ON THE SIXTH
TEMPLE RECOMMEND QUESTION

A Fifth Sunday Lesson Given To

THE YM, YW, AND ADULT MEMBERS OF THE
STERLING PARK WARD
ASHBURN, VA STAKE

By

D. Calvin Andrus
acadac@aol.com

29 February 2004


I. INTRODUCTION

Sacrament meeting was about to begin and a mother couldn't find her son. She searched everywhere and finally located him sitting outside on the curb with his head in his hands. She said, "Son, we have to go in now. Sacrament is about to start." He responds, "I can't go in there, Mom. Nobody likes me. No one will talk to me." She says "But son, you have to go back in....You're the Bishop."


This was the opening remark by Sister Roueche, the Washington D.C. temple matron, at a Wilmington, N.C. Stake conference.

(http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mormon-jokes/message/3)

II. BACKGROUND

Thank you for coming. All of us should be temple recommend worthy, whether we are teenagers or adults. The Bishopric asks the same questions of the teens going to do baptisms for the dead, as we do the adults who are going to do endowments. Many of you have two-year Temple Recommends that will expire in the next few months. As many of you know, I use the recommend questions as the basis of worthiness interviews. As a result, I go through the recommend questions several times a week. This affords me the opportunity to give serious reflect on the import of these questions. It has struck me that some of you only go through the questions once every two years, and thus do not have the opportunity to ponder them as much as you might like.

I would really like to talk about each of the questions, but we just don't have time this morning. I have narrowed my topic to just one question. It is a question that we often just skip through quickly, sometimes even glibly. It is a question, however, that goes to the core of being Christlike. It is a question that is more important to temple worthiness than Tithing or the Word of Wisdom, yet we almost never talk about The question I would like to discuss this morning is the 6th question, which reads:

6. Is there anything in your conduct relating to members of your family that is not in harmony with the teachings of the church?

The three concepts that are critical to understanding the import of this question are 1) what we mean by conduct, 2) who our family members are, and 3) what the teachings of the church relating to family relationships are.

III. CONDUCT

Let me start with the easiest concept. Our conduct is the way we act; the way we behave. This includes both the things we do and the things we say. It includes our body posture and our facial expressions-because those are behaviors that express meaning. Here are some literary terms that illustrate this last point:

While all behaviors are covered by this question, we are very lucky, brothers and sisters, that the question only inquires after our behavior and not our thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes. This somewhat glaring omission from the recommend question only means that the church is willing to let those not yet worthy of the Celestial Kingdom into the temple. But, don't be fooled by the question's focus on only our conduct. At the judgment bar we will be held accountable for both our conduct and our thoughts. Alma teaches that our very thoughts will condemn us-or exonerate us-as the case may be.

Alma 12:14 - For our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us; we shall not be found spotless; and our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God; and we would fain be glad if we could command the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us to hide us from his presence.

For those of us who already have temple recommends, our conduct should exceed such high standards, that we can spend our energy working on our thoughts and attitudes.

IV. FAMILY

The second concept in the question is "members of our family." We like to segregate the "members of our family" into two groups-our "nuclear" family and our "extended" family. Generally speaking, our nuclear family consists of those living with us in our household. All of our other close relations are considered to be our extended family. Let me suggest that the intent of the temple recommend question includes both our nuclear and extended families. Thus, when pondering how to answer the temple recommend question, we should review our relationships with many people. If a relationship needs repairing, please take the opportunity to make the repair before coming in for a recommend.


Nuclear Family
(not head of house)

Nuclear Family
(heads of house)

Extended Family
(heads of house)


Self
Parents
Brothers
Sisters
(step parents, step siblings)


Self
Spouse
Children
(step children)


Parents, Siblings, Grandparents
Aunts, Uncles, Cousins
Nieces, Nephews
(all of the above - in-law)
(all of the above - step)
Former Spouse(s)

V. A TELESTIAL TEACHING

OK, now let's get down to the hard part-the teachings of the church. The overall purpose of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is summarized in:

Moses 1:39 - For behold, this is My work and My glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

The church accomplishes this purpose by:

  1. Teaching those doctrines and principles, which if personally adopted and practiced, will bring one to a state of worthiness required for entrance into the Celestial Kingdom.
  2. Providing an opportunity to enter into binding sacred ordinances and covenants, which if fully kept, will allow one to actually enter into the (the highest level of the) Celestial Kingdom.

Thus, the church teaches the Celestial Law, not the Terrestrial Law, and not the Telestial Law. Living in this Telestial world, however, we are exposed to many Telestial teachings about relationships. We see them illustrated in TV soap operas, in popular music, in movies, in videos, and in the lives of our acquaintances. Unfortunately, the constant exposure to these Telestial teachings causes them to linger in our minds. In moments of weakness, Satan tempts us to believe in-and sometimes practice-these Telestial teachings.

Let me give you an example of these kinds of teachings. In Count Leo Tolstoy's famous novel, Anna Karenina, Anna is married to one man and is in love with another. Her lover is Count Alexey Vronsky. At one point in the story, Vronsky and Anna have a lovers' quarrel. The next day he comes to her apartment to apologize. She tells her servant to tell Vronsky that she (Anna) does not want to talk to him. Anna then tells herself that if Vronsky really loved her as passionately as he professed, he would not be dissuaded by the servant, but would instead march right up to her room and apologize. Then she would forgive him. In this way she has set up a test of his love. Unfortunately, Count Vronsky, respected her wishes to not talk to her and he left without making the apology.

"Love-testing," is one example of a Telestial teaching about relationships. Any time we say to ourselves, "if she or he loves me, he or she will . . ." we are engaged in love-testing, and we need to repent. Other non-Celestial examples include

VI. A TERRESTRIAL TEACHING

We are also exposed to Terrestrial teachings about relationships. These come from well intentioned, good-hearted, and deeply experienced professors, preachers, therapists, and friends. Sometimes we hear some of these Terrestrial teachings in church. I hope none of us mistake these Terrestrial teachings for Celestial teachings. It is easy to do, because Terrestrial teachings are good teachings. They are the teachings that honorable people live by. However, I want to be sure that when we respond to the temple recommend question, it is the Celestial teachings, not the Terrestrial teachings, which we use to judge our behavior.

Let me discuss one Terrestrial law that is commonly passed off as a Celestial law. Please indulge me as i attempt to su the Socratic Method.

Question 1: Is the Law of Moses, the Celestial Law? (no.)

Mosiah 13: 27-28 (Abinidi to the priests of King Noah) And now ye have said that salvation cometh by the law of Moses. I say unto you that it is expedient that ye should keep the law of Moses as yet; but I say unto you, that the time shall come when it shall no more be expedient to keep the law of Moses. And moreover, I say unto you, that salvation doth not come by the law alone; and were it not for the atonement, which God himself shall make for the sins and iniquities of his people, that they must unavoidably perish, notwithstanding the law of Moses.

Hebrews 7: 18-19 (Paul to the Jewish saints) For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope [did]; by the which we draw nigh unto God.

Question 2: When was the Law of Moses superseded? (at Christ's resurrection)

Hebrews 7: 18-19 (Paul to the Jewish saints) For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope [did]; by the which we draw nigh unto God.

Hebrews 8: 6-12 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first [covenant] had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this [is] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, A new [covenant], he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old [is] ready to vanish away.

So, during Christ's earthly ministry, the Law of Moses--a non-Celestial law--was in effect, but was superseded by the Celestial law of the gospel at the conclusion of Christ's ministry.

Question 3: What simple phrases characterize the Law of Moses? (eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth).

Exodus 21: 24-25 Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

Or even . . . love for love.

Question 4: In the Law of Moses, what was the 2nd greatest commandment? (Love thy neighbor as thyself) That can have sort of an "eye for an eye" quality doesn't it?

Matthew 22: 35-40 Then one of them, [which was] a lawyer, asked [him a question], tempting him, and saying, Master, which [is] the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second [is] like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Leviticus 19: 18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I [am] the LORD.

If one only loves ones family if the family loves them first, then our loving ones family as one loves oneself is a Terrestrial Law that we often mistake for a Celestial Law. It is a good law to abide by, but it may not be a good enough standard against which to judge our behavior during a temple recommend interview.

VII. THE FIRST CELESTIAL TEACHING

The temple recommend question, however, is focused on the Celestial laws about relationships. It is these Celestial teachings with which we must be in harmony in order to honestly give an affirmative answer to the recommend question. There are three Celestial teachings we will discuss. Let me introduce the first with just a little bit more Socratic Method.

Question 5: In the Celestial law, what is the 2nd greatest commandment? (Hint: what new commandment superseded the old commandment?) (Love one another as I (Christ) have loved you.)

John 13: 34 (Christ to his Apostles during the Last Supper) A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

We are thus commanded to love each other, not with the Terrestrial standard of how we love ourselves, but the Celestial standard of how Christ loves us. The question we should ask ourselves is not, "do I treat each and all of my family members as I treat myself," but, "do I treat each and all my family members as Christ would treat them?"

This is the first Celestial Law to which the temple recommend question refers. It is the law against which we should judge our behavior toward our family, both nuclear and extended. Let's explore for a few minutes just what it means to love as Christ loves.

Luke 6: 32-36 (Sermon on the Mount) For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend [to them] of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and [to] the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

Do we say, "Yes, most of the time I treat my family as Christ would . . . except when I get mad or when they misbehave." The Sermon on the Mount teaches us that treating our families as Christ would during the pleasant times does not count. Being kind only counts during the unpleasant times. If we want to get credit for being kind, we must be kind even when we are angry and even when our family members misbehave. We must always be kind to our family members, even when we think they don't deserve it. According to the Luke account, we must always be kind to the ungrateful (our children) and to the evil (some in-laws and former spouses).

Just a few minutes after he gave the "new" commandment to his Apostles, he was asked to practice it. He leaned over to His betrayer and in a kindly tone said,

John 13:27-30 And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly. Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him. For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor. He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.

Jesus could have embarrassed Judas in front of the other disciples, but He didn't. He could have engaged in an argument with Judas, but He didn't. Neither did Jesus sneer, nor grimace, nor feign indignation. He treated Judas like He always did. As a result the rest of the Apostles did not catch on to what was happening. Similarly, at the time of the betrayal, Jesus continued to treat Judas with kindness and respect. Notice the words in Luke.

Matthew 26:44-50 And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me. And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him. And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him.

We might say Judas did not deserve kindness and respect, but Jesus' example teaches us the correct principle. To love as Jesus loves, means being kind and respectful even when we (think we) are the aggrieved party and (we think) the offenders do not deserve kindness and respect.

VIII. THE SECOND CELESTIAL TEACHING

The second Celestial teaching of the church to which the temple recommend question refers is:

DC 38:27 . . . I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.

To be one, means to come to agreement. Coming to agreement with another person is hard work. The easiest path to agreement is to first become one with the Holy Ghost. This, of course, in and of itself, is a difficult enterprise. Once two people, as individuals, are in sync with the Holy Ghost, it becomes much easier to for those two people to become one.

Above all, coming to agreement with another person requires humility-an admission that we are not as smart or as correct as we think we are. And, an admission that the other person is not as stupid or as wrong as we think they are.

Second, coming to agreement requires that we remember the commandment to "be one" takes precedence over many other things that are important to us: our pride, maintaining our cultural notions of how things ought to be done, what others think, and our personal narrowly defined interests. For example,

Coming to agreement means that we sacrifice ourselves for others, with no expectation that others should sacrifice themselves for us. Coming to agreement does not suspend the commandment to "love as Christ loves." Coming to agreement does not mean bullying the other person into submission, nor does it mean caving in on Celestial principles. It does not mean compromising to the lowest common denominator so that both parties are equally unhappy. It does mean changing the way we look at life. It does mean changing our natures. It does mean having the Holy Ghost as our constant companion. It does mean becoming a new person in Christ. (Cf. 2 Cor. 5: 17)

For spouses, the two most practical things about which to be one are

In both cases being in agreement is more important than what you spend your money on, or how you raise your kids. In the future, I will give whole lessons on these topics.

IX. THE THIRD CELESTIAL TEACHING

The third Celestial teaching of the church to which the temple recommend question refers is:

Matthew 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Let me state this in terms we can understand.

In a similar fashion,

Just as parents are protective of their children, our Heavenly Father is protective of His children. Just as parents remember the meanness and kindness expressed toward their children, so too, our Heavenly Father remembers how we treat His children. Let us hope it is our good behavior what He will remember us by.

X. . CONCLUSION

Given what we have learned today, the following questions are synonymous with the Temple Recommend question. These are the questions you should ask yourself as you prepare for your temple recommend interview.

Regardless of what we don't say in our temple recommend interviews, without repentance, all our bad conduct toward members of our family will be a discussion item at the judgment bar. All of our good conduct toward our family members will also be a discussion item at the judgment bar.

All of us fall short of these three Celestial teachings-some more than others. All of us need to repent-some more than others. Passing a temple recommend interview is not a laurel upon which we can rest. It is an invitation to attend the temple, where the Spirit will teach us how much more we have yet to do.

Brothers and sisters, your temple recommend interview is an opportunity to give an accounting to the Lord of your life. It is a sacred experience for which you should prayerfully prepare. I invite you to give increased seriousness to this interview. I invite you to conduct a meaningful examination of your life before the interview. I invite you to come to your next interview more worthy than you were at your last interview.

I have felt the Spirit guiding me as I prepared this lesson. I bare witness to the truthfulness of these Celestial principles. Living these principles will bring joy and happiness into our lives, and prepare us to return to our Heavenly Father's presence.

In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.


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