“31. Interviews and Other Meetings with Members,” General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2020).
“31. Interviews and Other Meetings with Members,” General Handbook.
Interviews and Other Meetings with Members
Jesus Christ often ministered to others one by one (see, for example, John 4:5–26; 3 Nephi 17:21). He loves each of God’s children. He helps them individually.
As a Church leader and servant of Jesus Christ, you also have opportunities to help God’s children, individually, in their spiritual progress. One important way you can do this is through interviews and other one-on-one meetings. Some of your most meaningful service will happen one on one. In these settings, you can give Christlike love, lifting up “the hands which hang down” and strengthening “the feeble knees” (Doctrine and Covenants 81:5).
In this chapter, the term interview refers to a meeting between a leader and an individual to determine whether the person should participate in an ordinance or receive a calling (see 31.2). In general, these interviews are conducted by a member of the bishopric or stake presidency. The term interview also refers to ministering interviews conducted by a member of the Relief Society or elders quorum presidency (see 21.3).
In addition to these interviews, there are many other reasons a Church leader may meet with individual members (see 31.3). For example, the bishopric has regularly scheduled meetings with each youth in the ward (see 31.3.1). Even if you do not serve in a bishopric, the bishop may ask you to meet with a member who is in need to provide ongoing support and ministering. Or a member may come to you when he or she is facing a personal or family challenge.
This chapter can help all leaders who have opportunities to meet with individual members. These leaders can include Relief Society, elders quorum, and Young Women leaders, ministering brothers and sisters, or others the bishop assigns.
If you have the responsibility to meet with a member, the Lord will bless you with the inspiration you need as you seek it. Prepare yourself spiritually through prayer, scripture study, and righteous living. Listen to the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. He will guide you with impressions, thoughts, and feelings. He can help you remember teachings you have studied in the scriptures and the words of latter-day prophets that can help the person you are meeting with (see Doctrine and Covenants 84:85; 100:5–8).
The Gospel Library has a collection of Counseling Resources. As you prepare to meet with a member, consider reviewing information about topics that apply to him or her.
The Holy Ghost can also guide the member with whom you are meeting. You might consider inviting him or her to prepare spiritually for your meeting as well.
Consider praying with the member as you begin the meeting. This can invite a spirit of humility and faith as you unitedly ask God for His help (see Doctrine and Covenants 6:32; 29:6).
During the interview or meeting, an issue or question may arise that you don’t feel prepared to address. You might suggest that you and the member each seek the Lord’s guidance—for example, through study, prayer, and fasting. You might also refer to relevant information in Counseling Resources or Life Help in the Gospel Library. Then you can meet again to discuss the matter further.
If the member has committed a serious sin, refer him or her to the bishop.
Help the Member Feel God’s Love
As a Church leader, you represent the Savior. An important part of His mission is to communicate God’s love to His children (see John 3:16–17). When members come to you for an interview or for help with a personal challenge, often what they need most is to know that Heavenly Father loves them. This love can strengthen them and inspire them to come unto Christ, repent of sin, and make good choices.
The scriptures and the words of latter-day prophets invite the Spirit and teach pure doctrine. Use them often, with sensitivity and love, when you meet with members. Use them to inspire and encourage, not to condemn, coerce, or cause fear (see Luke 9:56).
Schedule plenty of time for the meeting. The member should not feel that you are too busy. Give him or her your full attention.
Help the Member Draw upon the Savior’s Power
Jesus Christ took upon Himself our sins “that he might blot out [our] transgressions according to the power of his deliverance” (Alma 7:13). He also took upon Himself our afflictions, pain, and infirmities “that he may know … how to succor his people” (see Alma 7:11–12).
Encourage members to turn to Him. Help them draw upon His power to strengthen, comfort, and redeem. This power comes by exercising faith in Jesus Christ, following His example, receiving priesthood ordinances, keeping covenants, and acting on promptings from the Holy Ghost.
Help the Member Feel Comfortable and Safe
Some members have had experiences that make them feel anxious or overwhelmed when they meet with a Church leader. Seek ways to help them feel calm, safe, and comfortable. Find out from the member what you can do to help.
Always give the member the option of having someone else be present during an interview or meeting. When meeting with a member of the opposite sex, a child, or a youth, ensure that a parent or another adult is present. He or she may join the meeting or wait outside the room, depending on the preferences of the member with whom you are meeting.
If meeting at the meetinghouse makes the member uncomfortable, decide together on a different place to meet. Find a place where the Holy Ghost can be present and you can keep confidences. Also consider your own safety and the safety of the member. For information about meeting with members virtually, see 31.4.
Another important part of helping members feel safe is keeping confidences. Reassure the member that your conversation will be confidential.
Do not share confidential information with anyone—including your spouse or other Church leaders—unless the member gives permission. Continue to keep such matters confidential even after you are released. Breaking confidences can harm a member’s faith, trust, and testimony. Members are more likely to seek help from Church leaders if they know that what they share will be kept confidential.
For more information about confidentiality, including legal information, see 32.4.4.
Ask Inspired Questions and Listen Carefully
When meeting with a member, ask questions that help you understand his or her situation. Give the member opportunities to express his or her thoughts and feelings freely.
While the member is talking, listen carefully and attentively. Seek to understand fully before responding. If needed, ask follow-up questions to be sure you understand. But don’t probe unnecessarily.
Listening helps establish trust. It helps others feel understood, valued, and loved. People often need someone they trust to listen as they work through challenges. Listening can also help you open your heart to promptings from the Holy Ghost.
Because of your love for the members, you may want to immediately offer solutions to their problems. However, you will bless them more by helping them find their own solutions and make their own decisions (see Doctrine and Covenants 9:8).
Help them analyze their problems or questions within the context of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the plan of salvation. Teach them how to seek the Lord’s guidance through the scriptures, the words of living prophets, and personal revelation. In this way, you help members prepare to face other challenges in the future. They will also be better able to help others, including their families.
Support Efforts to Repent
Sometimes a member may seek help repenting of sin. There is much you can do to inspire faith in Jesus Christ and encourage the member to seek forgiveness.
Only the bishop or stake president can help a person resolve serious sins. Some of these are listed in 32.6. If the member has committed any of these sins, he or she should meet with the bishop or stake president right away.
Each bishop and stake president is “a judge in Israel” (Doctrine and Covenants 107:72). By this authority they help members repent of sin and come unto Christ, who forgives sin (see 32.1 and 32.3).
In these responsibilities, these leaders represent the Lord. They strive to use “the judgment which [He] shall give unto [them]” (3 Nephi 27:27). They teach that repentance includes exercising faith in Jesus Christ, having a contrite spirit, forsaking sin, seeking forgiveness, making restitution, and keeping the commandments with renewed commitment.
To help them fulfill their role, bishops and stake presidents are blessed with the spiritual gift of discernment. This gift helps them discern truth, understand a member’s heart, and identify his or her needs (see 1 Kings 3:6–12; Doctrine and Covenants 46:27–28).
Although confession occurs with a “judge in Israel,” with permission of the member, other leaders can give support in his or her efforts to repent. This is especially helpful when repentance will take significant time. See the last part of 32.8.1 for guidelines.
Respond Appropriately to Abuse
Abuse cannot be tolerated in any form. Take reports of abuse seriously. If you become aware that someone has been abused, report the abuse to civil authorities and counsel with the bishop. Guidelines for reporting and responding to abuse are provided in 38.6.2.
For information about what bishops and stake presidents should do when they become aware of abuse, see 22.214.171.124.
For information about helping victims of abuse, see “Abuse (Help for the Victim)” in Counseling Resources. You can also refer members to helpful resources about abuse in Life Help.
For information about helping victims of rape or other sexual assault, see 126.96.36.199.
Purposes of Interviews
In general, Church leaders interview members to determine whether they:
Are prepared to receive or participate in an ordinance.
Should be called to a position in the Church.
Most interviews of this kind are conducted by a member of the bishopric or stake presidency. They cannot be delegated to other ward leaders. However, a stake president may delegate some interviews to high councilors as outlined in the Chart of Callings (see 30.8).
Types of Interviews
The bishop is called as “a common judge” in his ward (Doctrine and Covenants 107:74; see also 7.1.3). The stake president also serves as a common judge (see 6.2.3). These leaders hold priesthood keys for authorizing ordinances. For these reasons, there are certain interviews only they can conduct. They can delegate other interviews to counselors. The following table lists who can conduct each interview.
Who can conduct the interview
Purpose of the interview
Who can conduct the interview
Purpose of the interview
Who can conduct the interview
Bishop or a counselor he assigns
Purpose of the interview
Who can conduct the interview
Stake president only
Purpose of the interview
Who can conduct the interview
Stake president or a counselor he assigns
Purpose of the interview
Full-time missionaries interview converts for baptism and confirmation (see 188.8.131.52).
Members of elders quorum and Relief Society presidencies conduct ministering interviews (see 21.3).
Baptism and Confirmation Interviews
Children Who Are Members of Record
The bishop holds the priesthood keys for baptizing 8-year-old members of record in his ward. For this reason, he or an assigned counselor interviews the following persons for baptism:
Children age 8 who are members of record.
Children age 8 who are not members of record but have a member parent or guardian.
Members of record ages 9 and older whose baptism was delayed due to intellectual disabilities.
In the interview, the bishopric member ensures that the child understands the purposes of baptism (see 2 Nephi 31:5–20). He also ensures that the child understands the baptismal covenant and is committed to live by it (see Mosiah 18:8–10). He does not need to use a specified list of questions. This is not an interview to determine worthiness, since “little children need no repentance” (Moroni 8:11).
Permission of parents or guardians is required before a minor can be baptized (see 184.108.40.206).
The mission president holds the priesthood keys for baptizing converts. For this reason, a full-time missionary interviews:
Persons ages 9 and older who have never been baptized and confirmed. See 220.127.116.11 for an exception for those with intellectual disabilities.
Children ages 8 and older whose parents are not members of the Church.
Children ages 8 and older who have a parent who is also being baptized and confirmed.
The missionary district leader or zone leader conducts the interview. For information about situations that require special authorization, see 18.104.22.168.
Each prospective convert should also meet with the bishop before baptism. However, the bishop does not interview him or her for baptism. Nor does he determine worthiness. The purpose of this meeting is to build a relationship with the person.
In the interview, the missionary follows the guidance of the Spirit to determine whether the person meets the qualifications described in Doctrine and Covenants 20:37 (see also Mosiah 18:8–10; Moroni 6:1–4). The missionary uses the following questions. He adapts them to the person’s age, maturity, and circumstance.
Do you believe that God is our Eternal Father? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior and Redeemer of the world?
Do you believe that the Church and gospel of Jesus Christ have been restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith? Do you believe that [current Church President] is a prophet of God? What does this mean to you?
What does it mean to you to repent? Do you feel that you have repented of your past sins?
You have been taught that membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints includes living gospel standards. What do you understand about the following standards? Are you willing to obey them?
The law of chastity, which prohibits any sexual relations outside the bonds of a legal marriage between a man and a woman
The law of tithing
The Word of Wisdom
Keeping the Sabbath day holy, including partaking of the sacrament weekly and serving others
Have you ever committed a serious crime? If so, are you now on probation or parole?
Have you ever participated in an abortion? (see 38.6.1).
When you are baptized, you covenant with God that you are willing to take upon yourself the name of Christ, serve others, stand as a witness of God at all times, and keep His commandments throughout your life. Are you ready to make this covenant and strive to be faithful to it?
For instructions if the person answers affirmatively to question 5 or 6, see 22.214.171.124. See also 126.96.36.199.
If the person is prepared for baptism, the interviewer fills out the Baptism and Confirmation Record (see 18.8.3).
Interviews for Ordination to an Office in the Aaronic Priesthood
The bishop holds the priesthood keys for conferring the Aaronic Priesthood. He also holds the keys for ordaining to the offices of deacon, teacher, and priest. The bishop or an assigned counselor interviews those who are to be ordained deacons or teachers to determine if they are spiritually prepared. The bishop interviews those who are to be ordained priests.
For more information, see 18.10.2.
Temple Recommend Interviews
The temple is the house of the Lord. Entering the temple and participating in ordinances there is a sacred privilege. This privilege is reserved for those who are spiritually prepared and striving to live the Lord’s standards, as determined by authorized priesthood leaders.
To make this determination, priesthood leaders interview the member using the questions in LCR (see also the guidelines in 26.3). Leaders should not add or remove any requirements. However, they may adapt the questions to the age and circumstances of the member.
Interviews for Ordination to an Office in the Melchizedek Priesthood
The stake president holds the priesthood keys for conferring the Melchizedek Priesthood. He also holds the keys for ordaining to the offices of elder and high priest.
With the approval of the stake presidency, the bishop interviews the member using the questions below. Before doing so, he verifies that the person’s membership record does not include an annotation, an ordinance restriction, or a Church membership restriction.
If, after the interview, the bishop feels the member is prepared to be ordained, he completes and submits the Melchizedek Priesthood Ordination Record. Then a member of the stake presidency interviews the member, also using the questions below.
A man who receives the Melchizedek Priesthood enters into the oath and covenant of the priesthood. This is described in Doctrine and Covenants 84:33–44. During the interviews, the bishop and stake presidency member make sure the member understands this oath and covenant and agrees to live by it. The leader then asks the following questions:
Do you have faith in and a testimony of God, the Eternal Father; His Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost?
Do you have a testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and of His role as your Savior and Redeemer?
Do you have a testimony of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Do you sustain the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the prophet, seer, and revelator and as the only person on the earth authorized to exercise all priesthood keys?
Do you sustain the members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators?
Do you sustain the other General Authorities and local leaders of the Church?
The Lord has said that all things are to be “done in cleanliness” before Him (Doctrine and Covenants 42:41).
Do you strive for moral cleanliness in your thoughts and behavior?
Do you obey the law of chastity?
Do you follow the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ in your private and public behavior with members of your family and others?
Do you support or promote any teachings, practices, or doctrine contrary to those of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
Do you strive to keep the Sabbath day holy, both at home and at church; attend your meetings; prepare for and worthily partake of the sacrament; and live your life in harmony with the laws and commandments of the gospel?
Do you strive to be honest in all that you do?
Are you a full-tithe payer?
Do you understand and obey the Word of Wisdom?
Do you have any financial or other obligations to a former spouse or to children?
If yes, are you current in meeting those obligations?
Are there serious sins in your life that need to be resolved with priesthood authorities as part of your repentance?
Do you consider yourself worthy to be ordained to an office in the Melchizedek Priesthood?
Other Opportunities for Leaders to Meet with Members
Leaders have many opportunities to meet with members individually. For example:
Members may ask to meet with a Church leader when they need spiritual guidance or have weighty personal problems. In some cases, the leader may feel prompted to arrange a meeting with a member. Members are discouraged from contacting General Authorities about personal matters (see 38.8.25).
In order to spend more time with youth, the bishop may delegate some of these meetings to other leaders in the ward. Members of the Relief Society, elders quorum, and Young Women presidencies can be particularly helpful. However, the bishop may not delegate matters that require his role as a common judge, such as repenting of serious sin.
The bishop or someone he assigns meets with members who have temporal needs (see 31.3.4 and 22.6).
The elders quorum president meets with each quorum member individually once a year. They discuss the well-being of the member and his family. They also discuss his priesthood duties. (See 188.8.131.52.)
The Relief Society president meets with each Relief Society member once a year. They discuss the well-being of the sister and her family. (See 184.108.40.206.)
A member of the bishopric meets with each 11-year-old as he or she moves from Primary to the deacons quorum or a Young Women class. During this meeting the bishopric member also interviews young men to receive the Aaronic Priesthood (see 18.10.2).
A member of the bishopric meets with members who are entering military service (see 38.9.2).
A member of the bishopric meets with each youth twice a year (see 31.3.1).
A member of the bishopric meets with each young single adult at least once a year (see 31.3.2).
Members of the stake presidency, bishopric, and other leaders meet regularly with leaders who serve under their direction (see 31.3.3).
When leaders meet with members, they follow the principles in 31.1.
For helpful information about specific topics that may arise when meeting with members, see Counseling Resources in the Gospel Library. Leaders can also refer members to the information in Life Help.
Meeting with Youth
The bishop’s foremost responsibility is to help the rising generation in his ward progress spiritually. One important way he does this is by meeting with the youth individually (or with another adult present; see 31.1.4). The bishop or one of his counselors meets with each youth twice a year. At least one of these meetings each year should be with the bishop. Beginning the year the youth turns 16, both meetings during the year should be with the bishop if possible.
In addition to these meetings, youth should feel free to counsel with the bishop whenever they need guidance or support. The bishop strives to build strong, trusting relationships with the youth so they feel comfortable counseling with him.
The Young Women president also has a responsibility to minister to individual young women. She can do this by meeting with young women one on one (or with another adult present; see 31.1.4).
When they meet with youth, leaders follow the principles in 31.1. Many of these principles are especially important when meeting with youth.
Communicating with Parents
In their efforts to strengthen the youth, leaders work closely with parents. They seek to support parents in their responsibility for teaching their children the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Leaders share the following information with the youth and his or her parents before their first meeting:
Parents have the primary responsibility to teach and nurture their children.
The bishop or one of his counselors meets with each youth at least twice a year. The Young Women president may also meet periodically with each young woman. In these meetings, leaders may answer questions, give support, extend assignments, and discuss topics listed in 220.127.116.11.
To help youth prepare spiritually, interviews are required for sacred matters such as temple recommends, priesthood ordinations, and mission calls. Leaders work with parents to help youth prepare for these interviews.
Parents encourage their children to counsel with the bishop or another Church leader when they need help with spiritual guidance or with repentance.
When a youth meets with a Church leader, a parent or another adult must be present. The youth may invite the adult to join the meeting or wait outside the room.
Topics to Discuss
The main purpose of meetings with youth is to build faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and help the youth follow Them. These meetings should be uplifting spiritual experiences. Leaders strive to help each youth feel loved, encouraged, and inspired to become more like the Savior.
The youth and the leader could discuss:
Spiritual experiences that are building the youth’s testimony of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the restored gospel.
How the youth is keeping his or her baptismal covenants.
The youth’s preparations to make and keep temple covenants.
The youth’s personal goals to become more like the Savior in all areas of life (see “Children and Youth”).
The importance of personal and family prayer and scripture study.
How to strengthen relationships with parents and other family members.
The principles and standards in the booklet For the Strength of Youth.
Ways the youth can participate in God’s work of salvation and exaltation (see 1.2).
With a young man, his experiences fulfilling his priesthood duties and his preparation to be ordained to the next priesthood office.
The blessings of participating in seminary.
Preparing to serve a full-time mission (see 24.0 and 24.3). The Lord asks every worthy, able young man to prepare for and serve a mission. For Latter-day Saint young men, missionary service is a priesthood responsibility (see Doctrine and Covenants 36:1, 4–7). The Lord also welcomes worthy, able young women to serve missions if they desire. For young women, a mission is a powerful, but optional, opportunity. Preparing for a mission will bless a young woman whether she decides to serve as a missionary or not.
Leaders should be sensitive toward those who may be unable to serve as full-time missionaries (see 24.4.4).
For information about service missions, see 24.2.2.
When discussing obedience to the commandments, leaders may refer to temple recommend interview questions and the booklet For the Strength of Youth. They ensure that discussions about moral cleanliness do not encourage curiosity or experimentation.
Meeting with Young Single Adults
The bishop places high priority on the spiritual progress of young single adults in his ward. He or an assigned counselor meets with each young single adult at least once a year.
The bishopric member and young single adult may discuss relevant items in 18.104.22.168. They could also discuss matters of special importance to young adults, such as developing self-reliance.
Meeting with Members to Discuss Their Callings and Responsibilities
Stake presidencies, bishoprics, and other leaders meet individually with members who report to them about their callings. For example:
The stake president meets regularly with each bishop in the stake (see 22.214.171.124).
A member of the stake presidency meets regularly with each elders quorum president in the stake (see 8.3.1).
The bishop meets monthly with the Relief Society president (see 9.3.1). He also meets regularly with the elders quorum president and Young Women president (see 8.3.1 and 11.3.1).
A member of the bishopric meets regularly with the Primary president and Sunday School president (see 12.3.1 and 13.2.1).
Members of the elders quorum presidency and Relief Society presidency meet with ministering brothers and ministering sisters (see 21.3).
In these meetings, the leader inspires and instructs the member in his or her responsibilities. The leader expresses gratitude for the member’s service and offers encouragement. The member reports on the progress and well-being of the people he or she serves. Together they discuss goals, challenges, and opportunities. As applicable, they also review budgets and expenses.
Meeting with Members to Discuss Temporal Needs and Self-Reliance
Caring for those in need is part of God’s work of salvation and exaltation (see 1.2). As leaders meet with members who have temporal needs, they help them address short-term needs and build long-term self-reliance (see 22.3).
The bishop may assign others in the ward, such as the Relief Society and elders quorum presidencies, to meet with members who have temporal needs. However, only the bishop can approve the use of fast-offering funds (see 22.6.1).
Additional principles and policies for helping those with temporal needs are described in chapter 22.
Meeting with Members about Marriage and Divorce
Church leaders should not counsel a person whom to marry. Nor should they counsel a person whether or not to divorce his or her spouse. While divorce is an appropriate option in some situations, such decisions must remain with the individual.
Following the guidance of the Spirit, Church leaders often meet with couples and individuals who are separating or getting a divorce. Leaders can also seek to help a couple strengthen their marriage. They teach about the strength and healing that come from keeping covenants they have made with the Lord and living His teachings. These teachings include faith, repentance, forgiveness, love, and prayer.
A member who is separated from his or her spouse or is going through a divorce should not date until the divorce is final.
Professional Counseling and Therapy
Church leaders are not called to be professional counselors or to provide therapy. The assistance they give is spiritual, focusing on the strengthening, comforting, redeeming power of Jesus Christ. In addition to this important and inspired help, some members may benefit from professional counseling where it is available. Such counseling or therapy can help members understand and respond to life’s challenges in healthy ways.
Meeting with a professional counselor to gain insight and skills for emotional well-being is not a sign of weakness. Rather, it can be a sign of humility and strength.
Members should carefully select reputable professional counselors who have applicable licensing. Counselors should respect the agency, values, and beliefs of those seeking help. Incorporating these values is ethically appropriate in professional counseling.
The Church opposes any therapy, including conversion or reparative therapy for sexual orientation or gender identity, that subjects a person to abusive practices. (See “Same-Sex Attraction” and “Transgender” in Life Help.)
In the United States and Canada, bishops and stake presidents may contact Family Services to identify resources to provide professional counseling in harmony with gospel principles. Contact information is given below:
1-800-453-3860, extension 2-1711
In other areas, leaders may contact Family Services staff or the welfare and self-reliance manager in the area office.
If members cannot pay for professional counseling on their own or through insurance, bishops may use fast offerings to assist (see 22.4).
Meeting with Members Virtually
Usually, leaders meet with members in person for interviews and to provide spiritual help and ministering. However, as an exception, they can meet virtually when meeting in person is not practical. For example, a member could meet with a leader virtually when the member:
Lives in a remote location and has limited ability to travel.
Has physical, mental, or emotional health challenges.
Is caring for someone who is homebound and cannot be left alone.
Interviews between mission presidents and full-time missionaries may also be held virtually, where approved.
Interviews and other meetings between leaders and members should not be recorded.
As with in-person interviews and meetings, the member may invite someone else to be present during a virtual interview or meeting.
When an interview for a temple recommend is held virtually, the new temple recommend may be sent to the member after it is signed by priesthood leaders. However, the stake clerk should not activate it until he has verified that the member has received it.