Unclean! Unclean! Unclean!

Note and/or WARNING: The following post is a response–or not really a response, but a sister post, if you will, to this piece at Feminist Mormon Housewives. If you are uncomfortable reading about anything having to do with menstruation, I suggest you cast your eyes round about for a more genteel blog today.

Last year my oldest child had her first opportunity to do proxy baptisms for the dead at the temple. A bit of background: my daughter has Asperger’s Syndrome. Church is difficult for her for a variety of reasons, but she is particularly concerned with (and fixated on) gender issues. She was anxious about going to the temple for the first time, not really knowing what to expect (and not being totally down with this church thing in the first place). Her Young Women leaders asked me to come along for this trip to help her feel more comfortable and show her the ropes. (Not that I would have any clue about “the ropes,” as I hadn’t done proxy baptisms myself in about 14 years and never at this temple–but it’s the thought that counts.)

So at the temple they herded all the youth into that little room where they tell you all about what you’re going to be doing. I still had to change into my white clothes, but I realized I had to tell my daughter something first, so I went into the little room and the older gentleman addressing the youth then turned to me and asked, “Sister, are you here to ask The Question?”

“Uh…what? No.” What question, I wondered, but I didn’t think anything more of it because I was in a hurry. I just discreetly conferred with my daughter and went upstairs to get changed.

Walking down the hall on my way back to the baptistry, I heard the familiar and unmistakable sound of my daughter starting to Freak Out. My daughter has a history of getting upset over something at church and rapidly escalating to Freak-Out Mode without any care or consideration to how loud or inappropriate she’s being, so you can bet I hustled my person to where she was, wondering what on earth could have set her off so early in the game.

Well, what happened was that after I had left the little room, another sister walked in and asked The Question:

“Are any of you girls having your period?”

As it happened, my daughter was having her period. (Thanks for asking!) In fact, it had arrived that very day. She was wearing a tampon (and had brought extras), but that didn’t matter: if you were on your period, you could do confirmations, but you could not go into the baptismal font.

My daughter was offended and humiliated (mostly humiliated). She did not want to stay and do confirmations; she just wanted to go home. Frankly, I didn’t blame her. So I went back upstairs, got changed again, and we went out for pizza instead. (Sorry, dead people.)

As far as I can tell, this business of not letting menstruating females into temple baptistries is not some universal, top-down church policy. Some temples don’t have this policy, but enough of them do that it is a fairly common experience for young women to make the trip to the temple only to be told that they won’t be allowed to do the thing they came there to do. (Why they spring this information on girls at the last minute, I do not know. Maybe they’re afraid too many will choose to just stay home. That’s what my daughter did when the next temple trip came around and she was on her period again.) I don’t remember this policy from my own youth, but I was the sort of girl who would have taken any excuse to get out of a church activity, so I’m probably not the most reliable source.

My point is that I have no idea where this policy comes from or why it’s there (in those places where it is there). My daughter’s initial reaction was to wonder if it was some weird Old Testament-y thing about menstruating women being unclean; I assured her that this wasn’t the case–because I’m pretty sure it isn’t. My suspicion is that there are just a bunch of people in charge who are selectively overzealous about hygiene and sanitation, and some other people in charge who probably don’t know why this is the rule but that’s the way it’s always been (as far as they know) and who are they to change it. But neither of these explanations offers justification for a policy that (probably) isn’t intentionally sexist but is nevertheless effectively sexist.

Because here’s the thing, kids: a menstruating young woman using a tampon presents no more danger of contagion than your average young man. (In fact, she may well present less danger of contagion than your average young man, since teenage boys aren’t exactly known for their superior hygiene, no offense to them.) Used correctly, tampons will prevent any blood from getting in the water. And trust me, if a girl is comfortable wearing a tampon, she has inserted it correctly.

And here’s the other thing: menstrual blood is hardly the only bodily fluid that could possibly get into that baptismal font. Yet we don’t ask if anyone has current or recent diarrhea or any open sores. We don’t ask people to shower before they enter the baptismal font (the way we do at public pools). We only ask the young women if they’re shedding their uterine lining and tell them there’s no way to make that sanitary–which is [baloney].

It grieveth me that I must use so much boldness of speech before those whose feelings are exceedingly tender and chaste and delicate. But facts are facts.

Teenage girls–particularly the younger variety–tend to be easily embarrassed. They don’t like talking about their periods. No girl wants to make an announcement that she’s on her period. It’s hard enough to make that announcement in front of other young women and any YW leaders (or random temple matrons) who happen to be in the room. Understand that they are also imagining that everybody in their group, male and female, will know why they are not doing baptisms that day. A grown woman realizes that men are clueless about this stuff and probably none of them notice that your hair is still dry, but a teenage girl does not have that perspective. She is very likely to be mortified.

Then there’s the subtle suggestion–unintentional though it may be–that her perfectly normal bodily function–which is easily and routinely dealt with hygienically by millions of women worldwide–is somehow too dirty for temple water (even if that water is chlorinated). What her body does every month as a matter of course–because she’s female and healthy–is just too gross to accommodate. That’s not very edifying either.

Before anyone’s eyes roll too far back in their head, I’m not saying that young women are so emotionally and psychologically fragile that they’re going to be devastated by such an experience and doubt their own self-worth and never want to come back to the temple again. We are certainly more robust than that. (Even my daughter–who loves to hold a grudge–eventually went back to the temple and did baptisms and enjoyed herself.) I’m saying that turning menstruating women away from the baptismal font is a) unnecessary and b) unnecessarily offensive. It may not scar us for life, but it does tick the living heck out of women like me–who aren’t particularly prone to fits of feminist pique, but who get tired of being told that such and such is the rule even though there’s no good reason for it. We have to accept enough mysteries on the doctrinal front. Random policies that affect only us and have no discernible purpose behind them remind us that when it comes to our problems–even those very small problems that could very easily be solved–we are at the mercy of people who have no idea what it’s like to be us.

There is no rational basis for this policy. It needs to go. Period.

(Sorry. Couldn’t resist.)

Comments

  1. Yes, yes, yes–a million times yes!

  2. Mark Brown says:

    Perfect.

    This topic has been begging for the signature Rebecca J. treatment.

  3. Preach on, and AMEN!
    p.s. awesome.

  4. i loved your post. loved it. well said and i totally agree.

  5. perfectly said! i often wonder if this is also behind yoga taboos on practicing during your moon cycle. you hear all kinds of stuff about blood flow, etc., but i wonder if it’s just flat out anti-woman taboo.

  6. Outstanding.

  7. Amen and amen!

  8. YES! I love you RJ. Perfect.

  9. Amen.

    I hadn’t heard about the policy before seeing the fmh post, and it has put me in a sour mood all day.

  10. Shout it from the house tops. Way to go RJ.

  11. Top to bottom fantastic. God bless you, and FMH.

  12. Totally agree! There is no reason that girls need to refrain from doing the baptisms, but there is even more of a no reason to embarrass and humiliate young girls. And yeah, at that age I would have rather died a slow and painful death than admit to everyone around me I was having my period. If any local temples or leaders have that policy then why on EARTH don’t they tell the girls before they get there!?

  13. Thank you! Our girls have to travel several hours to the temple and are lucky to go twice a year. I don’t know if our little temple has this policy.
    I do remember my mother, then the YW president, reminding YW before temple trips to bring tampons if they were menstruating and wanted to be baptized. But it was BEFORE the trip and a “FYI” type of announcement, not asking girls to their face and once they are already in the temple. That would have been Mesa, I think.

  14. That is an incredible photo, and so perfect for this post! Haha, I love it.

  15. Whence the accompanying photos?

  16. Mark Brown says:

    My own experience in various temples tell me that you are correct; this isn’t a churchwide policy, but consistently seems to keep randomly reappearing. It will probably take action from the top to make it go away for good, and if I were the ghostwriter for the First Presidency, this is the letter I would draft.

    Dear Fellow Servants,

    We appreciate the faithful service so many of you render in the temples of the Lord throughout the world. We commend you for your commitment and dedication, and trust that you are blessed richly for your labors.

    From time to time, it becomes necessary to make adjustments in the way the Kingdom is administered. This is one of those times. It has come to our attention that a grave and sinful offense is being perpetuated against the wonderful young women of the church, and it is happening in our holiest places. We speak of the occasional practice of forbidding females to participate in temple rituals, particularly baptism, during their monthly cycles.

    We will speak plainly: The practice must cease immediately. It is neither our policy nor our desire for this to happen at all, and we are left dumbfounded at this inexplicable exclusion. In the endowment rooms of the temple we pray multiple times per day for the well-being of the youth of Zion, yet sometimes we have also been pushing these same youth out the back door after having pronounced them unclean. Shame on anyone who has been guilty of this. When a bishop and stake president have used the keys of discernment attendant to their calling and certified the worthiness of a member to participate in temple ordinances, it is the height of impudence to then block that participation on such ridiculous grounds. Who the hell do you people think you are?

    Effective immediately, anyone who engages in this practice will be expelled from the temple and have temple privileges revoked for the period of one year. And because this unclean practice violates covenants and damages the body of Christ, some form of church discipline might be appropriately considered.

    We warn that those who “offend these little ones” will bring upon themselves the judgements of God.

    Sincerely,

    TSM
    HBE
    DFU

  17. “Random policies that affect only us and have no discernible purpose behind them remind us that when it comes to our problems–even those very small problems that could very easily be solved–we are at the mercy of people who have no idea what it’s like to be us.”

    Amen and seventy-times-seven hallelujahs.

  18. Agree.

    So how does one go about reforming a non-doctrinally-based policy like this?

  19. Yes, yes, and even yesser.

  20. Mark (#16): I’d love to see a FP message that includes “we are left dumbfounded.”

  21. #16- I’m lovin’ the “Who the hell do you people think you are?”

  22. I got all excited thinking someone had finally done a review on Richard Beck’s book Unclean (which has huge applicability to this conversation), only to find a “really? seriously?” moment.

  23. My experience with this policy (80’s Washington DC) was being kept from participating at all, including confirmations. I didn’t get beyond the recommend desk. So beyond being mortified that I had to share such private information with strangers, I was worried that my friends would assume worthiness issues. If anything, this was the moment that began to awaken me personally to the realities of gender inequity in the church (I just hadn’t paid much attention before). This policy is completely unjustifiable.

  24. Grant Hardy says:

    As a youth leader, counselor in several bishoprics, and a counselor in a stake presidency, I have spoken with several temple presidents about this issue over the years. Policies seem to vary from temple to temple and with different temple presidents, though the matter is consistently troubling for many young women. In the apparent absence of a church-wide policy, perhaps the internet offers something of a solution. Someone could do a quick phone inquiry to each of the 79 temples in the US to determine whether or not they forbid young women who are having their periods from doing baptisms, and then post the results online. It would be interesting to track the variations, and at the very least it would offer information so that young women, their parents, and leaders would not be surprised when they participate in youth temple trips.

  25. If I’m not mistaken, I believe this policy was penned by workers at the testing center at BYU-I.

  26. Wow, I had completely forgotten about this. This is what happened at the Dallas temple when I was a teenager, and I was always mortified when it came up. There were at least a few times when I just skipped, but I was someone who did NOT miss church activities so most of the time I just went and was embarrassed.

    “Random policies that affect only us and have no discernible purpose behind them remind us that when it comes to our problems–even those very small problems that could very easily be solved–we are at the mercy of people who have no idea what it’s like to be us.”

    This is perfect. And this is what comes of a culture of Not Questioning Authority, since I’m sure some Young Women leaders could have fixed the situation if they’d thought to bring it up. I wonder if anyone has since then. Thanks for the fantastic post, Rebecca!

  27. I think that the amount of menstrual mortification girls are subjected to is mostly a product of the individual temple workers who happen to be in the baptistry on their visit.

    FWIW, I’m a baptistry director on my shift at one of the large and popular temples. I have never asked girls if they are on their period or prohibited them from participating in ordinances. Several times I have had young women ask me if they can just do confirmations, and I’ve always said yes and never asked them why they don’t want to do baptisms. Also, in more than a year in the baptistry, I’ve never been told by either my shift coordinators or the temple presidency or matrons about any rules about menstruating patrons.

    My attitude of not keeping anyone from performing ordinances is partly because of my age (I’m not a blue-haired old lady and was a YW doing baptisms for the dead not that many years ago) but mostly because of my temple culture, where workers are told repeatedly in our trainings that we should take care to never offend patrons. This loving attitude towards patrons is one of the many reasons why I love working in my temple.

  28. A friend of mine brought this up with her grandfather, a well-known medical professional, when he was president of our nearest temple. He’d had no idea that such a policy was in place (apparently it was conveyed to the women via signs in the dressing room). He made an immediate change.

  29. With my two daughters have passed this stage and are college and Laurel age, but we went through this before also. Both my girls wanted me to be the one to baptize them in proxy for the dead in the temple, and I looked forward to it. Ours were wonderful experiences. Both my girls were talked to prior to going to the temple, in YW class the Sunday before so it wasn’t a last minute question. Is that any better?

    Perhaps it is a bit better process-wise, and that is good our YW leaders were trying to the best to avoid last minute problems, but I tend more to agree with you that I’m not sure why it should be a (I’m trying to not use the word issue here)…factor at all.

    My experience is we often have last minute problems because of less than ideal planning and organization.

    Is it just ignorance of temple leadership? Don’t we have smart matrons that can explain this to someone in leadership positions? Can’t we just have someone that is educated be able to just tell the temple leadership if there really is a hygiene…factor…or nothing any worse than any young men hygiene factors…that there is no problem, and they should stop doing this…immediately?! Hopefully knowledge would trickle up.

    Making the first temple experience embarrassing for youth is a sad thing. Sending any kind of archaic message about their natural body and unworthiness before God is worse. Perhaps we are introducing them to flaws in the church while they are young…to prepare them for a lifetime of church membership? We can do better. It is always necessary to have caring caring parents and leaders to make the difference to the individual…that was cool to see you take her out to pizza and focus on her needs.

  30. #25 is so full of win.

  31. I have heard that the rise of such policies is sometimes referred to as temple creep.

    Strong post, RJ. Thanks.

  32. FYI – The tampon chandelier is a sculpture called Bride by artist Joana Vasconcelos, and it is made from 14,000 o.b. tampons. The perfect craft for those additional Relief Society meetings.

  33. I broached this subject with the sister in charge of baptisms a couple of temple trips back. She mentioned that the policy was enacted after several girls had billows of blood show up in the font during baptisms (something about the motion involved) which they thought was more embarrassing for everyone involved than just skipping baptisms. She felt that it wasn’t related to hygiene, because the chlorine knocks anything that needs knocking out. Don’t know if that’s the actual reason behind the rule, but she certainly thought it was.

    If it’s the policy, then the girls should certainly be told ahead of time, but it would be nice if the girls were given a choice.

  34. Interesting. I remember being on my period on a youth temple trip. I remember that the ladies asked if any of us were. I assumed they were asking so they knew if anyone needed a tampon or anything. How naive and trusting I was! I said nothing. This was partly because it would have embarrassed me terribly to do so but also because I had brought my own tampons and had it covered. Now I’m extra glad I didn’t say anything.

    I wonder if any of this has to do with a lingering perception that tampons are bad. I was one of very few girls my age who used them. We never really talked about it, but I gathered that some of my friends thought this.

    Final note to the author: there’s a childish part of me that doesn’t want to like you because we have the same name. But you’re just doing such wonderful (and hilarious) things with it that I can’t help but love you!

  35. I recall when my new step-daughter had her first period, and my wife was out of town. She talked to my wife on the phone, then sheepishly handed the phone over to me, so I could receive instructions. We then went down to the store, where I had to pick up, choose, and carry the tampon product to the checkout counter, because she was too embarrassed to go near it. Fortunately, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and she now buys her own (and good thing, too, since she’s now 35!).
    As it is, we tend to be over dramatic and micromanaging when it comes to many things in the temple, or other church service. We need to make sure we don’t say what Ronald Reagan warned us about the fed: “we’re the government, and we’re here to help you.”

  36. RJ, just wondering if the decision has anything to do with people who aren’t . . . how shall I say it . . . comfortable with tampons and, therefore, ignorant of their effectiveness. I wonder if this is an “obvious” thing to people who personally have used nothing but pads.

    Not trying to excuse it, since it realy is wrong at the most fundamental level, but that might be the underlying reason. After all, most people who would be making such a decision at a temple aren’t exactly youngsters. It might not be sexism as much as simple ignorance.

  37. #34 “now I’m extra glad I didn’t say anything”

    Sometimes it seems it works out best to not speak up. When you do, you’re at the mercy of other people and their judgment. When you don’t…no harm, no foul.

  38. When I was a YW back in the early 90s, I remember girls in my YW class being denied the opportunity to do baptisms because they were having their period. And there was embarrassment. And there were stupid boys making stupid jokes. And I thought it was a totally stupid policy. Had they ever heard of tampons?? If a girl chooses not to do baptisms because she’s having her period, that’s her choice, but there is no reason to tell girls/women they can’t do baptisms because they are having their period. This is no longer the era of kotex belted pads and women can easily participate in water-related activities without bleeding all over the place. I can’t remember if I was ever having my period when I went to do baptisms, but you better believe that after a 4 hour car ride to get to our temple, whether I was having it or not was no one’s business but my own and I could use a tampon and do baptisms, regardless of any silly policy. DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL!!!!

  39. I’ll just go ahead and say it: proxy baptisms used to skeeve me out because as a teenager I was precociously distrustful of my age-group’s post-defecation cleansing practices.

    Bacon strips, racing stripes, etc.

    Still am I suppose.

  40. #39, oudenos…I have no problem with someone like you that might have distrust and not want to participate…but it would over the line to have leaders start asking the YM if they have skidmarks so they can exclude them from doing sacred ordinances, and put up a sign in the changing room for it…so everyone knows why those that aren’t participating aren’t participating for that reason…it just wouldn’t be right for the same reasons this isn’t right for YW.

  41. I did baptisms as a 12 yo in Manti, and I can’t imagine a more conservative/traditional/(whatever the appropriate adjective for such an asinine policy is) region. I was never asked this question (and I would remember as I was very sensitive about my period and about sexism), and I am so glad. Glad unto tears. I was later married in that temple because I had such warm memories, and I can’t imagine that being the case if they had been that backward.

  42. pure glorious awesome (as per usual)

  43. Kevin Barney says:

    “Sorry, dead people” FTW.

  44. Christian J says:

    At the very least, the temple should provide a red tent of sorts – so the shamed can hang out together.

  45. As a general rule I like cultural folkways — ie policies — even if they serve no discernible purpose and are doctrinally unfounded, and even if they affect men and women differently. I actually don’t think there’s a very coherent difference between policy and doctrine in Mormonism. But I only like folkways when they are humane and they affirm the dignity of all members of the community, and this one flunks that test.

  46. #24

    I actually proposed something similar over at FMH – having individuals politely call each of the temples and inquire about the temples policy then documenting them temple by temple. We will then also figure out whom to verify if it is central church policy or not and if so when it was changed (this shouldn’t be secret and there seems to be all sorts of disagreement about that among people). Depending on what the answers are I would then suggest a few people in each temple where this policy is in place to call/write a letter/schedule a meeting as is appropriate and explain to them the problem with the policy. Ask them to change it etc. Maybe we can get the church to send some internal letter out clarifying the issue. At very least members should be informed about the policy so they can plan/prepare accordingly and ovoid the most embarrassing/hurtful situations. Then if necessary we can start a general, concerted effort to problematise the issue for them so that we can avoid it.

    I will put up a public link for collecting the data hopefully sometime on Sunday. I am pretty sure FMH will post the link and maybe BCC will to. This is the type of things that just a little, loving grassroots expression should be able to change, even if we have to do it temple by temple (if it is a locally determined policy). No anger, just education.

    Sound good to anyone or am I way off?

  47. Thanks for this RJ and everyone who has responded. I think the talk I now need to have with my daughter is “if you are, don’t tell”. And that’s just sad. I get SO frustrated when local yokels (or local geniuses, rocket scientists, idiot savants, or ANYONE) take it into their own hands to decide on “policy”– especially when that “policy” ends up being exclusionary and therefore embarrassing. In the boys’ world there is the “can’t pass the sacrament if you’re not wearing a WHITE SHIRT”. Granted its nowhere near as intimately personal, but it is ignorant and unkind too (and the boys are often left concerned about their “appearance of worthiness”.). I am just frustrated beyond frustration that too much in the “true church” is composed of people making it up as they go along. Think it’s my biggest pet peeve, and sometimes I get really stuck here. Yes I know the Church is composed of people and YES I understand they are imperfect (as am I). But when those same imperfects are allowed to perpetuate such hurtful policies, it taints the mantle of their calling. It starts to look like a flaw in the organization because all too often it’s not reined in from higher levels. Wrong is wrong and needs to be contained when it is known, “local autonomy” be damned.

  48. This was the policy of the Dallas temple at least half the time when I was a youth and it was mortifying. We lived 5 hours away and the ward went once a year. It was a big deal to go and I had NO desire to go if I was on my period and just do confirmations. How embarrassing! I think this helped contribute to my feelings towards the temple even now – it is just not a comfortable place for me and tends to give me anxiety.

  49. PS– #25 is sheer beauty. And I don’t just say that because I’m sleeping with the guy. ;-P

  50. I think that they are scared of extra-absorbent tampons sucking up all of the water in the font.

  51. Grant Hardy says:

    I do think that it is helpful to ask the temple directly. Our stake is divided between two temple districts. I just talked to the Atlanta Georgia Temple, and they told me that all YW are very much encouraged to come on youth temple trips and that it is up to the young women themselves whether they feel comfortable doing baptisms. If they are not comfortable, they are welcome to do confirmations only. At the Columbia temple, they also said that it is up to the young women and that temple workers do not ask about periods, though they would hope that the local YW leaders and chaperones would help out with particular young women who may have concerns.

    It does seem that a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy may be preferable, since even well-meaning temple workers who are trying to be helpful can sometimes say things that are offensive or cause embarrassment. It would be up to temple presidents and matrons to train workers in such matters, though it’s good to remember that temple workers are volunteers who are nearly always concerned with making sure that patrons have positive experiences in the Lord’s house.

  52. I didn’t even get the chandelier was made of o.b. tampons till I looked really close at the second photo! They are my favorite. The tampons make me extra heart this post. I went to the DC temple to do baptisms when I was a teen. I was on the tale end of my period and they asked the question and I didn’t fess up. I couldn’t bear it. I was 2,500 miles away from home for the summer and had driven twelve hours with my aunt, uncle and cousins in the back of their tiny car that wasn’t quite big enough for all four of us kids to do the temple trip. I knew about the question I had been asked it before in Provo, I knew it was coming and knew I couldn’t answer it. I was physically and psychologically impossible for me answer it. I didn’t tell my mom that I started my period for two years! No way I could tell some stranger. Luckily at first they were light and irregular and so I dealt with them myself on the sly. I also forgot to take the blue nail polish off my toes. It still was a wonderful experience.

  53. 49 – Does he also have a no tight pants policy in order to gain access to the baby making center as well too?

  54. Grant Hardy says:

    That’s Columbia South Carolina.

  55. #46 rah…I like your idea. Action oriented and good intentioned. That’s a good approach!

  56. And in looking back on comments, I really should have just summed up my entire rant with a quote from the brilliant #16–“Who the hell do you people think you are?”. Liking it muchly.

  57. @27 Elle

    Provo? I’m a coordinator there (albeit in intiatory), of a similar age to you I’m guessing, and absolutely love the temple policy of not offending the patrons. Even when they deserve to be offended. (No, you CANNOT do twenty-five family names, it’s 15 minutes until we have to close, and do you SEE the line we have?!?!)

    On the topic at hand, I’m sure that it’s ignorant men like me that keep the policy going. Until I read this I was under the impression that menstruation would have been unnecessarily gross — I’ve repented since reading this.

  58. Christian J. #44,

    “At the very least, the temple should provide a red tent of sorts – so the shamed can hang out together.”

    It was proposed at fMh that a cardboard “menstruation hut” be built next to the temple in protest.

  59. Please don’t attack me, I’m only providing an explanation – I don’t agree with the way this is handled in the temples where it is implemented. My understanding from speaking with my father who is a temple president is that there should not be a ban on women participating in baptisms when they are menstruating but that the historically misguided rationale is as follows:

    The desire to help a YW / woman avoid the embarrassing experience of noticeable blood leakage either in the water or on their clothes due to water forces encountered while being baptized repeatedly.

    Apparently there is sufficient chlorine in the font water these days to quickly bleach the color of any blood that flows but the accident might still be noticeable. And the first rule in the temple is always do your best to help the patron avoid anything that would be embarrassing or make them feel uncomfortable. (So we can see how the good intention leads down the path to a very embarrassing experience when such questions are asked publicly).

    That’s it, that really was the rationale. Now all kinds of myths, as you’ll encounter in the FMH post, have evolved as to why menstruating women cannot participate or what will happen if they do.

    The temple is an interesting place where specific guidelines are put in place but the local president has strong latitude to put rules in place to help maintain a proper environment. Though from what I understand more and more training is provided by the Temple Department in order to try to ratchet down on the problem I’m going to describe next.

    Because we bring in volunteers who regularly rotate out of their roles and because it is often under staffed the regular baptism coordinator may not always be the person in charge. Different members have different experiences, especially if they’ve grown up in the Church and in our conservative culture (speaking both 1950s conservative for the senior workers and Church conservative for everyone else) where you just don’t talk openly about these things. So while a temple president and the matron might introduce the proper rules, often things perpetuate in an undercurrent depending on whether the worker in question received that training and whether or not they’re having a senior moment. Or perhaps they’ve moved in from a different temple where things were done differently. Some people, men and women, are simply not tactful and that lack of tact seems to increase as they age (the “hey, I’m 80 and I’ll say what I want attitude”). And it may not be the temple president perpetuating this rule, it could easily be the matron or other women workers. The insensitivity can run deep on both sides.

  60. #27: “where workers are told repeatedly in our trainings that we should take care to never offend patrons”

    Bless your temple president and matron and all those who train. We also were taught to assume that people in the temple were doing the best they could.

    As a member of a bishopric, I’ve taken youth to four different temples and never heard of this ‘policy’, but I’ve sent a note to ask my now YSA daughters their experience. I am aware that some young women chose not to go, and others chose to do confirmations only — quietly and without fanfare. Seems the personal choice is the best.

    I do, however, remember when one of my daughters had a nose bleed in the font. She was mortified, but (thankfully) survived. (No one worried about the condition of the water in the font, by the way; the wonderful sisters in the temple were all about helping my daughter feel ok.)

  61. MarylandOrganist says:

    Young girls on their periods are not asked if this is their time of the month in the Washingon, DC Temple. The only mention of the subject last week when our ward youth did baptisms was a quiet reminder to the women leaders to make sure the girls used tampons.

  62. I grew up in Utah County and did all my baptisms for the dead at the Provo Temple. I NEVER remember them stopping anyone from participating. In fact the only reason that I recall they asked “the question” was because they wanted to let us know they tampons available for us. I have wonderful memories of being treated with real kindness and care from all the temple workers there.

  63. This would be one of those things where an official statement from the Temple Department would be nice.

    I have never heard this question asked of the YW when I been at Baptism for the dead, but I wasn’t with them the entire time. If they are afraid of contamination issues, fecal matter is likely much worse. Sorry to be blunt, but it’s true. Funny that no sweats the latter, due to the chlorine, yet menstrual fluid won’t be sterilized by chlorine?

    And, what about public pools, like the old Deseret Gym? Or, the various BYU pools?

    If they think using tampons is bad for some weird reason, then they better rewrite some of the Church manuals, like the one for parents about physical development, saying their daughter should use any “sanitary aid they are comfortable with”, or something like that.

    Yes, that first picture looked “normal”. I immediately knew what those were in the second one, though. My daughter has used ob tampons before. She left an open box of them right next to front door inside our home one time, so I made a crack then about “these look like they would make good ear plugs as well.” She gave me a droll “ha ha ha.”

  64. @Paul (sorry, iPad bcc app doesn’t show numbers)– I love your statement:

    “We were taught to assume that people in the temple were doing the best they could.”

    What a profound statement. Think about it– if we applied that in every facet of our lives and interactions, how it would improve our treatment of and assumptions about others. It would supersede religious beliefs, race, gender, sexual orientation, everything. We would simply assume others were doing their best.

  65. Sidebottom (50) – I knew you were going to say that.

    For the record (since I apparently didn’t make this clear enough in the post), I don’t believe there is anything sinister or malicious behind this policy. I think, as Ray suggested, that in many cases it is perpetuated by older temple workers who are unaware of the advances in tampon technology over the last several years, or who have never used tampons themselves, or who simply don’t expect young, unmarried girls to be wearing tampons. I can believe that once upon a time there were embarrassing incidents when a girl wasn’t using proper protection for the activity she was engaging in.

    However, the default shouldn’t be to assume that girls don’t know their own bodies or how to use feminine hygiene products correctly. It doesn’t matter that it’s intended for their own good, to save them from themselves. If people are concerned about young women not embarrassing themselves, maybe it’s best for YW leaders to have a frank discussion about the physics of baptism and remind the girls to plan accordingly. But the default should not be to assume that young women can’t manage their own periods. The harm may not be substantial, but it’s gratuitous, and gratuitous harm is not good, regardless of the intention behind it.

  66. Mike H (63) – Did you ever try using them as ear plugs? Because I’d be interested to know how that worked out.

  67. Amen.

    All Young Women on their periods should learn to use a tampon and participate in baptisms for the dead. There are no doctrinal or policy reasons why you should not. The baptisms will be accepted by the Lord, I know and could tell you faith-promoting stories. The Lord never once told sisters participating in temple work, “except during. . .” If you’re following the Prophet and the Lord’s admonition to DO temple work, then get it done! There are no exceptions. Temples should accommodate all recommend holders despite age, gender, height, weight, “time of the month”, language, etc. All of God’s children, with our planned differences, are welcome and included.

    BTW I’m kinda shocked to see male leaders dealing with this issue. What really is the point of female temple workers, temple matrons, and female leadership if we can’t even handle a simple topic like this amongst ourselves? Good grief. As a feminist, I’d advocate for a little more autonomy, especially in this department. Really, after the catholic scandal, is this an appropriate issue that older male leaders need to address with embarrassed female teens? Isn’t is more appropriate for the sisters to provide tactful pre-temple education? I’m saddened to see that we have such varying regional misunderstandings about it. Isn’t this something that the General Relief Society President should clarify?

  68. Awesome. Extra piece of chocolate cheesecake for you!

    (Though, since I live in the same temple district as you, I am very tempted to call the temple and give them a big fat piece of my mind. And should this topic ever come up in YW, where I am now assisting with the music two weeks a month, I will tell the girls that their monthly cycles are their own damn business and no one else’s.)

  69. “Mike H (63) – Did you ever try using them as ear plugs? Because I’d be interested to know how that worked out.”

    We take some OB tampons with us on scout trips to use in case of severe nose bleeds. We’ve only used them once, and it (not surprisingly) worked very well. But I hope we never have another incident where we need them again.

  70. @57, THURS 3A: No, I’m not in the Provo temple, I’m in the “mission field.”

    @63, Mike H: I agree that a letter from the Temple Department is really the only way to get a consistent, church-wide policy on this matter. Although I’m already squirming thinking of the awkward training meeting where one of the members of the temple presidency has to read that letter out loud to all the ordinance workers, because I know he’s going to get all flustered about using the word “menstruation.”

  71. WILL BLOG FOR CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE.

    I would like to clear up a possible misunderstanding – when the girls were asked The Question, it was by a female temple worker, in an all-female setting. (Can you imagine any man wanting to be around for that part?) As I said, that’s embarrassing enough for young women, but they also imagine that it becomes common knowledge, and that makes it worse.

  72. it's a series of tubes says:

    “We were taught to assume that people in the temple were doing the best they could.”

    What a profound statement. Think about it– if we applied that in every facet of our lives and interactions, how it would improve our treatment of and assumptions about others.

    This * eleventy11111!!!!1!11!!!!. Love it.

  73. RE OB tampons as earplugs:
    Brilliant! Next KISS concert we go to, I’m totally doing the tampons-in-the-ears thing. Bet it would work great. And give fellow concert goers something new to FB about…

  74. RJ hath spoken. So let it be written, so let it be done.

  75. Rebecca J, you are fully right. Period.

  76. A couple of weeks ago during a YSA baptism session in the DC temple one of the men came up from the water and wiped his face and blood starting pouring out of his nose. The baptism session ended right then and there. We still had a couple of people left to baptize and there was another group behind ours. Our session definitely ended prematurely b/c of the bloody nose; not sure what happened with the group behind us.

    I have no idea what the current DC temple policy with respect to women and their periods is even though I’ve taken two of my teenage daughters several times. To my knowledge it’s never come up during our Ward’s visits but I could be dead wrong about that. There are a couple of other issues with some of the people who run the baptistry that would merit a separate and kind of amusing post, but I won’t derail from an otherwise healthy venting on this topic. Suffice to say they are not at all adverse to calling people sinners and to repentance over perceived sleights to their policies and to accuse ph leaders of failing to do their duty and-best of all-disapointing the Saviour over scheduling issues.

  77. I’m still waiting for a Brit to chime in and say that this is a bloody stupid policy, but that might be too on the nose.

  78. So I agree that there are no bad intentions with this policy and according to my friend whose father and mother are TP and TM there is no central policy. I can imagine that different temples have different policies about this (some more enlightened than others) and that even in temples where there is no such council (to not allow or recommend women/YW to do baptisms during their period) that erroneous information from workers with old experiences/notions might be doing this. To me this sounds then like a pretty fixable problem. I bet the number of places where this is policy is relatively small and if we can document that then I think the TPs and TMs would like to be informed that they have a potentially hurtful policy that most their peers do not deem necessary. Maybe we can provide those with a policy a list of temples they can contact to discuss alternatives.

    We should probably also see if we can document confirmed cases where this is happening -say in the last 6 months just let specific temples know that they might need to emphasize it so that they train their workers according to their own guidelines.

    See all nice and helpful! Look for the link at FMH on Sunday to report in your information for those of you Type A personalities that called their temple today :) . I think getting multiple replies from different callers for each temple will be helpful just to assure the accuracy. Also, merely making multiple queries will probably make it point of attention/discussion within a temple which will help avoid future unfortunate incidents.

  79. I think it is forever traumatizing. And to all the girls out there, I would say this: lie. Oops, did I just suggest that one should lie in the temple?

  80. Researcher says:

    In response to comment 61 which mentioned that it’s not an issue at the Washington DC Temple:

    I’ve never accompanied our ward youth on their all-day excursions to do baptisms for the dead, but I just asked a young woman who goes with the youth once or twice a year to the Washington DC Temple. (I promise I did not ask any leading questions.)

    She said last time a “grumpy looking” older sister told them that they were not allowed to participate if it was that time of month and so four of them sat out. When the girls or leaders (it wasn’t clear which) asked for an explanation, the temple worker explained that it was a new policy.

    I asked this young woman if any exception was allowed, and she said no. (I told her that the “policy” probably had to do with older women not being familiar with changes in feminine product technology.)

    It sounds like the “policy” varies from temple to temple and temple worker to temple worker.

    Since I am in the Young Women, I will discuss this with our new YW President before the next temple trip to make sure the issue has been discussed with the temple beforehand and that no one is caught by surprise, particularly among our large group of new Beehives, but also among those who were there last time.

  81. I came back to add that I was just thinking of The Red Tent and how that time of the month used to be a time everyone was aware of–and it wasn’t really a problem, it was just accepted. It’s great that we can go about our normal lives, but we’ve exchanged that for a secrecy that makes for awkwardness and discomfort with our actually amazing bodies.

  82. Temples should accommodate all recommend holders despite age, gender, height, weight, “time of the month”, language, etc.

    Agreed. I did hear about one Bishop who refused to give a disabled sister in a wheelchair a Temple Recommend because he felt accommodating a wheelchair was too much of a burden on the Temple Workers, nothing about worthiness. A group of sisters in that Ward took that Bishop to task, so he relented & gave her a Recommend. Yet, there’s some in the Church who feel you should ALWAYS follow what a Bishop says, not matter how strange or incorrect the counsel is.

    I’m still waiting for a Brit to chime in and say that this is a bloody stupid policy, but that might be too on the nose.

    Kaimi already said something like that on the FMH FB society.

    Mike H (63) – Did you ever try using them as ear plugs? Because I’d be interested to know how that worked out.

    Not yet, but I have also heard about the nosebleed use Benjamin pointed out in #69 before, from Janet from FMH, there it was the high school football team for nosebleeds, and the players sure protested using them! ;) Take that, macho men! Though, a few years ago, I was a little puzzled about an endcap at Target that had an ad “Itchy eyes & runny nose? Ask us”. But, just below the ad, the endcap was ALL tampons! What the heck? So, are they saying allergies are due to women around you not using tampons (I don’t think asking women I’m around about such things is a good idea), or are they saying those with allergies should insert tampons in both nostrils? I guess inserting the scented tampons in the nostrils would help if you were a garbage collector.

    Actually, I think no one on the staff there was thinking that was a poor choice of merchandise to put under that ad.

  83. clueless man says:

    I’m a counselor in a bishopric and I never heard of this until just a few months ago, while accompanying our youth to the temple. The bishop had to work, so I was in charge of our group. I asked why 2 of our girls were sitting it out, and got the answer from the youth leader, that they were menstruating. I admit, being a man and totally clueless on these things, that policy sounded fine, though I hoped the girls weren’t feeling too awkward and the conversation had been done with tact. Now I’m wishing I asked whose policy it was, whether it came from the temple or our own YW leadership. I’ll be sure to find out before the next baptism trip, especially since it will be my daughter’s first trip.

    This is good information for men to hear, and I feel quite educated on the subject now. Thanks.

  84. The perfect craft for those additional Relief Society meetings.

    Here’s another RS craft idea, Rebecca J:

    http://thereifixedit.failblog.org/2010/08/17/white-trash-repairs-provide-ample%C2%A0padding/

  85. @ 59 Alain

    The desire to help a YW / woman avoid the embarrassing experience of noticeable blood leakage either in the water or on their clothes due to water forces encountered while being baptized repeatedly.

    Apparently there is sufficient chlorine in the font water these days to quickly bleach the color of any blood that flows but the accident might still be noticeable. And the first rule in the temple is always do your best to help the patron avoid anything that would be embarrassing or make them feel uncomfortable.

    I would have rather been embarrassed in the locker room by being barred from participating than become the laughingstock I did by the boys for the rest of my tenure in Mutual, who never let me live it down and not in that funny “aw, we’re teasing you because we love you kind of way.” Of course, the girls chimed right in.

  86. Our young women are still traumatized from the time the bishop asked them, “Please point out on this Georgia O’Keefe painting where the bad man touched you.”

  87. anon(85) – I am sorry. I don’t dispute that is a much worse experience.

  88. Mommie Dearest says:

    I don’t need to add my opinion to the public flogging of this topic. Y’all are doing a fine job. Amen and amen.

    P.S. I’m calling BS on #33’s old biddy “billows of blood” explanation of the policy. If you’re wearing a tampon properly even on a heavy flow day, this isn’t going to happen. I could get technical about actual flow amounts, but “billows” of blood that wouldn’t dissipate enough to virtually disappear in the amount of water (in motion yet) in a font, would mean that someone was in need of emergency care to prevent severe blood loss. Sounds like a made up crock to me, or perhaps an ancient urban legend from pre-tampon days.

  89. I’m calling BS on #33′s old biddy “billows of blood” explanation of the policy.

    Just because you don’t believe it doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened and won’t happen again. Maybe some girls may have needed medical attention but they probably didn’t know that.

  90. Mommie Dearest says:

    I don’t know what to say to that. Except sorry for the threadjack.

  91. The point isn’t whether or not such-and-such scenario is possible or has ever happened. If it’s happened, it’s happened. But this is a better-safe-than-sorry policy that is just unfair to impose automatically on all girls. Perhaps some females should not participate in baptisms during their periods. But I can’t believe that there is something unique to the activity of baptism that simply defies every woman’s ability to prepare for it. A girl can be a competitive swimmer any day of the month, but the act of being dunked under water repeatedly is unlike anything her body has ever experienced, so there’s no way for her to predict how it might respond? I’m not buying it.

  92. I’m sure some elderly patrons have experienced incontinence while participating in the endowment. Maybe we should ban 1/4 of everyone over the age of 50, announced by surprise only after they have arrived at the temple, just to be sure that doesn’t happen again.

  93. Cynthia, that wouldn’t be fair. What we should do is take all the people over the age of 50 aside to ask them “the question” before allowing them to participate. That way we could avoid having anyone with incontinence doing endowments.

  94. A girl can be a competitive swimmer any day of the month, but the act of being dunked under water repeatedly is unlike anything her body has ever experienced, so there’s no way for her to predict how it might respond? I’m not buying it.

    I was on the swim team in high school, and the fact that periods were never a problem in swimming–never even came up, that I recall–definitely gave me the impression that there was something more going on with the temple policy than mere practical considerations. (It should hardly need saying that an hour and a half swim practice is more vigorous than anything that could go on in a baptismal font.) I’m sure it wasn’t intended, but I got the message loud and clear that menstruation made women unfit for participation in holy ordinances.

  95. If you don’t have time to create the amazing picture in the OP, there are other things you can make, instead:

    http://tamponcrafts.com/

  96. American Eagle says:

    @ Ray

    Was that link appropriate for a Latter-day Saint blog?

    A good rule of thumb: think twice before posting.

  97. @American Eagle, I can’t tell if you are serious. What’s the problem? Do cardboard tubes and rolls of cotton really offend your sensibilities that much?

  98. StillConfused says:

    I went to the DC temple in the early 80s for baptisms. I don’t remember the period question. But I do remember the matron feeling me up something serious to see if I really needed to wear a bra during the baptisms. VERY traumatic.

  99. Mommie Dearest says:

    Not only did Ray’s link make me chuckle, but AmEagle’s comment, serious or satirical, inspired me to look for more inappropriate tampon art, which led me to discover the artist who made the work shown in the OP photos, Joana Vasconcelos. That piece, titled “a noiva” (the bride) is the only one of her works I could find which made use of tampons as materiel, but I did find her body of work to be exciting, inspiring, beautiful, very different, and most fascinating. Thanks again BCC!

  100. Coffinberry says:

    Yup, I remember girls being told to sit out in DC, back in the 80s, and I figured it must be some residual levitical law thing. And never heard differently til now. If they make a policy clarification, it needs to be more widely broadcast so that those of us taught differently as youth can hear about it.

  101. When I was a YW in the late 80s and early 90s this no-baptisms-when-you’re-on-the-rag thing was pushed by both ward YW leaders and temple workers, and I’m sorry (a tiny bit) to say that I lied my way into the water from age 13, assuming I was the only one being naughty. However, I also knew as a young teenager that few of my girlfriends used tampons–some because they thought it sounded painful or too hard to figure out, others because they’d been taught by their mothers that it was wrong to use them before marriage–so I assumed that the policy was there to bar any non-tamponed women who thought they could do three minutes in the water without serious incident. I’ve done baptisms about twice a year as an adult, at different temples than the one from my teen years, and don’t remember being asked the question in any of the other temples. If you’d asked me to guess why that is, I would have speculated that the workers saw that I was an endowed member and so assumed I already knew the rule and could police myself–I would never have guessed that there was no rule to begin with. Good to know! My nonexistent guilt is washed away.

    Speaking of which, completely eliminating this pseudo-policy could actually add a new symbolic dimension to baptisms, a folk doctrine to be passed on proudly from mother to daughter hereafter: our sins are washed away with blood, after all.

  102. #96 – I thought about posting that link 7 times (figured that was a good Biblical number), and it seemed like a better idea each time I thought about it.

    Also, if my memory is correct, I think I found the link a while ago in the BCC sideblog – so it’s just one more example of everything being an eternal round. That fact alone has strengthened my testimony of the temple, so sharing it here in this thread about the temple is appropriate, I think.

  103. I remembered this afternoon that the current temple president is my former stake president. How could I have forgotten, especially after Mabel’s story at the last book group meeting? I could call, but I don’t know that it would do much good. Folks fonder of creating extra rules for righteous living do not exist in the church.

  104. #96-American Eagle: Lighten up a little. Yes, some men & women may not like it, but others find this kind of stuff hilarious. It’s along the line of using other items in strange ways. Look at “there I Fixed It” sometime for a variety of odd things used to fix various “issues”.

    I find totally absurd things being taught in the Church as doctrine, like this “no baptisms for the dead while menstruating”, more offense. Or, one HP Quorum was teaching that doing housework ruins a man’s hormones. That last one sounded like an excuse.

  105. What every Mormon knows. And it doesn’t matter. That is the sad part.

  106. I’m sorry but what’s wrong with being careful? Anybody that sees blood in the water is going to be turned off. If everyone is at a pool party and you see blood in the water, you can’t tell me that is no big deal and that people wouldn’t be turned off. Nothing wrong with taking yourself out temporarily while nature runs its course.

  107. Sharee Hughes says:

    I have been asked the question more than once when going to do baptisms (as an adult), but I don’t remember which temple it was, since I have gone to both the Salt Lake and Jordan River temples. I agree it is a ridiculous policy and hope the Church will do something to correct it.

  108. I asked my husband if he was aware of this policy (we were in the same ward in high school and our temple definitely adhered to it) and he had never heard of such a thing. Which makes sense, since they would always separate the boys from the girls first before asking “The Question.” After a minute he remembered seeing girls sit out in the waiting area during the baptisms, but he always thought they had had an attack of conscience and were somehow unworthy. This practice needs to go, NOW!

  109. Mommie Dearest says:

    Henry, this isn’t about being careful. If you read the OP thoroughly or some of the comments, wearing a tampon properly is being careful. Millions of women do this routinely. The effect of this policy isn’t being careful, rather it quite unnecessarily and, it seems, randomly stigmatizes young women for having periods while attending the temple. Further, there is a big difference in taking yourself out when you deem it neccessary, and the volunteer matron in the temple removing you due to a flawed policy.

  110. Henry, my brother, I bleed for five days every 28 days. I can’t just go sit in the red tent, I gots stuff ta do! All of these pool parties you speak of – trust me, 1/4 of the ladies in the water were probably menstruating. Would you consider, just for a moment, what it feels like to be told that a 100% natural, easily dealt with bodily function (a function of a body modeled after and given to you by a heavenly parent) takes you”out” for five days? Nuh-uh. I just take an ibuprofen, pop in my reusable silicone menstrual cup (yes, I’m that comfortable with my body and what comes out of it) and get on with my life. It’s no big deal!

  111. Those who are so very turned off by the idea of any tiny bit of humanness getting in baptismal font water should count themselves lucky that they have a chlorinated and carefully maintained font in which to be baptized rather than a murky lake frequented by wildlife. (“Suck it up, wimps!” cry all the pre-20th Century dead people. “Pun intended. LOL.”)

  112. Temple Worker says:

    I worked in the Jordan River Temple baptistry very recently for almost 2 years and we NEVER EVER asked ANYONE if they were on their period. We provided free tampons in the women’s bathrooms and I personally provided them to several girls who just learned they were on their periods that day and still encouraged them to do baptisms if they wanted.

    Occasionally one temple starts doing something that is not policy procedure. The temple presidency takes these things seriously. I can assure you this is not policy – based on my experience because we handled it in quite an opposite fashion. I’m truly sorry for your experience, but this is not across the board.

  113. Temple Worker says:

    Another note – we had a specific instruction sheet that has all of the instructions we were supposed to give (like if you have family names get two sets of clothes etc.) It was direct and to the point. There was even a note on top asking us not to add anything or even bear our own testimonies. I think they were trying to avoid stuff like this.

    Again I repeat, there was nothing on this list about periods or menstruation or anything at all. I would be humiliated to ask young girls this question. THIS IS NOT CHURCH POLICY!!!

  114. Last year I accompanied my daughter at the Mt. Timp temple and she was not able to do baptisms for family names because she was menstruating. I can’t say I was very happy about it, nor was she. Since she already feels the church is bias against her as a female I am worried this will not help. Thanks for your well written post, glad to see it is not a church policy but that is all the more reason for it to go away.

  115. I used to have unpredictable (but heavy) periods. One time my period started… while I was waiting at the font to be baptized! It seemed awkward to suddenly turn and run for the locker room as they were motioning me into the font, so I went ahead and did my baptisms and then shuffled quickly into the showers before my situation became apparent. I wrapped up in a white towel and beelined for my locker but failed to notice that I’d left a trail of blood spatters in my wake. Some of the ladies in the locker room saw the blood on the floor and started freaking out: Blood! Is somebody bleeding? Is everyone okay? They even started knocking on the doors and asking if anyone was bleeding. I pretended to be just as confused as everyone else, I was so embarrassed. Oh, and I was probably 20 at the time.

  116. I’ve been on many of these trips and had never heard of this policy until now. I think it is an excellent policy, but should definitely be discussed well before the youth are at the Temple.

    I’m not sure where the author gets the idea that people with bleeding open wounds would not be asked to sit out, at least as to baptisms. Blood-borne diseases, including HIV, hepatitis, etc., probably wouldn’t be spread through chlorinated water, but it would be assinine, and negligent, to subject people unnecessarily to those risks.

  117. I don’t know where you get the idea that I have the idea that people with bleeding open wounds are anywhere near a baptismal font instead of the emergency room. The idea I have is that when tampons are used correctly, they prevent menstrual blood from getting into the water. This idea is not based on wishful thinking or faith. I swear, I will shut down this thread before someone forces me to explain how tampons work.

  118. Oh good heavens. No one is suggesting that we should invite girls and women to menstruate copiously into the baptismal font. What we are suggesting is that maybe, just maybe, the majority of women have the capacity to use a tampon correctly and to decide on their own if they wish to participate in performing baptisms.

    Accidents are always possible, but it’s no more likely that a girl will suddenly start her period in the font (as unfortunately happened to Stina) than that a young man will get a nosebleed.

  119. From my reading here, it is clear that there is no policy — no evil or unkindness caused by ignorant or patriarchal men — just individual members doing their best to magnify their callings. May God bless the sisters that work in the baptistry in temples around the world.

    I prefer letting local members magnify their callings as best they can with only such guidance as might be necessary, rather than a thick set of policies and rules to prevent every possible situation or embarrassment.

  120. So, if an investigator/new convert happened to be on her period when on her baptismal date, would she be forced to push it back? ‘Cause, I don’t remember ever talking to my female investigators about it.

    I hope that whoever is “magnifying their calling” is truly acting in the spirit, not solely on intellect. While I personally don’t like going to the temple when I’m menstruating (mostly because I don’t like wearing tampons, and therefore don’t feel like all my clothes are clean and white, even with a pad), I would never dream of imposing my feelings on someone else–especially a young girl who may be doing baptisms for the dead for the first time. It’s experiences like that which drive people away from the church.

  121. “Yet we don’t ask if anyone has current or recent diarrhea or any open sores.”

    This is what I was referenced. I highly doubt someone with an open sore would not be asked to sit out.

    Also, I disagree with this:

    “but it’s no more likely that a girl will suddenly start her period in the font (as unfortunately happened to Stina) than that a young man will get a nosebleed.”

    For most young men, unless they’re on steroids, nosebleeds don’t spontaneously happen.

    A better analogy is that if a young man had a nosebleed, he’d be asked to not participate, or at least to wait until it stopped bleeding.

  122. “I swear, I will shut down this thread before someone forces me to explain how tampons work.”

    Comment of the week FTW!

  123. Ryan, that’s because there’s no such thing as a nose tampon.

  124. Very well, Ryan, I was unclear. My point was that no one asks temple patrons about other possible contagions that may not be obvious to the naked eye. The presumption is that the patron will use reasonable judgment. I did not mean to imply that people are routinely admitted to baptismal fonts when they have an obvious, gaping wounds that need attending.

    But if your point is that a young woman is so much more likely to start her period in the font than a young man is to get a spontaneous nosebleed, then we’re not talking about the efficacy of tampons–as Stina’s story was about getting her period unexpectedly, as opposed to knowing she was already on it and being prepared. We’re actually talking about the wisdom of letting women do proxy baptisms at all until there is absolutely no risk that she will start menstruating spontaneously in the baptistry. Because yes, from the onset of menarche until she gets a hysterectomy or goes through menopause, it is possible that a woman could unexpectedly get her period at any time. Better safe than sorry.

    Speaking of sorry, I am sorry to the degree that this discussion has turned anyone off to using a baptismal font ever again.

  125. I swear, I will shut down this thread before someone forces me to explain how tampons work.

    Well, then, *I* will, for the sake of Ryan and any other clueless man, or even for any woman who isn’t using them correctly so doesn’t know.

    Ryan, take careful note: Tampons work in two ways. The first is to completely — completely, totally, utterly — block the passage between the source of the bleeding and the outside of the body. If a woman is hemorrhaging so badly that the tampon is physically forced out of place and blood exits the body, then she is close to passing out, knows it, and isn’t going to be climbing any steps to any font. Second, a modern tampon is not like your average wadded-up kleenex. It is incredibly absorbent, capable of holding many times its own weight in fluid. Try dropping one into a glass of water, letting it sit for a minute, then wringing it out to see how much water has been absorbed. Again, if a woman is hemorrhaging so badly that a fresh tampon cannot absorb the flow, she is close to passing out, knows it, and isn’t going to be climbing any steps to any font.

    If you have a hangnail, there is more chance of your getting blood in the water than a tampon-wearing woman. If your father didn’t teach you proper male hygiene, there is more chance of your getting … other crud … in the water than a tampon-wearing woman. If you squeeze your zits or pick at the scab on your knee, there is more chance of your getting something unpleasant in the water than a tampon-wearing woman. Heck, if you didn’t wash your hair and brush your teeth this morning, there is more chance of your getting something unpleasant in the water than a tampon-wearing woman.

  126. It’s not cluelessness alone Ardis, it’s obstinate, willful blindness. Ryan’s comment shows he either didn’t read the OP or that he simply dismisses the context surrounding the–for some reason alone dazzling–“blood in the water.” Whether a policy (if this is even fully a policy) is “excellent” or ridiculous cannot simply be removed from the actual effects it has on the people it touches. The girls in the examples provided did not choose to feel humiliated; they *were* humiliated. Any action, institutional or personal, that results in a human being actually being shamed as its consequence is simply wrong. Rejection or major revision is the only acceptable outcome.

  127. Nothing wrong with taking yourself out temporarily while nature runs its course.

    Sadly, too many YW feel rather awkward as it is due to their periods. Do we really need to add to that? As it is, YW only get about half the limelight of YM. Tell them to needlessly sit out is not helpful. I’ve spent a fair amount of time swimming, and I never recall trails of blood behind any woman in the water, so tampons do work well.

    And, if Ardis’s explanation is not enough, there are books, videos & blogs that explain these. I previewed book along this line for my daughter when she was 10.

  128. Nothing wrong with taking yourself out temporarily while nature runs its course.

    Henry, either you didn’t read the OP, or you think there is “nothing wrong” with humiliating young girls. Henry: my nominee for best example of Christlike love and compassion!

  129. It makes sense to take precautions with bodily fluids. Newsflash. We all excrete them. Ryan has some good points.

  130. Matthew Palmberg says:

    From puberty to menopause I was always a heavy bleeder who needed to wear multiple tampons & a pad. I remember that the day I went for my endowment it was that ‘time of the month’. The elderly temple worker informed me that I had to wear the temple garment next to my skin with the pad on the outside of it! I thought, ‘Wow you don’t remember wearing a pad & you are so old tampons were not invented yet!’ Needless to say I did not heed her inane counsel. Young women don’t want to embarrass themselves & should be trusted to know whether they are safe to enter a pool of water whether it’s a font or a swimming hole.

  131. Matthew Palmberg says:

    That’s Mrs. Matthew Palmberg. We share the same email.

  132. The one between his ears, Henry. It’s a match for yours.

  133. Perhaps I scanned the comments too quickly, but there doesn’t seem to be a single dissenting comment from a woman here. Unfortunately, some men on this thread have made some really asinine, arrogant, insensitive, and downright stupid remarks. Perhaps we can do a little experiment and scour the bloggernacle for a woman genuinely willing to flippantly dismiss these girls’ degrading experiences as reducible to mere (rational, right guys?) common sense. I can only deduce that some rather blatant sexism is on display, if in fact analytic and empathetic faculties have not failed completely. Again–it’s not the issue of the bodily fluids alone, fellas. It’s how in every one of these situations the humiliation of human beings was the end result of insensitivity and/or a policy or policies that are at minimum questionable as to their content or their implementation.

  134. It’s a shame some female in the spirit world didn’t get her work done right away because some girl
    happened to be menstruating. Ridiculous!!

  135. I can’t believe this discussion is happening in 2012. I can’t believe some old idiot is asking these questions. Why don’t church leaders do something about this? Unbelievable! For those who think everything is otherwise pristine in fonts and swimming pools I have two words for you: Ass Matter!

  136. Jacob (no. 133), No one was degraded, and no one flippantly dismissed and degradation. And there are no insensitive policies. It is just kind-hearted sisters volunteering to work in temple baptistries who are trying to be helpful to other sisters. Well-intentioned but causing some embarrassment? Yes. An opportunity for people to learn? Yes. That’s all. At least, that’s all I see…

  137. Henry (#192): “Newsflash. We all excrete them.”

    Is that so. Then you explain (or should I say mansplain) this to me: why are only females ever excluded from doing baptisms? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts; it’s so good to have a knowledgable man to give lil ol me newsflashes.

  138. Neal FTW.

    “Why don’t church leaders do something about this?”

    That’s the real kicker of a sociological question, isn’t it. Here are a bunch of people who are in a position to do something about this.

  139. Supergabers says:

    Perhaps the YM should be stopped from doing baptisms altogether. We wouldn’t want a stiffy to just sping up like they can do from time-to-time as puberty sets in. Gives to meaning to a white teeshirt contest.

  140. I don’t know about you, but in the ancient days girls did not swim during their time of the month. I seem to recall swim parties where girls sat out. I think I even knew that they were having their periods. This was in the 50s. Maybe the older temple presidents remember these days. Maybe tampons were not in common usage 60 or 70 years ago. I seem to recall that most menstrual products were pads back then.

    So, maybe it is just a holdover idea from a long forgotten technological age.

  141. Mercy, #139, I was helping at a youth baptism a couple of years ago. The young man doing the baptizing looked like he was awfully backed up touching the young wet girls. Ugh.

  142. People are dirty. That’s why there’s chlorine in the water. It’s a stupid, retrograde policy that gives people negative associations with their temple experiences, and needs to be done away with.

  143. I’m with Michelle Glauser. I would have lied through my teeth if asked such a question. Unless I bled up a red tidal wave in the baptismal font (highly unlikely with a fresh, properly-inserted tampon), who in Hades would know? “We will be having a knickers inspection to ensure optimal sanitary procedures.” Bollocks. It’s a dumb policy, and I know Heavenly Mother must simply understand a fib given the circumstances.

  144. Jacob,

    I disagree that any action which causes another to feel shame is necessarily wrong. On the other hand, I agree that causing unnecessary shame is wrong. And I think most of the shame that was described in the original post could have been avoided by discussing the issue prior to the Temple trip. However, my opinion is that asking anyone whose body is discharging blood or other bodily fluid to abstain from entering water into which other people will also enter is reasonable. I would be curious if any unbiased doctors could give an opinion. In my experience hospitals and medical professionals take extreme precautions to prevent any unnecessary contact between individuals and others’ bodily fluids.

    Ardis,

    I don’t see why any explanation of how tampons work – or are supposed to work if used correctly – was necessary. But regardless, whether or not they should work a certain way, doesn’t mean they will.

    Two final points:

    1. I have no doubt the policy is to prevent situations which could be embarassing for all involved (including the girls), as well as unsanitary, although I do agree it should be discussed prior to the trip.

    2. This really doesn’t seem like something to get upset about. There is indisputably a rational basis for the rule. I would hope it would be adopted in all Temples.

  145. Ryan, couple things:

    (1) Have you been paying ANY attention at all? Tampons = no blood in the water. This is true in all but such exceptionally rare circumstances that, if you are going to try to guard against circumstances that rare, no person would ever be allowed to do baptisms. Good thing you’re not in charge or you’d have utterly halted the progress of redeeming the dead.

    (2) Even if blood were getting in the water, the CDC says there is no health risk whatsoever. I don’t know if you consider them to be “any unbiased doctors,” but that’s their opinion: http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/pools/vomit-blood-contamination.html

    Two final points:

    1. Dear women of the world: Ryan and Henry think your lady parts are so gross that you shouldn’t be permitted to enter chlorinated bodies of water that other people will subsequently enter (even if your lady parts aren’t emitting blood to the outside world). May I suggest that you grant them their wishes to have no interaction whatsoever with lady parts, and not allow either of them anywhere near your lady parts.

    2. You’re welcome, Ryan and Henry!

  146. Ryan,

    If you are still squeamish about the thought of entering an environment that has the faintest possibility of containing trace amounts of menstrual fluid after all you have read in the comments, I suggest you never go into *any* pool, jacuzzi, hot tub, lake, pond, or bath tub from this point forward. Oh, and never, under any circumstances, have sex.

  147. Cynthia,
    You beat me to the punch, and did it much better.

  148. Great minds…

  149. #141 said: “I was helping at a youth baptism a couple of years ago. The young man doing the baptizing looked like he was awfully backed up touching the young wet girls. Ugh”

    OK, Ryan and Henry, suppose that other young men who are “backed up” in the font have a Cowper’s gland secretion…Ugh…another type of issue…this is embarrassing….this could be a problem….I’m worried….what’s to guarantee that young girls will be safe from unplanned pregnancies? What if the chorine doesn’t take care of that embarrassing issue, what then? Scandalous! In the font! How will we explain this! Can you guarantee me that my daughters will be safe? Oh no, and their might be STDs to consider too. I’m just trying to be logical, of course. It’s logical to keep our girls safe, even if it might be rare for something so unspeakable to happen. You know, I just can’t stop worrying about these possibilities. Do you think we could ask men not to participate in baptisms? It wouldn’t shame any of them, right? I knew you would understand.

  150. Mommie Dearest says:

    Thanks gals (145 and 146, Ardis, the OP, and numerous other comments) for making it plain. Ya think another blunt comment will help? Mind if I wade in?

    Tampons = no excretions. Zero. This applies to the overwhelming majority women on their periods at any given time of the cycle. Think 99.9% and you’re in the ballpark. Since the advent of tampons, all menstrual swimming/water issues have dried up and blown away. No need to consult a doctor or scientist. For the purposes of baptism in a font, a young woman on her period and using a tampon is the excretory equivalent of a young woman not on her period, or a young man.

    The temple “policy” described here that too many young women have experienced does harm to the young women, is irrational, unnecessary, randomly applied, at best based on obsolete fears and at worst based on misogyny. It needs to be eradicated. A loving policy would certainly include stocking every women’s dressing room in every temple baptistry with tampons for unexpected menses, and training the temple workers in how to properly help young women prepare for baptismal service regardless of where they are in their menstrual cycles.

  151. Had to sit out in the London, England Temple in the 1990s: bloody ridiculous :)

  152. As far as blood billowing out…I remember as a teen at a pool party, I think it was for the track team. One girl said she was at the end of her period and didn’t want to bother with a tampon, but would just get in the water and once she was in the water it wouldn’t be a problem. It is true that water reduces flow…but really, even then I thought how stupid that was to chance it when there was a perfectly good and workable solution available. I would not be surprised if this type of thing happened somewhere once in a baptistry and that is what the whole thing is based on. The extra action of dunking would have an affect there, whereas with a tampon it’d be a non-issue. The problem being our attitudes towards women and menstruation in general…and a clear misunderstanding of tampons.

    The thing is you can’t legislate stupid…a young women stupid enough to not wear a tampon is likely not going to raise her hand and march off dutifully to confirmations . So the same risk is there. The only girls you will get in this process are honest, good girls…though you will offend all the girls and plant that lovely seed of doubt that they are by virtue of being a woman…unclean.

  153. Lyndsey Thackston says:

    I was a worker in the DC temple, in the baptistry, just two years ago. The policy was then that a YW could choose whether to wear a tampon and do baptisms or no and just do confirmations. We also had tampons available and kept them stocked regularly. We would pull the girls aside and just let then know their options and said let us or your leaders know if you will be choosing to do just confirmations. I also saw a lot of rules bent to accommodate kids with disabilities. It was pretty cool.

  154. Kevin Barney says:

    Here’s another way to test whether this is a universal, top-down policy instituted by the capital B Brethren as opposed to one of those unfortunate localized things that gets perpetuated among temple workers like a Faith Promoting Rumor:

    Where is the corresponding policy for convert baptisms?

    It doesn’t exist. I never, ever, ever, have heard of a situation where missionaries or a Ward Mission Leader or a Bishop has interrogated a proselyte as to whether she was on her period, with a consequent postponing of the ordinance.

    As this thread demonstrates, there is simply no reason to have a different policy for temple baptisms that doesn’t exist for convert baptisms.

  155. I don’t see why any explanation of how tampons work – or are supposed to work if used correctly – was necessary.

    No, Ryan, you don’t see, that is painfully obvious. A reasonable man, though, would have seen what every woman participating here has said: tampon = no blood in the water. It is a dependable, reliable barrier, and there is a greater likelihood that someone, you, even, contribute greater amounts of sweat, ear wax, spit, snot, stool, and whatever else to the font water, because there is no barrier whatsoever to those contaminating excretions.

    You are recoiling in disgust from something that does not exist, a fantasy, a groundless fear, a bugaboo no more real than monsters in the closet or a zombie apocalypse. Brigham Young liked to quote Proverbs 28:1 in reference to people like you: “The wicked flee when no [wo]man pursueth.”

  156. Rebecca, Cynthia and Ardis, you da woman! I think the whole church could stand to woman up on this and admit that tampons work.

  157. #154. Excellent point about convert baptisms.

  158. To be fair, Ardis, zombie apocalypse is real.

  159. Yeah, I know, Cynthia. I knew my comment was flawed even as I wrote it, but I figured that Ryan was too clueless to be aware of the error.

  160. Since it will basically be impossible to add to Cynthia’s and Ardis’ devastating full-frontal rational assault, I’ll just make a minor point, in response to Ryan. There is no such thing as “necessary shame.” There is a difference between contrite humility because of being called lovingly to repentance and humiliating shame that painfully reduces one to inhumanity, feeling worthless and unloved. Because that is precisely what shaming does. It makes one feel less than human, unworthy of love, unworthy of salvation. The often-quoted passage in D&C 121 about reproving with sharpness lest the reproved think of you as an enemy, someone who does not love them and wishes to harm them, says nothing of shaming. Shaming has no place in the Gospel or among those who profess to follow Christ.

    “What do you regard as most human? To spare someone shame.” –Nietzshe

  161. Oops, I forgot to complete the crucial part of the passage: “showing forth afterwards an increase of love.”

  162. my girls say they’ve never been asked at the Houston or Lubbuck temples.

    The reminder that this is not something dealt with at convert baptisms is a very good point.

  163. Ardis and Cynthia L.,

    I would strongly encourage you both to rise above the sarcasm and rationally address the merits of the issue. I am sure once you can set the negative emotions aside you’ll see that the policy is as much to protect the young women as it is to protect everyone else. Obviously if it is a policy in the Temple, it has been given serious consideration and implemented by better people than you or I.

    Once again, this issue does not justify the vitriol contained in the post and comments. As Brigham Young said, “He who takes offense when no offense is intended is a fool…”

    My final suggestion would be to accept the policy and stop denying yourselves, and your children, the blessings of the Temple. In the end, your angry, narrow-minded view will only do harm.

  164. This is fantastic. Thank you Rebecca.

  165. Ryan, I assure you I wasn’t being sarcastic. I sincerely believe that no woman should allow you anywhere near her lady-parts.

    “rationally address the merits of the issue”
    Yeah that’s been done. Remember this link: http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/pools/vomit-blood-contamination.html
    Would you like to ‘rationally address the merits of’ the facts presented at that link?

  166. #33: She mentioned that the policy was enacted after several girls had billows of blood show up in the font during baptisms.

    I’m throwing the BS flag on this little bit of folklore. The story seems a bit fantastic in that it happened to several girls? If a tampon is used properly this is impossible. Not to mention that they are wearing underwear, and a long jumpsuit. This sounds like the kind of imagined hypothetical that became a true story as it was passed along in order to justify the policy. Boo-urns.

    Also, anyone gonna call ye temples like Grant suggested?

  167. Ryan, several key points:
    1. There is NO policy, as countless comments have made clear. What there is are individual applications in individual temples.
    2. Because there is no policy, how could it have been given serious consideration? And what makes you think anyone is better than you or me?

    Ardis, FTW.

  168. Ryan, whatever gives you the idea that I and/or my children are being denied the blessings of the temple, wrt this or any other question? Of all the foolish, offensive, ignorant and arrogant assumptions you have made, this is the lowest and falsest.

  169. OK, Ryan and Henry, suppose that other young men who are “backed up” in the font have a Cowper’s gland secretion

    Why do you think withdrawal is such a crummy BC technique? But, the Leviticus passages live in with some, causing bodily secretions from woman to be treated with more panic than secretions from men. What next, requiring all women to douche before doing Baptisms for the dead, in case there’s a microscopic trace of blood, to say nothing of normal vaginal secretions?

    #145-Cynthia L., you rock.

  170. Just a note. If you are interested in being part of the solution in a faithful, reasoned way FMH is spearheading the collection of systematic information on the local policies and practices at each temple. They have a data collection strategy designed to be respectful but comprehensive in collecting the data. There is updated information on what has been learned about the current state of policy through the contacting of sitting/recent temple presidents. http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/?p=8350 . Come over and help out!

    Reading the tea leaves my guess is that excluding women during the periods was once, at some point a centralized recommended or required practice rooted in hygiene concerns of a bygone era. It seems from comments it was pretty widespread at least into the 1990s. The history would be interesting to know. Regardless, IT IS NO LONGER a centralized policy or practice. My guess is that we will find that only a small minority of temples have a stated policy of excluding women during their periods, but that the practice sporadically pops up in a larger number of temples due to volunteers who don’t know new policy and procedures. The belief and practice is probably also continues to be spread by well-meaning youth and ward leaders who simply don’t know better. I predict that the majority of temples when asked will have a well-developed policy that simply helpfully tries and make sure the proper precautions are available for women visiting the temple as well quiet accommodations for young women or others who choose on their to opt out. However, it will be interesting to see what the data says in the next week or so. Hopefully, this information in the right hands can help end the practice and remind the temples to make sure the include this in training etc.

    People like Ryan can be surprised that most temples don’t have practices that adhere to their strange views. Shocker.

  171. Funny that Ryan, with his hysterical irrational fear of uterine lining traces, tries to take Cynthia and Ardis to task for letting their emotions get in the way of rational discussion. Funny especially in light of the actual content of their comments. Unselfconscious sexism, FTW.

  172. Golly, Cynthia and Ardis, you really jumped down poor Ryan’s throat. What is it, that time of the

  173. BTW, forgive my really behind-the-times comment. I read the comments before hitting refresh, so I was about 100+ comments out of the loop.

  174. Nice to see how rapidly you catch up, BHodges. You have a superior mind.

  175. Ah, my lame joke in 173 was obscured because I used carrots instead of brackets. In brackets I put [struck dead by the hand of God] before completing my sexist innuendo.

  176. Personally, I think we need to consider what Ryan is saying. We should study what the Bible says in these issues. Women should be kept outside the city for a week, and only then can be washed clean. Men would have to become Nazarites and avoid dead people. Of course, Mormon Zombies may have a problem with their leper-type issues, and so may have to await a miracle to heal them first.
    Perhaps a few stonings would also improve morale in the Church, don’t you think?

    Seriously, can we allow mercy to replace tradition? If Jesus can prevent the stoning of the woman caught up in adultery, or embrace the woman with a blood issue who touched his hem (unclean!), then perhaps we can find ways to accommodate members who have issues (literal and not so literal), so they can have the best spiritual experience possible. Telling a girl she cannot have that experience, especially when there is a workaround (tampon), is to forget that Christ commanded us to let the children come unto him, and “forbid them not.”

  177. I can’t believe we’re having an actual argument with someone who doesn’t understand this issue. To keep it simple:

    1) Proper use = no blood = periods are less dangerous than boys who don’t shower / bathe regularly;

    2) It’s not an actual Church policy;

    3) No corresponding actions for convert baptisms;

    4) It’s not an actual Church policy;

    5) Not one woman is arguing for this non-policy;

    6) It’s not an actual Church policy.

    7) A man can be emotional, but a woman can’t.

    8) It’s not an actual Church policy.

    9) Temples provide tampons so this doesn’t happen.

    10) It’s not an actual Church policy

    Ryan, how can you keep arguing to implement a policy that the Church itself doesn’t support – especially given #9? (Is there such a thing as a “holy tampon” that should be used instead of the worldly ones that have been inserted outside the temple?)

  178. I’m sorry your daughter had this awful experience. I think a more effective approach of changing the way menstruation and baptisms for the dead are handled would be to write a letter to headquarters. I doubt it’s official church policy and that may be a better way to change things. As for your tampon chandelier picture, I don’t think it’s appropriate. Remember, it is imperfect people who have offended and hurt you and so many who have commented on the post, not the Lord. In my opinion, that photo is making light of a sacred place.

  179. Cheryl,
    What’s inappropriate about a tampon chandelier exactly? It’s not in the celestial room or anything. As you probably know, all letters from members to church headquarters are referred back to local leaders.

  180. I think my work here is done. Thanks for playing, kids.

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