This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Mormons who want to get into LDS temples must have a card, a "temple recommend" that certifies not only that they live a certain, institutionally prescribed orthopraxy, but also that they have verbally assented to a number of ideological-theological propositions.
Among the questions that LDS authorities will ask those who aspire to participate in Mormonism's temple worship is Question 6: Do you affiliate with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or do you sympathize with the precepts of any such group or individual?
Question 6 is one of the more perfunctory questions of the temple interview process. The strict and literal application of this question would exclude pretty much everyone. So, these interviews largely dance across this question, often acknowledging its pointlessness with chuckles.
Nevertheless, the premise of this question serves, sometimes, as the rationale by which LDS leaders exclude individuals from temple worship. LDS authorities can, and have, used Question 6 to identify ideas they don't like as contrary to what the church accepts and, then, to justify the exclusion of Mormons who find the ideas compelling.
The institution, it is often said, has a perfect right to regulate its affairs in this way. I probably wouldn't dispute that the LDS Church's agents can exclude people from its temples on the basis of behavior and belief, as, after all, the church owns and operates the temple buildings in question.
But I would point out that the application of Question 6 to exclude members from the temple shows that the LDS Church has become a sectarian institution. A certain Mormonism, among many possible Mormonisms, has secured a privileged place in the LDS Church and protects and projects itself as the only genuine Mormonism by marginalizing and excluding all alternatives. The use of Question 6 to stigmatize Mormons who support the ordination of women, for instance, is an index of the sectarian power that has seized control of Mormondom.
Consider the recent presidential election. A perfectly reasonable reading of Question 6 would justify revoking the temple recommends of all recommend holders who voted for 2016's GOP candidate, who, after all:
• Boasts, openly, of sexually assaulting women, as a part of normal, daily interaction.
• Cheated, rather shamelessly, on each of his three wives.
• Defrauded thousands of people with a fake "university."
• Has habitually refused to pay what he contractually owes.
• Lies with frequency, regularity and, apparently, as a matter of strategic policy.
• Has publicly ridiculed disabled people.
• Has advocated violence against opponents.
• Has incited violence against people of color.
I can see no reason why Mormondom should not read a vote for such a man as a willful affiliation with an individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the church. I can see no reason that it should not read a vote for such a man as sympathizing with the precepts of such a man.
What I write here is not another lamentation over a lost election. My purpose here is to draw attention to the identity of Mormonism. The fact that my proposal that Trump-voting Mormons lose their temple recommends will be laughed off as ridiculous or probably vilified as another reason that I should lose my temple recommend reveals just how narrowly sectarian Mormonism has become.
I hold no illusions that the LDS Church will revoke the temple recommends of Trump-voters, though I genuinely think the gospel and tradition warrant such action.
But with some hope, I would suggest that the LDS Church scratch Question 6 from the recommend interview and abandon, formally, officially and finally, the custom of holding disciplinary councils on the basis of disagreements over theological or ideological ideas.
And it won't do to say that such councils form not to resist contrary ideas but only to resist advocacy of contrary ideas. Contrary is in the eye of the beholder, and in the church the power to act on what a person sees is grossly imbalanced in favor of a particular sect. The refusal to acknowledge that a Trump vote advocates sexual assault and racism makes clear that the way in which disciplinary action is meted out in the church serves only to sustain a conspicuously sectarian claim on the church.
David Mason is chair of theatre and director of Asian studies at Rhodes College in Memphis and the editor-in-chief of Ecumenica. He is the author of "Brigham Young: Sovereign in America," "My Mormonism" and "Theatre and Religion on Krishna's Stage."