Mormon feminists recently learned that some young women were wrongly blocked from doing LDS proxy baptisms – which include wearing all-white clothing and being fully immersed in water – because they were menstruating.
Though this was not a consistent prohibition, the women had anecdotal evidence that it was happening in some Mormon temples, including several in Utah.
Trouble is, such a ban is bogus. If temple workers are excluding young women from doing baptismal work while having their periods, church spokesman Scott Trotter said, they are not following LDS policy.
"Performing baptisms in church temples is a sacred ordinance open to all members who are at least 12 years of age and who meet the standards of the church," Trotter said in a statement. "The decision of whether or not to participate in baptisms during a menstrual cycle is personal and left up to the individual."
The prohibition seems to stem from an "active folk doctrine of 'ritual uncleanliness' or even 'impurity.' where a bleeding woman may somehow render the temple defiled," writes Elizabeth Hammond, a Mormon in Boston at Feminist Mormon Housewives. "The origin is unclear – this may have been taught by temple workers, leaders, or at very least inferred by some based on their experience with the practice."
Hammond and other feminists were troubled by the practice and wanted "to ensure that the temple experiences of young women, new female converts, or any woman who wishes to participate in the sacred ordinances – especially baptism for the dead – are smooth and positive."
They elicited readers to call all the temples in the United States and report on which ones followed this practice. Though not a scientific or professional poll, it showed that as many as 10 temples may bar young women from participating at that "time of the month."
Peggy Fletcher Stack
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