Can women with kids serve as temple workers? Not at my temple! Help?

Lots of mail this week about men, and women, and callings—but this writer stood out as someone who could benefit from a group perspective.

I am a faithful member of the church in the Washington, DC area. My husband and I have served as temple workers in the DC temple for the past two years. I recently learned that women temple workers are not permitted to continue working at the temple after they have children. This rule does not apply to men.  As you can imagine, I was horrified.  I could understand if couples were not allowed to continue working in the temple after they have children, but to single out women feels discriminatory and like it’s lessening the importance of fathers in the home.

My husband and I do not live a traditional marriage and, though we understand and acknowledge the Proclamation to the Family, we do not subscribe to the idea of “roles.” We both observe the work that needs to be done and we do it.

How women can reconcile their internal angst (for lack of a better word) against this unfair policy? I have been able to come to terms with many aspects of the unequal gender roles within our church, but I cannot seem to move on from this. We allow women to be Relief Society presidents, which takes 100% of any free time a woman may have, but she can’t spend twice a month serving in the Lord’s house for several hours.  

You know, dear DC friend, your note reminds me of a project undertaken by the mighty women (and men) of Feminist Mormon Housewives earlier this year.  It all began when one FMH blogger reported that a temple worker at her local temple had barred menstruating young women from participating in baptisms for the dead.

Good-thinking Mormon readers across the bloggernacle thought this was an unnecessary restriction that sent a wrong (and potentially shaming and deterring) message to young women.  It also seemed to suggest a negative view of menstruation that has no foundation in Mormon theology.  And so in a spirit of “cheerful Mormon helpfulness,” they developed a spreadsheet to gather information from across the country on whether the policy was in fact a POLICY (ominous clouds, thunderous music) straight from SLC or just a “policy” cooked up by rogue volunteers with authority issues.

What the crowdsourced research found was that of 68 LDS temples surveyed, 14 said “no baptisms during menstruation,” 15 said baptism with a tampon only, and 28 said no restrictions at all.

And with this data, it was then possible to elicit from Church HQ a statement that the policy was in fact not a POLICY but a “policy” cooked up by rogue volunteers. And poof!  The “policy” is gone.

I’m wondering if what you’re seeing at the DC temple is a POLICY or a “policy”?  Of course you are right that these kind of stances suggest that fatherhood is less serious a responsibility than motherhood—which is not at all how it is lived in LDS families like yours (or mine).  And of course stances like these make you all ragy and “angsty” in that they remind you of other gender imbalances in the Church.

But I wonder if there’s not room to address this and myriad other things that rub us the wrong way in the spirit of “cheerful Mormon helpfulness” that the brave crowdsourcing researchers at FMH modeled for us all.  After all, the real issue is that you love those peaceful hours working in the temple and you want to continue to help!

Readers, can you advise this week’s writer on steps she might take to address this issue?  Does anyone else’s temple have a policy like this?  And is it truly a POLICY or may it be yet another “policy” conceived and enforced by people who tend to get a particular charge out of strongly delineated gender roles and strict “policies” in general?

(And a note, dear readers.  Traffic has grown lately, but with it so has judginess and meanness from all points on the orthodoxy spectrum—ex-Mormons to TBMs.  And it makes me pine for the gentler, kinder days when it was just me and a self-selected crew of seekers speaking as gently, thoughtfully, and truthfully to perfect strangers as they would to someone they really, really loved.  So you know what?  I’m bringing the old days back, through a bigger dose of moderation.  Comment away—bring all your wisdom and love and humor.  Check the rest at the door.)

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89 Comments

Filed under working mothers

89 responses to “Can women with kids serve as temple workers? Not at my temple! Help?

  1. Th.

    .

    Temple policies vary from temple to temple. In Provo I remember an initiator who had a ponytail and wild facial hair. My father, who serves in LA, has to shave his mustache the weekends he serves which means if I happen to visit him then I can’t recognize him.

    One thing you can say for correlation is it helps prevent people riding their gospel hobbyhorses all over other people.

    • Jennifer

      Th. – thank you for your comment. I have struggled lately with the inability of some church members to separate Mormon culture from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I don’t think many people realize that there is a culture. The best thing about my struggle has been a desire to read the scriptures more and pray with more sincerity so I can distinguish between the two. And thank you, Joanna, for sharing the results of the Feminist Mormon Housewives efforts. Sometimes I get frustrated thinking that there’s nothing I can do to change things, and it’s nice to know that if women get involved, we can bring change and understanding into our church experience.

  2. Laura

    Also interesting to note, an unmarried male friend of mine who served as an ordinance worker was told that single men were not permitted to serve after age 30 (not sure if there was an upper limit on the prohibition–were widowed men in their 70′s permitted to serve? my friend didn’t know). There was no similar restriction at this temple for single women, who were permitted to serve at any age. I’d also like to know if this was a “policy” or a Policy.

    • A good friend of mine (single male) was prohibited from serving in the temple after he turned 31, even though he continued serving as the Stake Executive Secretary and was a great man. Looking back, that experience was, perhaps, one of the first in a long line of “punishments” for being a single male in the church that led him to stop going to church about 5 years later. I don’t see how asking a brother to stop serving in the temple somehow makes him any more likely to find a spouse or start a family. Certainly there is no correlation there.

      • Camylle

        I have to wonder if giving others an opportunity to serve has to do with this type of decision. Serving in the temple after age 31 doesn’t make him any more or less likely to get married and start a family, however there are many others who I’m sure would like to serve as well and what would be wrong with giving others a turn? Just another way to look at it.

    • Mindy

      My brother is 32 and single and serves as a temple worker…hopefully just a “policy”.

  3. When I was married, one of the Stake Presidency members pulled me aside and told me to involve myself in all the ordinances at the temple as they were considering putting my name forth as a temple worker. I was thrilled to hear this. A couple months later, my ex and I separated and eventually divorced. I moved away but was still a once a week temple goer and my heart still held to this belief that one day soon I’d be a temple worker. In discussing this with another divorcee, she advised me that according to church policy, divorcee’s cannot be temple workers until after five years has passed from their divorce. She personally had been a temple worker and when her divorce went through she was released as a temple worker, an event that caused a lot of grief for her. I’ve moved areas a few times since and every time I’ve discussed this with my priesthood leaders. I’ve been told by each of them this is church policy. It’s sad. The only way I have been able to remedy this for me personally is keep attending the temple and enjoy my own personal spiritual experiences I have there.

  4. The San Diego Temple had the same policy when I lived there a few years ago, although women with children WERE allowed to volunteer to clean the Temple. Go figure.

    I’m glad you’re going for stricter moderation. It’s too bad people can’t moderate themselves, but I think it’s definitely worth keeping a respectful, positive atmosphere

  5. Alan Taylor Farnes

    An almost identical POLICY/”policy” (although I think it is a POLICY) survives in Seminary and Institute where mothers with children living at home are not able to be employed as seminary teachers. Are we just as “horrified” at this rule? Or do you feel that is different because being a S&I teacher requires a greater time commitment than a temple worker?

    I do remember that when my wife and I worked in the Provo temple (about 2 years ago) a friend of ours did have to quit working at the temple after she had a baby.

    • Meidi

      My favorite seminary teacher was a mother with children still living at home, but her youngest was 15. Perhaps this is a newer policy, or perhaps we just did things differently out in the “mission field” AKA the world outside of Utah/Idaho/Arizona. Acctually, I know that we did some things differently, it was a bit of a culture shock when I moved to “Zion.”

      • Elyssa

        Part of that difference is that our seminary teachers are called, not hired. I don’t know anything about the hiring policies, just that the calling was held by a myriad of different people in my ward.

    • That is true for full time seminary/institute teachers, but not for early-morning seminary. Many women are allowed to teach seminary while they have kids at home.

    • Hannah Marie

      My friends mom was a seminary teacher in centerville ut when she had 4-5 children who were in school (k-12). She taught 3-5 years.

  6. Angela

    Check one for the Provo temple. I have worked there for three years as an ordinance worker and every woman who has had a baby has been automatically released.

    I will also comment that this one is more likely to be actual policy because it is being enforced by the presidency (two of them since I’ve been there) and not just by the workers.

  7. Rachel

    I was recently working in the San Diego temple, and while they did not allow mothers of young children to be ordinance workers they did allow us to be receptionists. So once a month I walked across the street to the temple and answered phones. It was not as spiritually uplifting and meaningful as being an ordinance worker, but I felt that I was maybe in some way showing them that I did have the time and I wanted to be there that one day a month. The DC temple is a big one, maybe they have similar opportunities. It’s not necessarily the answer either of us would want but it may be an in to help us continue building bridges to social progress within the church. BTW I just moved to the DC area and would be very willing to add my voice of support to this cause locally.

    • Vinniecat

      Why would a mother be allowed to answer phones but not to serve as an ordinance worker? What is the reasoning at play here? Apparently it’s not that we will not allow women with minor children to be away from those children to serve. What does this policy mean?

      • mary

        So if I’m understanding some of what I’m reading. It’s okay to be away from your children to do “woman’s work” like being a receptionist or cleaning, but ordinance work will keep you from being a mother????? Should not all the Temples have the same POLICY???? I’m not mad but I sure don’t understand or accept this. Seems there should be a better way of doing this that is more fair and equal.

      • Julianne Pickens

        Maybe because at the reception desk one of the phone calls may be an emergency call regarding a child of hers. If she were working elsewhere in the temple, the call wouldn’t have reached her.

      • Whoa. Talk about a double standard. Why are they considered “her” children? If the parents are married, the inability to reach a parent by phone should be a concern equally applicable to the husband as to the wife, no?

  8. Elle

    Sounds like time for another survey! I suspect HQ would be very surprised at the offensive little “policies” that have popped-up down here… I’d get all worked -up about it, but I’m off to hot yoga. Namaste.

  9. Mo-rose

    Unlike the menstruation “policy” this is not some random temple-specific policy. It is a churchwide policy that is found in the Handbook for Bishops and Stake Presidents (2010) under “Temple Ordinance Callings”: “Mothers who have minor children at home and brethren serving in bishoprics, branch presidencies, stake presidencies, district presidencies as well as brethren who are serving as Area Seventies may not be called as regular ordinance workers. However outside of the United States and Canada, they or any worthy members who meet the qualifications listed above may be called as restricted-service ordinance workers. They function in this assignment only when the need exists with organized groups from their own church units. They may also function with groups that have special language needs. Any exception to these policies require the approval of the First Presidency.”

  10. Mo-rose

    And to answer some of the other comments, other restrictions for ordinance workers listed in this same section include “2. Not have been divorced with the past five years, unless the divorce occurred before the member was baptized.
    3. If male and 30 years old or older, be married (widowers excepted). Unmarried brethren who are younger than 30 may serve as ordinance workers.”

  11. Yeah–I was specifically told by the Baton Rouge temple president that I would not be allowed to serve as an ordinance worker because I had school-aged children. But that my husband WOULD be allowed.

    And this was in response to a supposedly great need they had for Spanish-speaking ordinance workers (which I could have done).

  12. Meidi

    My mother and father served as temple workers in the Seoul, Korea temple (I think it was for one year?) when they were the parents of 7 children who were all living at home at the time. They only served one night a week and I believe one Saturday all day per month, that was the only time that there were English speaking sessions. I was drafted as the babysitter (as was usual) and I was glad to serve the temple indirectly in my own way!

  13. I’m not sure if this is an official policy throughout the church. But, I think the strictness of adherence to this “policy” could possibly be directed by the needs of each temple district. In my district, mothers with children at home cannot serve as temple workers. But, in my brother’s ‘small temple’ district, he and his wife both have separate nights that they work at the temple (they have 4 children ages 2-10). My guess is that their district is in need of sisters to work at the temple and so they have to open that up to mothers. Larger temple districts probably don’t have as difficult of a time finding sisters to serve that don’t have children at home.

    I think this can apply to why brothers with children can serve but sisters can’t. Could it be that it is harder to find worthy and willing brothers to serve in some areas?

  14. Vinniecat

    Sadly, as Mo-rose states, this is covered in the CHI and is Policy. I recall a woman from my ward waiting for her son to turn 18 so she could be called as a regular temple worker with her husband, who had held the position for some time. All my kids are in school now and I could readily work the same shift my dad does (8am – 12:30 pm 1 day/week) but alas, church Policy prohibits it.

  15. Marla

    I don’t know if this applies, but I served in the laundry directly after my divorce. I liked the laundry and didn’t have any desire to do ordinance work, but no one ever questioned my status except to try and set me up with their single sons.

  16. Autumn

    I think the policy is only loosely followed outside the U.S where they are more desperate to find temple workers. I know of a single mom of three young children in Ecuador who served as a regular ordinance worker in the temple there. And when I was at BYU I had a roommate from Hong Kong whose mother was a regular temple worker in the Hong Kong temple even though she had a sixteen-year-old son who still lived at home. My roommate laughed at me when I said her mother wouldn’t have been allowed to serve in the Provo Temple — because, hello, what was wrong with a woman spending all that time at the temple while her teenaged son was in school?

  17. Linda Batchelor

    In my temple mothers with children may serve as volunteers and therefore serne in many “ordinance-type” assignments. I do not know the origin of that policy but we could not do without our volunteers. Also men who are members of a bishopric, branch presidency or stake presidency serve only as volunteers, not as ordinance workers. As the years go by I continue to hear temple “cultural” statements.

  18. I would imagine the policy was put in place to keep mothers from being overwhelmed with their responsibilities, since children can be demanding, the same way the husband of a RS pres is not supposed to have a time-intensive calling. I’m not a temple worker, so I don’t know how this works, but isn’t working at the temple a calling you ask for instead of one that’s issued from a bishop or stake president? Other callings are voluntary, too, but we’re encouraged to accept them. So if it’s a calling you feel you’re “supposed” to accept, I can see why they don’t want mothers with small (though 17 is not exactly small) children to feel pressured into service. But if it’s one you sign up for because you want to serve, to me it makes more sense to trust people to figure out the best way to spend their time themselves.

    • Beatrice

      Yes, I would imagine that the intention behind the policy is to not overburden mothers with young children. However, I think in practice the policy sometimes hurts families more than helps them, esp. when the husband is called to be a temple worker. If you are at home with your kids all day, I would imagine that you would love some quiet time in the temple every week. Also, your husband would probably love more time with the children instead of coming home from work and then leaving to go to the temple soon after.

    • Lori

      I learned of this policy 16 years ago when I started the process to become a temple worker. I was newly married and was asked if I had kids. They then explained that if I had kids I couldn’t serve. I was rather taken aback and never ended up being a temple worker.

  19. Tina-bina

    This is not a policy that is being applied in areas with fewer members. I know of several women with younger children who have been called and served as temple workers in the Stockholm, Sweden temple.

  20. Jax

    In Atlanta, I know of one instance where a stay-at-home mother of 3 kids (one in middle school, one in high school, and one away at college) DOES serve in the temple one day each week.

    Incidentally, I have a friend in Atlanta who just had her 3rd baby a couple weeks ago. Her husband was just called to be an ordinance worker. Talk about bad timing!

    I previously lived in Detroit, and it was my understanding that women with children at home could NOT serve in the temple, while their husbands could.

  21. cappy5

    The policy is alive and well in the Hartford area. Our temple has been announced and it has been explained numerous times that a large number of ordinance workers are going to be needed. However, mothers with children at home under the age of 18 need not apply.

    By the time the temple is complete I will likely have one child left at home- probably 15-16 years old at that time- rarely home herself. I do struggle to understand the policy.

  22. Sorry for the side note, but as far as in the moderation note, where it is stated “ex-mormons and TBM’s,” what are TBM’s?

  23. Kelly S.

    When I was a temple ordinance worker in Michigan, women with children were not allowed to work in the temple but their husbands were called as ordinance workers. The case for this in Michigan was that although attendance statistics were extremely low, the majority of those who were attending were women. Ordinances (aside of washings & annointings) could not be performed without priesthood holders–thus the reason for loading men/husbands with more callings to work in the temple. Also, girls were not allowed to participate in baptisms for the dead at this temple if they were menstruating.

    (ps I was asked to give the closing prayer in sacrament meeting one week–it wasn’t on the program–the person who was supposed to say it wasn’t there and the bishop just said Kelly S will give the closing prayer)

  24. Holly

    I’m not Mormon or interested in becoming Mormon; still, I feel blessed to be able to read people’s questions and Joanna’s answers and others’ responses. We live in a big, complex world where spirituality is my anchor. I find thoughtful consideration from all quarters helpful, and AMG is not only one of the best, you are also pretty regular in posting, which I appreciate. Thanks for all you do, for your caring outreach to all of us.

  25. I volunteer in the Rexburg temple and I have heard of this “policy,” though it is my understanding that the policy only applies to ordinance workers (I volunteer as a runner, which means I walk around the temple picking up names to be recorded). Interestingly enough, one of my friends volunteers as an ordinance worker and is pregnant (and I believe she was pregnant when they trained her). It seems odd to me to let her enjoy that service for such a short period of time if she’s just going to be told that she has to wait at least 18 years (depending on how many kids she has) before she can continue that service.

    • mike

      In my experience, the turnover rate for temple ordinance workers is moderately high. I know of many people (myself included) who have only served for a year, or two, or three. In that sense, it is very much like most callings in the church. Most of the turnover has little to do with pregnancies, but instead is due to health conditions, job transfers, lack of time, etc. At a recent stake conference, our temple president spoke about more members becoming ordinance workers. He said that he would love to have people commit to the calling for as long as possible, but it was most important that they be committed for whatever time that they will ultimately be able to serve (long or short). He went on to say that he wants ordinance workers to enjoy all of the blessings of the temple for whatever time period that they serve, and for them to see the time served as a wonderful opportunity and blessing. The first time I served in the temple was only for a short period, and yet I would not trade it for anything. Six months, 18 months, 10 years–any time serving in the temple is worth it.

  26. DWK

    Per Volume 1 of the Handbook of Instructions 2006 page 89 states:

    “To be considered for callings as temple ordinace wrokers, members must:
    1- Be endowed, comply with temple covenants, and qualify to hold a temple recomment.
    2- Be experienced in living gospel principles.
    3- Be mature in their knowledge of the restored gospel.
    4- Have belonged to the church for at least one year.
    5-Not have received formal Church discipline or a restoration of blessings withing the past five years.
    6-Be in good health
    7- Be emotiionally stable.
    8- Be respected in the community.
    9- Be married, if a male over 30 years old (widowers excepted)
    10- Not have been divorced, after baptism, within the past five years.
    11. Never have received formal Church discipline for sexual abuse or had their membership record annotated.”

    “Mothers who have minor children living at home and brethren who are serving in bishoprics, branch presidencies, stake presidencies, or district presidencies, as well as brethren who are serving as Area Seventies, may not be called as regular temple ordinance workers. However, outside the United States and Canada they or any worthy members who meet the qualifications listed above may be called as restricted-service ordinance workers. They function in this assignments only when the need exists with organized groups from their own Church units. They may also function with groups that have special language needs. Any exceptions to these policies require the approval of the First Presidency.”

    So yes it is a standard policy that women with minor children living at home cannot be called as temple workers and I think this is discriminatory as I also believe the policy that allows single women over 30 to be workers but not single men of the same age is discriminatory.

    • mary

      Well at least I understand it better. But maybe a change is coming????

    • Kelly S.

      So Rule #9 excludes all gay men over 30–because they can’t get married

      and #11 excludes all gay people who have had a sexual indiscretion–they get the little red asterisk next to their name–just ask Benji Schwimmer .

  27. xenawarriorscientist

    Look everyone, the CHI gives built-in instructions on how to address this policy! “Any exception to these policies require the approval of the First Presidency.”

    The church just recently made a big overhaul in gender equity for mission calls. I don’t see any reason that temple service can’t be next. I would bet that SLC may not even be aware that this rule causes problems for people. They won’t find out unless people tell them. Hint hint. FMH?

    • Michelle

      Along with that note, the age change for missionary service came about as a result of bishops making requests for young men to leave on their missions at age 18. Families talked to bishops, bishops requested Salt Lake. The Brethren were willing to consider it, based on good reasoning and faithfulness of those requesting. They tried it out and found it to be a very good thing. So, they made it Policy. I found the whole proceeding thrilling. Approach with humility and faith, not anger or self-righteous indignation. If an individual feels strongly that they should be an exception, he/she should talk with their bishop and if he agrees, he can be an advocate for him/her. If the answer is no, however, at whatever step in the process, don’t throw away your faith. That’s not worth it.

      When I was a single college student about to graduate I felt prompted to begin preparing to go to the temple. I talked with my bishop and he supported me. We set a date a few months forward. Soon after, I became engaged to my boyfriend, and Policy was beginning to be more strict that an engaged individual should wait until the week of the wedding before going to the temple for the endowment. I felt like my endowment was for my personal growth and salvation, not just a stepping stone to marriage, so I requested that I be allowed to keep the date that was already set, since the wedding would not be for another few months beyond that. I met with my bishop and my stake president and they both gave the approval. I was really grateful for that and began to develop a personal love for the temple as I attended.

      However, if I’d been asked to wait, in the end I would have still gained the same blessings and nothing would have been lost. If we are asked to wait, then wait. And not with bitterness. There are so many ways to serve in the Church and so many ways to be touched by the peaceful beauty of the temple ordinances, even if we are not serving as a called ordinance worker at the time.

  28. mike

    I have worked in a couple of different temples as an ordinance worker, once when I was single and for the last few years with my wife. Our temple district has a general policy of calling couples to serve in the temple together. In other words, a husband will not be asked to serve in the temple unless his wife is also asked. It is possible that one spouse may decline the call, such as a friend of mine whose wife serves in the temple but he cannot due to a physical disability, Still, the preference is for couples to serve together.

    As for releases, there is a policy of a release being issued if a woman becomes pregnant. Although I suppose the husband could continue to serve at the temple after his wife is released, I have never seen it happen. In each instance where this happens, the husband and wife usually talk to temple presidency before the baby is due and simply confirm when there last day will be to work. This is somewhat similar to my wife and I recently being released. I was called into the bishopric, so I was released. My wife thought about continuing on in her service in the temple, but ultimately we both informed the temple presidency of my new calling and then asked to be released. It was a somewhat sad occasion for both of us because we loved working in the temple together and found it to be one of the greatest highlights of our marriage.

    Not long thereafter, I met with my stake president who asked how I was adjusting to my new calling in the bishopric. I mentioned that the most difficult transition was for my wife and I to be released from the temple. He smiled and noted that there is a time and a season for all things. There is a time to work in the temple and then there is a time to work in the bishopric. And, as my wife stated when reading this post, there is a time to work in the temple, and to revel in that time, and there is also a time to be with your children, and revel in that time (which will be gone in the blink of an eye). I found these answers to be satisfying and have seen these principles (of times and seasons) run throughout the course of my life. It is simply another time and season that has passed.

    • Maria

      I could not agree more! My oldest daughter is almost nine! My baby just turned two! I remember holding my oldest in my arms as she was just a couple of minutes old, and now she is this beautiful young lady……… it goes way too fast, dear Sisters. Take advantage of every single moment you have with your children while they are still children! There is a season for everything. When it is your season, you will know, and you will love the time you serve in the temple. Until that time, make regular visits to the temple and bask in the peaceful joy that can be felt in the temple.

  29. Anth

    My mother just started serving one day a week at the Palmyra temple, and my youngest brother is 16 and still lives at home. There aren’t a lot of members in upstate NY.

  30. Curious, yet not surprising. . . Sorry I can’t help with insights, but the “mom can stay home and tend the kids while dad goes to serve in the temple” thing really spikes my BS meter. Or, rather, GI (gender inequality) meter. Thanks for posting this question. I honestly had no idea about any of it.

  31. Angela

    I have never left a comment on this blog before but have been reading lately to better understand my more liberal member friends. I must admit that I don’t experience the same frustrations that you and many of your readers do but it’s nice to understand them better. I also like that you do your due diligence on topics rather than just lending your perspective.

    That being said I currently live in the DC temple region but have lived in both the Detroit and Chicago temple areas as well. Detroit and Chicago observe the “policy” that no female may work in the temple as a calling with school aged (or younger) children at home.

    I’m fine with the policy but have never had the opportunity to be a temple worker so perhaps I just don’t know what I’m missing. It’s nice to believe that fathers and mothers offer perfectly equal roles in their children’s lives (I don’t believe we do) but in the church we are taught that we have specific and different roles (not unequal, just different). I am grateful that during this extremely busy time in my life I will not be asked to serve in a calling that requires me to leave my home for several hours during the busy school week, especially when this calling can be filled by sisters whose children have left the home or sisters whom have yet to have children. I am sure my time will come and the weekly solace of the temple will be a welcomed calling, after all our time is so valuable and yet most fleeting.

    • My first time to comment on AMG! I have not yet had the opportunity to serve as a temple worker, even though my youngest is 26. I’m sure it will be a lovely experience some day, but for now my life is full with full-time teaching (public school) and a demanding ward calling (YW president). I agree with Angela’s comment about the different seasons in our lives. I remember wishing when my children were young that I could serve in the temple. It seemed like such a peaceful place to be, in contrast to the busy chaos at home. I do find it easy to support the policy of not serving as a temple worker for the first 5 years after a divorce. Having “been there, done that,” I can say that in my own experience, it took at least that long for my spirit to calm down. This was true even though I was the one who initiated the divorce, and even though I remarried (happy marriage) within that 5-year period. There are just a lot of issues to attend to, a lot of healing needed, and I don’t think I could have brought a spirit of peace with me on a consistent basis.

  32. B

    I served as an ordinance worker in the Boston temple prior to the birth of my daughter, and it was one of the sweetest experiences of my life. I was released officially on the day she was born, and although I enjoy being a stay at home mom very much, I wish I could still serve in that capacity even just a couple shifts a month, rather than wait until I’m an empty-nester to serve that way again. While I do, of course, feel peace and joy from attending as a patron, the experience of serving as an ordinance worker is so different, and I miss it deeply. It was such an anchor in my life at the time I did it, and I could use that source of refuge as a mom. I hope this policy changes. I’ve struggled to understand the gender discrepancy, as well.

    • Michelle

      I’ve never been an ordinance worker yet, but recently I started working on family history. I discovered a virtual gold mine in ancestral names and records. It has been so exciting. My husband and I have been able to begin the ordinance work for my deceased ancestors and found it to be incredibly profound and joyful. Attending the temple has taken on an entirely new meaning and purpose. I had never felt the real power of the temple so strongly as I do now, doing this work for my own kin. If being an ordinance worker is sweet, imagine holding a card with your very own great-great-great-grandmother’s name on it; being baptized for her, confirmed for her, doing the initiatory and endowment for her, and then to kneel across the altar with your own sweetheart in order to have her sealed for all eternity to her own sweetheart. WOW. I’ve never felt so humbled and privileged to serve in all my life. The temple is the great equalizer. Really. It’s all about the salvation of individuals and families. After the tumult of this life, if those ordinances have been done, nothing has been lost and everything has been gained!

  33. RT

    I remember the no menstruation “policy.” It was alive and well in Michigan when I was growing up. And at BYU while I was there. I didn’t get to go to the temple for years because of serious bad timing. I considered lying- but that felt weird.

    My mom wasn’t allowed to work in the temple for years because of her divorce from my dad (who had been excommunicated for like 16 years). It was pretty rough for her since all she wanted was to work in the temple (and the temple was a 15 minute drive from her house).

  34. I started serving as a veil worker around 1997, when my youngest was six. I would come early every Saturday morning to help with the Spanish session. I did have special permission. The temple presidency knew I was doing this, and frankly were grateful because they needed lots of Spanish-speaking obreras. Last year, the temple president called me to see if I’d be willing to be a full-time ordinance worker. I accepted. Now I go to the temple at 10:30 every Saturday and (with my current line) finish at 4:30. I love doing it, though you should know that f/t temple work is tiring. There are several men who come in just for a few hours on Saturdays to help at the veil. Just more info.

  35. Also, readers should know that ordinance workers go in once a week for a shift. This is not a daily thing. Some temples, such as Atlanta’s, are open only a few days during the week.

  36. Nellie

    Wait! Their record cannot be annotated? I thought someone said before that people who identify as gay or lesbian have their records annotated? Can gay or lesbians the. Not be temple workers? I am confusing myself here.

  37. Maria

    Also, just on a statistical note, they usually need about three times as many male workers than female workers, as that is the nature of the endowment ceremony.

  38. Kristen S.

    I don’t know if it is truly a church policy but I know that was true in NY and the Boston temple where my parents worked.

  39. E.D.

    I’d like to see a survey of temples that prohibit male ordinance workers with facial hair. My parents were interested in becoming ordinance workers at the Palmyra temple until my father was prohibited due to his beard and moustache both of which he’s had for 40+ years.

  40. Teri

    I’m 54 years old and being turned away from baptism for the dead in Salt Lake City after I’d planned to go with my MIA pals, is still fresh in my mind. It wasn’t so much the “policy” but the fact no one mentioned it until we were sitting in the locker room getting ready to go in, thus making the explanation I had to make to all my friends (male and female) when I didn’t join them a little awkward. I’ve heard the same policy/non policy when it comes to funeral music at LDS wards. My mother and I were to sing at an aunt’s service performing a perfectly lovely song we’d sung in many ward funerals before, but this particular bishop said we HAD to sing something from the hymn book. Nothing else. Hence, we threw together a rendition of The Lord is My Shepherd.

    • Camylle

      Interesting. I remember when I was a youth and went to the SL temple to do baptisms and they gave my friend a tampon so she could do baptisms.

  41. Anonymous

    I can not speak for the church at the general level because I don’t know how things function at that level. At the local stake and ward level this is why it is so important that women’s opinions are solicited and listened to in Stake and Ward councils. It is so difficult to consider every point of view in “policy” decisions. Sometimes in Stake and Ward Council settings people are afraid to voice dissenting opinions but we need to get better at hearing everyone’s voice. I am optimistic that recent changes in the handbook and training will be embraced by the church.

  42. Violet

    It sounds like this is a capital-P Policy, and that disappoints me. I’m not defending it, but I did think of one possible reason for it. I have known many, many women suffering with infertility who have found comfort and meaning by serving in the temple. Perhaps this is a way to encourage more women in that situation to serve?
    On the other hand, just as many LDS men suffer from infertility as do LDS women, and the policy does not apply to them. It’s too bad – it is policies like this one (and the one about single men over 30) that undermine our sincere efforts to serve. It reminds me of how I felt when I wanted to serve a mission at age 19, and couldn’t.

    • Violet

      I’ve been thinking, and it would be so much better for intense positions in the church, such as being a mission president, general authority, bishop, stake president, maybe even temple worker, was a call issued to couples. I think there is an unofficial sense of this already (as in couple missionaries and temple presidents). We already view Diety as a joint effort of God the Father and God the Mother; it would be nice to make our efforts to become more like them in a church setting more official. Think of the good that could come of it, and how much easier it could be on families, congregations, and the couple serving.

      • Camylle

        <3!!! That makes SO MUCH SENSE!!!

      • utahcanadian

        I’ve noticed more of a tendency to call couples together at the ward level, for Primary teachers, Scouting leaders, and family history consultants.

      • Carol

        Usually it is, no man is ever called to an intense position without his wife in attendance. if they are it is the folly of that bishop and not the church policy. I liked “Mike’s” response above.

  43. Holly’s comment is my comment, too. Thanks to this site.

  44. laura

    What does this mean: “My husband and I do not live a traditional marriage”? I’m sort of a curious outsider so I was just going to guess that meant, SAHM/working dad?

  45. Temple orfan

    I do agree that the policy should be equal. And that if anyone wants to be a temple worker – as long as they have a recommend – they should be able to (without all the conditions). However, as a child who was totally neglected by her parents as she grew up with their endless time spent doing callings and temple work, I’d add a word of caution. When I asked my father recently if he remembered spending any one on one time with me as a child he said he could not. I think there are times and seasons in life. Being an LDS member already takes endless amounts of time. If you have only 2 weeks vacation a year and you spend most of your time at church on a Sunday – if you do temple work on a Saturday that is really tough for the children. They are only young for a short time – as an adult I virtually have no relationship with my parents now. There was simple no foundation in my early years to build on. I do agree – the policy should be the same for men and women. A survey sounds like a good idea.

  46. Jenn G

    I currently work as a “volunteer”, which means I have a set date to serve with or without my husband. If I needed to cancel my shift, I am able to do that. If I were an assigned temple worker, I would have a set schedule, am responsible to find a replacement if I am not able to work my scheduled shift. I currently have one teenage son, 14 yrs. old, at home, and therefore I am not able to work as an assigned temple worker.
    I find it refreshing that I can volunteer and not have to be tied down to a schedule, especially when I have a child at home that may need me for some reason. And last I checked, you can’t have your cell phone in your pocket to recieve any calls during that time.
    I don’t see a problem with having children at home and not being able to be an assigned temple worker. I want the freedom to be at my child’s beakon call and they do come first.
    I’ll have many years as a retired old lady to work in the temple. Until then, I can attend the temple whenever I want, for my personal worship experience and can do it on my own schedule. (And yes, it is church policy that you cannot work in the temple when you have children) See church handbook at lds.org

  47. I’m so glad you addressed this, because I was going to email you and ask about a similar but separate policy. I don’t know if anyone else has brought this up yet (I’m on a break in between classes at college and don’t have time to read through the comments– I will come back later!), but the policy is the same for women who teach seminary and institute as it is for the temple. Women who teach seminary or institute are “let go” from their positions once they have children, with the rationale that it’s more important for them to stay home with their kids than work. I don’t necessarily disagree with that (I am really hoping that one day when I have kids, I can be a stay at home mom at least when they are little), but what irks me is that apparently women can still work as secretaries in the office, even if they do have kids, which seems like a horrific double-standard to me. How can it really be an issue about whether the woman in question has children if they’ll still allow her to work in the office? Another thing I have a hard time swallowing is that outside of Utah where teaching seminary is a calling within the church instead of a paid job, women who have kids at home can be seminary teachers. That, to me, sends the message that women can teach seminary even if they have minor children– as long as they’re not being paid and are doing it voluntarily instead. CES’s policy about the employment of women has bothered me for years, and I honestly believe it was a key factor in why I chose not to take seminary in high school and why I am still struggling to decide whether I want to enroll in institute at my university. Any input? Advice? Ideas?

    • utahcanadian

      I think a lot of the issue is the example that CES teachers are supposed to set. They are to be role models for the students! The model to be set is to be stay-at-home mothers if possible. And it’s kind of nice that there is a system acknowledging that becoming a mother is a priority for a woman which naturally requires a change in her schedule, instead of most jobs that pressure one to stay. That said, there are still positions available for working moms who may need the income. This doesn’t apply to seminary teachers outside of Utah, because they are not full-time employees. It has nothing to do with whether they are paid, nor their ability to teach. They simply are working much fewer hours.

      Go to Institute. It is such a blessing, on so many levels. I attended Institute classes for several years while I was single, although I had already mostly completed the Institute program while I was in college. In Utah, I had so much choice in classes that weren’t available when I lived in Canada. I learned much, felt the Spirit, had fun at activities, met great people, and made good friends.

    • fpstudio123

      This may be true for full-time CES teachers in UT. I was asked to be a seminary teacher in PA when I had an 18-month-old and a 3-week-old. Clearly policies are thrown out the window when there is a desperate need.

  48. Bryan in VA

    I was a “victim” of the Over Thirty Single Male (OTSM) policy many years ago. Around 1997, the Washington DC Temple President felt inspired to keep that temple open all night on Fridays and that the singles wards in the area needed to staff those all-nighters. The brethren in the area singles wards were composed of perhaps 30-40% OTSMs and the singles ward bishops were worried that they wouldn’t be able to meet their Friday night staffing commitments. They requested a policy change from Salt Lake and were denied. OTSMs were restricted in the sense that they could not participate directly in ordinances. But they could work on the periphery, such as, the recommend desk and were often given patron assignments also. They also had name tags that identified them as restricted workers. (One married temple worker commented that his single daughter loved the OTSM name tags because she knew exactly who was available!) When I was set apart as a restricted worker I was told in the blessing that I would come to know that my calling was not a lesser calling or penalty for my OTSM status. I was then blessed that very night to receive inspiration as to why that was the case before I left the temple. That experience is just one of many spiritual experiences that keep my testimony hopefully strong. So in the end I was not a victim because of this seemingly unfair policy, but rather I was blessed because of it.

    I dedicate Psalms 84:10 to all temple recommend desk workers: For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.

    And it was a pleasure to meet Joanna at my parents’ ward today.

  49. April

    “Mothers who have minor children living at home may not be called as regular temple ordinance workers.” in my opinion is a wise policy! It simplifies and protects children, mothers, and overtaxed, tired, harried, perplexed Bishoprics and Branch presidencies.
    It is a safe-guard for the needs of children.
    When i was a child, I too felt like every other activity my parents were involved in was more important than me, the church took priority over my physical and emotional needs. Thank you Temple orphan for your well written comment on that.

    Mike said “In my experience, the turnover rate for temple ordinance workers is moderately high. I know of many people (myself included) who have only served for a year, or two, or three. In that sense, it is very much like most callings in the church.”
    Temple leaders, the ones that have to schedule and assign where the team of ordinance workers will serve on a given shift. And supervise the training of the ordinance workers to make sure everything is done with exactness, and correctness. Need to know that those who say they are coming will be there on the appointed day and time. And it is nice that once you get a person completely qualified to fulfill all assignments an ordinance worker can do that they then serve for a long period of time.
    Speaking from a pragmatic point of view- Children get sick, and the more children you have, the more days you have sick children at home. A child who is sick generally prefers to be at home in their own bed with the mother near by. The policy simplifies things for the mother and the temple.
    If a mother with children at home has time for the temple than she can be a patron. That is exceedingly good service to give and is more flexible for meeting the needs of children. The Cleaning service opportunity is also flexible, not an insult to the talents of women.
    Imagine if you will, a child gets seriously hurt, is bleeding profusely, has a concussion, is vomiting violently. The child needs and wants their mother there quickly to care for and seek medical attention as soon as possible.
    They don’t want to be kept at the school health room, or at the home of strangers, neighbors, or babysitters until their mother comes home from her shift at the temple and travels home. (my drive to the Preston Temple was at the least 1 1/2 hours one way on a good day. Could be 3 times that!) There are no cellphones allowed inside the temple and ordinances should not be interrupted.
    I think in most cases for a mother with young children to petition the First Presidency for an exception to the rule would be a sign of disrespect for the Church and its leaders. We temple recommend holders covenant to sustain and respect our church leaders. To buck up against a rule that is set in place to simplify lives is not, in my opinion, sustaining the church leaders.
    as previous comments have stated -”There is a time and season for all things.”

  50. momofseven

    My mom has worked in a temple for the last 20 years. Her only complaint, if you can call it that, is when someone doesn’t show up. That puts the shift short a person or persons. I would think that limiting mothers of young children might just be good business sense. Finding replacements is hard and doing double duty is even harder.

  51. Dean Bender

    Joanna, you need to become friends with a temple president. They can look this stuff up in their handbook and tell you if it is from SL or not.
    As a Sacramento Ordinance Worker for three years, the Presidency often trained us with quotes right out of the book.

  52. HappyLife

    As a stay-at-home mom of just two school aged children — I say “just” because larger families are very common where I live– I have a lot of free time during the day. It sort of bugs me that I can’t serve in the temple even though my particular family situation would work nicely with it. I just don’t see why there has to be an across-the-board policy regarding this issue. It’s not as if overly busy mothers of large, growing families are going to clamber to add one more thing to their to-do lists, right? Women know how to prioritize and self-regulate. We can be trusted to make the right call for our families and don’t need a policy to tell us where that line is.

  53. Erin

    I don’t see the harm in letting mothers with young children work in the temple…if they want to…why can’t the woman decide if she’d like to continue working when she has the baby or her husband has to be in the bishopric. Leaving your children for a few hours a week is good for the mother and the children. The decision should be on the woman and if it works for her family.

  54. Gillian Rasmussen

    I have appreciated the comments on this post. Although I wish things were more equitable in the church in general, and that policies were not so strict and allowed for more spirit of the law interpretation, I am not bothered by the temple worker restriction for women with children. I currently am YW president and it is hard to be able to find women with enough time to be able to serve in YW – especially given that their husbands are also busy with church service. Younger women in our ward ( and by young I mean kids in the home – even teenagers) are put to work. However, my husband, who is in the bishopric, has often expressed the concern that there is not enough callings in the ward that are appropriate for older women. In the church, once you feel you are too tired for YW and Primary – there is not very many callings outside of visiting teaching supervisor. Now that a temple has opened in our city, it is wonderful for these truly exemplary women to be able to serve in the temple and I love seeing them there.

    I confess, I am more concerned about the single over thirty rule for men. That one just sounds like punishment. I don’t understand the spirit of the law for that one.

  55. fpstudio123

    This is not the policy in the San Diego Temple. Here’s another example how each temple has different policies. The temple recorder for a California temple was recently dismissed because he went through a divorce over 30 years ago when his wife ran away leaving him and their kids. He remarried soon after and is still married. The policy under the new temple president is that any man having been through a divorce, regardless of the circumstances, can not be the temple recorder. Who makes up these rules?

  56. Carol

    My feeling has always been that the reason males are allowed to serve (when they have children in the home) is that there is always such a need for Priesthood holders to be able to complete all the ordinances in the temple therefore it is not possible to put any restrictions and still have the temples function. I personally don’t feel it is singling women out. Looking at the demographic in the temples where I live very few men of the age to have children at home do serve, so I’m not sure how often it really comes up as creating any real division.

  57. Saga

    I´m from Scandinavia and there are no such restrictions for temple workers here. My sister has a large family with 8 children living at home, the youngest being only 4 years old. Her husband is serving in the bishopric, she is a counselor in the YW stake presidency and they are also temple workers in spite of all this. They take their whole family to the temple several times a year during their vacations and stay for a whole week. My brother in-law looks after the kids at the guest home while my sister works in the temple and vice versa.

    There are many young mothers here who are called to be temple workers even though they have to travel for 8-9 hours or more to get to the temple. They too bring their husbands and children, and the husbands simply have to look after the children when their wives are working in the temple. Sometimes grandparents will look after the children at the guest home so the parents can go to sealing sessions or endowment sessions together. It´s a great opportunity to go to the temple as a family and give the children good memories of seeing their parents work together in the temple.

    I feel sorry for my american sisters who are held back by these obviously unnecessary “policies” at certain temples in the US. Where I live, fathers also have the opportunity of a 100% paid paternity leave of 12 weeks, this to encourage fathers to take greater part in the care of their children . If the fathers do not take these weeks, they will be lost as they can not be transferred to the mothers. In my opinion, there are really no reasons why fathers should not be able to look after their children when their wives are at work or working in the temple.

  58. Brenda

    I have been a member for 35 years now and have never heard of these varying rules for Temple work. I’ve been divorced for 14 years, have no children, am a recently retired teacher, and am now in the position to go on a mission. I was just getting ready to discuss with my bishop the possibility of working in a temple but didn’t know about all of these policies concerning women. I will be devastated if I find out I can’t work in the Temple because of my gender or station in life. I’d better do my homework. As naive as it sounds though, I do totally trust the decisions of our leaders and in God’s plan for me.

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