Since I lack the time to post frequently, I’m going to begin calling attention to good papers that I think deserve wider circulation.
The first is Ed Kimball’s “History of LDS Temple Admission Standards” in The Journal of Mormon History, Spring (1998): 135-175. It has recently been made available both on the JMH DVD as well as on-line, from the University of Utah library, where you read it one page at a time from the menu on the left.
Kimball traces the requirements to enter the temple from Brigham Young’s day through today,the history of the Temple Recommend, and Temple Recommend interview questions.
In 1856, the Temple Recommend interview and questions had not yet been standardized to the semi-formal procedure it is today. The First Presidency sent a letter stating that those recommended by local leaders should
be those who pray, who pay their tithing from year to year; who live the lives of saints from day to day; setting good examples before their neighbors. Men and women, boys and girls over 16 years of age who are living the lives of saints, believer in the plurality [plural marriage], and do not speak evil of the authorities of the Church, and possess true integrity towards their friends.
Though the Word of Wisdom would not become a formal requirement to enter the Temple until the late 1920’s, in 1886 the First Presidency instructed, among other things, that it is”inconsistent to carry the smell of whiskey and tobacco into the sacred precincts of the Lord’s House.”
As the church grew, the interviews and requirements were standardized and refined, eventually giving us what we have today. While the specifics have varied, the primary requirements have changed little.
A fascinating and useful article for understanding the history behind Temple recommend interviews, listed in several places on the pages here at the Monastery. 4 thumbs up.