Once you have some feeling for the value of temple blessings and for the sacredness of the ordinances performed in the temple, you would be hesitant to question the high standards set by the Lord for entrance into the holy temple. All the Church offers is feelings about so-called blessings and sacredness. It would really be fantastic if someone would lay it all out for us to work through. But the Church isn't doing that right now. Instead we get semi-threatening language about how we "would be hesitant to question" this whole temple thing.
You must possess a current recommend to be admitted to the temple. We know. This recommend must be signed by the bishop of your ward and the president of your stake. OK. Sounds serious... In the mission field, of course, the branch president and the mission president have responsibility for issuing temple recommends. Of course. Only those who are worthy should go to the temple. But a lot of unworthy assholes who shouldn't do too! :( Why can't the bishop and stake president sniff them out? The bishop has the responsibility of making inquiries into our personal worthiness. This interview is of great importance to you as a member of the Church, for it is an occasion to explore with an ordained servant of the Lord the pattern of your life. Ordained but untrained. Let's tell it like it is: this is an obligatory disclosure of your life to that one neighbor dude. If anything is amiss in your life, the bishop will be able to help you resolve it. Well he'll try anyway. Let's not forget that he likely has no training in counseling. Through this procedure, as you counsel with the common judge in Israel, you can declare or can be helped to establish your worthiness to enter the temple with the Lord’s approval. Bishop's approval. The Lord doesn't sign your recommend.
President N. Eldon Tanner, who served as First Counselor in the First Presidency, spoke to the general priesthood meeting about interviews. His counsel has meaning both for the Church leaders who conduct the interview and for the members who are to be interviewed. Consider carefully this counsel:
You bishops and stake presidents might approach an interview for a temple recommend something like this:“You have come to me for a recommend to enter the temple. I have the responsibility of representing the Lord in interviewing you. What a humble approach. :S At the conclusion of the interview there is provision for me to sign your recommend; but mine is not the only important signature on your recommend. Before the recommend is valid, you must sign it yourself. Sounds tricky! :S“When you sign your recommend, you make a commitment to the Lord that you are worthy of the privileges granted to those who hold such a recommend. When did Jesus ask us to sign a piece of paper? There are several standard questions that I will ask. … You are to respond honestly to each one.” Because you can tell? …Now, after you have put those required questions to the applicant, you may wish to add something like this: “One who goes into the house of the Lord must be free from any unclean, unholy, impure, or unnatural practice.” Wait! What are the questions? Is this a pop quiz or can we see the questions? …Our interviews must be conducted in love, in modesty. Try by conducting them as a friend instead of pretending you're standing in for Jesus. Ofttimes things can be corrected if you ask: “Would there be a reason you may feel uncomfortable or perhaps even dishonest to the Lord if you were to sign your own temple recommend? Dig up the guilt, brother! DIG!! You might want to start using an E-meter.
“Would you like a little time to get some very personal things in order before you sign it? Remember, the Lord knows all things and will not be mocked. YES! Scare them! Terrify them! God will smite them if they're lying! We are trying to help you. Never lie to try to obtain a call, a recommend, or a blessing from the Lord.” Excellent! Passively accuse them of lying! Very good approach.If you approach the matter as outlined above, the member has the responsibility to interview himself. Because there's not way providing members with the questions and asking them to prayerfully consider their answers on their own would get them to answer honestly. The bishop or stake president has the right to the power of discernment. He will know whether or not there is something amiss that ought to be settled before a recommend is issued. Except when they don't (which is almost always). (“The Blessing of Church Interviews,” Ensign [November 1978]: 42–43.)
The interview for a temple recommend is conducted privately between the bishop and the Church member concerned. (Or the stake president.) Here the member is asked searching questions about his or her personal conduct, worthiness, and loyalty to the Church and its officers. Searching that members could do on their own. The bishop can butt out. The person must certify that he or she is morally clean and is keeping the Word of Wisdom, paying a full tithing, living in harmony with the teachings of the Church, and not maintaining any affiliation or sympathy with apostate groups. Whoa! You basically gave us the questions! Thank you! Can we talk a bit about these topics? Does "morally clean" include faking it until we make it? Does proof that we keep the word of wisdom involve checking how much meat we eat or a test to see if we can "walk and not faint"? Is a full tithe based on gross, net or expendable income? Does these mean we have to actively oppose gay rights? Do we have to avoid our cousins and siblings who have left the Church and always attend Sunstone and Dialog conferences? The bishop is instructed that confidentiality in handling these matters with each interviewee is of the utmost importance. And we just kind of trust them.
Acceptable answers to the bishop’s questions will ordinarily establish the worthiness of an individual to receive a temple recommend. But they don't always have the power of discernment. If an applicant is not keeping the commandments or there is something unsettled about his or her life that needs putting in order, it will be necessary for that individual to demonstrate true repentance before a temple recommend is issued. Typically that demonstration takes the form of public shaming in the form of not being able to take the sacrament on Sundays or privately in the form of paying up on tithing.
After the bishop has conducted such an interview, a member of the stake presidency likewise interviews each of us before we go to the temple. Because bishops don't do a very good job. They really should get some E-meters. If we are going for the first time, ordinarily the stake president personally conducts the interview. Because... why? Is this supposed to be comforting or is it just an arbitrary rule you thought you'd share?
Surely, when you appear to be interviewed for a temple recommend you would accept the judgment of him who is designated as the judge in Israel, who is responsible to represent the Lord in determining whether or not it is proper for you to enter this sacred place. Sure, I guess. Unless he's a total idiot or complete dick. Have you ever heard of the leadership roulette?