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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