An Unusual Baptism

Reba and Lori Schappell are conjoined twins living in Reading, Pennsylvania. You can read about them and see pictures in this article from BBC News. A friend’s mother, who also lives in Reading, reports that one of the conjoined twins (I think Lori, although I’m not entirely sure) was recently baptized, as was the twins’ aide. But the other twin, Reba, was not. Nevertheless, since they are joined at the left sides of their heads just above the eye, Reba had to kneel in the font as a part of the baptism.

I found this fascinating and had the following questions:

– Reba must have been present when the missionary discussions were given. It is interesting that they “took” with Lori and the aide but not with Reba.

– I wonder what sort of special instructions the witnesses were given. Some can be very picky about a hair floating to the top of the water or such; I hope they didn’t have to perform the ordinance multiple times just to try to comply with some person’s pharisaical sense of complete immersion.

– I should think that would require a lot of sisterly love and patience to be willing to kneel in a font filled with water so that your sister could be baptized. (Conversely, though, when Reba performs [she is a country western singer], Lori is hidden by a sort of blanket. And Lori even has to pay her own way into the concerts, which appears to be her preference as a way of affirming their individuality.)

– My main question is how this will work in practice going forward. If Lori wants to attend a three-hour block of meetings, Reba will have to attend as well. It seems as though an astounding measure of self-sacrifice is entailed in the willingness of one sister to support the other in converting to the Gospel and living a fulfilling life. I think we could say this measure of love and self-sacrifice is indeed Christ-like, and a remarkable example to us all.


  1. Kevin Barney says:

    Keep in mind that I might have the names backwards. I’m not really sure which one was baptized and which one wasn’t.

  2. Didn’t these twins appear in “Stuck on You”?

  3. Another interesting question is would the baptized member be allowed to take out her endowment if the other sister still did not join the church?

  4. WOW! Talk about true love!

    I echo Brian. The temple complication was my very first question – after the amazement of the situation faded. Personally, if Reba never joins the church, I hope that accommodations are allowed for Lori to attend the temple. (a very long book, perhaps?) Given their willingness to let each other live “separate” lives, and Reba’s obvious willingness to help Lori receive ordinances, I am as certain as a stranger can be that Reba would not desecrate Lori’s temple experience – that she could “be there in body but not in spirit”.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    Oh, wow, I didn’t even think down the line about the temple! Good issue spotting, guys. That is definitely a complicating situation. I certainly hope that some sort of reasonable accomodation could be made.

  6. Kevin Barney says:

    They’re famous enough to have their own Wikipedia entry. They’ve apparently been in a couple of documentaries.

    I believe it was the smaller of the two that was baptized, and from what I can gather that would be Reba, who has spina bifida. So I’m thinking I may have gotten the names reversed in the original post. I’m hoping someone who actually knows will confirm this.

  7. I don’t think the non-performing twin is actually hidden by a blanket. I think she meant it’s as if she were behind a blanket to the audience—the audience is just there to see the performing twin.

    One said in the article that when she’s visiting with friends, the other twin can totally tune them out. That may be what went on during the missionary discussions.

    I saw them on a documentary awhile back, when they were younger. I can’t remember much of it now, but it was fascinating.

  8. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    So, what would the options have been had both been baptized? …each kneeling beside the other for their respective baptisms; complete immersion of both, twice; or, perhaps, two priesthood holders reciting a baptismal prayer with a single immersion? There may be others, not sure which would be preferable in such an extreme example.

  9. Kevin Barney says:

    You’re right, Susan, I misread the bit about the blanket at first.

  10. Ooh, I’ve seen something about them before… I think in a documentary I watched in a class in high school. Cool story.

  11. That just looks so uncomfortable. I’ve seen the documentary about those girls. It’s amazing what people can overcome, or I guess, live joyfully in spite of?

  12. Mark B. says:

    Threadjack: Since when does someone “take out” a gift. The sooner we consign that abomination to the dustbin where it belongs the better.

    Let’s try “receive” instead.

  13. Susan C. says:

    For those that have never seen these amazing women, they are conjoined so that they are facing opposite directions. Reba’s spina bifida and smaller size requires that she be on a rolling stool or some other raised instrumentality to ambulate. If she is performing, she would be sitting on the stool and facing her audience; Lori would be facing the curtain or back of the house. This makes it easier (and I use that word for lack of a better one, because nothing about their life is easy)for the non-engaged twin to “tune out” what the other is doing.

  14. This is absolutely amazing, and some very interesting questions — especially about the exceptions made by the witnesses needing to see full immersion and the “what if” about the temple endowment. I would expect that they would be allowed to take out endowments even if only one of them was a believer — I imagine there is temple work done for deceased anscestors who choose to not accept it on the other side — that might lead to a similar justification in this case, but I would hope it would fall the inclusive rather than exclusive side of the fence.

    But what really strikes me about this is how ultimately insignificant all the outward ordinances are when compared to the real faith and devotion that takes place in the heart — and I suspect that the love these sisters have for each other and the things they put up with in sharing every aspect of life will ultimately transcend any differences that might arise in their choice of religion.

    Very cool post kevin.