Mormons unveil temple changes: Single LDS men older than 30, recently divorced members can now serve

Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune The Provo City Center Temple was dedicated Sunday, March 20, 2016. The church’s 112-year-old Provo Tabernacle burned in December 2010 and only the shell of the building was left. After the burned-out structure was gutted, Mormon leaders decided to use the building’s exterior to house the temple.

Reflecting evolving attitudes about gender roles, the LDS Church has revised a couple of policies relating to older single men and divorced members serving as volunteers in Mormon temples.

For years, single men older than 30 and Latter-day Saints who had been divorced within the previous five years were banned from officiating in some temple rituals.

No official reason was ever given for the now-lifted prohibitions.

“Single endowed men may serve as temple ordinance workers if they are found worthy and properly recommended by their priesthood leaders (no age restrictions),” Eric Hawkins, spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, confirmed this week.

Single women older than 30 already were permitted to serve in that capacity.

The Utah-based faith also eliminated any “waiting period following a divorce” for men and women, Hawkins said. “Divorced, endowed members who are in good standing and hold a current temple recommend may serve as temple ordinance workers if properly recommended by their priesthood leaders.”

Richard Ostler, who has been a temple worker in the iconic Salt Lake LDS Temple for nearly five years, cheered the changes.

“It’s great news,” said Ostler, who witnessed the consequences of the rules as a recently released bishop of a Young Single Adult congregation in Magna.

“I had three divorced men in my singles ward,” he said, “and one wanted to be an ordinance worker.” When the church denied him that chance, the man “felt marginalized.”

His divorce became “a scar, a black mark and changed his path in Mormonism,” Ostler said, “instead of keeping every door open to him.”

Though Ostler is an outspoken advocate for gay Mormons, he doesn’t believe the now-scrapped temple policy on single men older than 30 was directed at them.

“My guess is that it was aimed at pushing single [straight] men to get married,” he quipped, repeating the tongue-in-cheek stereotype that an unmarried Mormon man is “a menace to society.”

The result, though, is that the policy also hit Mormon gays who were trying to live the church’s standards. LDS leaders say same-sex attraction isn’t a sin, but acting on it is.

“The path for a single straight woman is different than a gay celibate man,” Ostler said. “She can serve and has hope that marriage could happen someday or in the next life. … There are lots of role models of single women serving in important positions, traveling with other single women, and no one questions their sexuality.”

It’s harder for a single gay LDS man older than 30, who, though deemed worthy to worship in the faith’s temples, had been barred from working in them.

“The temple is a place ... where you can feel God’s love,” Ostler said. “Gay men who worked there didn’t feel broken; they felt worthy and part of the team.”

There is one group that remains excluded as temple workers: mothers with children younger than 18.

Ostler doesn’t think that makes much sense, either.

The temple is a “house of healing and peace, and spiritual, emotional and physical regeneration,” said the father of six, the youngest of whom is in high school. “I would love for my wife to have that same experience. Or to work there together. We both need to get recharged.”

Mormons view their temples as houses of God, places where devout members can participate — with the help of ordinance workers — in their faith’s highest religious rites, including eternal marriages.

Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune Mormons walk around Temple Square before the afternoon session of the 186th LDS General Conference at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City Saturday April 2, 2016.