What are women (and now girls) allowed to do in an LDS temple baptistry?

The news that Young Men are now allowed to baptize and serve as official witnesses in Temple Baptistries, while Young Women may “assist with baptistry assignments currently performed by sister ordinance workers and volunteers” has led many to ask, what are those assignments again?

This lovely post by a female temple worker describes the work women (and now girls)  are allowed to do in the baptistry (hint: towels).

Welcome to the Temple

It also describes the many tasks that only men (and now boys) are allowed to do, such as:

  • Baptize
  • Serve as witnesses
  • Officiate confirmations
  • Welcome patrons to the temple
  • Feed names into the projector (seriously)*

*Please note that there is scriptural precedent for this, since women in the Bible never used projector equipment.

April Young Bennett

April Young Bennett is the author of the Ask a Suffragist book series and host of the Religious Feminism Podcast. Learn more about April at aprilyoungb.com.

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22 Responses

  1. M says:

    I can’t determine whether this latest announcement makes me feel mad or sad (or, as the patriarchy would describe me, bad) but it certainly doesn’t fill me with anything resembling joy.

    We are daughters of our Heavenly Father who loves us and we love laundry. Apparently.

  2. Andrew says:


    I understand the consternation expressed in your post (even if I don’t necessarily agree). I told my daughters about the post I read here is relation to this. And my 27 year old, single, daughter said “I wouldn’t want to baptise”. And I’m afraid the reality is that most women do not want to.

    I would like to clear up one thing.

    “Feed names into the projector (seriously)*”

    The person “feeding the names in” is the Recorder. The position of Record is scriptural and the job has very little to do with projecting the names.
    The Recorder ensures that the words said are correct and ticks the box to record the ordinance – remembering that what is recorded on earth is recorded in heaven. It is a priesthood duty – and is not one of the things being given to the priests to do.

    The priests are doing no more, and no less, than they currently do outside the temple.

    I have often thought it strange that one had to be endowed to perform these duties – and now that has been sorted out.

    • Thank you for that clarification. If women were permitted to record something, I am sure the heavenly host would ignore it, just as women’s words are often ignored here on earth, so I can see now why it is a priority for the Church to keep women away from that projector, even in the face of staffing shortages that are necessitating the need to fill some roles with teen boys.

      • dinomermaid says:

        Women also fulfill this priesthood office inside and outside of the temple. Just not in the baptistry. My stewardship is enough–more than enough, even. The more I do within my callings, the more I see the grandeur and expanse of the work I’ve been called to, and frankly, it’s overwhelming. I have more power and influence and administrative and priesthood authority than is easily tenable. I’m grateful for the delegation of jobs.

      • Andrew says:

        The Role of Recorder for recording Baptisms for the Dead is specifically designated as Male in the Doctrine and Covenants. I am not here saying that it couldn’t change. I am suggesting that it would require a change in our scriptures – not just handbook policy.

      • There are currently many priesthood offices and duties that do not follow the guidelines originally set by the scriptures. Church leaders have not changed the original text, but they have announced decisions to do things differently, without rewriting the scriptures. I wrote about some examples of this in more detail here: http://www.the-exponent.com/shouldnt-it-be-obvious-how-mormon-women-hold-and-exercise-the-priesthood-today/

    • Pete says:

      Andrew, there are plenty of things that are scriptural that we follow or ignore at will. I guess that’s the genius of the system of ‘follow the living prophet.’ Do what the scriptures say unless the living prophet says otherwise. Do what the former prophets say until we tell you not to. Policies (and doctrine) changes all the time. All. The. Time.

    • MDearest says:

      I remember serving on the scout committee as a sort of recorder. It involved keeping all the many and varied requirements fulfilled by our numerous scouts organized and properly reported to the national org against that future day wham a scout applied for his Eagle. I was good at it too, being detail-oriented is a feminine trait after all. In nearly two decades I only made one error, but resolved many made by others. Good thing priesthood ordination wasn’t required for our scout committee or those men would’ve had to do all that detail work themselves.

      When teenage boys are not allowed to be recorders in order to preserve the record from error, it reveals that adult women, some of whom would be terrific recorders, are infantilized even lower than the young pups of the priesthood. There’s no reason women can not operate the recording machine except for an artificial construct that is increasingly revealed to be unproductive and ridiculous.

  3. Dani Addante says:

    I agree that they should give more opportunities to the women, but I also wanted to point out that boys cannot do everything on that list. The 16-17 yr old boys can only baptize and serve as witnesses, but they can’t do confirmations or record ordinances. And the younger boys can’t do any of those things.

    Also, the article you linked to was great, but I wanted to point out that in my experience, the laundry area is a separate volunteer area from the baptistry. I used to volunteer in the laundry many years ago, and from my experience, you only get to volunteer there if you want to. I’ve seen both men and women working in the laundry at the temple. But yes, I agree with you, and I think that women should be able to act as witnesses in all parts of the temple. I mean, why do women get to be witnesses only in the endowment? If one woman can be a witness at each endowment session, then surely a woman can be a witness for baptisms and sealings too.

    Also, I can never understand why only men are at the recommend desk. I think they should have women there as well. At one temple I know, they do assign a female ordinance worker to be near the recommend desk to assist patrons, but she doesn’t scan recommends. I also found out that the men at the recommend desk are not ordinance workers. At least not at the temple I work at. The recommend desk is a separate volunteer area, but I do wish it allowed women.

    • Andrew says:

      Works both ways. Only the sisters can sit in the celestial room and help maintain reverence. Men aren’t any good at reverence.

      We are not allowed to rent out the clothing either. Takes a special pair of hands to select the correct size of trousers, shirts, dresses and robes.

      Men also can’t be trusted to carry the names for the prayer roll to the endowment room – but we can put them in the pouch.

      The positions for female ordinance workers out way the male ones – mostly because we have to keep going to the veil periodically – where the ratio of male to female workers is 3:1 – because women can represent Apostles, but not the Saviour.

      • Andrew, please stop saying women cannot represent God or the Savior, as if that is some sort of fact. I understand that you, personally, have difficulty seeing women as types of Christ and as people who can represent God in symbolic settings, because you bring it up frequently. Have you ever considered that your inability to see Godhood in women is a personal failing on your part, instead of evidence that women themselves are flawed in some sort of way that makes us poor representatives of Christ?

      • Andrew says:

        April, I thought that the policy here was that you couldn’t question my beliefs. Why can I not express them. Many here express their beliefs that are quite contrary to popular LDS doctrine, policy and practices.

        I was speaking in a specific case. Not in general. All of us, who are living the Gospel of Jesus Christ and following His example are types of Christ – and are His Hands.

        I have no problem whatsoever with seeing women doing what Christ would do in many different scenarios. So, please don’t say that I can’t.

      • Moss says:

        Were you trying to be inflammatory with your comment, Andrew? “Men aren’t good at reverence.” “Men can’t be trusted to carry the names”. In one breath you say that men are bumbling screw-ups and then in the next you tell us that only these bumbling screw ups can represent the Savior. Do you see how this is patronizing to women?

      • Olivia says:

        But of course there’s ANOTHER much simpler solution to the problem of temple baptistries not having enough men to officiate and women not having anything to do that might also have a positive impact on women’s experiences in the baptistry with their daughters (and sons).

    • Andrew says:

      Moss, what I was doing is what I so often see here in relation to women.

      I was being sarcastic. Of course men can do these things. But we are not allowed to. It is not within our remit. We do not take reverence positions in the Celestial Room. We do not work in the clothing rental. They are simply not assignments made to men. Why? I don’t know.

      I don’t actually mind, I have my assignments, the sisters have theirs.

      However, it would be nice to be able to sit in the Celestial Room for 20 minutes when you are working a 6 to 8 hour shift. However, due to temple policy I would have to get permission from the temple president to enter the Celestial Room for any other reason than coming from a session. The sisters get to do this as part of their assignments as ordinance workers.

  4. Tim Rollins says:

    These changes are positive indeed; however, it should be noted that confirmations must be done only by holders of the Melchizedek Priesthood, whether in the temple baptistry or at a child of record baptism, that same condition applies.

  5. Andrew says:

    The main job done in the Baptistry by endowed sisters currently is being a chaperone. It will be interesting to see if this is something that will be given to the Laurels. Meaning that they will be able to sit with other young women in the confirmation rooms without an endowed sister. That would certainly make things a lot easier – we struggle to get enough endowed sisters coming on our baptistry sessions.

    Having said that, if the priests can baptise we will not need so many men to come, which will mean more mothers can now go with their daughters – BONUS.

    • Pete says:

      Sit with the young women and do what? What is the purpose of having an endowed sister in the confirmation room? I have never seen that happen.

    • spunky says:

      “if the priests can baptise we will not need so many men to come, which will mean more mothers can now go with their daughters”

      What? I don’t see this as a bonus– especially in areas where it is hard enough to get enough men to show up for baptistry work, then I can only see the men being directed to other temple jobs that women aren’t allowed to do, in order to make the temple work.

      • Andrew says:

        OK – so for you going to the temple with your daughters isn’t a bonus.

        I know my wife would have loved it. But, me having to go with my older girls (because endowed men were needed) mean’t she had to stay home with the younger children and missed out on seeing them being baptised.

    • Olivia says:

      Literally no endowed women are needed for baptisms. None. Zero. They do nothing. Every time I went to the temple to do baptisms with the yw I “led” I did literally nothing but hand out towels. Even your own comment states that if fewer men are needed to OFFICIATE in ordinances, then more women will be allowed to come WATCH their daughters be officiated at. Exciting changes indeed. As it stands, women are utterly unnecessary in 90% of the rites the church administers, from baby blessings to baptisms to confirmations to ordinations to sealings. I could have been absent for every important religious rite in my children’s lives and it would have made exactly no difference. I can’t DO anything at any point in my kids’ religious progression. So don’t pull that condescending nonsense about men being “prevented” from various aspects of temple worship. You “can’t” carry a specific sheet of paper from room to room or hand out laundry. We “can’t” baptize, confirm, bless, witness, seal, teach, welcome, admit, speak, represent deity, speak directly to God, covenant to God, or participate in any meaningful way in any ordinance or practice or rite but the ones done TO us. There is no equivalence whatever. And you’re fully aware of it.

  6. Wendi says:

    How about, just like in initiatories, women baptize women? Then we don’t have to feel self conscious about the wet suits or being drenched in front of our male peers, or having our male peers performing authoritative practices over us reminding us of our second class position.

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