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.
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.