What would a guest blogging stint be without a little friendly ark steadying? To wit: I propose that the Church do away with its policy that requires a one-year wait between a civil marriage ceremony outside the temple and a temple sealing.
I’m hoping that someone can explain to me the compelling reasons underlying this policy. What comes to my mind is not so compelling:
- It seems as though the main reason is a matter of wanting to preserve the dignity of the temple, to make the temple the site of marriage par excellence in the Church. We don’t want young people to think of the temple in secondary terms, as an afterthought. [But for those who believe in the efficacy of temple sealings in the eternities, how could the temple ever have such a second class status in the minds of our people?]
- Maybe there is a paternalistic concern to prevent young people from blowing a wad on extravagant wedding ceremonies. [But a hard and fast rule is unnecessarily overbroad; thrift and simplicity is already engrained in Mormon culture.]
- There may be a carrot effect in encouraging your inactive Aunt Sally to see her bishop and get her act together so as to be able to enter the temple for the wedding.
I must be missing something. What is it? Because here is how I see it:
1. I see no theological reason that the civil portion of the wedding has to take place in the temple. We are accustomed to bifurcating the civil marriage to comply with state law and the religious sealing for eternity (IE we don’t make new converts get remarried for time in the temple, we just encourage them to get sealed). There is nothing special about getting married for purposes of state law in the temple; what is special about the temple is the sealing.
2. Civil weddings followed by temple sealings are already allowed in various areas of the world (particularly in South America and Europe) where the government does not recognize civil weddings conducted in the temple. This practice doesn’t seem to have diminished the gravitas of the temple in these areas.
3. But my main reason for making this suggestion is that I don’t think we fully appreciate the *huge* amount of goodwill the Church loses when it tells people that they cannot witness the weddings of their sons or daughters. And this from the Family Church TM.
This may not come up that much among those who are in a position to really do something about this policy, since such people generally live in Utah, and when their children marry it usually involves the joining of large Mormon clans. But I live in Illinois, and out here it is not unusual for one or both young people to be converts and the only member of the Church in their families.
Have you ever had to have that conversation, telling someone that as a matter of policy our Church will not allow parents and other beloved family members to witness the wedding? That is a very, very difficult conversation to have. And since it appears to me to be theologically unnecessary, I think we should change the policy.
Please don’t tell me that a ring ceremony alleviates this situation. The rules are very strict to prevent such a ceremony from having the appearance of anything resembling a wedding or an exchange of vows. Well, those very rules prevent such a ceremony from having the desired effect of being a faux wedding ceremony, tossed as a sop to the non-LDS relatives. The ring ceremonies I’ve seen have been unavoidably lame, and you would have to think those non-LDS relatives are idiots to believe they would be satisfied by such a performance.
My best friend and I each got married at about the same time in August of 1980. We each married girls who were converts and the only members of their families. I got married in the Provo temple; he got married in a Lutheran church, and they waited their year to be sealed. At the time, I thought I was making the better decision. But in retrospect, none of my wife’s family was able to be there, and my own parents and most of my family weren’t able to be there either. As it happened, my father then died the night before our reception.
If I had it to do over again, I would have preferred to have a simple civil ceremony where *all* of our family and loved ones could be present, to be folllowed immediately by a temple sealing. But even without the policy change I suggest, I think that if I had it to do over again, I would have waited to get sealed. My inlaws were good sports about not getting to attend, but by now they are like my own parents, and I feel embarrassed that I married their daughter without them present. And I just don’t see the need for this exclusion.