Mormon Temple Recommends and LDS Sectarianism

Mormon Temple Recommends and LDS Sectarianism November 22, 2016

My real-life recommend. Apparently, I’m neither M nor F in an LDS temple.

This past weekend I published an op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune.  The piece garnered much more attention than my opinions generally do.  I even received a few pieces of personally-addressed and remarkably profane email in response.  I won’t say that I don’t experience any sense of gratification at being able to make some people so very, very angry.

But the unhappy responses to this short essay seem either to have missed or to have ignored the point.  The presumption that I wanted everyone to vote for Hillary might not be unfounded, but isn’t based on any of this op-ed’s content.  The notion that I want to mete out some ecclesiastical punishment on Little-Prince-Pumpkin-Voters does not rationally develop from a fair reading of what I have written.  The irate complaints that my reasoning means that an LDS-Mormon can’t vote for anyone take a big, arcing walk around most of the content of this op-ed.

The misreadings are not entirely the fault of the misreaders.  There’s a little-known newspaper convention that op-ed authors don’t write their own headlines.  I’ve written a fair number of newspaper op-eds, and no editor has ever let me write my own headline.  Those who read only headlines were bound, I suppose, to misconstrue the essay’s objective, but the headline: “Should Mormons who voted for Trump get temple recommends?” is not the op-ed’s own question.

This little essay wanted to point out that sectarian bias inside the LDS church governs the way in which the church operates.  The “affiliation question” of the temple recommend interview is so antiquated and vague that it is either completely useless or useful only for those ecclesiastical leaders who are determined to impose their ideology on their congregations.

In spite of the bewilderingly naive expressions of doubt that bishops and stake presidents actually do use the affiliation question to revoke the temple recommends of LDS people who think and believe differently, one needn’t dig very deep into the LDS population that supports Ordain Women to find someone whose bishop or stake president has done just this.  To deny that bishops do revoke temple recommends on account of ideological disagreement is to be wildly out-of-touch with the LDS community.

Which draws our attention to the sectarianism that has grabbed ahold of the church and that uses the church to secure and to protect itself as the only legitimate sect within LDS-Mormonism.  I’m probably not at all in favor of using the temple recommend interview to interrogate members’ politics.  But where a publicly-affirmed affiliation with and sympathy for a sexually violent, thieving racist is not contrary-to-the-teachings, and where tacit support for ordaining women and recognizing same-sex marriage is contrary-to-the-teachings, sectarian ideology, rather than theological idealism, is clearly in charge.

I do think that each vote for Little Prince Pumpkin constitutes an outrageously immoral act.  I don’t think there’s a way around regarding each vote for Little Prince Pumpkin as condoning sexual assault, virulent racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and fraud.  If there ever was a reason a person should lose a temple recommend on the grounds of “affiliation”, voting for Little Prince Pumpkin qualifies.

But If there ever was a reason… is the implicit assertion of this op-ed.  One shouldn’t lose one’s temple recommend on the grounds of “affiliation”.  If you can’t lose your recommend for supporting Little Prince Pumpkin, you can’t lose your recommend over supporting Ordain Women, either.  That’s my position, thank you very much. (And all the assertions that Hillary is the devil are entirely beside the point.)

To reiterate the aim of the Salt Lake Tribune op-ed: “I would suggest that the LDS Church scratch Question 6 from the recommend interview and abandon, formally, officially and finally, the custom of holding disciplinary councils on the basis of disagreements over theological or ideological ideas.”

The hypocrisy in the ecclesiastical condemnation of supporters of such notions as women’s ordination and same-sex marriage, alongside the ecclesiastical affirmation of supporters of such practices as sexual assault, racism, and fraud, reveals how the affiliation question is a joke that only serves to support sectarian abuse.

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