I was married and sealed the month of August twenty-nine years ago in the Salt Lake Temple. My memories of it are both joyful and sorrowful. Joyful, because I married the man of my choice . . . in the place of my choice . . . in the best way I knew. I am still married to that man and we have built a great life and a close knit family together. Every time I think back on my wedding day I re-live the emotions that I felt three decades ago. I am not surprised that I can remember the joy that I felt, but I am surprised that my memories are always clouded by the overriding feelings of loneliness and sorrow. My husband and I were raised in Latter Day Saint homes. Yet, by the time it came for each of us to be married –me at 24 and he at 29 . . . there was not a soul in our immediate families who could qualify for a temple recommend to attend our wedding. Many of our friends and extended family members attended and this contributed to the joy we felt. Yet still….I can visualize being dropped off in front of the temple by a friend on the morning of my wedding. I was an independent woman and had pursued a career in a city thousands of miles away from my family. I was not unused to being alone . . . yet this was a time that I needed and wanted my mother. I found myself bursting into tears over every encounter in the temple as I was ushered from spot to spot sometimes rather harshly and without the watchful guidance of a mother. My mother was not to be present on the temple grounds waiting for me after the ceremony; whether it was from shame, embarrassment, sorrow or pride I do not know. I did not know she would not be there until after I had emerged. I remember continuously looking around during my post wedding photo shoot for a glimpse of her and asking repeatedly “where is my Mother?” She eventually arrived 45 minutes later, but was not comfortable on the temple grounds. I still feel the loss of her presence on that occasion.
Fast forward twenty-four years later to August 2008. My daughter is being married in the Houston Texas Temple. Most of my immediate family travel from Las Vegas to Houston to be with my daughter on this special occasion. Some decide it is not worth it if they cannot actually attend the wedding. Almost three decades later most of them still do not hold temple recommends. A generation removed now from our LDS up-bringing; most of my siblings no longer have any association with the church. My mother qualified to enter the temple a few years earlier and would have been filled with joy at this first opportunity to see one of her progeny married in the temple. (The wedding weekend marks the first anniversary of her sudden and unexpected death.) I hope to enablemy family to feel like participants in the wedding festivities, so I make no distinctions in including them in everything that I can. I even go to the extent to hire additional limousines to transport them as part of the wedding party for the 2 hour round trip to the temple. I do not want my daughter to feel all alone on her special day. I do not want my family to feel excluded or judged as to their worthiness to be present. I want them to know that no matter what, we want them there. Together we will celebrate my daughter’sjoy and begin to recover from the sorrow of my Mother’s passing. My siblings and their children do not feel comfortable waiting in the room set aside for them at the temple. It emphasizestheir perceived unworthiness and their 2nd class position in my religion. Knowing this, I arrange for a luncheon to be served at a nearby restaurant whilst we are in the temple. While they lunch, we learn that the temple staff has lost my daughter’s marriage license given them for safe keeping the week prior. The bride and groom leave the temple for the county courthouse to get a copy of their marriage license. The marriage and sealing is delayed nearly 2 hours as a result. My family waits two hours longer than expected. It is a hot, humid August day. Much of it for my 8 year old nephew is spent waiting outside on the grounds, in the parking lot.
What was to be an hours wait turns into three hours. He doesn’t know why he can’t go inside; he is not of the Mormon faith. Finally, there is much joy and celebration when the couple emerges from the temple and as newlyweds are surrounded by their family. I think my daughter does not feel a lonely ache. I hope everyone feels a sense of inclusion. I try very hard to make it so.
Fast forward four years to August 2012. My son is preparing to be married in the Mount Timpanogos Temple. I am speaking on the telephone with my sister who is planning once again to travel to attend another wedding that she cannot really attend. I’m grateful that she can see past all the constraints of my religious choices to support me. She shares with me what her now 12 year old son has said regarding the wedding of his favorite older cousin. “Is this going to be one of those parking lot weddings? Because if it is, I am going to find my way in! I won’t be kept in the parking lot this time.” My heart is heavy all over again.
Nearly three decades of exclusion. Each generation continues to experience the after-shock of exclusion in a different, yet familiar way. I have lived with this policy of exclusion without questioning it because that is the way things were. But why do they have to be that way? I begin to question why it must be so. I learn that the reason is not based on doctrine but policy and this policy differs in other places in the world. How different these three marriage celebrations would have been if the wedding and sealing were separate. There would have been no apparent exclusion from any festivities. A wedding should be a celebration of two families uniting – but all too often it can also be a clear delineation of who is in the
club and who is not. Through no fault or choice of the bride or groom, family members are excluded simply because they hold different beliefs or have made different choices. As a church that puts family at the center, we can do a much better job at demonstrating outwardly this belief. For nearly thirty years I have remembered how painful my mother’s absence on the temple grounds felt to me. Until recently I had never given a lot of thought to how she felt. I realize now that her feelings must have been very complex as I have tried to imagine what it must have been like to be on the excluded side of this equation. Please change this policy and watch the respect for the church and its ordinances increase as a result.