I have always heard rumors of Stake Presidents or Bishops asking questions during a temple recommend interview that were not on the approved list of questions. When I was bishop, the paragraph at the bottom of the questions specifically said not to change or add to the questions. While I do not have access to the current official paper with the questions on them, I’ve been told that the same admonishments are there today.

Last week I heard from an acquaintance that lives in another stake that he was asked by a member of the stake presidency during his TR interview when was the last time he viewed pornography. This is problematic on several fronts. It is kind of like asking a guy if he has stopped beating his wife!

During my youth, our bishop used to ask if we drank “coke” in the TR interview. I remember my parents talking about it and overhearing them say that brother so and so had called SLC about it, and that the SP had gotten a call to tell the bishop to stop asking it. But this same bishop also asked the boys (not the girls, go figure) if we “had a problem with masturbation”. At least how he phrased it, it gave the impetus on deciding what was problematic to the person being interviewed (e.g. three times a day = Problem, twice a week = not a Problem!)

But asking when the “last time you looked at pornography” is assuming that you have looked at least once in your life, and that the time from that look until the present interview is something that needs to be taken into account in determining your temple worthiness. And there is no way to bring up to the person interviewing that they are not to ask that question, because it makes you look guilty! The only right answer is “Never”, or “20 years ago when I found a Playboy in the field”. I have heard the argument that this is not adding to the questions, but just explaining what it means. Much like when I was bishop and would explain that keeping the Word of Wisdom was defined as alcohol, tobacco, tea and coffee,  so too one might argue that this is just explaining that it means to “keep the law of chastity”.  But the handbook specifically says that the WofW is defined as not partaking alcohol, tobacco, tea and coffee. Nowhere does it say that pornography is grounds for withholding a TR.

So one way to answer this question is to go all Nazi TBM on him and say that you saw porn the day before at the checkout line at the grocery store. Cosmopolitan magazine had a scantily clad woman on the front that was definitely pornographic. He will say that is not what he meant, so then make him explain in detail what porn is!

This question is also a slippery slope. What is next, asking you when the last time you had an “impure thought”? “Well President, it was actually 10 minutes ago when Sister Jones left this very office after her interview. I was ready to go all ‘Brigham Young’ on her, since I out rank her husband by virtue of my priesthood. I was thinking what it would be like to put her high on my nightly wife rotation”

By not having the question in the handbook, but letting leaders ask it, could this be plausible denial for the church? They want this question asked, but don’t want it in the CHI for fear it would leak to the press and create more bad PR. So they tacitly approve it, or look the other way when somebody complains to their Area Authority, but then will throw the SP under the bus if bad publicity comes from it?

So, what questions have you been asked during a TR interview that were not on the list of approved questions? Did you tell the Bishop/SP that they couldn’t ask that? Or did you just answer it to not make trouble?