I've done some thinking the past couple days about why having a temple recommend is important to me. I'll be honest, I don't attend the temple often. I used to, but eventually it started to feel like tedious and boring work. I did not just have almost every single word of the entire endowment memorized, but I anticipated the length of every pause, each intonation, and every note of music. I eventually discovered that I could enjoy going to the temple far more the less frequently I went, and especially when I was seeking that extra boost of peace and inspiration that less-frequent attendance seemed to grant me. I realize that this is certainly not how most Latter-day Saints experience the temple, but it was worked best for me.
Far more than the ability to attend the temple, a recommend for me was a validation of my experience and disposition as a Mormon. It let me know that despite my sometimes different understanding of the gospel, I was still an accepted part of the community. It was for this reason that every time I went for a recommend I was totally honest with my bishops and stake presidents on my views related to the TR questions, even though I had no need to be. I wanted to know that I was accepted for who I was and with what I believed. And for every bishop and stake president I have had up until recently, they would say they saw no problem and gladly. For each of these previous leaders, the Church was big enough for even me.
This is why my TR's cancelation has been particularly difficult for me. While I try to remind myself that these are just two particular leaders out of many, and that there are many others who would accept me, it is still difficult to not feel like this is a rejection of me--a way of saying that I am not really welcome into the community of saints. And while there are many (and perhaps most) leaders who would accept me, this is a reminder that there are still many out there who would not. I have to be honest with reality. These leaders who have rejected me are not as much of an aberration as I wish they were. And there are, of course, many strong believing Latter-day Saints who share many of my views and would no longer be fully accepted into the community if leaders like these have their way--and in their wards and stakes, they can and do have their way.
However, not being fully accepted into the Church community involves more than just a sense of not being welcomed. Because the highest form of communal worship and relationship building happens within the walls of the temple, not having a recommend can cut a believing saint--can cut me--out of the events of the persons in my community that I love. Without a recommend, I am not able to participate in the weddings and sealings of friends and family. I am told that I belong outside the walls of the temples, with those who are explicitly not part of the community of saints.