That Chaplain is my Sister!

My sister, Jenette Blair Lambert, will become a chaplain tomorrow, July 30. She was featured in a news story on KSL (Salt Lake) tonight–because she is a first.

This is from Carol Mikita’s story:

“As chaplains, we probably see ourselves not as the healer as much as we are the conduit for healing. We bring up the spiritual. We bring up belief and purpose and meaning,” Lambert said.

Every chaplain belongs to a particular faith. Lambert is a Latter-day Saint, but reaches out in a nondenominational way. She also counsels veterans who suffer with poor mental health.

“She is pioneering new ground. She’s not only a female chaplain, which in the LDS tradition is sort of new, but she is a nurse and a psychiatric nurse at that. She’s been paving a new trail,” said Mark Allison, supervising chaplain at the VA Med Center.

Of course, I cried when I watched the story about my sister. I am so proud of her. She has never sought any kind of special attention (I’m the one who did that), but has quietly served. Granted, I did make her tin foil crowns when we were children and named her “Miss Cedar Avenue,” but throughout her life, Jen has given her gifts without much fanfare. For years, she was a hospice worker, preparing patients and families for death; administering pain medication to make the departure as comfortable as possible; leading parents or children into the chambers of grief and then staying with them as they began accepting death, even recognizing beauty in its calm pronouncement of a finished life. Jen has always been a giver of comfort. As a patient prepared to leave mortality, Jen was there as a gentle angel, a veil worker on the earthly side. Now, she will bring her faith as well as her nursing skills to Salt Lake’s VA hospital.

One of my heroes, Elder Marion D. Hanks, was also a chaplain–in the military service. I thought of him when Jen first announced that she had decided to make a career shift. Both Elder Hanks and my sister have a way with the one. Even as Elder Hanks has declined, it has brought me to tears when he has taken my hand, looked me in the eye, and simply said my name. I wonder how many wounded or dying soldiers Elder Hanks cared for, how many names he learned, how many hands he held to give the human touch–sometimes the last human touch.

But of course, there’s that other thing about my sister’s new role: she’ll be a FEMALE Mormon chaplain. How cool is that? As Mark Alison says in the news story, “In the LDS tradition, that’s sort of new.” I love the idea of a woman (and Jen in particular) approaching souls in need and asking if they’d like her to pray with them. I loved that KSL showed my sister praying with a patient.

Jen will know the names of all those she cares for. She will honor the various religious traditions her patients have. And she won’t need to tell them she’s a woman of faith. That will come through without a word.

News video at


  1. Ugly Mahana says:

    Beautiful tribute.

  2. Margaret Young says:

    Thanks, UM. I’m still kinda choked up about the whole thing.

  3. I’m proud to say that I know Chaplain Jen Lambert. She is a beautiful woman in every way and a practicing disciple of the Savior. She will do well in this new calling.


  4. This is simply wonderful, Margaret. Thank you very much for posting on it and doing so with such poignancy.

  5. Kinda O says:

    I’m so glad your sister’s story is getting out. Where did she receive her chaplain training? I read somewhere that BYU now offers chaplain training. Curious, I emailed the religion department and asked if the program were open to men and women. The short reply: “Yes.”

  6. Mark Brown says:

    This is interesting news, Margaret, and wonderful for your sister and your family. Will she be serving in the VA system?

  7. Julie M. Smith says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this!

  8. I served 20 years in the Air Force and knew several LDS chaplains. Most chaplains of other faiths did not appreciate the fact that, of all service members, Mormons did not actually need a chaplain in order to conduct worship services, funerals, or ordinances like baptism. The callings that LDS chaplains have in their local congregation have nothing to do with their jobs in the military–I knew one who was a bishop, but typically they are called to serve on a high council/district council, so it is clear they are not in a direct hierarchical line above a master sergeant who is branch president or the lt. colonel who is elders quorum president.

    Thus, the work that LDS chaplains perform AS CHAPLAINS is not based in any way on the priesthood they hold, but rather on performing service as counselors, teachers, givers of sermons and organizers of various morale boosting activities for military members of all faiths, things which LDS women do all the time as leaders of auxiliaries and members of wards and stakes and missionaries. There is no reason an LDS woman can’t do most of the things any chaplain does, which is what any professional clergyman does.

    This is a fact that should inform our consideration of questions raised about women and the priesthood. LDS women in leadership capacities do the same things that many paid ministers do. They are called and “set apart” but not “ordained”, but the distinction between being “set apart” and being “ordained” is one that is not as strong outside the LDS Church.

    An LDS Relief Society president has responsibilities that are equivalent to what many Protestant pastors perform, but she does them without pay, on an assignment of a few years. Once you remove the issue of income and careers, and focus on what minsters are supposed to do with their congregations, LDS women have opportunities to serve and lead that parallel the work of many ministers. Her setting apart is not called an “ordination” by the LDS Church, but in practice it looks like what happens to an ordained minister in most other churches.

    The fact is, she can have just as much “priesthood” as a Baptist pastor has, while doing much the same work. And we believe that, as someone with the Gift of the Holy Ghost, who has made temple covenants, and been set apart in her calling, she is entitled to help from God and spiritual beings that a Protestant minister could only envy.

  9. that’s so great! I had a t-shirt in highschool that said “That’s my sister!” I’ve had many a reason to wear it.

  10. Lovely. Congratulations to your sister.

  11. Margaret, that is so cool. I think you have great reason to be proud and thrilled with your sister!

    When I was in the Army an LDS chaplain played a huge role in my return to activity. He was a wonderful man and I grew close to his family. He had served in Vietnam and was one of the most Christlike and kindest men I ever knew. His daughters wore a silver cross as jewelry and he loved people of all faiths and had officiated at services of every denomination. Your sister is so lucky to receive such a deep honor. She will do good unimaginable to those serving in the military. I wish her every blessing in her undertaking.

  12. Kevin Barney says:

    Her spirituality was apparent on the screen, and it reminded me very much of yours, Margaret. It is obviously a family trait. Congratulations to your sister!

  13. Stephanie says:

    This is really awesome. My mom actually emailed me the story before you posted this because she was so excited about it.

  14. How cool is this!
    Loved it.

  15. I love this, Margaret. Just beautiful. I’m very happy for your sister.

  16. I’m Margaret’s husband, which makes me Jen’s brother-in-law. Though I haven’t known her as long as Margaret has, I too know her and love her. Her work reminds me of a favorite scripture of Pres. Monson’s (and of many others), describing the Savior: He “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38).

    By the way, for the KSL story online, go to , where you’ll find the video (also linked above at the bottom of Margaret’s post).

  17. Congratulations to your sister! I’m glad her story is out.
    I really enjoyed the female chaplain that spoke at Sustone West. She covers the VA hospital and Stanford hospitals. She said there were a few LDS sisters like herself that chose being a chaplain as a profession.

  18. This is absolutely wonderful. Congratulations to her, and to your family. What an event. :-) Gives me chills. I’m sure her service will touch many more lives.

  19. This is really beautiful, Margaret. I can see the family resemblance both in the face and the gentle, strong manner.

  20. This is SO exciting (and has me sitting at my computer with the biggest smile on my face). I worked as a hospital chaplain in Boston, and an LDS female chaplain/psychiatric nurse–I can’t think of a better combination!

  21. Steve Evans says:

    How wonderful – she sounds like a fantastic and powerful woman. Thank you for sharing this.

  22. G. Jones says:

    Congratulations to your sister.

    I have been both a chaplain a chaplain educator for a number of years. It has been interesting to watch the number of LDS chaplains grow since I started 10 years ago.

    In my experience LDS members have always been welcomed at the table in the chaplaincy field. It sounds like your sister will make a nice addition.

  23. StillConfused says:

    Is the Church okay with that?

  24. I e-mailed Carole Mikita to thank her for the story. I don’t think she’d mind if I share part of what she wrote in reply: “It was an honor to meet Jen. She has a remarkable combination of intelligence, compassion and grace. Like so many in her profession, now professions, she has clearly never sought the spotlight. It was our pleasure to shine a little light on this great woman.”

  25. This is just so dang cool. Thanks.

    (To be fair, Margaret, I didn’t read of you tooting your own horn when you were featured in that BYU Universe news article last week, nor when picked it up, either. Evidently you’re not as attention-seeking as you make yourself out to be.)

  26. Elouise says:

    Still Confused (#23) Re: is the Church okay with that? The news was featured on KSL. KSL is, um, strongly favored by the Church, I believe.

    Margaret–Wahoo! How beautiful! I am cheering with you.
    There are several wonderful nurses in my family background, including one of the first public health nurses in the U.S. My mother was an untrained nurse’s aide, then with some training, a “practical nurse” and then an activist who campaigned for licensure and training for practical nurses, bringing the LPN status (and pay) to women in Arizona, who (especially Native Americans and Hispanics) had previously been working for shamefully low wages.

    I was very surprised and proud to discover that BOTH of my brothers, after retirement and careers in engineering and corporate business, volunteered for hospice work. To this day, one, nearing 80, continues to bring his good cheer, humor, and seemingly offhand kindness to the dying and their families.

    What a fine shining light your sister must be! Like your father–I recently read your letter about him–and who else? Let’s see–oh yes, like you. ;-) Bravo tutti!

  27. I’m very glad to see her service. As the report says, she helps people “find the connection between mind, body and spirit.” — and I’ve enjoyed watching you and Darius do the same.

  28. Thanks for this, Margaret. What an amazing sister you have! I happen to work in psychiatry at a very large Jewish hospital. One of the most beloved chaplains here is an Evangelical woman who looks and sounds a lot like your sister. Female chaplains at hospitals can be powerful agents of comfort and hope. That V.A. is extremely fortunate to have her.

  29. Jen–along with other chaplains–is mentioned in another news story today:

  30. This is awesome! During my imposed hiatus from law school, I considered becoming a chaplain. I ended up being called to another path, but I have great respect for chaplains. I think it’s great that LDS women are choosing this career track.

  31. A friend of mine from the University of Chicago, Nathan Kline, is also an LDS chaplain. You can find his blog at One of the nicest people you’ll meet.

  32. G. Jones says:

    Bruce –

    Thanks for linking the article.

    There are actually two training programs in Utah. One is the V.A. with The College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy ( and the other is St. Marks Medical Center, with The Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (

    Chaplaincy is a growing field and is becoming more clinical and less religiously focussed as the years go on. Most chaplains are required to have a minimum of 72 graduate hours in a theological field and 1600 hours of Clinical Pastoral Education. As more chaplains are trained, the standards are rising, which is making the field be more accepted as a professional clinical practice. I have always felt support from the church in my 10 years of hospital chaplaincy and I have also been welcomed openly by both the ACPE and the Association of Professional Chaplains (, which certifies close to 2500 professional chaplains around the country.

  33. This is fantastic, Margaret. Hats off to your sister, and thank you for sharing the story!

  34. Wow, that is wonderful!!! I have to admit I’m surprised that it’s acceptable to the church. And I’m very pleased to be surprised.

  35. What an awesome family you have, Margaret.

    We really need to do lunch, I want to rub shoulders with someone that close to Elder Hanks. He will never know how much his words have influenced me.

    Do you ever get down to Cedar City? I would buy!!

  36. Molly Bennion says:

    Thanks for posting one of the most inspiring stories I’ve read on BCC, Margaret. Congrats to your sister. The female hospital chaplain who aided our family as my father died was such a comfort and I wondered at the time if there were any LDS women in the field. May Jen inspire many to follow her.

  37. chelseaw says:

    How wonderful. Thanks for sharing this, and congratulations to your sister!

  38. This is so exciting. I never knew that women could be LDS chaplains! How cool!

  39. It brings tears to my eyes to know that there is a female LDS chaplain. I hope she is the first of MANY.

  40. I have always understood military chaplains to have some kind of authoritative standing within their religious tradition. From my previous understanding, it was a way for the military to recognize religious functionaries in an organized manner. Now I learn this was an incorrect understanding.

    This article changed my mind as to the importance of the chaplaincy in the military. It should be abolished as it serves no actual purpose of a religious nature. At the least the name should be changed to not reflect the religious authoritative position it represents. Perhaps “Guidance Counselor” would be a better designation. Right now the name holds theological implications that are misleading.

  41. Really, Jettboy? THAT’S your reaction?

  42. Um, yea.

  43. S.P. Bailey says:

    Great post. Thanks for sharing this story with us. Congratulations to Jenette.

  44. God bless her!
    We could point out that a missionary has much the same position as a military Chaplian, there is no exception in the Later-day Sait Faith. Sisters can go on missions and be a spiritual guide… I would assume that they can become military Chaplians too. I am glad to see it in reality.
    God bless,
    -Ditchu (a member and proud of this new development)

  45. This is not in support of Jettboy’s comments, which I explicitly reject — I feel the need to say that, because now that he’s spoken, anything beyond “way to go, Jen!” may be interpreted as agreeing with him in some way.

    Jen is not a military chaplain, is she, despite her assignment at a VA hospital? She isn’t a commissioned officer in the armed services, is she? She appears to have been accredited through a program other than the standard one for LDS military chaplains — that is, her training detailed in several news stories doesn’t mention attending the Military Chaplaincy program at BYU (Rel 540), which is a non-negotiable requirement for military chaplains accredited by the church, and the DoD requires chaplains to be endorsed by the church or religious tradition to which they belong. Also, Jen would appear to be older than 48, the uppermost age limit for a new military chaplain in any service branch without military experience. To the best of my understanding, too, unless it has been changed very, very recently, the church does not give its endorsement to military chaplains other than priesthood holders.

    This question is in no way intended to lessen Jen’s accomplishment or her probable gifts, training, and contributions. Any organization, not just the military, can have chaplains who are as highly qualified and as badly needed as anyone in the military.

    Although Margaret doesn’t say so directly, one way or the other, it seems that commenters are assuming that Jen is a military chaplain, a commissioned military officer, a role with responsibilities and training that could be very different from a chaplain accredited by a social or religious organization without the military overlay.

    Clarification would be helpful, Margaret.

  46. I’m sure Margaret will give more information at some point, but a quick answer for now.

    First, I’m quite sure Jen is not a military chaplain. Second, I will NOT comment on her age. Third, though I’ve learned a lot of interesting things from the comments here about different kinds and aspects of chaplaincy, it never occurred to me in the least that the Church would have any problem with a female chaplain, particularly at a hospital.

    As others have noted, there are parallels in women’s service as missionaries and in various Church callings. On the other hand, I can see that the military might be a different matter since the nature and location–and gender imbalance–of military life mean that LDS military chaplains likely play a role in priesthood leadership.

  47. I would compare this new and exciting calling to what Baylor (Baptist) hospitals in here in TX have. They have female nurse chaplains who visit the hospital ridden and even help families with the hospital red tape.

    I could see in the intermountain west hospitals a need for this type of position.

  48. No matter how careful I tried to be, it seems I wasn’t careful enough.

    Bruce, your first and second are obviously in response to my question, but I hope your third is not. *I* have no reason, either, to think that the church would have any problem whatsoever with a female chaplain at a hospital or at many, many other facilities. I certainly don’t have any problem with it, either. It’s wonderful.

    The role of a military chaplain, however, has different responsibilities than anything a hospital chaplain will ever be called upon to do. I don’t intend to spark any kind of fight over whether that is good or bad, merely note that both the military and the church are conservative institutions whose ideas may not be in complete accord with popular bloggernacle opinion. I thought a clarification was needed, in view of the evident confusion among commenters.

  49. I thought that your comment was very helpful, Ardis.

  50. Ardis, I should have made clear that my third point was not directed at you but at the surprise (and in one case the concern) expressed by other commenters. What you said was indeed very helpful.

  51. I’m a bit amazed that I have to do this. There are various kinds of chaplains, not just military. No, Jen is not commissioned in the military, but she will be serving military veterans, many of whom are suffering PTSD from terrible things they saw while in the battlefield, others of whom are hospitalized and in need of care for more generic medical reasons. Her ability to deal with someone suffering from PTSD makes her training as a psych nurse important.

    By contrast, Elder Hanks was made a chaplain while serving on a ship during WWII. The Church later sent him to military fronts in many places, including Viet Nam. I don’t know if he was still officially a chaplain, but he was certainly a comforter. (See that great documentary called _Nobody Knows_ to get more detail on that–and to see some beautiful pix.)

    Without herself being a part of the military, Jen will help veterans with needs which go beyond the obvious. She went through a chaplaincy program (not BYU’s) for her training, but the truth is, her whole life has trained her for these new responsibilities.

    It always surprises me when controversy comes up in blogs which are simply celebrating something good. It interests me (in a sad way) that there was an attempt to turn this into a discussion on women and the priesthood–which will get loads of divisive comments.

    This is not a controversy, folks. This is my sister.

  52. It’s naive not to expect those questions to come up when words like “first” “Mormon” and “woman” are used in connection with a religious leadership position, Margaret. Nevertheless, I am sorry to have ticked you off. Thank you for the clarification.

  53. Ardis, you didn’t tick me off. Jettboy did. I blog. I can handle people being dismissive or combative. Do it to me. Don’t even try it with my family. (That’s not directed to you.)
    I chose to not respond to Jettboy’s comment and hadn’t planned on responding to more questions on this blog, since my day is very full. I think you made good points and yes, you’re right that some issues come up when we put “first” “Mormon” and “woman” in the same sentence. Alas.

  54. Now that Margaret is safely on her way to the gym (you are, Margaret, aren’t you?), I’ll add another thought: I don’t think there’s any reason to say “Alas.” Though Jettboy jumped to some unwarranted conclusions and proposed institutional changes that don’t make much sense even on the basis of his conclusions, I didn’t find his comment deeply offensive. Luckily for him, he didn’t say anything directly about Jen herself.

    Almost all the other comments have been fine, IMHO.

    It’s the nature of blogs such as this that it’s hard to maintain control and sometimes coherence. It’s natural for people to wonder about details and implications. Exploring every possible ramification of every idea expressed and every event referenced–isn’t that what “By Common Consent” is all about? Happily, I’ve never seen this blog degenerate into the sort of frenzy I’ve seen elsewhere, where a thoughtful comment about the temple, for instance, can lead to vicious attacks and counterattacks. I say, let a thousand flowers bloom–but let’s be nice about it.

  55. The truth is that Jettboy’s reaction is what a lot of members have about woman Chaplaincy. The sister that spoke at Sunstone, said once while at a hospital a man who was a member chased her away, literally, yelling at her that she didn’t have the priesthood. She tried to explain that that was not her job as a chaplain, but he wouldn’t listen.

  56. This is Margaret’s Sister Jenette. Hello my wonderful and thoughtful sister! Thank you for your kind words. For clarification: The program which I graduated in was Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) governed by the CPSP national board. This program is accredited by the Joint Comission of Healthcare Orginization (JCOAH) which is the accrediting body for most hospitals in the US. It comprises 1600 hours of supervised pastoral education and clinical hours. Please check out the web site:
    It has been my privledge and blessing to go through this course with some of the most wonderful and talented people I have ever known from a variety of religious traditions including Catholic, Buddhist, Lutheran, Anglican, Baptist, Church of the Nazarene etc. I consider these men and women my dear friends and mentors.
    My final paper was inspired by the concerns I have had related to the division I see so frequently played out between people who are working for the same cause. This includes the divisions between hospital disciplines, the division between religions and the divisions between mankind. As I have watched the responce to this artical
    (and others)
    these “turf” wars seem to be alive and well.
    I am reminded of a statement that Gandolf says in Tolkeins
    ‘Lord of the Rings’: ” In nothing is the power of the dark Lord more clearly seen than in the enmity that exists between those who oppose him still”
    Honestly, I will probably never work solely as a chaplain, this degree is purely to expand my skills and abilities to minister to my fellowman in any way I can; as a nurse, a friend, a sister, a fellow believer. If anything, I have been blessed by the journey.
    The title of my final paper was: Finding Harmony in a Tone Deaf World.
    These are a few exerts from the last page:

    “The healing community of a hospital must integrate all its specialties to heal. Embracing the relevance and inherant balance between all disciplines. There is no room for arrogance or dominance of any one given field. Hospital Care is not about a physicians surgical abilities, a nurses clinical skills, a therapists competence or a chaplains spitrituality, it is the communion of these entities to offer healing. When we loose sight of the other members of this orchestra, no matter how proficiently and expertly we play the notes on our page, the melody is deminished and the song obscured. Without unity, the very purpose for playing in the band is lost……
    Man evolved as tribal entities for a reason…..These tribes have become corrupted from being a means of wholeness and healing to being ones of seperation and exclusion. The error comes in the beginning of conciousness when we see ourselves as alone, independant and self-sufficient. How different that world would be if we came to conciousness recognizing our interdependance; our connectedness……
    The word Religion comes from the root word ‘ligand’ which means ‘to bind’
    Mankind are all members of this religion, for we are bound together in connectedness, community and compassion. Within this binding, this ligand, harmony and wholeness are found. END

    I dont know if the above makes sence without the rest of the paper . It ultimatly argues that healing is found only in unity. Maybe we will get there some day!

  57. Hi, Jen! I should mention, for the sake of everyone else, that I’ve heard your entire paper and loved it.

    It’s sad that anyone would have a problem with women chaplains. To me it seems not only OK but a wonderfully good thing. And I doubt it’s all that rare any more. It just saw an article in the latest BYU Magazine (the magazine for alumni) by Sue Bergin, described at the end of the article as “a chaplain for VistaCare Hospice in Salt Lake And Utah counties.”

  58. I would like to take this oppertunity to oppoligize for my misconceived assumption. I did not know that we were not talking about a full fledged “Military Chaplin” position here. It saddens me to read back over some comments that show obserd bias aginst women like thoes left by “jetboy.” What is it that is offensive to you sir? Is it that you think the Church would never santion a woman in the military to be chaplin of their unit? I have herd often stories of LDS in WWII without an official Chaplin, pray together and hold their own services on sunday, they would choose one amung their rank to lead them and they would uphold the comandments and principals of the Gospel. Often there would be a preisthood holder in the group, sometimes there would not be. but they forged ahead to do what is right.

    Again, hooray for Jenette Blair Lambert!

    Thank God He is more leinant than our bias.

  59. Devyn S says:

    Thanks Margaret – this is wonderful news. Another barrier broken!

  60. It’s wonderful to have my sister comment here. I love her words, I loved her paper (Bruce and I were together when we heard it), and I am grateful for her tender heart and the compassion (one of her many gifts) which she will take to all she serves. That compassion and goodness is evident in her comment (56). And it’s sorta cool to have one of my family members join me for a minute at BCC.

  61. Congratulations. I’ve known too many chaplains who were worse than dead wood. I’m sure she will be a real blessing for those who would otherwise have to deal with them.

  62. BYU Today carries articles almost monthly by a female chaplain who works with a hospice group, Sue Bergin. So, I’m not sure about the LDS Church and female chaplains, vis a vis Jettboy, just BYU and publishing them regularly as an example to the students and alumni …

  63. What a confusing article. First, we learn that chaplaincy is not strictly a military position, but more a job. Second, the use of “first” is overused or at least not explained enough that it has to do with her V.A. hospital and not the existence of LDS woman chaplains ever. I will admit to my ignorance on the matter (I pretty much did with my first posting), but it still brings up questions of women and the Priesthood. Calling it a “chaplaincy” still feels wrong to me.

  64. Thank you all for contributing to this conversation!
    I love you, Jen.

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