If I Were In Charge: Separate Marriage From SealingBy: Mike S
Just over a week ago was the Royal Wedding. Unlike my mother (who actually stayed up from 2-6 AM to watch it live), I watched selections of it through the beauty of DVR and and, strangely enough, I was actually captivated by portions of it. One of the main things I appreciated from the wedding was a sense of unity and harmony. People of all different walks of life within the United Kingdom came together in celebration. People throughout the world came together. And even some of the jaded news commentators mentioned that they were unexpectedly taken up in the emotion.
This is a common theme in weddings throughout the world – across cultures, across religions, across time, across peoples – that of a coming together. There is the obvious joining of two people showing a willingness to throw their hats in together for life, but there is much more that is brought together. Families that may not have seen each other for a time rekindle old feelings. Friends reconnect. Celebrations occur. Kingdoms unite. Weddings may be over-the-top, like the royal wedding, or they be much simpler affairs with a few close friends, but the feeling is the same. Ironically, in our church, this feeling of unity and coming together is often marred, and the opposite can occur.
One of my wife’s cousins was married a few years ago. She met a wonderful guy at BYU who came up from South America. They fell in love and were engaged. He came from a successful and talented family, who traveled up to Utah for the wedding. Unfortunately, and despite traveling thousands of miles, they weren’t even allowed to see their son married, simply because they weren’t members of the Church. And this is an all too frequent occurrence. In far too many LDS weddings, instead of it being a unifying experience, someone is stuck standing outside the walls. Maybe it is a younger sibling. Maybe it is a best friend who isn’t endowed. Maybe it is a brother or sister who can’t quite qualify for a temple recommend. And maybe it is a mother, who has invested 20+ years in raising a daughter, who can’t even see her married because she isn’t a member.
For a faith that puts so much emphasis on families and being together, it is very ironic. Instead of making a marriage an important and inclusive event, it often promotes divisiveness. In fact, I can’t think of another religion that has such a divisive marriage policy.
So, for many people, combining marriage with sealing is a “Sacred Molehill”. I would separate them. I would allow a civil marriage, followed by a temple sealing, without making the couple wait one year as is the current policy. I would allow a couple to get married any way that is legal in their locale. This may be in an LDS chapel, a wedding hall or outside in nature. It may be on a beach, in the mountains, or in someone’s backyard. And if a couple chose, it could still be in an LDS temple. They could truly share their wedding day with anyone they wanted – member or non-member, temple-worthy or not, young or old, etc. Everyone could come together to celebrate the marriage union and the focus could be on the decision the couple made to join together.
Afterwards, the couple could get sealed. Some may choose to do it the same or next day if people have traveled far to be there. Other couples may choose to do it a week or two later after the craziness of the marriage and honeymoon has settled down. They could include a smaller group of people who are temple-worthy without making other people feel uncomfortable. Or they may decide to do it just as a couple.
1) Focus on Ceremony:
The day of a any wedding is very stressful and chaotic. In a traditional LDS wedding, the bride and groom and guests who are worthy go to the temple. They wear one set of clothing there, change into another set for the ceremony, then into a tux and wedding dress for pictures outside the temple. There is often a wedding reception later in the day where all of the friends and family can attend, which is often at a separate location.
With of all that’s going on, the beauty and significance of the sealing ordinance can often get lost in the shuffle. Because so many weddings are taking place in a single day (I was married in the Salt Lake temple in June), there is an average of 20 minutes or so in the sealing room before everyone has to move along. By separating the marriage from the sealing, the couple can make that their sealing the ONLY focus of that day. They don’t have to worry about pictures or receptions or missing guests or anything else. They don’t have to worry about the disorientation that often occurs when someone first goes to the temple. They can focus purely and simply on making their marriage an eternal union. And that is significant.
2) Focus for Youth:
Being sealed together for eternity is a fundamental focus of the entire LDS faith. It is the culmination of why we are here and what we teach. It is one of the most profoundly beautiful things that I appreciate in our Church. And I think that being sealed in the temple should STILL be a very important thing that we teach our children, and we can still emphasize this concept. We can talk about the importance of choosing a marriage partner. And we can also still teach the importance of being sealed to make the marriage last forever.
Additionally, this would help reduce the potential grief felt by youth whose parents / siblings / friends / etc. might NOT be able to attend a temple wedding. Rather than them feeling that a temple marriage “isn’t for them” because of their situation, this would allow them to still plan on being married with their friends and family AND being sealed.
This is probably one of the most important reasons why I would make this a change in Church policy. As mentioned above, the current policy is very divisive. In probably the majority of LDS weddings, there is someone who is very important to the couple but who cannot attend the marriage. This may be a close friend or a family member. This creates feelings of discontent and resentment. And it is completely unnecessary.
The easy thing about making this change is that it is easy to do, as this policy ALREADY EXISTS. A couple can ALREADY get married civilly and then get sealed in the temple afterward without waiting a year in the several circumstances:
- The temple in which the couple will be sealed is in a country that requires a civil marriage and does not recognize a marriage in the temple.
- The couple live in a country where there is not a temple and the laws of the country do not recognize a marriage performed outside the country.
- An unchaperoned couple’s travel to a temple will require one or more overnight stops because of distance.
So, this is a simple change and does NOT involve changing any doctrine. I would still make both members of a couple be members at least one year before entering the temple, as the temple involves significant covenants which someone should truly understand before entering. I would still make both members of a couple be temple worthy according to whatever requirements were in force at the time. And I would still make it an option for a couple to get both married AND sealed in the temple at the same time, as is currently the practice.
Importantly, the downside to changing the policy in this manner is minimal, but the upside is much bigger. We could end a divisive practice within our earthly families, yet still value the importance of eternal families. This series is about changing non-doctrinal things that can act as potential stumbling blocks. We’ve covered Counting Earrings and Women’s Garments (And Men’s). And, as mentioned in the initial post on General Conference Statistics:
“… our clinging to these non-essential things is making it so people can’t see the beautiful things. Again, as mentioned in (April 2011) conference … when talking about welfare, if someone is hungry, they don’t care about the gospel message. In this case, if someone has an issue with a non-essential part of our Church, they don’t care about the essential and beautiful parts.”
- If you were married in an LDS temple, was there anyone important to you who was excluded by the current policy?
- If you were married in an LDS temple, what was your experience? Would you have remembered more or less if the sealing was on a different day than the marriage? Or would it have not made a difference?
- Do you think changing the policy to separate marriage from sealing would be a net positive or net negative for the Church?
- Could we still emphasize the importance of sealings and eternal families if we changed the policy?
On the last post in this series about Changing Women’s Garments (and Men’s), one commenter (Heidi) asked “…how did the previous changes come about? If enough people send emails to Beehive clothing, can we make this happen?”
I don’t know the answer to this question, but as I’ve thought about it, I assume it can only be through feedback from the people who wear garments. I’ve therefore decided to see what we can do as a group. I’m going to package that post together and send it on, including all of the great comments that people have shared. With feedback from more people, it will hopefully have more impact.
So, here’s what I’m asking:
If you haven’t already, please leave a comment on that post and share any feedback about garments that you might have. If possible, please leave specific issues with garments as well as specific things you might want changed. These may be things already mentioned in the comments or in the post, or these may be new things no one has mentioned. And please pass the link along to anyone else who you think might want to comment as well.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve never commented here (or anywhere) before. You can remain anonymous and leave any name you want. It asks for an email address, but this is NOT published and will be left off when I send it in. (It’s also not even checked to see if it’s valid)
I don’t know if what we send in will make a difference, but it’s still worth trying.
And when you’re done, we’d love to have you come back and share your thoughts about marriages and sealings here, or on any other post on this site.