Is it appropriate for a bishopric or stake presidency member to adjust the eighth temple recommend question to exclude “priesthood meetings” when interviewing sisters? I’ve interpreted this reference to include any standard meeting presided over by a priesthood holder, including Relief Society, Primary, Young Women, etc. My interpretation stood alone in a recent stake training meeting and no one present knew of any official directives on the matter.
Thank you for your question regarding temple recommend questions.
As members of the Church we are involved in a world-wide organization. At times, the Church may be flexible in its policies and programs in order to accommodate differences in culture, local laws and customs. In some instances, the Church has given local or area leaders the discretion to decide for themselves the best course of action to take for their individual units. For example, not all meeting times are exactly uniform around the world. Some congregations hold their worship services on Saturday or Friday instead of on Sunday. I knew of a very small Branch in Minnesota where there were not enough members to teach all their classes, so only two hours of church were held versus the traditional three. In other units, classes might be combined, for example having a Melchizedek Priesthood meeting versus having the Elders separate from the High Priest. These examples simply illustrate that though the Church sets forth rules and policies, at times they give local units the ability to be flexible in their application of those policies while still doing their best to stay in harmony with the spirit of the policy.
The question then becomes what policies, practices or rules are flexible and when? The Church has tried to help point unit leaders in the right direction by providing some answers in The Church Handbook of Instruction 2 (CHI2) under Section 17.0: Uniformity and Adaptation In this section we are able to see where the Church is requiring uniformity and consistency among units across the world regardless of their circumstances, customs or laws. In contrast, Section 17.2, shares some instances where flexibility is given.
“Is it appropriate for a bishopric or stake presidency member to adjust the eighth temple recommend question to exclude “priesthood meetings” when interviewing sisters?”.
The answer to your question, regardless of interpretation of “priesthood meeting”, is very clear. Should leaders alter the temple recommend questions? CHI2 explains under the subheading, Where Uniformity is Required: 17.1.2 Commandments and Standards
Commandments and Standards
The commandments of the Lord and the worthiness standards of the Church are given in the scriptures and in official communications from the First Presidency. Local leaders should not alter these commandments and standards. Nor should local leaders teach their own rules or interpretations regarding the commandments.
The worthiness standards for temple attendance are detailed in the interview questions found in the temple recommend book. Local leaders should not alter these.
The words found in temple recommend questions are one of the few things in the church that should be followed verbatim. Having a difference of opinion as to why or what constitutes a priesthood meeting falls to the wayside once we understand that regardless, it is part of the temple recommend question and should always be asked.
On a side note, the very first line in CHI2 Section 9: Relief Society says:
The Relief Society is an auxiliary to the priesthood.
It then continues in Section 10: Young Women
The Young Women organization is an auxiliary to the priesthood.
Thank you, David, for your question.