Baptism, Resurrection, and Women Witnesses

Mormon-landia is abuzz today with the news (broken by This Week in Mormons) that youth can now more fully participate in baptisms for the dead on youth temple trips.  Specifically, Priests (age 16+) can now perform and witness temple baptisms, just like they already perform and witness live baptisms.  And young women (age 12-18) can perform any baptistry assignment (i.e. logistics, temple clothing, towels) currently done by adult women.   Previously, all of these functions could only be performed by endowed members.

There is much to celebrate here.  I fully support increased responsibility and participation in the workings of the church for our incredible youth.  Hopefully, these additional spiritual and service opportunities will help all youth feel closer to Christ and strengthen their faith.  This change also reduces the burden on finding sufficient adults to officiate youth temple trips, hopefully increasing the total number of opportunities to perform baptisms.  In addition, it may help those young women who are uncomfortable being baptized while on their periods (despite temple pronunciations that this is permitted), feel more comfortable having an awkward-question-free opportunity to serve.

And yet.  This policy change was a major missed opportunity to increase the spiritual role of young women in the Church. 

As an initial point, instead of assigning women alone cleaning and laundry duty, those responsibilities could have been split between both young women and 12-15 year old young men.  This could have increased the Deacon and Teacher opportunities to serve as well.

More importantly, this policy change could have foreshadowed adult female temple work.  Women already perform and witness other ordinances – initiatories and endowments – and this could have been an opportunity to include young women in that sacred role, by allowing them to serve as witnesses to the baptisms.

Such a role has important scriptural precedent.  One of my favorite insights in the New Testament is that all of the initial witnesses of Christ’s resurrection were women.  The Gospel of John (20:1-8) says Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene; the Gospel of Matthew (28:1-20) adds “the other Mary”; the Gospel of Luke (24:1-35) adds “Mary the mother of James” and Joanna.

Notably, when Mary and the other women run and proclaim this witness to the apostles they aren’t believed.  At that time in Palestine / Roman territories, women were deemed legally incompetent to serve as witnesses.  Their voices literally did not matter.  But Jesus himself chose women as his witnesses; the Gospels serve as a testament that women can be witnesses, and that their accounts of the most important event in human history are true.

Having women occupy such an important role may have been an embarrassment to men of the time; the earliest written epistle, First Corinthians (15:1-8), testifies of Christ’s Resurrection by omitting the first women witnesses altogether.  (It does refer to Christ’s subsequent appearance “to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters.”) But despite any meddling of history and translations, despite the fact that Medieval scribes literally changed the name of one female apostle to be male, the core Gospel accounts that women were the first witnesses of the Resurrection persisted through history.

Baptism, along with the Eucharist, is the core sacrament of Christianity.  Although modern Churches practice different ritual forms, the symbolism remains:  in baptism, our natural man dies and our sins are buried, so that we may be spiritually resurrected in Christ.  Mormons insist on baptism by immersion precisely because it embodies this Resurrection symbolism.

“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22)

Our Sixth Article of Faith proclaims “We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church.”  This belief is the reason we even practice baptisms for the dead — because they’re referred to in First Corinthians! (1 Corinthians 15:29).  From the Biblical accounts, it is indisputable that the New Testament church recognized the spiritual witness of women.

What a beautiful opportunity it would have been, to call our young women to follow in the footsteps of Mary Magdalene, and to ask them to serve as witnesses of humanity’s Resurrections.

Comments

  1. Missed a step. I am thinking they chose not to take a step. Women’s importance is all over the bible. The bible outstrips us by a mile.

    You were gracious. I couldn’t have written such a nice post.

  2. Yes to all you said above. But another way to reframe about the temple witness situation is that having the officiator/sealer flanked by two male witnesses, it represents the presence of the Godhead. This has given me peace.

  3. I definitely rolled my eyes at the change, even though it is a good thing overall. Young men perform ordinances, young women perform… laundry. Still it is a wonderful thing to serve in the temple. I think it will be very good for youth.

    Thank you for your post, very thought provoking. I had never heard of Junia before.

  4. Kevin Barney says:
  5. acw, a male witness and a female witness could represesent our God (Heavenly Parents) much better, right?! Sheesh.

  6. megelaineconley says:

    Carolyn,

    This is a conversation my husband and I have over and over and over again. Both of us amen’d this post from the hilltops when we read it. While I’ve thought this for a long time, it didn’t really hit me with a blunt force until I wasn’t able to witness my oldest daughter’s baptism. Every important post – every necessary post – at her induction into the Kingdom of God was – had to be – occupied by a man. Even within the confines of the church’s current approach to the Priesthood, I could not fathom why I was not able to stand as a witness. Because surely, surely we all understand that woman was entrusted to witness the very resurrection my daughter’s baptism invoked. I’ve never felt further from the understanding the current church has of my role as a woman and I’ve never felt closer to comprehending the way Christ would have me understand my role as a woman. I’ve got good hope for the Church and Peace in Christ.

    Meg

  7. So are we to understand from this that a significant doctrine/policy change is possible when it expands the width of the existing gap between men and women, but the following are still too great of changes to contemplate:

    1. Women witnessing
    2. Girls witnessing
    3. Girls passing (not blessing) sacrament trays
    4. Women holding an infant during blessing
    5. Women performing healing blessings

    Too great despite the fact that women performed these tasks at various points in our history. Too great despite the fact that these seem (to me, at least) to be smaller changes than Aaronic Priesthood performing proxy ordinances within an entirely new venue, the temple?

  8. Oh to be the Canaanite woman! These don’t even feel like crumbs. If the women of the church just disappeared there would literally be no material impact. We could be replaced with towel racks. I guess that’s one way to create a fail safe.

  9. I recently learned that there is even precedent from this dispensation for women to act as witnesses for temple proxy baptisms: “The 1845 Nauvoo records include Malissa Lott as one of the witnesses in the Temple for proxy-baptisms.”

    https://facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1691851514223366&id=1664632500278601

    The source might be “What Has Become of Our Fathers?” Baptism for the Dead at Nauvoo, by M. Guy Bishop in Dialogue vol. 23, no. 2, which mentions this fact. Anyway, just makes the argument even stronger for allowing young women to be witnesses.

  10. Angela’s comment slays me. And Cynthia’s right as usual about the failure of imagination here. Surely the Church suffers when we leave the spiritual gifts of more than half of the membership underutilized in this way.

  11. Or, worse than underutilized, almost entirely unacknowledged.

  12. As a youth leader, I’m generally excited about this change for the reasons you mention. But I can also see some new pressure points and complications

    . Now we get to juggle which priests baptize and which witness. And there will be pressure for priests to baptize even if they’re not comfortable. More pressing is that some youth, particularly young women, may not be comfortable with the priest assigned to baptize them. The font is basically a big bath tub and wet clothing can be revealing. On the flip side, some young women may jockey to be baptized by a priest they fancy. I saw that happen at BYU when we’d do student baptism trips.

    Still, on the whole, good steps forward.

  13. Glad they are trying to think outside the box.

    But this one actually broke my heart. I accompanied the YM/YW on a temple trip to the Draper temple. I am a woman. I brought my white clothes so I could help do these kinds of laundry tasks. I asked the clothing desk lady what she needed me to help with. Her response: “Oh, we don’t need you. We only need the men. You can go sit in the waiting room.” And she was right—I was completely unnecessary to do the work of salvation going on in the baptistery. It was such a stark and painful and alienating realization that I haven’t been able to go back. That was years ago.

  14. The Young Women theme should be changed to reflect the fact that they can’t stand as witnesses in all things or all places.

    This is sad. Laundry is not an ordinance. Holding towels and doors is not ordinance work. The church announcement makes it seem like women perform ordinances in the baptistry.

    What will the preview look like for 11 year old girls?

  15. So our daughters and granddaughters will do temple laundry at age 12. And for that service opportunity some young women have to sit down alone with a middle aged man in an office and asked questions of a sexual nature that some young women are mortified about. I would be much happier if the Church placed reasonable restraints on Bishops.

  16. Is the guy who checks the ordinance boxes on the pink and blue papers an official witness? I’ve never been convinced that making the check marks is an essential priesthood duty.

  17. Aussie Mormon says:

    Dave K’s thoughts essentially echo what my first thoughts were, but with priests trying to baptise certain young women.

  18. This means that Anna, the 84 year old prophetess, who met the baby Jesus in the temple when Mary & Joseph brought him to be blessed was handing out towels. That sure helps. She was in-dispense-able.

  19. Aussie Mormon says:

    Thokozile: D&C127:6
    “Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you concerning your dead: When any of you are baptized for your dead, let there be a recorder, and let him be eye-witness of your baptisms; let him hear with his ears, that he may testify of a truth, saith the Lord;”

    Make of that what you will.

  20. @acw – Is it doctrine that the Holy Ghost is male?

  21. The baptistry is the one location in the temple where being an endowed sister actually *decreases* your opportunities to serve….
    Q: “Sister, Are you endowed?
    A: Yes, I am.
    Verdict: Okay, well, you can’t participate in the baptisms…because you’re endowed, and the young women hand out the towels, ….. soo…. congrats on being endowed! You don’t get to do anything here!
    My heart hurts.

  22. @serenakmaxwell: Closest thing we have is 1 Nephi 11:11.

  23. Wow this policy change is a slap in the face. Boys get more leadership opportunity, girls get to hand out towels and usher people around. At the very least can’t the boys also help hand out towels and usher people? Does the grunt work have to be female only (is it a divinely appointed role for some reason)?

    I am so tired.

  24. Doesn't matter, just some girl says:

    If I were a young woman I would feel like I just got a slap in the face. With a wet towel.

  25. Peggy Fletcher Stack has a nice piece quoting Ardis Parshal, explaining that women regularly served as temple witnesses through the 1950s.
    http://www.sltrib.com/religion/local/2017/12/15/mormon-girls-will-be-able-to-attend-new-priesthood-and-temple-meeting-but-they-wont-be-getting-the-priesthood/

  26. I did not know that women served as witnesses in temples that recently. I knew it happened in early temples, but I was under the impression that it didn’t continue. Kudos to Ardis for finding that, and to Peggy for getting it out there. And to Carolyn for posting it here.

  27. The letter says all priests can baptize and witness, so I’m hoping this applies to adult males as well. But it specifically states YW 12-18, so when a woman turns 19, will she be turned away?

  28. Flat Stanley says:

    I’m one of those heathens that thinks the ordinances and presiding functions of the priesthood were extended to men almost as a token offering to give us something to do since we will never have the basic capacity for reproductive creation that women carry. Otherwise, we’re not much more than drone bees in the hive to be pushed out once winter comes.

    But I am so damn tired that everyone falls into the same hero worship of the priesthood. Why aspire so much to the “honors of men”? And why denigrate the basic housekeeping functions in the church to do so? One of the great things about most callings is that the stake president can end up serving in the nursery the week after he’s released – and in my book, the nursery is the more important calling. One of my favorite responsibilities while serving as a temple ordinance worker was in the laundry. At the same time, you would have former mission presidents, business executives, stake presidents, etc. folding socks with school teachers, janitors, and others of less status. The laundry was the great equalizer where we could be of one heart, one mind, and the same level of value and it was a necessary part of our temple service.

    I look forward to the day when women are equally respected in the church for their authority, wisdom, and ability. But if that only comes because they hold the same responsibilities as men, we’ve utterly failed to understand AND teach the true value of each soul and the niche each fills in the kingdom. We’ve fallen for the philosophies of men, that “authority” is the highest form of honor. Having held most of the male leadership positions at the unit level, I found it to be a miserable experience. If I have to hold a uniquely valued leadership position in heaven, or hero worship those that do, in order to feel accepted, I’d rather go somewhere else.

    If you ask me, the laundry in the lowest levels of the temple, was the highest form of Zion.

  29. @Flat Stanley: Many of my greatest zion-building experiences have also come doing chores together — dirty, messy, service. Laundry or disaster relief or decluttering or dishes. But those things aren’t gendered. Women can clean up after Hurricane Harvey just as well as men can. Young men can hand out towels to wet baptize-ees just as well as young women can. If we’re going to build Zion, EVEN IF we accept the male Priesthood is divinely ordained of God, let’s stop drawing arbitrary boundaries on everything that’s not inherently tied to Priesthood or gender.

  30. Honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if the. next announcement is that men are going to start officiating and witnessing women’s washings and anointings. It only takes one person to realize that since we are now fully dressed, there is no reason for women to be performing this priesthood function.

  31. Flat Stanley says:

    @Carolyn: I agree, but I think we’re just nibbling at the edges when we get our shorts in knots about handing out towels. It is no coincidence that the Savior who washed the feet of his apostles also had his feet washed and annointed by a woman shortly before. If anything, baptizer is servant, not master. Let’s start with the basic premise that all are equal in the eyes of God, that no calling is above another – both the towel holder and the washer of feet. Until that sinks in, we’ll continue striving for the unfilling, unfulfilling, and ultimately dividing, “honors of men.”

  32. Flat Stanley, I’m sympathetic to the argument you’re making, but I don’t think it’s fair to suggest that those of us who wish church service were less strictly gendered (at least where priesthood ordination isn’t doctrinally required) don’t understand the basic premise that all are equal in God’s eyes and that no calling is above another.

  33. Flat Stanley, I’m not sure if you are responding to the post directly or to a more general sentiment, but wanting women and girls to serve as witnesses is definitely not trying to replicate or usurp the role of men. To quote your comment, it is recognizing the authority, wisdom, and ability of women that has been recognized in the past. When women are denied further opportunities to serve we are denied opportunities to grow. Of course serving in the temple laundry is a gift – I’ve also done it and appreciated it. But as an earlier commenter explained, by being limited in ways we can serve women are often deemed superfluous to the work. To be told you are not needed or wanted when you want to serve and grow is a truly terrible thing.

    I really appreciated that article by Peggy. The 20th century really sucked in a lot of ways for mormon women.

  34. I have some additional praise for this change. Whatever the downsides (and there are some), this is clearly an indication that the brethren are considering policy revisions to better serve women and youth. Also, I expect part of the reason stems from other recent changes that allow youth to have their own recommends and families to attend baptistery sessions together. For smaller temples like mine, family sessions often struggle to have 7 MP holders. This will help.

    I also have some additional concerns. The baptistery involves clothes changing which can be sensitive to say the least. I already mentioned above the issue with YW in wet white clothing being baptized by their YM peers. The issue also applies the other way, as the work sisters perform in the baptistery is not just towels, but sizing and distribution of clothing.

    Image this scenario:
    Beehive (speaking to priest): Please turn around so I can see what size jumper to give you. Okay, you’re a medium. Here you go. Did you bring your own underwear?
    Priest: No, I forget
    Beehive: That’s okay. What size are you? I can give you a temple pair.
    Priest: I’m a medium.
    Beehive: These should work for you.
    (Priest goes to change)
    Beehive (speaking to adult man): Do you also need a jumper for baptisms?
    Man: Yes.
    Beehive: Please turn around so I can see what size jumper to give you. Okay, you’re a large. Here you go. Do you also need a pair of garments?
    Man: Yes, size large.
    Beehive: Okay, do you prefer one piece or two?
    (Man goes to change)

    The above scenario can be worked around, but it will take effort and inspiration. For youth groups like the ones I take for our temple assignments, the adults will need to be close attention for signs of discomfort.

  35. It is true, in my opinion, that God will not deny any blessings to a woman relegated by her gender to serving in a limited range of callings that he would have given her had she been allowed to serve in male-gendered callings. But failing to include women to all aspects of our worship and leadership, at least to the full extent that our gendered priesthood doctrine allows, hurts us as a church because it denies us of the benefit of many of these women’s natural talents and spiritual gifts. Even aside from that, the spirit strives stronger with us when men and women work together as equals.

  36. Flat Stanley – To try and conflate motherhood with Priesthood, making Priesthood “as a token offering to give us something to do”, you have to ignore the many times what are now considered “Priesthood Responsibilities” were taken away from women. Witnessing marriages and other ordinances was removed in 1959. Healing blessings removed in the mid 20th century.

    You can’t build up one gender by tearing down the other. Rather than build up the exclusivity of Priesthood (while also saying how it’s not that great and puffing up motherhood as some blissful thing of which you’re lesser if you don’t do), Inflate fatherhood to be more than family performance interviews.

  37. “For smaller temples like mine, family sessions often struggle to have 7 MP holders. This will help.”

    If this was the motivation, then the smack down on girls is even worse. So we need more PH to run the baptistries, and thus will allow the teen boys the opportunity. But if the boys get something, then the girls need too as well. What can we have them do? I know, laundry!

    Is there a shortage of women serving in the baptistry and laundry, etc? Or is this new need for girls just a made up thing so that boys can receive additional responsibility and the church can say they are opening opportunities for both genders?

    (I spent years cleaning dishes in the cafeteria and loved it. I’d much rather serve in the laundry than do a session. I’d much rather see both girls and boys offering grunt work together in the temple than do baptisms anyway.)

  38. Dave K, I don’t get it. What’s the problem with your scenario? That priests and adult men would be uncomfortable having a beehive say the words underwear and garments to them? That it would be uncomfortable for the beehive to say those words to boys and men?

    If the former, these dudes need to get over it. If the latter, I’m more sympathetic, but can’t she just say “I’d rather not do clothing”? I’m not seeing a problem here.

  39. Flat Stanley,
    It’s really easy to say that the “honors of men” don’t matter to you when you have them. It’s approximately as convincing as the coach whose team hasn’t lost a game for 5 seasons saying “it’s not whether you win or lose…”

  40. Flat Stanley says:

    @Marian: To be clear, I don’t consider a woman as an ordinance witness to be usurping a man’s role. In fact, I’m all for women giving blessings, standing as witnesses, and many other roles that have become gendered over time (my personal doctrine goes much further than that, but for a public post it suffices). I agree with the OP, it was some of the comments I was responding to. And I agree with Frank above, that you can’t build up one gender by tearing down the other, but you also can’t build up one gender by denigrating some roles in the church and elevating others. And that’s a rather common theme among those bothered by the gendering in the church (and I too am bothered by the unnecessary gendering of roles).

    @Frank: I shouldn’t have been so tongue in cheek about the Priesthood. I happen to think that Priesthood “power” is at the very heart of the creative and procreative act. Unfortunately, “Priest”hood is a gendered term in and of itself; as you alluded to, the parallels are priest and priestess (priesthood and priestesshood), and father and mother. I do believe, however, that we do not in, any way, appreciate the role and symbolism of ‘woman’ at the heart of creation. And I’m not referring to the condescending deference given to it that then justifies the trappings of patriarchy, but that the very heart and definition of godhood – with all its attendant powers and authority – extends from that ability.

  41. JKC, this is just my experience in working with church youth (both my own kids and many others). I think many YW will be uncomfortable distributing underwear to YM and Men. Same thing with many YM receiving it. The amount of discomfort will vary between each youth and the specific youth they are interacting with (be it clothing distribution, baptism, or towel distribution).

    And yes, the youth with “get over it” as they mature. I’m just pointing out an issue that youth leaders will now need to grapple with.

    IMO, the biggest challenge will be with baptisms. Some priests will be worried about having the physical means to lift other youth. Some priests and young women will be very uncomfortable about being in close proximity to another youth in wet clothing in a very public (within the temple) and emotional setting. I’ve done many youth baptisms myself as an adult. I am careful to treat YW with sensitivity and keep my eyes directed away from them. If I’d been assigned to perform baptisms as a priest I’m not sure how well I would have handled it. I would have been uncomfortable and I believe my YW peers would have been too.

  42. Thank you for the clarification, Flat Stanley. I suspect we agree about more than we disagree, though I’ll echo an earlier commenter’s sentiment about elevating fatherhood rather than priesthood as a mirror to motherhood.

  43. Dave K, actually, now that I think of it, isn’t that scenario moot anyway, in light of the new(ish) policy that boys and girls don’t do baptisms together? Is that just a temple-president decision, or is that church-wide?

    I confess I don’t understand why it’s uncomfortable to be around other kids in wet clothes. Our ward has a pool party every year as a mutual activity and the kids love it. Swimsuits are not less revealing than temple jumpsuits. Maybe this is a cultural thing? I’m in upstate New York, but we have a fair number of Utah transplants.

    I’ve done many youth baptisms, both boys and girls, and I agree with you that it’s good to treat YW with sensitivity, but honestly, I think avoiding eye contact with them would be even more awkward, and how do you even baptize somebody without looking at them? I guess I don’t see why the person baptizing can’t just treat the girls in the font the same way he treats the boys in the font.

    I can see how priests might be hesitant in some cases, but I think they can just decline. I see this change as permitting them, but not requiring them, to do proxy baptisms. In practice, I imagine wards would ask priests to volunteer rather than assign them to do it.

  44. Yeah, I didn’t realize those heavy canvas jumpsuits were that titillating when wet.

  45. Very different decisions are made when women participate in the decision making process. This decision was almost certainly made by 15 men.

    Young men are aroused for almost no reason whatsoever. Being physically and spiritually close to young attractive and wet females will almost certainly (and visibly?) arouse young men and will emotionally confuse YM and YW alike. I’m willing to bet that many YW if asked in confidence if they are comfortable with it would say no. In fact I’d be willing to bet many YE would rather not be baptized by a man besides her father or other family member.

  46. Why in the name of Sam Hill aren’t men and boys mopping, distributing towels, and doing laundry? More and more, I feel like Priesthood duties are more defined by what men don’t want to do, i.e., “laundry is women’s work; therefore, it is not a Priesthood duty.”
    We are stuck in a box. I want to give the entire box a violent shake, dump it out on the carpet, and start again, understanding that:
    1. We all have the Priesthood.
    2. A very narrow window of Priesthood ordinances and keys aside, boys and girls, men and women can be equally gifted at doing any job in the church

    While I agree that often the most menial, dirty, or difficult jobs are the ones where we feel the love of God the most, the sentiment falls flat when it is used to placate women. If Zion is indeed in the laundry (or the nursery, or the kitchen after a ward party), then why aren’t we all there?

    Also, I sincerely hope the new “Temple and Priesthood Preparation” meeting (formerly “Priesthood Preview) will not segregate into girls = temple prep and boys = priesthood prep. Both apply to both genders.

  47. I’m still not sure what being wet has to do with anything, when you’re wearing a canvas tent. Even if we grant that young men are aroused for almost no reason, then I’m not seeing how that’s a problem that must be addressed by limiting the interaction between young men and young women. A number of years ago, church members rightfully objected to women being barred from the font because of normal female body functions. I don’t think that normal male body functions should be a reason to consider a person unworthy or unfit either.

    Rather than ramping up the gender segregation, it seems like this would be one of many good opportunities to prepare the youth for the myriad occasions when they will be expected to interact and treat everyone with equal respect regardless of karyotype.

  48. Shh, Mandy, you’ll give them ideas. We’ll end up remodeling all the temples to take the initiatory entrance out of the locker room and that will be the end of it.

  49. My 13-year-old daughter quickly realized the implication of the change: she would be allowed to do the temple laundry while her 16-year-old brother would actively participate in the ordinance. It was the first time she has expressed disappointment with gender specific roles at church. It hurt to watch it unfold.

  50. Lyndsey S – As an endowed woman, I have been baptized for the dead many times, both in a scheduled family baptism session and individually just “showing up” at the temple baptistry to do family names. Is there a policy against it? As I look back on when I worked with YW, I do think that I just observed on our youth temple trip since the focus was on their opportunities, but I live close to multiple temples so didn’t find that a problem. When we lived in Vermont and traveled to the D.C. temple (the closest at that time), endowed women did baptisms on our adult temple trip. I’m just curious if this is something that depends on local temple president discretion.

  51. Regarding men not doing “women’s work” or “grunt work,” I’ve seen men working in the temple in the laundry/clothing and in the kitchen/cafeteria as well as in custodial/groundskeeping, not to mention men serving in the ward primary and nursery. It is a pity if their work isn’t appreciated or even noticed. But then again, they weren’t performing their service to be noticed.

  52. Jesus modeled the role of the servant for all, so that those who call themselves Christians and follow after him would eschew the unequal power structures of the world. Not so that men could chastise women who feel unloved by their church and perhaps by implication even God from their lofty positions of power. It’s a bad look for the priests and princes of the world to muse from their feasting halls that the starving poor should stop complaining because they are enjoying closeness with our Lord in their suffering. Jesus didn’t mean for those with power to impose poverty and servitude on others. He meant for those with power to lay it aside and become servants themselves.

    Also, as a girl doing baptisms, I was extremely uncomfortable in that transparent wet jumpsuit and deeply weird, unfamiliar borrowed underwear. No bra. You better bet I already didn’t love being looked at by the men in the room as I scurried for my towel and the locker room. And I would’ve hated it even more if I was in the water in physical contact with boys who were not nice to me the rest of the time.

  53. No good scripture- or revelation-based reason women can’t serve as recorders, either. Sitting at a desk and making a little red check mark doesn’t require the priesthood.

  54. nobody, really says:

    Eileen369:
    For doing family names, they are very kind to anyone who shows up. When my daughter and I took 14 names in one Saturday morning, we got sent to the front of the line ahead of the ward group who was there. My daughter could do confirmations in “street clothes” – no need to change from wet whites to dry whites. There’s no limit on how many names you can do. Taking family names in is like flying first class. We did 14 baptisms and 14 confirmations and were in/out of the temple in under 50 minutes. It was finding 14 names that took us a year of searching – the family tree includes people who had their work done in Nauvoo Original, and several thousand names done by proxy in the 1930s.

    If you’re doing general population names, only the youth may do those. Adults just aren’t allowed. They will generally have youth confirmed for one set and baptized for a different set second.

    I’m not sure if having peers baptize peers is such a great plan. I know my daughter was really uncomfortable having the father of a church bully perform the ordinance. I can’t imagine it would be any better having the bully himself who had belittled and mocked her at school on Friday exercising the Priesthood on her on Saturday. I’m sure some idiotic leader would tell her she needs to just forgive him, but I’d hope that she’d reply with he shouldn’t be treating her in a way which requires forgiveness in the first place.

    I’m starting to think that the people making the big decisions were so busy being stake presidents and regional reps when their kids were young that they have no idea how teenagers feel or behave.

  55. “It was the first time she has expressed disappointment with gender specific roles at church.” This is temple prep 101. Lower women’s expectations.

  56. Thank you for such a thoughtful post. This policy felt very hurtful.

  57. Wonderful post! Thank you.

    Eileen369, the rule that endowed men or women are not allowed to baptize for temple names is pretty recent, within the last five years. Before that you could just show up, as you describe, and decide to go down to the baptistry and do baptisms. Now, if you show up planning to do baptisms, they require you to bring your own family names. I think the purpose behind the rule is to try to force people to do research and find their own family names and not have an easy time doing the ordinance for temple names.

    I have done and been responsible for organizing temple baptisms for the youth many, many times as a leader of the young mens program and as a leader in the ward. I agree with all the commenters above (sorry Left Field) that this change could make young women very uncomfortable — to be in the font with a youth priest from their ward, standing in such tight proximity, with his left hand gripping her right wrist and her left hand resting on his left forearm. Then, in the immersion, with his right hand on her back and face bending over her as she descends into the water. Then being pulled up. I think the whole process has the potential for making many young women very uncomfortable, especially with what they inevitably know about the priests’ behavior outside of church on Sunday (or, often, unfortunately also during church on Sunday). The physicality could be considered intimate in a certain sense, perhaps too much so for both the young woman being baptized and the priest who is not baptizing his 8-year-old sister but rather a 12-18 year old young woman from the ward (whom he might like or be pursuing romantically or whom he might be bullying or otherwise hurting at other times).

    I agree with Cynthia far above that this seems like a pretty significant “policy” or even “doctrine” change. Previously, we taught that ordinances for the dead, as a class, required Melchizedek Priesthood because we are sealing things in heaven as on earth by doing them. That is why Aaronic Priesthood holders have not previously been viewed as authorized to perform temple baptisms (or so we taught for many years) — the person performing the ordinance needed to be endowed, wearing garments, etc. So to change that like this seems like a doctrinal change. Is it really a necessary one? This is puzzling.

  58. Aussie Mormon says:

    john f, the letter says “under the direction of the temple president”, so I expect that it’s his authority that will be used for sealing things up in heaven (as with using the Bishop’s authority for ward level baptisms and AP conferring&ordaining, Stake President’s authority for MP conferring&ordaining etc).

    Going straight from endowed MP to priests is a big jump rather than going via non-endowed MP first is a pretty big jump though.

  59. Paul Ritchey says:

    FWIW, temple laundry is an extremely important responsibility. It keeps the place orderly and inviting to the spirit, and good organization keeps people comfortable in a setting that would otherwise be wildly uncomfortable (we are literally distributing underwear to teenagers).

    It should, however, be a shared responsibility among proto-equal-partners. It is not (merely) women’s work.

  60. Eileen369: I can recall about 5 different temples over the last 3 years where I haven’t been allowed to do baptisms for the dead bc I’m an endowed sister and I didn’t bring my own names. Never mind that I was serving as the RS president and wanted to attend with a sister who had just obtained her limited use recommend. Not a month ago I attended the temple with my daughter who had just turned 12 and was doing baptisms for the first time. Her father was asked “Are you endowed?” He replied “yes.” “Great, would you like to perform the baptisms”… it was a special moment for them both. I requested to join her in baptisms, and was asked if I was endowed. When I told her that I was she said that I couldn’t participate in the baptisms bc the temple names are just for the youth*, and then told me I could hand her the towel. It was almost a special moment… This rule of “endowed members can’t do temple names” is about as fair as to women as a sign in a gym saying “no jock straps allowed.” Not officially stating that women are unwelcome in the baptistry (or that men aren’t welcome in the gym) but making it pretty clear, nonetheless… I just wish we were more honest about these things. Let’s not pretend that young women haven’t ever handed each other towels before, or pretend that allowing them officially to do so is some big treat. This new policy is about the boys… It’s still about the boys.

  61. Thanks to all on the clarification on baptism policy (endowed adults can’t do temple names). I had no idea. And for the rest of the comments as well, especially the information about women witnessing until the practice was ended in the 1950’s, something I had never heard before. Very enlightening.

  62. This makes me the odd duck out, but I love gender roles, distinctions and differences. I would never want them homogenized nor blended. I don’t want to be the “same.” There is beautiful and powerful synergy between two genders with different roles but full of respect and admiration for the other. One person’s moment to shine and fill a role of honor doesn’t make me obsolete. It doesn’t remove all the moments I have to be central and important. There are already so many opportunities for women to shine, to be in front, to be on top, to create, to conquer, to foster and to be noticed. There is no lack of opportunity for power and status to be had or superior roles to be filled on this planet among 7.6 billion humans. For me, going to Church isn’t about seeking power, status, roles or money or measuring myself by another’s acquisition of such things. It has nothing at all to do with my personal religion.

    The Savior I follow wandered through the fields and ate raw corn for lack of a better meal. He chose to be born in a donkey stall and sleep in a feeding trough. There were times he had nowhere to lay his head. He was resoundingly rejected by most. There’s a message there.

    As a blogger, I have more people hear my voice in a few month’s time than a Stake President will throughout his entire 10-year’s worth of stake conferences. We ladies are given so much to be joyful over, so much leeway, so many chances to be “first” or “on top.” it’s just endless. When we choose to define ourselves by how we are marginalized or by what opportunities we lack, we create our own ceiling and become desensitized and distracted from all the ways we can get so much further, and be so much more powerful than we originally perceived. The heavens hold out a multiplicity of ways to accomplish it.

    Yes, of the two times the Christ officially announced His Messiahship to the world, it was to a woman first. Once to the woman at the well and once to Mary by the tomb. I’ll take that nod any day over a witness spot at the baptismal font. Tell me how you are powerful, gifted, strong, original, inventive and inspiring and how the heavens have opened to you. You need no one’s permission for such things nor any role or status to verify it.

    You are so much better than that inferiority script some will suggest you recite about yourself. Think and act above it and beyond it.

  63. Classic Mormon Mom,
    Thank you for explaining so well exactly why Mormonism pains me to my most inner soul. Here in this Telestial world there are so many ways and places for me to shine, use my talents, lead, and have some sort of power. The only place I’m expected to not shine is at Church and in the temple. There, my power is removed and replaced with something I don’t recognize. I must assume that if the temple is correct, my eternal reward in heaven is to lose all those places I can shine. And also to lose everything I am and know about myself. Sounds like hell.

  64. First, I echo the sadness and exasperation expressed by some concerning the missed opportunity to include girls more equitably. Second, I’m wondering what the justification could possibly be for prohibiting girls and women from wearing bras during baptismal and initiatory ordinances? Is this another example of men oblivious to female concerns (since women aren’t in the conversations pertinent to such concerns)? The garment would be closest to the body regardless, and I think girls and women would be much more comfortable if the restriction was dropped.

  65. EBK,
    Your post is so sad and victimized. “The only place I’m expected to not shine is at Church and in the Temple.” Wow and ??? That’s some major hyperbole and drama. If I didn’t go to the exact same Church I would be swayed to feel sorry for you. But then that’s the trophy, isn’t it? The soapbox of victimhood and marginalization? Your perspective is not one I experience nor share. Really, that’s indicative of thinking inside of a limited, self-defeating box, that you cannot see more around you in the way of opportunity, gifts and powers than that. The average sub-conscious brain has 65,000 thoughts per day, 48,000 of them being negative. It’s normal for our time and culture but not an accomplishment. May you find the validation of shining that you seek.

  66. Classic Mormon Mom, while I don’t know how you run your blog, that’s not really the way we do things around here. I’m happy for you that you appreciate gender differences and that your experience in the temple is positive; as Christians, it’s our obligation to empathize and sympathize with those who feel differently. And from your comment above, it’s clear that you recognize that many people feel differently from you. I’m not convinced that haranguing those people does anything either to build them or the church up; as such, the better response is probably something to the effect of, “I’m sorry the temple makes you feel lesser. I don’t entirely understand—it makes me feel empowered—but I do understand and appreciate that others have different experiences there.”

  67. Classic Mormon Mom –

    My experience has been similar to EBKs. I don’t begrudge you yours being such a positive experience as I know that lots of women feel that way, but its hard for me that you can’t see any validity at all in mine. I don’t see myself as a victim. I don’t see the real-life issues I have faced in wards trying to problem-solve my own situation as drama. I have not learned an ‘inferiority script’ taught by someone else (wow, that is insulting!) and I don’t exist in a ‘limited, self-defeating box.’ I mean, how does one even judge that for someone else? How does one decide (when you don’t even know me or EBK beyond 50 words on an internet post) that we are following a script?

    For me, I’ve done exactly as you described. I’ve created a sphere for myself where I can serve and work and shine and be treated by others as ‘worthy’ rather than ‘inferior.’ Since there isn’t any place within the LDS church for my sphere (which I think your comments admit is true of woman in Mormonism, although I could be wrong), I’ve built my own community. With that though, the less relevant day-to-day, from-the-pulpit, in-the-temple Mormonism has become for me.

  68. Strangely, if an ordinance was done but not properly recorded, women and men are equally acceptable as sources for the witness statements that legitimize recording it later. That’s an implicit recognition that a woman’s witness of an ordinance is as good as a man’s. But when we step from the *action* of witnessing to the *role* of witness, to a responsibility that’s visible, necessary, carefully respected, and not actually all that challenging, all of a sudden oh goodness no, that’s men’s work and the women need to know their place. Eternal nature and destiny, motherhood, blah blah.

  69. There are differences between genders to be celebrated, but there are differences among individuals as well. Lumping all females into laundry duty “homogenizes and blends” divinely distinct women into a communal limited capacity to serve in the temple.

    If our gendered distinctiveness is so natural, why do we keep inventing ways to keep the genders distinct? Was Saudi Arabia really onto something when they allowed women the distinction of being banned from driving? In the name of arbitrarily assigning differences to men and women, why don’t we have women swear eternal subservience to men in the temple? Wait….

    Also, how can wanting the same opportunities for service as a man be power-seeking — unless men, in fact, have more power?! Why aren’t the guys complaining about not doing laundry, if these responsibilities are so equal? Or is whining a distinct part of my divine femininity? The lesson learned from Jesus living a humble life is not to shove our sisters onto the ground and tell them it’s good for them; it’s to use our humility to empathize and lift others from the ground they are thrown on (as opposed to, say, self-righteously sneering at them for noticing they are on the ground).

    I love the points made about Jesus choosing women as witnesses. Even the Taliban allowed two women to be the equivalent of one male witness! And no, I don’t need anyone’s permission to be a witness. I can bear witness right now that this policy is contrary to a gospel where all are alike unto God. I AM so much more than the inferiority script the church keeps giving me (disguised as “divine nature”).

  70. Thank you Laurel for words that express what I have felt for decades. May I just offer my thoughts on this matter as someone who prepares a great many names for temple work and shares them with temple patrons.
    The current issue with temple work is that the balance has shifted. During the time of President Kimball, we built many new temples. We did not have sufficient names for all the patrons who could more easily attend. This problem became greater when President Hinckley built even more new temples. So we began extraction projects on a greater scale than we had done in the past. We issued calls to members to read microfilms and copy the names and relationships and dates from them for proxy work. This allowed the temples to stay open when the members were not producing sufficient family names for that to happen. People did the work for anyone the Church gave them a name for.
    However, since the massive digitization and indexing of the microfilms, the number of people who can fairly easily produce family names has increased dramatically. The Church wishes us to accept responsibility for our families first. So they have asked for people to bring their own names. Apps have been written that will search the familysearch family tree to help you find names if you cannot find any on your own. I believe one is called Take-A-Name.
    And if you are really desperate, go to relativefinder.org and explore the featured and other groups. Everyone who comes up as related to you can be done, as can other descendants of those people. I personally found five new very distant relatives within half an hour, whose common ancestor to me was back in the 1500’s, just by checking out the Prime Ministers of the Netherlands. This was on the part of my tree that consists completely of early Mormon pioneers where it seemed every line had been researched.
    For those who are not descended from early Mormon pioneer lines, a problem of even greater magnitude has been created, too many names to do in a lifetime. For example, 47 million new Dutch records were added to familysearch last year. They are so complete you hardly need to think when you attach these sources to the families and thereby create new people needing temple work. I have personally added over 800 new Dutch people to the tree and shared their temple work with the temple in the last three months for a Dutch friend. I could probably add hundreds more, limited only by the amount of time I have available for attaching sources to the tree.
    A similar situation is being created in Italy as we index the 250 million Italian civil records. And something similar has happened with the Irish records in the last three years — over 30 million new people available for temple work. All easily added and attached to family lines with little to no real time consuming research required.
    Why is this important? I believe that this need for additional ordinance workers and endowed patrons, especially male, is as much behind this change as introducing the youth to adult temple responsibilities at an earlier age. If you read the posts on the suggestions page on familysearch, you will regularly hear from people who do much research as to the ever increasing time frame needed to complete the work for names shared with the temple. Five years ago, I had baptisms picked up by the temple within hours of submission. It now takes nine months after I submit them for the baptisms to be done. As a member of a large temple district that performs ordinances for about 100,000 people a year, that means that there are 75,000 names in line in front of mine now. All family names shared with the temple in my temple district.
    I am puzzled by the requirement that adults bring family names to the temple in order to participate in baptisms if they are already endowed. I would think they would accept everyone’s help just so the length of the waiting for work list would not grow any longer. Why don’t you speak with the temple president the next time you are there to see if this is a policy or just a practice that might be changed. I know I welcome every person who takes one of my family names.

  71. Laurel, thank you for your thoughts–the example of the Taliban at least allowing two women to witness was particularly gutting. Georgina, thank you for the information–I am fascinated by our evolving focus on genealogy and its potential affects on members, policy, etc.