Thursday, November 4, 2010

Provocative Posts (and a negative experience with "protocol")

I appreciate thought-provoking posts, especially when they tap into topics I've personally been thinking about. Such was the case with Families, Eternal and Otherwise by Brad at By Common Consent, and also with The Irreconcilable Voices in D&C 132 by Caroline at The Exponent.

I told my wife after reading this last one that it stole my thunder. I'd been planning on posting about Section 132 and my concerns that the same tender Lord who tells the Saints earlier in the Doctrine and Covenants that he will lead them by the hand now transforms into the Old Testament voice and tells Emma Smith that she'll be "destroyed" if she didn't get on board with plural marriage.

I read another thought-provoking post yesterday by BIV at Wheat and Tares: Unveiling the 2010 Church Handbook of Instructions. I've been wondering if there had been some recent letter of instruction to bishoprics lately, but new instructions in a new handbook might shed some light on a trend I've been noticing lately. I shared my observations there:

I’ve had several personal experiences lately with being asked to present my temple recommend before participating in baby blessings, and it definitely rubs me the wrong way. (And for disclosure purposes, I have a temple recommend.) But it just kind of seemed wrong-headed to me; doesn’t feel “right”.

And since this recent emphasis (it’s only been in the past few months or so that I’ve noticed) I was also witness to a specific episode of rigid adherence to the letter of the law over the spirit of the law. Arriving 5 minutes late to a Sacrament Meeting one Sunday I overheard a bishop out in the foyer chewing out a young father for not notifying him of the father-in-law’s intention to join in the circle to bless his grand-baby in time to check the temple recommend.

Since the grandfather didn’t have it on him that morning (after traveling a long distance), the bishop had left the meeting to try to call grandfather’s bishop with no success, and when they went back in he chose not to allow the grandfather to stand in the circle.

I had a strong reaction to this. In fact I thought it was despicable. I wished that the bishop had followed the spirit of the law and let the grandfather participate and if there was a problem God would sort it out. (Personally I don’t think the temple recommend should be necessary anyway, and I even question the necessity of having a member of the bishopric present for a father to bless the baby, but that’s another issue. Yet while I’m on that tangent, I will say that I MUCH prefer to do a baby blessing at home with just family (and the member of the bishopric of course) rather than in front of the entire congregation. I’ve done both and it didn’t feel right to me to include all those people on the special family experience; it definitely distracted me from what should be an intimate moment.)

Anyway (and ironically), several weeks after I witnessed that bishop’s decision (and his brusque and uncharitable way of speaking to the young father) a visiting high council speaker shared a quote over the pulpit from an area authority who had counseled this high councilor when he was a young branch president. The money quote was: “Never let protocol or tradition get in the way of the Spirit. It is the Spirit that matters most.”

I love the quote, but I loved it even more that this bishop was in attendance and listening. I couldn’t help but wonder if he took that to heart.


Marg said...

Nice post and I agree with you on the importance of the letter of the law need to have a Temple recommend to stand in on the blessing of a baby. That said, I don't see why the non member father can't hold his child. I wouldn't count on your Bishop hearing that message. Usually the one who needs to hear a message the most never sees his/her self clearly and can think of 10 other people who ought to be feeling bad because they are being reprimanded for their shortcomings.

john f. said...

I don't think a temple recommend should be required to bless a baby or stand in on a baby blessing. What if the member is a Melchizedek Priesthood holder who has not yet attended the temple? What if he simply has not renewed his temple recommend? What if he does not want to hold a temple recommend at this time but he still holds the Melchizedek Priesthood. The thing that matters is having received the Melchizedek Priesthood and not whether one holds a temple recommend.

Aaron R. said...

John f., unfortunately the new Handbook specifically requires a TR to perform that ordinance (unless you have not been endowed).

Clean Cut said...

Thanks, Marg. Nice to "meet" you.

John f.--I agree with every word you said. Well said.

Aaron R--Reviewing the excerpt which BIV posted, this line stood out: "A bishop may allow a father who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood to name and bless his children even if the father is not fully temple worthy".

If that is the case, why are people being asked to present a temple recommend, or in this case, being denied the opportunity to bless family without one?

Glenn Smith said...

Because the baby blessing is a priesthood ordinance, it follows that those participating must be worthy of the ordinance. The recommend from visiting family confirms to a local bishop that if the person meets the temple worthiness standard, he must meet the baby blessing worthiness standard.

A similar example: Last month, my granddaughter (who lives with us) was baptized by her father visiting from another stake. He has had to to some life changes over the past year. Prior to the service, he presented our Bishop with a "recommend to perform ordinances", not a temple recommend, issued by his home Bishop. Thusly, our Bishop was satisfied my son was worthy to perform a priesthood ordinance.

In 1971, I was ordained an Elder in my Ricks College stake president's office. My father, also my home Bishop, handed an "ordinance recommend" to my Ricks stake president prior to the ordination.

It's all part of being a 'house of order'.

I like the protocol / spirit quote. Be careful, though. The Spirit may just be directing that Bishop to follow the protocol.

Clean Cut said...

Thanks Glenn. I actually did think of that possibility that the Bishop may have been prompted by the Spirit about it, but since I was there in person and felt out the situation, I was pretty convinced that that wasn't the case and therefore I didn't bring that possibility up--but in all fairness, you're right--that possibility exists.

Now, as to the point of "order"--I can appreciate that. But it seems that the order is anything but clear. And despite having access to the handbook, bishoprics seem to not be on the same page on this either.

Most of my experience with this particular ordinance has been that a bunch of family comes into town and they all just get up and participate without having proven anything to the bishop, and that most bishops are just fine with that. Is that out of "order"?

I still agree with John f. I don't think a temple recommend should be required to bless a baby or stand in on a baby blessing. And the questions John brought up are great questions. I don't think the temple recommend should be used as a litmus test for this.

All I know is that 3 times in the last three months this has indeed been the case, contrary to my previous experience. One can blame the grandfather for failing to plan ahead and anticipating this, but what is the standard? When I read that "a bishop may allow a father who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood to name and bless his children even if the father is not fully temple worthy", then I question why it would be necessary for others standing in the circle (not even as "voice") to be "temple worthy".

Lay members without the handbook can be forgiven for not knowing what the handbook may or may not say since they don't generally have access to it. And even with access to the handbook, we're apparently going to still see a wide variety of application.

Clean Cut said...

On a slightly related tangent, I'm generally uncomfortable with professing personal worthiness at all, precisely because the whole reason I need a Savior is because I'm unworthy. Ultimately it's only because of my covenant relationship with Christ that I can even be considered "worthy" at all. Which is why I always seem to hesitate at the question: "Do you consider yourself worthy?..."

Notwithstanding, we renew that covenant relationship with Christ when we partake of the sacrament. So the question I've been pondering lately is this: What’s the difference between being worthy to take the sacrament and being "temple worthy"?

I think the answer to that would depend on who you ask. Honestly, I don’t think God sees a difference. But the Church puts up additional requirements on those who go to the temple that I doubt have much to do with real or actual "worthiness". For example, you have to be a full tithe payer in order to get the bishop to sign the recommend to go to the temple, but does Christ’s atonement only take effect for those who pay their tithing? Of course not!

In fact, some temple recommend questions are not meant to ascertain actual "worthiness" as much as they're meant to ascertain level of commitment or loyalty to the Church. Which is why I think that a lot of those requirements that are used to judge “temple worthiness” don’t, in my opinion, even necessarily prove the actual condition of one's heart and the personal relationship one has with the Savior.

Now, if I were a bishop (and thankfully I am not), the condition of the heart and the motive is all that would matter to me personally, in order for a priesthood holder or a family member to participate in a baby blessing. I can think of several other ways of evaluating that without having to contact another bishop or look at a slip of paper.

Clean Cut said...

I guess, to state this another way, I don't think that having a temple recommend necessarily makes one any more "worthy", it only makes that person temple "eligible".

(And as John f pointed out, there are a number of reasons why someone may not be (or may even choose not to be) temple "eligible", even though they're technically "worthy".)

Glenn Smith said...

I have known people who could pass the temple recommend interview with flying colors but were not 'good' people. I suppose that is the difference between eligible vs worthy.

I had a Bishop who, following his talk after being called and sustained, made me wonder if we hadn't made a mistake. His approach would make a Pharisee envious. Fortunately, he received some council from his predecessors that mellowed him somewhat. Although he did alienate several ward members, the phrase "And this, to, shall pass..." gained validity.

So, yes, I know that some Bishops, can be rule adherents at the cost of compassion. A wise Bishop, when asked to schedule the blessing, or other ordinance, will advise the father to remind all participants bring the proper recommend, avoiding problems like you discussed.

john f. said...

Must one be a full tithe payer in order to stand in on a baby blessing? That seems like a stretch.

Matt W. said...

It seems perhaps the opposite came out of the meeting?

Papa D said...

This is what happens when people talk about things they don't understand.

I'm not pointing that at you, CC - since the misinformation originated prior to the actual training and wide-spread release of the CHI from a different source.

Jake said...

The more priesthood ordinances I am involved in the more I see that things not going smoothly is the norm. The bishop or EQP should have instructed the father (maybe he did) to make sure those in his group had recommends and that he was familiar with the correct protocol well in advance of the meeting. I think it is unfair to assume that the the young father would even think of asking his father in law about his temple on his own. He was probably just concerned about not dropping the baby and making sure that he said what was in his heart during the blessing. Easy to blame your congregation for your lack of instruction.