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Temple Weddings

Inside buzz on Barack Obama’s latest thinking for Vice President? RINO Republican Senator Chuck Hagel. You heard it here first.

Blech.

Facebook has a group titled “One Million Strong for Barack Obama,” and so I’ve set up my own group, “One Dozen Strong for Jacques Cousteau for President.” The problem is that I now have 13 members, so I’m not quite sure what to do with this massive outpouring of support. Despite this sizeable momentum, Mr. Cousteau, as of this writing, remains dead and French, so the prospects are not good.

I brought this up in my biweekly Gospel Doctrine class in our ward, and then I segued in to the idea of what changes I would make as President of the LDS Church. The first thing I would do is show up at the church’s Semi-Annual General Conference wearing a powder blue shirt and sporting a tasteful goatee. I don’t understand why facial hair is the sign of the devil, or why pigmentation in Oxford shirts is the first sign of apostasy.

These, of course, are just two of the reasons why I’ll never be President of the Church.

But as I’ve thought about this, I realized there is one thing I would absolutely change immediately, and would like the church to change at its earliest possible convenience. And I don’t think this is as irrelevant as shirt color or facial hair, which are silly cultural affectations that make little difference in anyone’s lives.

I refer to the LDS Church’s unwillingness to allow a temple wedding to be immediately preceded or followed by a civil one.

The LDS Church considers marriage to be the most sacred covenant we can enter into in mortality, and Mormons believe that temple marriages are eternal, and that they bind a family together forever. As such, this ordinance can only be performed within the confines of the Holy Temple, which requires church membership and a high level of faithfulness to enter.

You know where this is going, don’t you? Family and friends who are not members of the church find themselves entirely excluded from the process. This drives a huge wedge through the families of converts, whose parents are almost always baffled as to why they can’t participate in the weddings of their own children.

Many have requested the right to be able to have a civil ceremony prior to the temple wedding, so that everyone can participate. But the Church, at least in the United States, demands that anyone who gets married in a non-temple wedding has to wait at least a year before they can have a temple wedding. So a couple is left with the choice of forgoing all the eternal blessings of a temple marriage for a year or alienating many of the people closest to them.

This causes so much unnecessary pain for everyone involved, and I honestly don’t understand why it has to be this way.

I should note this wasn’t a huge problem when I got married, as all four parents were faithful Latter-day Saints in attendance at the wedding. Although when I discussed this with Mrs. Cornell, she pointed out that two of her bridesmaids couldn’t actually come to the ceremony, and many of our younger brothers and sisters were excluded, too.

I have yet to hear a persuasive argument as to why this policy is in place. Some say a civil wedding cheapens or demeans the importance of a subsequent temple wedding, but that falls flat with me. A marriage is more than just the union of two people; it’s a binding together of families, as well as a public commitment to the community as a whole. Mormons, who treasure the importance of family relationships as much or more than any other people on earth, are often compelled to begin their lives together in a fashion that, right at the outset, drives their families apart. It just doesn’t make any sense.

Some then argue that it’s a hard doctrine, and sometimes the Lord demands our obedience whether we like it or not. And, believe it or not, I can accept that, and, in practice, I do accept it. I have no intention of leaving the church or picketing church headquarters over this. I raise it here for purposes of discussion, not to bring the Church to its knees.

But it’s important to point out that this is clearly an issue of policy, not doctrine. In Great Britain, where I served my mission, the government does not recognize the legality of a ceremony that is not held in public, so the law requires each LDS church member to be married civilly prior to their temple weddings. There are a number of countries where this is the case.

So if it can be done there, why can’t it be done here? Someone show me where I’m wrong on this one.

Old Girlfriends
Punishment, Bribery, and Tolkien

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25 Comments

  1. The real reason he would like to see a change is that, although he appears to be a super masculine tough guy, he cries at all the Kodak commercials and really wants to walk down the aisle and give his little girls away. Can’t say that I blame him. He does have two awfully sweet daughters.But whether or not my daughters choose a civil or temple ceremony (and I do hope they choose the latter) I will strongly urge them to take the more “gentile” route for a reception and not invite the parents closest 400 friends. One of my biggest regrets at my own nuptials is that it was too big and impersonal (speaking of the reception) and not a place that I could party with the people I knew and cared about. I probably was lucky if I knew 10% of the people there. Anyways, back to the original post, I too would love to see civil ceremonies allowed so we could include everybody that we love, not just those over 21 and members in good standing of my same faith.

  2. What I want to talk about is the announcement today that no visual aids were to be used in Sacrament or Stake Conference meetings.Does this mean we will no longer be subjected to the visuals at General Conference? (A certain bottle of Windex comes to mind.) Or is it OK at GC but not in the smaller meetings? And WHY? Are visual aids becoming a huge nuisance in wards I am not attending?

  3. (Matthew 12:46-50)46 ¶ While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.47 Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.48 But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

  4. So…. the solution is obvious. Fake civil ceremonies. Have some actor dress up as your favorite clergy and pronounce you and your spouse man and wife.

  5. More seriously, thank you for saying this, it’s good to know my opinion is not unique. My wife’s extended family is entirely Catholic, and it was very difficult for her grandmother to understand why she couldn’t attend her granddaughter’s wedding. While it did no real damage, it would have been a huge step toward accepting our religion if her extended family had not felt so <>entirely<> excluded.Also with the facial hair issue. I wish I could wear a beard at BYUI, too. As a geologist, I’m not complete without a beard!

  6. Mormons sure make getting married a complicated business. Love and respect for God should be a simple matter. Why mankind finds joy in complicating all things involving God, escapes me. He strikes me as a no nonsense kinda guy, so why piss him off with all this ceremonial nonsense.Yes, even i can have a sober moment.Cherish it.SM

  7. James, that scripture explains why people are willing to get married in the temple when it excludes family members, but it doesn’t explain why the Church requires it, particularly when there’s no doctrinal reason for it. Surely you don’t believe the Lord wants to give offense solely for the sake of giving offense.

  8. I couldn’t agree with more, having just gone through one of these this past weekend. It is awful that there are friends and family who can’t participate, by factor of age or church status. In fact, I see a very natural separation between the civil (laws of the land) and religious ceremonies, which almost REQUIRE that they be split. Consider our recent discussion of state recognition of Gay marriages. The church may soon have to forego issuing marriage certificates out of the temple, if they will refuse to issue them to same-sex couples.

  9. Perhaps requiring non-Temple married folks to wait 1 yr before upgrading is a matter of determining commitment and dedication. I know of a few couples who had temple ceremonies planned but had to wait a minimum 1 yr due to a major OOOPS! for purposes of repentance. Not to say that converted couples need 1 yr of repentance, but the principle of determining commitment is similar. It seems that in the modern church timelines regarding these important milestones have been more rigid, such as ability to accept the higher priesthood after baptism, temple marriage after baptism, and temple marriage after civil marriage.But what about having a civil ceremony that follows the temple ceremony? Would states allow a civil ceremony if the temple ceremony is also recognized as legal and binding?

  10. I can think of a couple reasons. First and foremost, I think the Lord has required this as a test of faith. Second, I think that (like FK said) it builds/proves commitment. What would happen if every young, impatient couple with an itch to scratch, decided to run off to vegas so that they wouldn’t be sinning, and then came home and got thru the sealing once they could get a recommend in order? Your temple divorce rates would SKYROCKET.

  11. FK, I’m not suggesting the church water down its worthiness requirements to enter the temple. The 1 year waiting period for new converts and for repentant sinners is entirely appropriate. I’m talking about people who are otherwise worthy who can’t have a civil ceremony and a temple ceremony within one year’s proximity to each other. SusieJ, saying “the Lord has required this as a test of faith” is simply not true, because Latter-day Saints in many nations outside the U.S. are not subject to this restriction. As for the “quickie sealings” issue, I doubt the kind of people who currently elope solely to have sex and then get annulments after their itch is scratched are either worthy of or even interested in getting a temple recommend.

  12. I really appreciate this post. My awesome non-member parents were relegated to this little ante-chamber at the temple while my husband and I were being sealed (his mom in attendance). When we went downstairs to meet with my parents after our sealing, I could see the pain on their faces. It was almost too much to bear. My mother now hates the Church and anything to do with it. She sees the temple as a symbol of family dis-unity. My father was hurt beyond measure that he couldn’t see me marry. Longtime friends were also hurt by my decision.This was a serious decision that I didn’t enter into lightly. My bishop at the time was pretty unsympathetic to our plight, but did allow us to have a ring ceremony at the Church building. I am glad I married in the temple and have felt great blessings as a result, but I wouldn’t want to hurt my parents like this again.

  13. SC… you make salient points. Without having any special knowledge on the subject, one possibility might be to discourage some “otherwise faithful members” from entering into “trial marriages.” The church has always held that the ideal is to discourage divorce, and fewer temple marriages end in divorce. By codifying a minimum 1 yr waiting period (<>where the law allows<>), perhaps the purpose is to state unequivocally that if you choose to get married civilly first (’til death do ye part), you will have to prove yourself for 1 year afterward. Without this, bishops may be placed in the difficult position of trying to determine which “otherwise faithful members” are really serious about marriage (and thus able to have a quick civil-temple turnaround), and which “otherwise faithful members” are just kicking the tires (but may or may not get serious in the next short while). Perhaps it is simply a way to encourage an eternal perspective and mindset from the very beginning of a marriage, and even before that in our youth. Many are offended by this and other rules/doctrines, and these rules become heavy cannon fodder for anti-Mormons, who claim we are also anti-family. An uncle I dearly love refuses to set foot in an LDS church anymore because he was offended over his inability to see my cousin married. But, to be fair and honest, this episode only magnified the main character deficiencies that caused him to leave the church to begin with.

  14. FK, you probably make the most persuasive argument, yet I remain unconvinced. I have yet to meet anyone, LDS or otherwise, who enters into a “trial marriage” just to kick the tires. Marriage is a big, big deal. Those who don’t get that usually don’t get married. They end up living together, and, as such, they wouldn’t wind up in the temple anyway. Perhaps the solution, then, is the one my cousin took. Her husband was a Jewish convert, and they got married in her parent’s backyard, Her father, a bishop at the time, performed the wedding in the name of “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” It was a lovely occasion, everyone felt included, and they got married in the temple a year later, remaining happily married to this day. To each his own, I guess. I have no intention of leaving the church over this, yet I still think the negatives of this policy vastly outweigh the positives.

  15. (I don’t mean to offend anyone with this idea.) It’s too bad you couldn’t have a 1 year engagement that is recognized by the church. At the end of the 1 year period, you can have a civil ceremony followed by the Temple ceremony. That way you can encourage people to wait a year and reward them with allowing both ceremonies back to back (Temple then civil). The non-LDS family members will feel included and it would bring both families together without diminishing the religious aspects of the ceremony. If they decided to break up before the year is up, no harm done. Everyone gets patted on the back and told how smart they were to make sure it was right.Of course the couple could still have a civil marriage right away and wait the year but by allowing both back to back, you are rewarding them for waiting.

  16. SC…regarding trial marriages between faithful LDS, you are probably correct, because either they get married in the temple, with an eternal commitment, or they move on to others, which is possibly the reason for a 1 yr waiting period. Regarding trial marriages for non-LDS, I know of many. They don’t call it a trial marriage out loud, but if you ask them the hard questions about sacrifice and commitment, that is exactly what it is. Are there no former bishops and/or stake presidents among us, or are they taking the high road and refusing to speculate?That said, I would like to go back to the old days of the church when some discretion was endowed to the bishops regarding waiting periods of important milestones of all kinds.What about the reverse though…temple then civil ceremony rather than civil then temple? Maybe this doesn’t cut the mustard for some parents who cannot enter the temple.

  17. FK, I think a civil ceremony after the temple wedding would be a great way to fix this. I don’t think that’s kosher, either, but it would be a great idea. As for the reason why bishops and/or stake presidents aren’t openly speculating here: The bishop who performed my cousin’s wedding later became a stake president and discussed this matter with folks in Salt Lake. The response he got was that Salt Lake had received voluminous feedback from local leaders asking for a change in this policy, and they’re well aware of the issue. That was it. I don’t think any of them are chiming in because they don’t want to throw any ecclesiastical weight around in a subject that doesn’t protray the church in the best light. It’s a tricky thing to discuss, and I’m starting to feel a little uneasy about it, because it’s really not my intention to bash the church here.

  18. What a wonderful post and I have enjoyed reading the comments. I converted and was married (the first time) in the temple. It was a hard decision for me and one that caused a rift in my family who, as non-members, could not attend. I explained the importance of the sealing ordinance, of eternal families, etc and continued on my way. We had an informal ring ceremony after (very informal so as not to offend the local leadership) in effort to appease my family but only offended them further. It was a nightmare.Three years later, I divorced that husband after two years of counseling and heartache…he was addicted to pornography and had been since he was a teenager. (He was raised in the church, father was a bishop, blah, blah.)There went my argument with my family. Then I couldn’t have my sealing cancelled because he wasn’t abusive and the terms of our divorce weren’t “harsh enough” to make an exception with church policy. Now I’m remarried and considering whether or not this whole sealing thing as quite so important to me.Policy vs. Doctrine sure took a toll on the old testimony.

  19. As one excluded not once but twice from immediate family weddings (both ended in divorce, BTW) because only the grooms (my brothers) were LDS, I understand the grievances of non-LDS family members in this situation. My mother never forgave the Church for forbidding her to witness her sons’ weddings.Had there been a civil ceremony before or after, it might have eased her pain.It is a source of resentment that the Church could have addressed long ago if it wanted to. It’s an elitist process unique to this church – non-LDS, even immediate family, are deemed less important than any hanger-on who happens to be Mormon.

  20. I just want to note that the year “waiting period” reminds me of the “year and a day” term of a pagan handfasting – I hope it doesn’t offend, I just really love to hear about traditions or practices in two disparate religions being mirrored across the lines of faith – I enjoy tracing odd connections.