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Policies for Submitting Names for Temple Ordinances

By: Ardis E. Parshall - March 13, 2012

The Church has taken another step in its efforts to notify and remind members of their responsibilities and the limits of performing proxy temple ordinances for the deceased, in a bulletin emailed today (March 13) to all who have used LDS Accounts to register for New Family Search.

Key portions of the bulletin are:

Recently, the First Presidency of the Church reiterated the policies, first stated in 1995, concerning the submitting of names for proxy temple ordinances. As a user of the system (new.familysearch.org) where temple ordinances are cleared and submitted, you should follow these important policies. …


In a related Church News article, Brother Dennis C. Brimhall, managing director of the Family History Department, reported that “the searching out of our family and preparing the names for the work to be done in the temple is … a responsibility, but it is also a privilege. That privilege is extended to the members by those who hold the keys to [do] the work. The[se] keys … are held by the First Presidency of the Church” (Sarah Jane Weaver, “Family History—Church Asks Members to Understand Policies,” Church News, Mar. 1, 2012). The First Presidency set these policies. Accordingly, the Conditions of Use for users of new.familysearch.org and familysearch.org require compliance to the policies before you can submit names to the temple. Noncompliance by a user could mean the loss of his or her privileges to use the system.

The bulletin instructs members with questions to seek help from local family history consultants, staff members at family history centers, or by email to branchout [at] familysearch [dot] com.

While this email is clearly part of the response to ongoing problems of Church members submitting the names of unrelated celebrities or members of groups for whom the Church has agreed not to perform ordinances for the present, there is no mention of the recent highly publicized instances of policy violations.* The Church evidently hopes to reduce or eliminate those problems by reminding members of what we should be doing rather than enumerating the things we should not be doing. And really, most of the problem would go away if members would “live up to our privileges” by fulfilling our responsibilities and by honoring the prerogatives of those who hold the keys to temple work.

I’m committed — how about you?

[Update:] *Whoops. While the emailed bulletin does not enumerate the “hands off” policy, the attached policy letter, dated February 29, addressed to Church members and with instructions to read the letter in sacrament meeting and to post it in the building, does include this statement: “Without exception, Church members must not submit for proxy temple ordinances any names from unauthorized groups, such as celebrities and Jewish Holocaust victims.”



15 Comments »

  1. The “unauthorized groups, such as” bit left me wondering what other such groups have been a problem. It is easy to imagine that some have submitted work for soldiers listed on a memorial to the fallen. Or perhaps a section of a cemetery. Which reminds me of a tangent . . .

    When I started going to Primary when I was ten (Targeteer B taught by Sister Klingonsmith), during the very first lesson it came up that high school students go to seminary in the morning before school, that this was one way that Mormons live their religion. I didn’t know the word seminary and thought that Mormon teenagers went to the cemetery in the morning before school. It sounded very devout, this rising before dawn to remember the dead. I later learned the difference between seminary and cemetery. On the other hand, there have been many mornings the sun rose while I was in the temple.

    Comment by John Mansfield — March 14, 2012 @ 6:25 am

  2. Ha! Your childish misunderstanding was true after all! Love it.

    Holocaust victims and some celebrities are the only “such as” groups that I’m aware of that have been a problem to the Church itself. I’m aware the people born in traditionally Muslim countries must have special clearance before work can be done, although that clearance is instantaneous when you explain your relationship — whether that hard-wired block to clearing names is as a result of an agreement like the one with Jewish representatives, or from some other cause, I do not know. And of course many Latter-day Saints, including me, and including Anne (U.K.), have complained that some stranger has stepped in and done work for recently deceased people for whom we are the nearest kin with the right to do the work — that’s not a public problem but it has been a bitter disappointment to individuals involved.

    The greatest problem, though, from doing work which you are not supposed to be doing, is that the work you ARE supposed to be doing doesn’t get done. If you’re looking up the names and dates of soldiers on a memorial, that’s time you’re NOT spending identifying your own great-great-grandparents and taking care of their needs. And that’s a problem.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 14, 2012 @ 7:24 am

  3. I am glad to see the Church (re)emphasizing its policy on proxy baptisms. I have been concerned about this for a long time and have thought that doing proxy work for Holocaust victims was insensitive. I only wish this issues would have been more forcefully addressed sooner rather than after it was discovered that well-known Holocaust victims had been baptized. It would have been so much better for the Church.

    Just thinking outloud: But does LDS culture promote such violations of policy? We place emphasis on taking names to the temple anyway. And I know people who have “hundreds” of names to submit each time they go to the temple. Then you hear people tell how the name they took through was of someone famous. It just seems like in LDS culture the quest for “bragging rights” encourages people to do silly and, perhaps, harmful things.

    Comment by Steve C. — March 14, 2012 @ 7:49 am

  4. In reading John’s comment, the main thing I thought was that his confusion would have been a real problem at Gettysburg!

    Considering the slow progress I have made at getting the work done for my family, despite a multitude of family history in hand, I ought to welcome the help of well-meaning strangers. But I don’t.

    I think for me it is a matter of pride, and we all know how dangerous that is. That is juxtaposed against my strong desire just to see the work is done for people for whom I care. Better on the whole that someone do it.

    Perhaps I should treat it as a race. . .

    Comment by Eric Boysen — March 14, 2012 @ 7:52 am

  5. Eric, that problem disappears once you’ve been to Gettysburg–Seminary Ridge is a nearly imperceptible rise and scarcely deserves to be called an incline, much less a ridge. But I’ll admit to that same confusion when I first started reading about the battle!

    And, sadly, way too many who were trying either to get to, or hold, Cemetery Ridge just made it to the cemetery instead.

    Comment by Mark B. — March 14, 2012 @ 8:56 am

  6. Assuming I got the same email you got, you forgot to mention the most interesting detail: the title to the email got the name of the Church wrong! In large font at the top of the email is displayed: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

    Intitially, this made me think it might be a phony email, but on reflection I think it just means the Church needs to teach correct orthography as well as correct doctrine.

    Comment by Dave — March 14, 2012 @ 9:23 am

  7. I don’t see that in my email, Dave. I find “LDS Church,” the full name of the Church in all caps, and the standard logo.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 14, 2012 @ 10:15 am

  8. Yeah, I don’t see that in my email, either, Dave.

    Comment by David Y. — March 14, 2012 @ 2:40 pm

  9. Okay — my Firefox browser blocked the logo image and instead displayed the substitute text, which it rendered with “Latter-Day Saints.” So … someone needs to teach Firefox the proper form of the Church’s full name!

    Comment by Dave — March 14, 2012 @ 3:31 pm

  10. Hey, I can get behind that recommendation! I’m amazed at how often I see the wrong format, even among Latter-day Saints.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 14, 2012 @ 3:40 pm

  11. I pointed that same mistake out to the stake clerk once. He had used the wrong format on some stake forms. I don’t think he ever changed it, though. :-(

    Comment by Steve C. — March 14, 2012 @ 4:06 pm

  12. My announcement shows the logo at the top of the page all in caps, then halfway down the announcement at the top of the letter, the name of the church is in small caps, so both are correct.

    Comment by Maurine Ward — March 14, 2012 @ 10:16 pm

  13. Quoting Ardis, from #2: “And of course many Latter-day Saints, including me, and including Anne (U.K.), have complained that some stranger has stepped in and done work for recently deceased people for whom we are the nearest kin with the right to do the work — that’s not a public problem but it has been a bitter disappointment to individuals involved.”

    Both of my grandfathers’ names have been submitted for Temple work by non-relatives. One has had his work done twice, and the other four times! My family is both very annoyed that strangers have been submitting names that they really shouldn’t be, and very amused: both of my grandfathers were members of the church, and, naturally, took care of their Temple work themselves!

    Comment by PostScript — March 15, 2012 @ 12:32 am

  14. I wonder how Susan Easton Black’s project to provide temple work to unendowed LDS pioneers worked out. It was well publicized, and outside the frame of work for our own relativs, though a case could be for past Latter-day Saints being our own dead. I like to think there is some meaningful bond among the saints other than kinship, the sort that makes us want to read the things Ardis puts up on this website.

    Comment by John Mansfield — March 15, 2012 @ 7:23 am

  15. There *is* a mechanism in place whereby the Church does automatically complete the ordinances for members after some period of time, if their deaths have been reported by membership clerks — it isn’t immediately after the one-year-past-death rule, giving immediate family members a chance to do it if they wish, but I don’t know just when that time is. It seems to me to be a nice compromise between letting survivors care for their own loved ones while still recognizing that bond, even obligation, that we have among the body of saints. Perhaps the number of Saints who need that care is dwindling now, but of course before the wide scattering of temples there were large numbers of faithful Saints who had virtually no hope of ever being able to travel to a temple.

    (Which reminds me to remind you of the Temple Patron Assistance Fund, which lets us all combine even small donations into the means of aiding those Saints who are too poor or live too far away to travel for their first and likely only lifetime temple visit.)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 15, 2012 @ 8:04 am

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