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Prince’s Research Excerpts: Temples & Mormonism – 1953

Below you will find Prince’s research excerpts titled, “Temples, 1953.” You can view other years here.

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TEMPLES, 1953.

1953:  2 Mar.:  Recommends for divorcees.

“Reports reaching us indicate that not infrequently divorced persons secure recommends to go to the temple who, the records of the divorce proceedings show, were guilty of conduct or practices which completely destroy their worthiness to enter the temple again for any purpose, and lastly of all to enter the temple–this applies usually only to the men–to be sealed to another person.

It is true they may affirm and feel they have repented but in some cases the mis-conduct involved criminal acts or perverted practices that would require a long period to show they had met the elements of repentance which the Lord has laid down,–

By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins–behold, he will confess them and forsake them.  (D&C 58:43.)

We feel we should take such steps as may be wise to forstall the possibility (so far as we can) of such unfit persons entering the temple, which is desecrated by their very presence.  To accomplish this, we have decided upon two measures:

First.  Whenever a divorced person applies for a recommend to the temple, the bishop shall make careful, but discreet and courteous inquiry into the causes that led to the divorce proceedings, and the grounds on which the divorce was granted, and report these to the president of the stake who shall supplement the bishop’s investigation if he feels such a course wise.  Particular care should be exercised when the applicant for the recommend is the party whose conduct is the basis for the divorce.

Second.  Before the recommend is issued the case, with an accompanying statement of the facts elicited by the bishop or president of stake, should be referred to the First Presidency for their consideration and action, either of approval or disapproval of the issuing of the temple recommend.  In cases where a temple divorce has been granted or applied for, the First Presidency may have facts which the party applying for the recommend may not have disclosed.

We ask bishops of wards and presidents of stakes to be most careful to observe this procedure from now on.”  (First Presidency Circular Letter, 2 Mar., 1953; xerox)

10 Jul.:  Further clarification on divorces.

“We refer to our letter of March 2, 1953, regarding the matter of granting temple recommends to people who have been divorced.

The returns thus far received indicate that there are some misapprehensions and misunderstandings as to certain matters which the instructions are designed to cover.  We therefore call attention to the following matters in order that the requests hereafter made of us may contain the material which we desire.

1. The instruction relates to all persons who have had divorces, no matter when the divorce occurred, and no matter whether or not they have since received recommends to go into the temple.

2. The bishop of the ward should make his investigation and write a letter giving the results thereof to the president of the stake.  The bishop’s letter to the president of the stake should, whenever possible, contain a short statement signed by the person making the application, covering specifically the matters mentioned in the first paragraph under item 3 below.

The president of the stake should likewise make an investigation, personally whenever possible, and either approve or disapprove the recommendation of the bishop of the ward.  Both bishops and presidents of stakes should do more than merely endorse a letter of the applicant.

The president of the stake should forward the completed file to us.  A separate letter should be written concerning each applicant.

3. The essential information that should be sent to us from the bishop and the president of the stake should relate to the divorce and the circumstances attending it.  In the matter of the divorce the essential thing we wish to know is whether or not there was upon the part of the one seeking the recommend any infidelity or other serious transgression.

We wish both the bishop and the president of the stake to make definite statements of their own feelings and impressions on these matters after their interviews with the applicants.  This information should be sent to us irrespective of the fact that we may have a record here having to do with a sealing cancellation.

We are sure you understand that the Church has always looked with disfavor upon divorce, and has discouraged it wherever possible.

A statement of the present worthiness of the applicant is of great interest to us, but the statement we need is as stated above.  The present worthiness is a matter for the determination of the bishop and president of stake, acting in their sound discretion.

4. We will ask bishops of wards and presidents of stakes to understand that the work in the First Presidency’s office is of such a character and quantity that it will take time to process these various applications that are made, and the applications should be made with this fact in mind.

Applications should be in the hands of the First Presidency at least three weeks before it is planned to use the recommend.

5. In the matter of keeping records of these divorce cases:  Each bishop should endorse in a clear hand on the first page of the membership card of the applicant and above the words ‘Husband and Wife (full name),’ the word ‘divorcee.’  Following this word one of the three following endorsements should be made:

‘First Presidency granted clearance _____ (date),’ if the First Presidency did clear the applicant; or, ‘First Presidency denied clearance _____ (date),’ if the First Presidency so ruled; or, ‘First Presidency postponed clearance _____ (date),’ if that was the action taken.”

(First Presidency Circular Letter, 15 Jul., 1953; xerox)