The Peculiar Heartbreak of A Mormon Wedding

5 years ago
As a Mormon girl, I was raised to believe that the pinnacle of my life would be when I entered the temple to marry a worthy Mormon man.  My very salvation depended upon getting married in the temple --- a temple ceremony seals a husband and wife together for eternity.  The highest level of Mormon heaven is reserved for members that have married in the temple and born children.  In short, a temple marriage is a very serious matter within Mormonism.

Image: heyjohngreen via Flickr

To enter the temple, a member must hold a 'temple recommend.'  To get a temple recommend, a member must be of a certain age and have been active for at least a year.  A member must also pass an interview, during which he/she must demonstrate their belief in the Church.  A member is asked if he/she believes in the Church; supports the authorities; abstains from mind-altering substances such as coffee, tea, and alcohol; obeys the law of chastity, including abstaining from premarital sex, masturbation, and porn; and have paid a full tithe.  If a person can’t fulfill all of these requirements, then they are denied a temple recommend.  

One of the most heart-breaking consequences of leaving the Mormon church meant that I was banned from attending my siblings’ weddings.  One of my brothers got married around the time I was starting to leave the Church.  My parents didn’t even bother to bring me along for the wedding -- I stayed at home while they made the trip to D.C. for his wedding - three days of wandering an empty house, wondering what was wrong with me.  

A year later, another of my brothers got married.  By that time, I was fully out of the Church.  His fiance was a convert -- her family was Catholic.  His fiance’s mother was upset about the idea of a temple wedding and insisted on organizing a church wedding.  She wouldn’t take no for an answer -- she had spent years dreaming of organizing her daughter’s wedding.

This is when the matter became very delicate.  If members choose to have a civil wedding ceremony, they are banned from getting married in the temple for a full year. Mormons believe that only a temple marriage can bind a husband and wife together for eternity.  If Mormons do choose to have a civil ceremony instead of a temple ceremony, church members begin to doubt their worthiness and faithfulness. 

Church authorities also warn them about the dire spiritual consequences of waiting.  There is an intense amount of pressure --- both social and doctrinal --- to have the wedding be in the temple.  My sister-in-law was forced to choose between her family and her religion.  
So my brother and his fiance evaded the situation.  They down-played the importance of the temple ceremony to the in-laws.  The wedding was in Pennsylvania, so my brother and his wife woke up at 3 the morning of the wedding, drove to D.C., had the temple ceremony, and then came back for the church wedding.  To circumvent the issue of a civil ceremony, they hired a Mormon minister who was very careful about his wordings.  Instead of saying --- “I now pronounce you husband and wife”, at the end of the ceremony he turned my brother and his wife around and said “I now present to you Mr. and Mrs. G-----”, thus avoiding saying the words that would have made the ceremony real.  And no one in my sister-in-law’s family was any the wiser.  They danced, drank, and partied, never knowing that the ceremony they had just seen was a sham.
My sister got married last year.  Once again, the issue of my break with the Church was brought to the forefront.  My sister’s fiance came from a long tradition of Mormons.  My husband and I were the lone non-Mormons within the two families.  And so we were relegated to baby-sitting the children during the ceremony. 

After the ceremony was finished and the photography had begun, my mother asked me if I was upset about being left out of the wedding.  I longed to tell her my true feelings --- that being banned from the wedding felt like a knife to the chest --- but I also knew that making an issue of the matter accomplishes nothing. 

The hard truth is, my family performs their weddings this way because they place their faith in a church that demands the exclusion of non-members, including me.   

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