A few years ago when I first came out to a 'friend' about being gay, he said to me that as long as I can answer the temple recommend questions I have nothing to worry about. This 'friend' was a real letter of the law TBM type of Mormon. In the long story of that coming out moment, it ended the conversation and we sat for a while in profound and awkward silence for the rest of the car trip.
Since I was just starting to push the boundaries of personal honesty with myself and my dealings with the church and church members, his statement about answering the temple recommend questions really bothered me. Aside from the severe resentment I felt by my friend's ignorant and arrogant statement which implied that my value as a human being was based solely on how I answered a set of questions regarding my loyalty to a particular religious practice, I also realized I had never in my life answered those questions 100% truthfully. But at that time in my life, I was still very deeply afraid of being ostracized by all my friends and family so I was feeling rather shamed and self-conscious about how I would still need to lie in the temple recommend interview which bothered me quite a lot.
In the end, I stopped going to church well before my temple recommend expired in order to avoid the renewal interviews. I let them all assume that I had moved away. That is until nearly a year later when they got my resignation letter. Good times.
Anyway, the last time I had a temple recommend interview was 2006. And since then, I've thought long and hard about those temple recommend questions and the agonizing interviews where I would fight with my own conscience, struggling to stare that interviewer in the eye and hope that he couldn't discerned my deceit. So, in looking back, I'm going to right the wrong and finally tell the truth as my Inner Dialog "Hi!" was trying to get me to do all of these years. "HA! It's about time." Yeah, yeah, I know.
Warning: It's long. There are 15 questions to get through here so just deal with it. Also, I'm not really going to write anything all that intellectual here. "Dude, no one cares; get on it with it already." Ok, ok. It's really a bit of a rant layered with sarcasm and offensive language and it rambles a bit. And yeah, it's going to offend. "Dude, offend away! It's not your problem."
Ok, let's get this over with, shall we? "Finally!"
Question #1: Do you have faith in and a testimony of God the Eternal Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost?
Answer: Yes. "Liar!"
Ok, ok. So I lied. Believing, or in my case, pretending to believe in the most fundamental doctrines of the church is also fundamental in fitting in to the prevailing culture. If you don't believe, you don't belong; you are treated like an outsider. To be treated as such in a community made up of 95% Mormons, ranges from simply being ignored to back stabbing to being overtly snubbed. But that's only after they realize you didn't want to be a Mormon. Besides, the remaining 5% were all beer drinking, adulterous, coffee drinking, intellectual, drug pushers who molested children and turned them into evil fornicating, feminist, homosexuals. And they all smoked to boot! You don't want to be lumped in with them now, do you? Yeah, I didn't think so. I think I'm justified in lying on this question.
Question #2: Do you have a testimony of the Atonement of Christ and of His role as Savior and Redeemer?
Answer: Yes. "Liar!"
I never did understand the whole concept of Christ's Atonement and all that. It just didn't make sense to me. If God was an all loving, all powerful being, why in the hell did he need to have someone take the fall? Really. The entire Christian Gospel plan, Mormon or otherwise, still makes my head spin when I try to make sense of it. But, as I said before, I'm going to pretend that I have a testimony of this ridiculous shit so that I won't be treated like an outsider.
Question #3: Do you have a testimony of the restoration of the gospel in these the latter days?
Answer: Yes. "Liar!"
Sigh! Forget about me going to hell for not believing in this stuff, I'm going to hell for being a big fat liar. "You're darn tootin', mister." Isn't that a Laurel and Hardy movie? "What?" Never mind.
You know, there was a time when I believed this one. But I realized I only believed it because I was in love with the idea of it. When the facts hit the fan, so did my love of the idea.
Question #4: Do you sustain the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator and as the only person on the earth who possesses and is authorized to exercise all priesthood keys? Do you sustain members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators? Do you sustain the other General Authorities and local authorities of the Church?
Answer: Yes. "Lie! Dude! You're creeping me out!"
Oh my fucking god! What am I doing here? Why am I doing this? What the fuck? I'm actually a bit creeped out by this question. I've known too many people who have suffered severe spiritual abuse at the hands of these men. Sadly, I didn't recognize that I was suffering the same abuse even though that creepiness feeling should have been an indicator that something was seriously wrong. Still, I lie. And I lie to myself. It's no wonder I'm a bitter old man and I want to attack the Mormon church! After all, they started it! "Dude, you're not old."
I just made the mistake of being born into it. Yeah, mistake. They told me that I got to choose my family in the preexistence because I was more valiant than the other souls. Really! So, it's my fault. But these men also told me that because I was born under the convent (my parents were sealed in the temple before I was born), that I was double special. But what they didn't know, HAHAHA, was that I was sealed to my parents later when I was around 4 years old. I was never born under the convent. So now what? I guess that downgrades my specialness. Why would an all loving, all powerful God, pick favorites for something so arbitrarily as that? Honestly, what a complete asshole God is to his children.
Question #5: Do you live the law of chastity?
Answer: Yes. "Hey dude! You told the truth, HA! Well, sort of."
Ok, I didn't lie within the context of the intent of the question. But I wouldn't say it was by choice that I was celibate. I didn't find having sex with women to be a temptation anyway. Hmmm, I wonder why. Is it because I'm righteous? "No, it's because you're gay, dude!" Ok, if I was gay then why didn't I have sex with men? "Because you're righteous?" Oh shut up, Internal Dialog! The real reason was because I honestly didn't know it was possible. That is really true! "Ha! So THAT'S why they don't want people associating with The Gays! They might get ideas! They might get educated or worse, recruited!" Scary thought, isn't it? Keep them in isolation; it will save their souls. It's a testament to the level of repression and denial I was suffering. And I do mean suffering.
Still, I found a way to be "unchaste". I used lots of mirrors! "Dude, you really don't need to talk about this." As a result, I have since expanded my definition of masturbation to be "solo sex" or sexual relations with myself, so I guess I did lie, just a little bit. A tiny "white" lie. "Dude! TMI." Fine.
In any case, I'm bothered by the idea of sexuality as a basis for moral righteousness when it's really the lying, the deceit, and the manipulation, where sex is merely a tool, which really destroys lives. But NO, it's all about sex, isn't it? Sex IS the sin. Sex is put up high on a pedestal and treated like something much greater than is really is or ever could be. It's practically worshiped! It's so sacred you are never to talk about it or utter the word!
SEX! Say it! SEK-SHOO-AL intercourse. HO-MO-SEK-SHOO-AL. SSSSSSSSSEEXXXX!
Seriously, stop using chastity as a euphemism for SEX! It really makes it sound like we're trying to appear better than everyone else. Oh, wait, we're Mormons, we are! "I like sex." I know you do, sweetie.
Question #6: Is there anything in your conduct relating to members of your family that is not in harmony with the teachings of the Church?
Answer: Yes. "Truth! Oh, shit, wrong answer."
Wait, what? Can you repeat the question? Seriously. And please explain what you mean by "...not in harmony with the teachings of the Church" because there are some teachings of the Church that are not in harmony with the teachings of Christ. I'm actually a bit offended by this question and because of that, I answer truthfully to point out the stupidity of it. "Dude, you're not going to get anywhere with this. Sometimes the truth is not very useful." You're right. I'm joking, ha ha! Everything is fine with regards to the family. We're cool. Sigh.
I knew a fine lady who had her temple recommend revoked because her husband was abusing her. The logic here was that as long as there was strife in the home, there was no way that she deserved the blessings of the temple. And that she needed to go back and honor her husband so he had no reason to treat her the way he did. Yeah, take a way an individual's only grounding spiritual avenue from an abusive situation because, after all, it's really the victims fault. That's the sort of spiritual abuse I'm talking about from Question #4.
I think our family did much better when we, for the most part, avoided the church as a source of any guidance in that regard. I'm happy to report that things are cool now. My response to this question was in looking back to the early 90's when things were really, really, really, really, really, really, bad. Yes, that's 6 'really's. In the 80's I would have used something like 47 'really's. In 2006 it was still bad but I wouldn't use any 'really's. "Really?" Yeah, really.
Question #7: 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?
Answer: No. "Dude, you might be lying here. Perhaps you should ask for clarification."
No, I will not ask for clarification. Remember what happened in question #6? "Oh yeah, forget it." Why is this even a question? You need to explain to me EXACTLY what this has to do with my worthiness. This question really fucking bugs me to no end. I supported, affiliated and agreed with the most Christ like person I know, who just happens to be an atheist. He was my grandfather. You people seriously need to teach people HOW NOT to judge rather than make this entire gospel discourse about HOW to judge. Question #7 to me really runs at the heart of why most Mormons are not capable of being Christians.
Question #8: Do you strive to keep the covenants you have made, to attend your sacrament and other meetings, and to keep your life in harmony with the laws and commandments of the gospel?
Answer: Yes. "Dude, you almost had me fooled there but your still lying."
I'm getting good at this lying thing in that I really believed I was telling the truth when I said yes to that. But honestly, I would rather sit in the foyer talking to friends than in the chapel pretending to care. And no, I don't have time to do that calling you asked me to do. In fact, I think next Sunday I'm going to be out of town or something. Yeah, my job, you know how it is? At least I showed up to church and got counted and then did all that financial clerk crap that I was called to do.
Looking back, I was always looking for excuses, and quite often, I would make up shit to get out of going to church and avoid church callings and all that other crap. I'm a bad person. "Awww." As in Awesome.
Question #9: Are you honest in your dealings with your fellowmen?
Answer: Yes. "Truth! Except for that one thing..."
It should be blatantly obvious by now that when it comes to dealing with the church and people in the church, I'm a lying sack of shit! Honesty only exists outside the context of my religious circle.
As a side note to this, there was once a Mormon city official my brother had to deal with who believed that the above question only applied to dealings with people in the church. Outside of that, it didn't matter. People who weren't Mormons were dishonest and the only way to deal with dishonest people was to be dishonest right back. My brother finally got that particular Stake President fired from his job and then released early from his highly esteem church calling. Those Utah Mormons can really be a handful sometimes. Oh my goodness!
Question #10: Are you a full-tithe payer?
Answer: Yes. "Truth! HA HA! Suck it, sinners!"
Ha ha! See, I'm a good Mormon! I didn't lie. And because I pay my tithing based on my gross income and then round UP, that right there makes me better than the low-life's who don't! And it makes up for all the lying to boot! Also, here is a little extra to help the poor. Wait, what? You can't help them unless they are active, full-tithe, paying members? What the fuck!?
Sigh. I deeply, deeply regret that I was a full tithe payer. "And a snooty one at that." Yep.
Question #11: Do you keep the Word of Wisdom?
Answer: Yes. "Uhmm, this is a half-truth. I think."
Word of Wisdom or WoW. Wow! Seriously, WoW! Get it? "Dude, that's stupid, no one cares."
Anywho, the entire WoW has been reduced down to the big four: Coffee, Tea, Alcohol and Tobacco. Forget about all the other things stated in there, the big four are all this question is really asking.
Since I can't abide smoking or tobacco anyway, that's a nonissue. Also, I don't like the taste of tea so I can at least feel smug about that. However, I love my coffee. Yeah, I'm going to tell people I like it but I'm not going to tell anyone I actually drink the stuff. I mean, really, what good would come of it? Remember that 5% I want to avoid being associated with? I'm going to drink my coffee in secret!
As for alcohol, the last time I drank that stuff I was around 10 or 12 years old I think. It was a cheap but tasty red wine that my dad let me have. I never got around to drinking much alcohol after that nor did I have much opportunity because I could never risk getting caught buying the stuff. That made it easy to avoid. I also didn't have many friends who drank. The ones who did kept it to themselves because we would shun them when they did. You know about all that "avoid the appearance of evil" crap? Yeah, we are real assholes, but we were righteous assholes. So, except for an occasional coffee I was good to go. Right?
Apparently, coffee wasn't supposed to bar me entrance to the temple. But I could never know when I would get interviewed by some Mormon Nazi who would decide that coffee drinking was a greater sin than me lying about not having sex with myself. "Dude! You never had it that bad." Yeah, I know, but lesser things happened to other people and it really bugged the ever living shit out of me and put me on edge.
Now, I have a beer occasionally. And I'm not afraid to drink it right in front you! Ha! Would you like one? There is still some in the fridge. Or I could open that new bottle of wine I just bought that's sitting next to the coffee maker. Hey, where are you going? Oh yeah, you're avoiding the appearance of evil. Touché.
Now, what about the rest of the WoW? It also says to eat lots of veggies and grains and eat very little meat. And I do follow that. Well, not because of the WoW but because I feel like eating that way. Some days I may actually go an entire day without eating meat. I'm just not in the mood for it. However, I'm a glutton for peanut-butter-chocolate-chip-oatmeal-cookie-dough-ice-cream so, no, I don't keep the WoW in its full context. Wait, the WoW doesn't say anything about gluttony? Well it should!
"We really need to move on here." No, wait, I'm not done.
You know what else? I don't think anyone really knows what the fuck the WoW is really all about anyway. You know? For a short time there in the early 1900's, beer was acceptable under the WoW and refined flour was not! And then there is this indecisive issue with caffeine and soda drinks. And back to my previous point about all of the other stuff not being considered anymore. What the...why the hell has it been twiddled down to the big four anyway? Come on people! Make up your mind! Either get a revelation from God that sticks to something or forget about it! Is God really that wishy washy? "Actually, he is."
Question #12: Do you have financial or other obligations to a former spouse or children? If yes, are you current in meeting those obligations?
I was never asked this. They all knew I had never been married so they just skipped it. I wished they would ask, that way there would be more questions where I didn't have to lie.
Question #13: If you have previously received your temple endowment: Do you keep the covenants that you made in the temple? Do you wear the garment both night and day as instructed in the endowment and in accordance with the covenant you made in the temple?
Answer: Yes. "Lie? Well... yeah, you lied."
Ok, this is where it gets all weird. I don't really remember what covenants I made in the temple; I was very young and naive back then. I went through twice before leaving on my mission and have never gone back. The experience was creepy and I never felt comfortable with it. Besides, I only needed the temple recommend, not the temple experience, to look like a good Mormon.
As for the magic G's, quite often I would go around wearing only the top when I did wear them. Does that count? I thought of it more as a t-shirt to keep my sweaty armpits from leaking to my outer shirt but most importantly, it was to fool people into thinking I was a Mormon In Good Standing™. As for the bottoms, I preferred that sexy animal print, string-bikini underwear for the sexiness and the support. Besides, those darned magic G's would chafe my thighs like a motherfucker and the seams were always falling apart! "Dude, I think you're going too far with this one." No, shut up, Internal Dialog, I've got more to say about this.
I always thought it was ironic that people would tell me to buy those "mesh fabric" Gs because it feels like you have nothing on! What the fuck? Seriously, what the fuck? I honestly can't figure out how to process that information. Underwear that feels like you are not wearing underwear? Here's a clue, why don't you simply NOT put any underwear on! Yeah, I know, protection from harm and evil and all that hocus pocus. So then, how come when I was on my mission and wrecked my bike and landed on my shoulder, there was a huge hole in my G's and my collar bone dislocated? "Oh, please don't go there." Was it because I was an unrighteous, lying, masturbator who didn't have any self control? Just like all the other missionaries? "No, Dude, that's not it. Let it go." No, it's because it was all a bunch of crap! It was just another idea that I was in love with only so that I could convince myself that it might possibly be true. What was I thinking? Logic and reason, out the window because I was in love with the idea of personal body armor. "You weren't that bad about it." True, because I preferred my armor to look more like those sexy Star Wars Storm Troopers anyway. "Ok, we need to move on." That magic G armor was not sexy at all. In fact, it was anti-sexy. But Storm Troopers, now that is what I call sexy body armor. Yeah, it's useless for blaster fire but who cares, so are magic G's. I would totally do a guy while we were wearing outfits like that. The base layer is Spandex for crying out loud! Those magic G's were anti-sex. Hey, I suppose that makes sense in the context of protecting a person's chastity. Err, I mean sexual virginity. Stick ugly underwear on them and they're fine. Hmm, doesn't explain those gay guys with magic G fetishes. What's the deal with that? I don't get it.
Sigh. Moving on...
Question #14: Have there been any sins or misdeeds in your life that should have been resolved with priesthood authorities but have not been?
Answer: No. "Yeah, Dude! I think you might be telling the truth with this one. I think."
Yeah I'm telling the truth because I'm starting to see where this is all left to my interpretation. What is the context of "sins", "misdeeds" and "resolved"? Other than my habitual Lying for the Lord™, I don't know what else I would mention. I did tell my mission president that I masturbated. But have I resolved it? Does simply talking about it mean it's been resolved? I still masturbate in ways that would make your skin crawl and your sensitive little heart go running off screaming to ask God for mercy if you were to see the things I like to do to myself. So, you really want to know? Seriously? I have pictures. "Dude! Don't even..." And for something that gives me a profound spiritual experience, how do I know it's even a problem? And that begs the next question, what is meant by "problem"? No, I'm doing just fine.
Question #15: Do you consider yourself worthy to enter the Lord's house and participate in temple ordinances?
Answer: Yes. "You speak truth! I'm proud of you dude!"
Yep, I believe I'm worthy to enter the Lord's house. Besides, if my adulterous uncle is worthy, even while standing in the Celestial room of the temple, telling dirty jokes, than I believe I'm worthy too, even more so than he. But the better question to ask is if I WANT to participate in temple ordinances? And if that is asked, I'll probably lie. Again, I want to fit in, despite the fact it is 2006 and the last time I was creeped out in a temple was 1991. "Are you sure?" No, wait. The last time I set foot in a temple was 1995 in Bountiful, Utah. But it was only the temple dedication and not an endowment session so it doesn't count. "Oh, yeah. That doesn't count. Not as creepy."
Ok, well there you have it. I've gone through the temple recommend questions, holding myself accountable for the lies I told. And not only do I feel better about myself, I'm better person for doing it. "Dude, you're so cool, I love you." I love you to; want to have sex? "Dude! This is not the place to for that." TMI? "TMI."
Apologies to my uncle for bringing up his past transgressions. If it weren't for him, I wouldn't have had that cognitive dissonance welling up in the back of my mind all these years. Those jokes he told in the temple were very distasteful, even for me.