Two Temple Worker Restrictions Removed

Several years ago I discovered three weird restrictions on temple service.  Often, while I was attending the temple, the workers mentioned they needed help; they invited the patrons to pray and talk to their stake to seek out temple worker callings. Several friends of mine felt inspired to follow through.  They met the basic qualifications – devout Mormons, in good health, without records of Church discipline.  But they were denied.

In the first set of cases, it was because they had been divorced within the past five years.  (Even though they were not at fault in their divorces and had maintained a temple recommend the entire time.)

In the second set of cases, it was because they were single men over the age of 30.  (Even friends who had already been serving as temple workers for years were affected – they were told they could no longer serve the month they turned 31.)

And in the third set of cases, it was because they were mothers with minor children at home.  Women who wished to continue their longstanding service after the birth of their first child were told no, as were women who sought to serve now that all of their children were largely self-sufficient teenagers.

The Handbook expressly lists all three of these as disqualifications from temple ordinance worker service.

Weirdly, in all of these cases, the temples told my friends that they could still volunteer for shifts – they just couldn’t officiate any ordinances.  Though in the case of mothers (alongside another category – bishops, stake presidents, and area authorities), they could sometimes qualify for “restricted” ordinance service on special occasions.

I found this all very silly.

Today, however, we have cause for celebration. Multiple current temple worker sources have now confirmed that an announcement went out last week lifting both the divorcee restrictions, and the single men restrictions. [1]  Now those who feel inspired to serve will not be barred because of these (seemingly arbitrary) restrictions. [2]  I hope many will be able to enjoy the blessings of temple service.

Notes

[1]  I have not seen the announcements, do not have access to the Handbook, and cannot independently confirm this with a primary source.  I am not a temple worker (among other reasons, I have been divorced in the last 5 years).

[2]  I have heard no indication that the mothers-of-small-children rule has changed; it is my understanding that restriction is contained within a separate handbook sub-section.

UPDATE, 5:33 PM AUGUST 24, 2017:  The Deseret News is reporting that Salt Lake has now confirmed that the men-over-30 and divorcees restriction have been lifted.

Comments

  1. It’s a really good development. Thanks for commenting on it.

  2. Is the mother restriction only applicable in North America? I have known of mothers in South America and Asia who served as regular temple ordinance workers.

  3. This, along with several recent changes/pronouncements, has given me significant reason to hope for good things to come.

  4. Yay, this is awesome. Now if they’d lift the witness restriction.

  5. There have not been any changes in the handbook yet. I hope it’s just a matter of the handbook lagging behind the changes on the ground.

  6. I’m an Executive Secretary, and in bishopric meeting this past week, the second counselor said that the change about single men was coming down the pike. So some kind of soft announcement must’ve gone out.

  7. Lauren Arrington says:

    My husband and I were called to be temple workers, but when I informed the bishop I was 3 months pregnant, he told me I would only be able to work in the laundry. Hard pass on that one! :D My husband didn’t want to do it without me, so we both told him he should probably find someone else.

  8. east of the mississippi says:

    I’ve seen sister temple workers who were clearly due any day, looks like it might leadership roulette in that particular case.

  9. Kevin Barney says:

    I have never understood these rules. Staffing an operating temple on a volunteer basis is quite a challenge, and it has long seemed to me that if someone wants to do it and is worthy, of course you should sign them up.

  10. OK, how on earth does it make sense to put a pregnant woman in the laundry as opposed to anything else? You can do physical labor but not ordinances???

    Hopefully the motherhood restrictions are removed soon.

  11. I think I would like a little bit more clarity on this. I am a single male over 30 and have been a temple worker for about 17 months now. However, I am still called a temple worker, but I can only work at the veil as a veil worker. I cannot be an ordinance worker (officiate an endowment session, work initiatory etc) because I am a single male over thirty. Does the potential policy change allow single males over thirty to be ordinance workers? Because if not, then nothing has recently changed regarding single males over the age of 30.

  12. @BryanC: Perhaps my terminology was imperfect — not up on exact temple jargon. My understanding is that this change means you can now be an ordinance worker.

  13. @Autumn- I read in the Handbook that for members in stakes far from a temple that the restrictions on mothers can be lifted during organized stake temple trips. This might be the reason the people you speak of were permitted.

  14. Lauren Arrington: Your bishop is incorrect. There is no restriction on pregnant women as ordinance workers. I had a friend who worked in the Washington DC temple doing everything right up until about a month before her first child was born. Go get set apart at the temple and enjoy 6 months of enjoyable service- and good luck with the baby!

  15. @lb640- The mothers that I knew of lived in the same city as the temple and served there regularly. One had a son who was 14 or 15, and I know she served in the temple every week. Another was a single mom of multiple children under the age of 12. Is it possible that some sections of the Handbook aren’t used (or followed) in all parts of the world?

  16. @Carolyn: I got the impression that you probably meant ordinance worker, but just wanted to clarify. I am honored to be a veil worker, but to help out with ordinance work would be wonderful as well. I hope this comes down the line quickly. I may not have heard the news yet because the temple I work at is closed for a few weeks for yearly maintenance.

  17. I would welcome this policy change concerning recent divorcees and single men over 30. It punishes people who are the victims of divorce, like someone whose spouse cheats on them and leaves. Also, although marriage should be a high priority, often the Lord’ timing is also a factor in when people get married. So the policy punishes men for the Lord’s timing.

    As welcome as I would find this, I am somewhat skeptical of it. The Handbook is either updated or it isn’t. “Soft announcements” are not how things are done. (I was an executive secretary for my stake presidency when the changes to the Handbook about gays happened- there was no pre-announcement to us.) Also, the timing of this “announcement” is suspicious. The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve are on vacation in August. They don’t hold meetings together in August unless there is some pressing emergency that can not wait until September. (According to a friend whose grandfather was in the First Presidency not so long ago.) Also, I recall about 2 years ago temple workers were claiming to have been told in a training meeting that certain policies on temple weddings were about to be changed. Then nothing happened. So, I am hopeful and yet skeptical.

  18. Dave Jordan says:

    I will go and do as the Lord commands… I will scrub toilets, I will do laundry, I will clean the baseboards. I will clean off the sink, I will walk a thousand miles or until I am dead and he no longer needs me to toil in the flesh.

  19. Autumn- There is a passage on “local circumstances and adaptation”. Basically a loop-hole for everything clause. I love that section. Suggested its use many times in my stake presidency meetings.

  20. @lb640- I see. That makes sense. My BYU roommate whose mother was the ordinance worker in Asia thought that a rule restricting moms from serving was ridiculous. They needed everyone to help there, so why on earth would they forbid moms whose kids were in school all day?

  21. Does anyone know if there is there still a restriction on beards?

  22. “Toil in the flesh” would be a good band name.

  23. Why the 5 year (for divorcees rule,? Do I get holier the 6th year? Did this just apply to women, or men,too?

  24. Angela C:

    My new hardcore/metal crossover band, Path of Totality, is releasing its debut EP Toil in the Flesh on Nuclear Blast Records next month.

  25. tanya cummins- The 5 year divorcee rule applies to both men and women. Regardless of why the divorce occurred.

    I can understand this rule for someone who got divorced for “frivolous” reasons, and think that some who get divorced should have to wait a while. But I think this is something that a bishop and stake president should decide, rather than have a blanket policy that treats everyone the same regardless of circumstances. Should someone whose spouse cheated and ran off be treated the same way as a person who just decided they married the wrong person and doesn’t want to be married anymore?

  26. Aaron R.- Yes, temple workers must be clean shaved. Both men and women. LOL!

  27. Guys as well Tanya. I thought perhaps they would reduce it to 1 or 2 years so to hear the divorcee restriction may be completely lifted is excellent news.

  28. lb640: Perhaps the next bout of inconsistent policy may involve female temple workers and body hair! :)

  29. Dave Jordan says, I will go and do as the Lord commands . . . (etc.)

    Yeah, me too. I just want to be sure that it’s Him commanding and not some local leader with a hobby horse, or a 19th-century cultural hangover.

  30. I was a worker in San Diego when the restrictions on beards was implemented. Over night I didn’t some of the men on my shift. However, there was one man, who regularly came up from Tijuana who remained bearded. I don’t know why the exception but it is apparent that many rules presented as absolute are only mostly absolute. They preach the rule not the exception so the exception does not become the rule.

  31. These kind of discussions tend to make me so grumpy! I’m not sure just what the correct word is. The temple is our most sacred place, and asking any sort of probing questions (about why) tend to make one feel like a faithless and unworthy creep,

    All the discussed restrictions are, in my opinion and of course only in my opinion, simply silly. Usually I can sort of bend my mind to understand a restriction, even if I disagree with it. For example, I guess I understand that mothers of young children can’t work in certain ways at the temple, because maybe they won’t take proper care of their children. (An offensive assumption.) The idea that women would hire day-care for their children in order to fulfill temple work might seem odd by some. But that is not our decision to make. Each family, each woman, each mother, each father, each human must fulfill their part of creation by doing what seems correct, meaningful, and right. We can’t tell people how to balance their complex lives. Well of course we can. But we should do with the greatest care and sensitivity.

    The restriction on single men over 30? I can’t even imagine why such a policy was or is in place. What possible purpose can it serve, except to reduce the size of the pool for temple workers. Single people often feel left out of our very married culture. Allowing and even encouraging single people to serve in the temple results in the sense that such people are not only valued but are essential to our success as a people, as a church. To further marginalize that group of men strikes me as ridiculous, cruel, petty, and stupid.

    And what about beards? When, oh when, will we get past 1972? What possible reason can we imagine is the source for that restriction? Can Jesus come to the temple? We might as well turn away people with nail polish, blue socks, hats, short sleeves, or heels longer than one inch.

    The overlay of our most holy site, the strong need we have to not “rock the boat”, and a need to believe that our spiritual leaders aren’t insane, these all lead us to be quiet, look the other way, and ignore stupid, petty small-minded, inane, sexist, shallow policies regarding the temple.

  32. the other Marie says:

    The last time our singles’ ward bishopric changed the man called as bishop initially accepted the calling, but then backed out a few days later (before being sustained) when he learned he’d not be able to serve as a temple sealer while he was bishop. He preferred to remain a sealer if forced to choose. I thought it was odd that he was forced to choose and was surprised that he’d still be considered worthy to serve as a sealer if he’d turned down a calling like that.

  33. I know of elderly widowers serving in the Mesa temple now.

  34. @cj: widowers were always an exception in the Handbook. It was only single never-married men over 30 that were barred.

  35. IB640, Many years ago in a sealing session I married an older woman with a black mustache thicker than mine has ever been willing to grow. It was quite distracting.

  36. Aussie Mormon says:

    As of 5 minutes ago, there is nothing in the official communications library or the online version of handbook 1 that indicates anything has officially changed.

  37. photoguy_nc says:

    Anyone who holds a current recommended should never be discriminated against, especially in the temple. The endowment session has changed multiple times since I received mine in the 1980’s, prior to serving my mission. Temple sessions should remain consistently the same. This is nuts! So what of parts of it offended a few prudes? The TSA is quite a bit more invasive, but Mormons still fly! SMH!

  38. What about the beard restriction? Its been a while since I was last active (I was also like 17.) Are Temple Workers still required to shave?

  39. I would also like to see they get rid of the beard restriction also. This is one of the silliest things to restrict.

  40. So what of parts of it offended a few prudes? The TSA is quite a bit more invasive, but Mormons still fly!

    Um, what part of airport security required you to shed your clothes and don a “shield”?

  41. cj and Carolyn- Widowers are not single. Cause, you know, that’s why we have temples.

  42. I am a temple ordinance worker, and can confirm that they announced that these changes were made via letter from the first presidency last week. According to our temple presidency, men over 30 who are single-never-married, and those previously not allowed to serve as ordinance workers because of a recent divorce should go through the normal process of becoming an ordinance worker. In our district, you can either talk with your Bishop to start the process, or they have cards you can fill out at the temple expressing your interest in serving. Hooray!

  43. your food allergy is fake says:

    Fake beards are OK though, as the movie demonstrates.

  44. Glad to hear of the changes. Too late to affect my life. I was deeply offended when I found out about the policy regarding the recently divorced following my divorce. Nothing like allowing my ex-husband, who committed adultery with multiple women, back in the temple and sealed to one of the women he committed adultery with, while I was told I was not wanted as a temple worker. Such stupidity! Where do they get the men they call to high positions?

  45. I would be glad to see the end of the beard restriction. I would have loved to work in the temple.

  46. What other restrictions are placed on divorced members ??

  47. Aussie Mormon says:

    Becky:”I am a temple ordinance worker, and can confirm that they announced that these changes were made via letter from the first presidency last week.”

    Do you know when this letter is going to be sent out to bishops/stake presidents and if it is just a US thing?

  48. Heath Ogden says:

    I am a bishop and I have not heard about any changes. Here is what it states I the handbook as of today.
    3.10.2
    Requirements

    To be considered for a calling as a temple ordinance worker, a member must:

    Be endowed, comply with temple covenants, and qualify to hold a temple recommend.

    Not have been divorced within the past five years, unless the divorce occurred before the member was baptized.

    If male and 30 years old or older, be married (widowers excepted). Unmarried brethren who are younger than 30 may serve as ordinance workers.

    If ever a recipient of formal Church discipline, have been taken off probation, have been reinstated, or have received a restoration of blessings at least five years ago.

    Never have received formal Church discipline for sexual abuse.

    Never have had his or her membership record annotated. (The bishop must print or view the person’s current membership record to verify this.)

    Be mature in his or her knowledge of the restored gospel.

    Be in good health.

    Be emotionally stable.

    Be dependable.

    Be respected in the Church and the community.

    Work well with others and have a pleasing personality.

  49. Heath, What does it mean to have a “membership record annotated.” Annotated with what? How about an annotation that says something like “this man was a good bishop?”

    I’ve met plenty too many temple workers who do not work well with others and do not have a pleasing personality.

  50. The actors in the temple movie have facial hair. Facial hair is one of the signs or markers to distinguish the males from the females. Jesus Christ and resurrected Brigham Young are going to be required to shave before officiating in the temple? LOL

    D&C 85:7 “And it shall come to pass that I, the Lord God, will send one mighty and strong, holding the scepter of power in his hand, clothed with light for a covering, whose mouth shall utter words, eternal words; while his bowels shall be a fountain of truth, to set in order the house of God…”
    The God that I worship has facial hair. Maybe this facial hair nonsense is one of those policies that need to change to set the house of God in order. It might be best to do what we can to lessen the burden of the “one mighty and strong.”

  51. Daniella Pilgrim says:

    Isn’t this ‘mother-thing’ a ridiculous rule too? I mean : why can’t a mother be a good Temple worker. Why isn’t she permitted the enhancing experience of working in the House of the Lord. Can’t she just break away for a shift a month? Is that not permitted? Then mothers are not allowed to take time off to themselves either? Yes, I do have a problem with that. More-over : isn’t it up to mother and father to work out whether or not one of them (or maybe even both) can make time to serve in the Temple? If their Family-circumstances allow it, why not. Ironically a young Father can be a Bishop – which will keep him away from home more than ever….. sorry, got on my high horse for a moment…..

  52. @Heath Ogden – Pull up the temple worker application on line. I spoke with a councilor in the temple presidency last night and he verified that this is for real. He said that the online application has been changed to remove the restrictions of divorced and single men over 30.

  53. JR:
    A person might have an annotation on their record if they have had a felony conviction or if they should never ever have a calling that puts them around children. An infamous guy in Utah once attacked some Scouts with mace at a “Camporee”, and had an annotation placed on his record so no other Bishop would ever get the idea that he might make a good scoutmaster. Welfare abuse would also get noted on a record.

    The annotations don’t include details of the incident – the ward clerk or Bishop might just have a note saying something like “No Endowment without First Presidency Approval”. There might be a note to call the previous Bishop or other leader who put the annotation on the record so details can be shared as needed.

    That being said, I have also known some temple workers who got the report card in first grade stating “Does Not Play Well With Others”. For one in particular, he was one of those guys who really wanted to be a Professional Scout, but had a bad habit of tormenting the special needs kids in the troop. Putting him in the temple may have been the best way to keep him from ever refusing to pick up a special needs scout for a campout again.

    As they say in the South, “Bless his little heart….”

  54. Aussie Mormon says:

    Well it’s hit the media now http://www.sltrib.com/religion/local/2017/08/25/mormons-unveil-temple-changes-single-lds-men-over-30-recently-divorced-members-can-now-serve-there/

    Would have been good if the handbook had been updated before the media was, but it could be worse I guess.

  55. As a cantankerous old man, long ago disappointed with the church, I agree with the comment: “stupid, petty, small-minded, inane, sexist, shallow policies regarding the temple.” Though I would say something similar about many other policies and restrictions (girls’ camp requiring t-shirts AND one piece swim suits; females couldn’t wear pants on BYU campus until 1968, or so–and then never blue jeans! To name a few of hundreds.). It is good that the church is slowly changing and recognizing we are no longer in the 19th Century–mostly because the senior leadership was born after the 19th Century. But, I refuse to congratulate them on slowly becoming more sensible and sensitive–especially since they claim to be so close to God.

    I blame it on the old men that make such policies.

  56. Just don’t love so much back and forth about this topic. I have never prayed or thought deeply and fully about these situations to dare to assume that I know more than the Brethren. Seriously… Just keeping it real. Let’s all hunker down, keep our noses to the grindstone, and be grateful for opportunities to practice patience, long-suffering, brotherly kindness, humility, etc.

  57. “And in the third set of cases, it was because they were mothers with minor children at home. Women who wished to continue their longstanding service after the birth of their first child were told no, as were women who sought to serve now that all of their children were largely self-sufficient teenagers.

    The Handbook expressly lists all three of these as disqualifications from temple ordinance worker service.”

    This is a lie.

    My mom did in the 80s and 90s and I know women with kids that serve at Provo Temple now.

    Maybe you had an overzealous Bishop.

  58. (see Heath’s handbook quote too)

  59. jpv, Accusations of lying are not helpful. People can make mistakes. Depending upon what Handbook year you are talking about there could also be differences in facts. Further, examples of not following a policy do not show that there was no policy. See, e.g., from Handook 1, 1998:
    “Restricted Service Ordinance Workers

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

  60. David L'Fae says:

    Let cooler heads prevail, or something. Some, if not all the rules, are common sense-related. The powers that be know and care for us and our families. Some pregnant women can swim miles, lift hundreds in weight, and might even be able to fly, but not all of them. The rules are there for general safety and general health. Facial hair, when kept clean and neat, not an issue; it’s the ones that aren’t kept that have potential for problems, disease even. Just because it’s in the rule book, doesn’t mean they were singling you out, it means somewhere down the line, it became an issue, and instead of saying, “Bob, Peter, Sam and Joe, you can’t have beards, but Ricky, Tom and Paul can” it was spelt out so that everyone had to comply, instead of trying to make an exception for the dozens, if not thousands of folks where it’s not a problem. This is a volunteer organization, remember? Minimal management of the silly stuff can be covered in broad strokes involving common sense and patience.

    Now, that said, the 5-year rule seems a bit odd, but let’s for a moment imagine that there was an issue, and now there’s not. It would seem to me, and I speak as me, and not as some authority from on high, because the Internet is full of haters, that it is far simpler to classify an addiction “handled and dealt with” after a 5-year commitment, than say, a few weeks at a clinic. In broad strokes. Five years and the memory of it would be a far cry from the fresh memory of a few weeks; us humans being creatures of habit, we’re less likely to do something we’ve been consciously not doing for a few years than we would if it were a shorter time frame. Smarter folks, and holier folks set these rules for a reason, or reasons, and while times have changed from one decade to the next, and people aren’t dropping at the age of 31 anymore (of old age, Oregon Trail anyone?) there may still be wisdom in these rules, maybe not even realized for a time in the near future.

  61. Heath Ogden, are there any exceptions made to the rules? Do the bishops and stake presidents have any leeway in breaking these rules?

  62. I waited the 5 years. A few months ago I again became an Ordinance Worker. After the divorce I could no longer serve as an Ordinance Worker but served as a Volunteer. I feel it taught me Obedience. It was a rule and I obeyed. Simply because I love the Temple, believe in the work and continued to serve in many places in the House of the Lord.

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