Last week during his talk at General Conference Latter-Day Saint Elder, Ronald A Rasband talked about Mormon temple recommends. He spoke with fondness of a time he visited his father-in-law. He said the following:
My father-in-law, Blaine Twitchell, one of the best men I have ever known, taught me a great lesson. Sister Rasband and I went to visit him when he was nearing the end of his mortal journey. As we entered his room, his bishop was just leaving. As we greeted the bishop, I thought, “What a nice bishop. He’s here doing his ministering to a faithful member of his ward.”
I mentioned to Blaine, “Wasn’t that nice of the bishop to come visit.”
Blaine looked at me and responded, “It was far more than that. I asked for the bishop to come because I wanted my temple recommend interview. I want to go recommended to the Lord.” And he did!
(Elder Ronald A. Rasband – General Conference – October 2020)
Recommended to the Lord
I had never heard the expression ‘recommended to the Lord’ before and I was curious as to what he, and his father-in-law, meant by that term.
As I typed the word ‘recommended’ into my online thesaurus, it offered me several alternative words: endorsed; commended; acclaimed; applauded; praised; and worthy.
Was Elder Rasband saying that his father-in-law was to be commended to the Lord? To be praised and applauded as he goes to meet his maker? That he is ‘worthy’ to be received by God? If so, upon what basis?
This is where we find a sharp distinction between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the historic, orthodox, biblical Christian faith. Mormons believe that Elder Rasband’s father-in-law, made himself worthy, and a temple recommend showed it, whereas Christians know that they are never worthy. There is nothing we can do to earn God’s favour and there is only one who is ‘worthy’ and only one who should be ‘recommended’, praised and applauded.
Before we look further into what is going on here, we need to understand how Mormon soteriology, that is their doctrine of salvation, works and how it compares with the Biblical understanding of salvation.
When a Christian asks the question: Are you saved? it is straight forward. What they mean is, have you repented of your sin, put your faith in Christ, been born again of the Spirit of God and have assurance of sins forgiven and eternal life to come. The answer then is yes or no. This is not how it works in Mormonism.
When Mormons use the term ‘saved’ or ‘salvation’ they do so in a variety of ways. They could be talking about any of the following:
Salvation from physical death – in this sense everyone is saved as Jesus’ atonement and resurrection assures everyone a future resurrection.
Salvation from sin – this happens when a person exercises faith in Jesus, repents, gets baptised and receives the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands. As baptism and the laying on of hands must be done by one with ‘priesthood authority’, this can only happen in the Mormon church.
Salvation from the second death – pretty much everyone will be saved from the second death. In Mormon theology, the second death is reserved for the devil, the fallen angels and the sons of perdition (basically ex-Mormons).
Exaltation – to live eternally with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom.
Speaking of salvation, the sixth President of the Church Joseph Fielding Smith said:
“I do not believe that a man is saved in this life by believing, or professing to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, but that he must endure to the end and keep the commandments that are given”.
You can read more here, but It is clear from this statement that believing upon the Lord Jesus Christ is not enough for the Mormon. They must add something to the work of Christ, they must endure to the end and keep the commandments that are given.
What does the Bible teach in this regard? When the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas the question: ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ how did they answer?
They said: ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.’.
The Apostle reiterates this in his letter to the Romans:
‘That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved’.
Now in light of the Mormon understanding of how a person is saved, let us return to the phrase ‘recommended to the Lord’. What did Elder Rasband’s father-in-law mean when he said he wanted to leave mortality ‘recommended to the Lord?’
He wanted to show the Lord that he had done all that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints said he needed to do in order to progress towards exaltation. He had faithfully kept all the laws and ordinances of the restored gospel and therefore he had proven himself ‘worthy’, and his temple recommend was evidence of his endurance and his keeping of the LDS commandments.
The Temple Recommend
“To receive temple sealing ordinances, Church members must receive a temple recommend from a proper Church authority attesting that they are living prescribed Church standards”
Integral to the Mormon doctrine of salvation is the Temple. It is in the Temple that a Mormon will participate in three important ordinances. They are the endowment ceremony; sealings or eternal marriage and the baptism for the dead. It is during the endowment ceremony that they will receive their secret, sorry I mean sacred, underwear. They will also be taught signs and tokens, for example secret, sorry I mean sacred, handshakes which they will need to show Heavenly Father to be allowed into the celestial kingdom.
It is now apparent why Elder Rasband’s delivered a message encouraging all members of the church to have a temple recommend. Although it is difficult to find accurate up-to-date statistics, it is reckoned that less than 50% of active Mormons currently hold a temple recommend.
What is a Temple Recommend?
The Temple Recommend is a certificate issued to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints allowing a member to enter the temple. In order to obtain a recommend, the candidate must indicate worthiness and preparedness to enter the temple by answering specific questions pertaining to his or her faithfulness.
For a brief period only, when a temple is first opened or is being re-dedicated, people can enter the temple without a recommend, but once it is sealed – only card carrying ‘worthy’ Mormons can get through its doors.
What does being worthy look like to a Mormon?
To receive a temple recommend, you must be interviewed by your local Bishop and answer several questions satisfactorily. Elder Rasband speaks of it this way:
In your interview you have the opportunity to search your soul about your personal faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement. You have the blessing to express your testimony of the restored gospel; your willingness to sustain those whom the Lord has called to lead His Church; your faith in the doctrine of the gospel; your fulfillment of family responsibilities; and your qualities of honesty, chastity, fidelity, obedience, and observance of the Word of Wisdom, the law of tithing, and the sanctity of the Sabbath day. Those are bedrock principles of a life devoted to Jesus Christ and His work.
Now there is much I would like to take issue with here, but I will begin with his final sentence; ‘Those are bedrock principles of a life devoted to Jesus Christ and His work’.
I believe all he mentions are the ‘bedrock principles’ of a life not devoted to Jesus Christ, but rather to Joseph Smith and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
The false and unbiblical belief that they can one day become gods, that they will reside in a celestial kingdom with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ whilst the ‘unworthy’ flounder in a lesser kingdom, that husbands and wives can be married for time and eternity, all lead the dutiful Mormon to strive for perfection as prescribed by the so-called ‘restored’ church.
Elder Rasband says that the temple recommend interview is not about do’s and don’t’s – but it is. He says that a ‘recommend is not a checklist, a hall pass, or a ticket for special seating’ – but it is. Progression towards exaltation cannot be achieved without doing what you are told. In order to receive the recommend the Bishop has a checklist and he’s checking it twice to see if you are naughty or nice!
He claims the interview is for more nobler purposes, but notice the words I have made bold:
It has a much higher and holier purpose. To qualify for the honor of a temple recommend, you must live in harmony with the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In your interview you have the opportunity to search your soul about your personal faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement.
Now notice the parallel in what he says. Your faith in Jesus and his atonement are equated with living in harmony with the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Something else struck me as I listened to this talk. I thought how much this sounds like Roman Catholicism. A constant theme is equating worthiness with obedience to the Church. You are not to live in harmony in with Jesus, but rather live in harmony with the teachings of the Church. Even Elder Rasband’s father-in-law, as he approached his final moments of life, sought a Bishop to approve his worthiness to go to the Father, like a kind of last rite you might find performed by a Catholic priest.
All of this, considered God’s command by a Church which claims to have been restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith, is inexplicable and foreign to the beliefs and practices of historic, biblical Christianity. So how, according to the Bible, is a person made worthy before God?
I’m not worthy!
The Temple Recommend is all about a person following the laws and ordinances of the Mormon gospel in the hope of being worthy in the sight of Heavenly Father. Yet the Bible, the Word of God, teaches that a person cannot make themselves worthy. All our attempts of being worthy are as filthy rags.
We are sinners, dead in our trespasses and sins and our only hope is to throw ourselves upon another – the Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 4:4-5 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Titus 3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost
Romans 5:19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
2 Corinthians 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
You see Elder Ronald A. Rasband, a temple recommend is like a broken pencil – pointless! There is only one is worthy, only one who is to be commended and applauded, only one is to be recommended – his name is Jesus and He alone can save.
 Isaiah 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags…
 Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God
 Ephesians 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins
 Encyclopaedia of Mormonism 3:1289)
 Matthew 22:30
 Joseph F. Smith, Conference Reports, April 1915, p.119)
 Acts 16:30-31
 Romans 10:9