Revisiting the “Temple Worthiness” Requirement for LDS Employees

It is common knowledge that the LDS Church requires its employees, whether they work at the Church Office Building as a professional accountant, as an engineer in the former LDS-owned “Deseret Gym,” or as a custodian* in a temple or LDS chapel, to be temple recommend holding members of the Church. But how attenuated is that requirement in terms of people supplying things to the LDS Church?

Consider as a case in point the email (below the fold) I just got soliciting extras for an LDS Church film about prisoners of war during WWII (and, if you are interested and meet the requirements, by all means apply! 🙂 ):

PROJECT: Family History Matters
CASTING for Estonian (Baltic/former Soviet Union) and German Soldiers and a German Shepherd from the World War II era.

Dear Talent File Participant,

We are in need of EXTRAS to help portray a story played-out in flashbacks during the World War II era. The project is Family History Matters for the Family History Department of the LDS Church.

SCENE: Prisoners slog through the mud at a German Prisoner of War Camp.
NEEDED: Estonian Soldiers. German Soldiers (who actually speak GERMAN). A well-mannered German Shepherd dog.
Applicants should be Male, between 18-28 years old. German Guards may be slightly older. All applicants should be fit and lean as the exercises of war would have made them.

RATE: $100/day
SHOOT DATE: Tuesday, March 16, 2010 (May be a NIGHT shoot. Subject to change.)
LOCATION: Provo, Utah

ALL APPLICANTS must be temple-worthy members of the LDS Church. (If applicant doesnt have a temple recommend, we will need bishops information to clear them. And, the German Shepherds owner should be temple-worthy.)

Please REPLY to this e-mail ( by midnight, Tuesday, March 9th — Subject line: Estonia, with the following information:

(1) Applicants Full Name and AGE;
(2) Current Phone Number(s) where you may be reached;
(3) Are you with a talent agency? If so, which one?
For the DOG, please list here the owners information and tell us a little about your dog.
(4) A Current Photo of applicant taken within the last 3 months. .jpg or .bmp formats are preferred. Please save your file with applicants NAME.

Submissions will be presented to the project directors and we will notify you by Friday, March 12th, if you have been chosen. Thank you, very much, for your support of LDS Audiovisual productions! We look forward to your submission!

Perhaps it was overkill to include the entire solicitation since I am only focusing on one small portion of it, but thought someone in the bloggernacle might be interested.

Now, focus on the emphasized text – “ALL APPLICANTS must be temple-worthy members of the LDS Church. (If applicant doesnt have a temple recommend, we will need bishops information to clear them. And, the German Shepherds owner should be temple-worthy.)

So, not only do the extras need to be temple-worthy members, which kind of makes sense, I guess, but the OWNER OF THE GERMAN SHEPHERD should be as well. Interesting! I guess that the temple-worthiness of the German Shepherd’s owner might be somehow absorbed by the dog’s presence in the film, making the film that much more spiritual? I wonder if the props may only be rented from temple-worthy members? If the properties where such films are shot must be owned by temple-worthy members? How about the manufacturers of the video cameras? How far removed from an actual person or thing appearing in an LDS-produced film must a person be before there is no longer a temple-worthiness requirement?

I am poking a little fun at this because it seems like overkill – no real disrespect is intended. That said, is there some good justification (other than “the Brethren say so”), in the opinions of the readers, for requiring that even the owner of the a German Shepherd that appears as an “extra” in an LDS-made film be temple-worthy? Why require that for such an attenuated connection – the owner won’t even be in the film?

Just curious…

*As an interesting aside, since the LDS church requires that even custodians in its building be temple-worthy members, I wonder if or how the church gets around that requirement for the weekly building cleaning “assignments” so prevalent these days. I know personally that some of the people assigned are not temple recommend holders because we have purposely assigned people to do that who are working towards coming back into activity… Thoughts?

28 Responses to Revisiting the “Temple Worthiness” Requirement for LDS Employees

  1. Glenn Smith says:

    Perhaps the recommend requirement is to reduce the chance of embarrassment when actors subsequently appear in beer commercials, or publicly oppose the church. As for the dog owner, wouldn’t he be on set, perhaps even acting as the animal trainer, helping the animal to do its part, just off camera???

  2. Jordan F. says:

    Good points, Glenn.

    I do see the point of that – reducing the risk of “embarrassment” to the LDS Church – but holding a temple recommend now is certainly no guarantee that a person will always be temple worthy and will never participate in a film or commercial that embarrasses the LDS Church, right?. Is a temple-recommend holder forbidden to appear in a beer commercial?

    As for the dog owner- still not sure I understand that one. So if there is a chance that someone might be on the set, standing off-camera, temple recommend required? Why? That seems different than actively working for the Church.

    This matters because the LDS church enjoys a special exemption from religious discrimination in the workplace under a part of title VII, upheld by the Supreme Court in COP v. Amos. This exception, written into a 1972 amendment to Title VII, was held to be carried out with a permissible legislative purpose “to alleviate significant governmental interference with the ability of religious organizations to define and carry out their religious missions.” COP v Amos at 335.

    So the question is, does requiring that even the owner of a dog used on an LDS set somehow help the LDS church “carry out [its] religious missions?” How?

  3. jks says:

    I’m guessing that it is because the dog owner will get the paycheck. If you get a paycheck you have to be temple worthy?
    The dog isn’t getting the paycheck. Can you legally pay the dog owner with a paycheck?

  4. Jordan F. says:

    So the determination for who has to be temple-worthy is who gets paid. Interesting thought, jks…

    What about people who supply other goods and services to the church, but don’t actually work on site? They get paid by the LDS church, but I doubt a temple recommend is required for them. I also can’t imagine that the LDS church requires every independent contractor who sets foot in its places of employment to hold a temple recommend.

    Is it requiring those people who (1) get a paycheck from the LDS Church AND (2) work at LDS church sites that somehow helps the LDS church to “carry out its religious missions” in such a way that it is entitled to an exception under Title VII?

  5. DavidH says:

    Frankly, I was little surprised the German Shepherd dog itself is not required to hold a recommend himself or herself. It would bother me implicitly to compensate with tithing funds a dog that may not be complying with the word of wisdom (eating too much meat), tithing, attending Sunday meetings, or the laws of morality

  6. jks says:

    Perhaps it is only those who actually receive a “paycheck” rather than any kind of “check.” However, do extras in a movie always get a “paycheck” rather than a check as an independent contractor that would get a 1099? I am not an actor so I do not know. I just thought the paycheck idea might be the key. If they buy supplies from a company, no requirement. Hire a company to perform work, no requirement. Independent contractor, no requirement.

  7. Jacob J says:

    Yea, what DavidH said.

  8. Mark D. says:

    Independent contractors or consultants (of the sort who are usually hired through a consulting company for largely on site work) _are_ required to have temple recommends. Not sure what the exact boundaries of that requirement are.

  9. Paul says:

    Its all about tithing. A recommend-worthy member will be giving a 10% rebate to the Church. This results in a lower “net” cost of the film production than would be the case if goyim were hired in their stead.

  10. Jordan F. says:


    That is quite a cynical view, but it makes more sense than the metaphysical idea that requiring that even the dog’s owner hold a temple recommend will somehow increase the spirit felt by watching the film.

    Mark/JKS – but WHY?

    DavidH – it would bother me too. 🙂

  11. Mex Davis says:

    Just wondering about the guest performers we see when the MTC does a special broadcast or sometimes the church makes a movie (film) that has regular actors in it. Kind of keeps it in the family. Good policy for the most part. At least you know that the employee is OK at a certain personal level. Don’t have that process in the Gentile other than background checks. Kind like a national ID card or employment card. ‘Sir you were speeding. Can I see your drivers license, recommend and proof of insurance.’

  12. Hunter says:

    This goes back to what Glenn Smith said, but I remember hearing a rumor that one of the actors in the film “Legacy” was also a heavy smoker and was smoking on the set between takes. I have no problem with that, personally, but I can see how that might disturb some. Perhaps the Church wishes to avoid that sort of discomfort in the future, and hence, this policy.

    If so, rather than requiring temple recommends in all these attentuated cases, though, is to just have the actors, extras, (ahem) dog owners, etc., sign an agreement to abide by certain standards during the filming and production. ‘Twould be easier!

  13. manaen says:

    DavidH was quicker with his idea than me — I was wondering how you’d interview the dog for worthiness, who would translate?

  14. Mark D. says:

    Jordan F., I don’t know why, but I would guess that if a contractor/consultant is going to be on site for an extended period of time, it is simply seen as a matter of consistency with the rule for employees.

    As to the main reason, I suggest that the feeling is that the church is strengthened by employing its own members, and that the church feels it practically has a moral obligation to exercise such a preference rather than leave tithe/fast offering paying members unemployed or underemployed elsewhere.

    At the margins, though, sometimes I wonder if the Church wouldn’t be better off hiring inactive or non-members as well, if only for the purpose of building good will.

  15. Mark D. says:

    Or should I say that I think it should be a matter of discretion, rather than a hard and fast rule.

  16. DavidH says:

    FWIW, I understand that the Church’s for profit enterprises are generally equal opportunity, no restriction based on religion.

  17. davidr. says:

    As a former LDS meetinghouse custodian, I sometimes wondered if this temple-worthy policy wasn’t somehow violating the confidentiality that is supposed to exist between my bishop and me.

    • Jordan F. says:

      DavidR- that is an interesting point of view and one that I had not considered before. I think it probably does not violate confidentiality because there could be any number of reasons why someone does not have a temple recommend, including that one just never took the time to procure/renew one. Also, I don’t think the Bishop is the one divulging the lack of a temple recommend, but you yourself who is showing your recommend/lack thereof to get employment.

      I can see how it might be viewed as somehow violating the confidentiality we expect from our bishops, but ultimately I don’t think that is the case.

  18. m&m says:

    I can’t help but wonder if some of it may be about the spirit and focus they want to be able to maintain on set and with the film. I see that as being different than just supplying goods or other services — this is something that will be recorded and kept for a long time, and will be representing the church.

    • Jordan F. says:

      Of course that is part of what it is about. But it just seems silly to extend it so far- where does the line stop? But I do get the whole idea of maintaining a certain spirit and focus on the set – just hard to see how allowing a german shepherd whose owner is not a temple-recommend holder would detract from that.

  19. Mark Brown says:

    This raises so many questions. If the Westminster dog show is any indication, the owner has very little to do with the dog, and it is the handler whose recommend must be checked. What about caterers? What if one of them smoked a cigarette on the way to deliver food and brought the tobacco smell with him onto the set? Does that offend the spirit? What if the owner’s/handler’s recommend expires during the time it takes to make the film? Is the spirit only present in the part which was filmed when his recommend was valid?

    And all this overlooks the obvious. Since dogs have already perfected the ability to give unconditional love, they are already more spiritually advanced that 99% of the humans around them.

  20. KFITZ says:

    While I can’t speak to the worthiness of German Shepard owners. Legacy’s Eliza Williams is known for her shady IMDB profile both before and after her Legacy role ( I’m sure that has something to do with the policy in general.

    • Jordan F. says:

      Understood, Kevin. They should keep an eye on that dog, then, during and after the filming to ensure that it does not engage in gratuitous leg-humping. Because that would be embarrassing.

      In all seriousness, though, having a temple recommend during filming does not by any means ensure that there won’t be future “embarrassment.”

      And how does requiring that a featured dog’s owner have a temple recommend help in any way to save the church from embarrassment?

      This is probably a rhetorical question because I doubt there is a good answer, but I am still curious as to the limits of the temple-recommend policy. The owner of a dog shown on the film just seems attenuated enough to me that I don’t see the importance.

  21. JDH says:

    There was a home teaching training movie from the late-60s or early 70s which starred Mike Farrell as the concerned EQ President trying to get his quorum to do their home teaching. This was pre-MASH and, presumably, his pre-activist days. I’m sure there a several films from the Judge Whitaker days which featured non-LDS actors.

  22. Peter says:

    Interesting. Nice referenced to Corp. of the Presiding Bishopric v. Amos, by the way.

  23. Dr. Carl says:

    I am confident that the LDS Church policy makers have struggled as much – or very likely MUCH more – than you have with this issue. Requiring a Temple recommend for theses types of employment situations seems an irritating nonsensiclal issue on the surface. But upon further examination the BIG PICTURE reveals that the issue is one of reassurance that the freedom of exercising religion and the definition of that exercise is left to the religious community itself – and protected by law! AND if in the definition and exercise of the requirements of gainful employment with the religious organization certain standards of religious commitment are deemed important (as in LDS Temple recommend requirements), then why not require these standards across the board regardless of the nature of the tasks performed?

    We can laugh at the notion of the dog needing a Temple recommend, but in reality we know that it is the dog’s owner who is the one employed by the Church. A credible argument for the Temple recommend standard in this context may be the one that purports it adds a certain “spirit” to the productions. OR it may be the argument that says it protects against the wrong types of people portraying seriously sacred roles in Church films who are later found to be quite inconsistent in their personal lives with the roles portrayed.

    I am sure with further investigation we could all discover to what extent the Church applies the Temple recommend standards for emlpoyment (e.g. with contractors, suppliers, etc.).

    HOWEVER, I believe we should REJOICE in the BIG PICTURE that we live in a country under the rule of law that protects religious freedom to the extent that a religion can define and practice what it believes demonstrates commitment in performing any tasks. This applies even to having a dog perform in a movie (likely with the dog’s owner having the responsibility for that performance). And toward that end the dog and its owner do in fact become intruments in helping the LDS Church “carry out [its] religious mission”.

    Why do we need any other explanation?

  24. Brent says:

    Why should the church pay non-temple recommend holding people to do the Lord’s work? I think it make sence to take care of our own first as this will further the work of the Lord AND temple-worthy people, will on average, be better suited to push forward the church’s objectives.

  25. john f. says:

    I think the issue was whether the dog should have a temple recommend. Seemed kind of silly but mileage varies.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: