse of expired cards that are forged, it doesn’t do anything to prevent the use of current cards that are stolen or that disaffected members might give away.
2) The new bar code is meant to give greater statistical data about temple attendance.Presumably the temple recommend can provide data that goes beyond just the number of people in each session at the temple, which is all that they collect today. The new recommend could potentially provide information about the age groups that go to the temple, the geographic spread of attendance, which wards/stakes provide the most patrons, the average frequency which recommend holders attend, and even a detailed report about your own temple attendance. (Perhaps there will be a temple-attendance settlement at the end of the year where the bishop pulls up your records to note that you only did three endowment sessions and one sealing session all year.)
The problem with this theory is that it seems awfully intrusive, at least in potential, if not in practice. Just like how the grocery store collects your data with the bar coded “discount” cards, there is a great deal of potential for abuse, even if all they really want to know are what products people are buying. This information could be used to figure out how to better pitch regular attendance to everyone but retired people.
Of course, surveillance is a classical form of social control, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Maybe just the idea that they might be tracking your attendance and that this will affect whether or not you get a good calling will be enough to boost attendance.