Not a one of my sisters, my best friends, were able to witness my marriage.

I cried with my sisters at my reception that night. Not an, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I’m married, this is so exciting” cry, but an “I’m losing you, and there is a part of ‘us’ that will never be the same” cry. I was 22. I left home three weeks after I graduated high school at 18, and had only been back home  for a few short visits in the last four years…but these girls, my three sisters, were my best friends. Well, them, and my oldest brother, Hyrum…and none of them, NONE of them were allowed to come to my wedding.

We hadn’t been friendly growing up, but after his mission, Hyrum and I became the closest of best friends at BYU. In that sea of talent, intellect and beauty where you can get a little lost, we always had each other. After his first year back, I found him a condo in my ward where we were just across the courtyard from each other. One of my favorite college memories was his Metal Love {mock 80’s band}concert, where he borrowed my mock leather pants, donned a rockin’ mullet wig and belted out original hits like Y2K Party Woman. He was ticked that most of what you could hear on the video was me laughing, but I couldn’t help it. It was honestly one of the funniest things I have ever witnessed, and I hung with a hilarious crowd.

hy and cumoHe had been (according to accounts of elders he served with) an incredible missionary in Portugal. Hardworking, guided, motivating, inspiring. He was a dedicated home teacher, the best BYU ward FHE dad I’d ever had, and was always a support for me. However, when it came time for my wedding day, he wasn’t able to attend. He didn’t see the point in being there at the grounds. He wasn’t there when my sweet new husband and I finally found our way out of the SaltLake temple doors (seriously, that place is a maze), but his words at our luncheon melted my heart and ruined my mascara. He hugged me and laughed with me at the reception, but he wasn’t able to be with me for my actual wedding and a part of my soul had lingered outside the temple with him.

And my sisters! My cherished, darling, ‘worthy,’ sisters were kept out of my temple marriage proceedings simply because of their age – they were 19, 18, and 16 years old at the time. One helped me pack and clean my single apartment, one stayed up with me nearly all night on my wedding eve prepping for the big day, one missed her Senior Prom in Oregon to be with me. They carried my train, they tied notes to my wildflower centerpieces, they sang with me, and they cried with me. How I wish they were able to be with me to witness the most important part of that day. How I wish they could have witnessed my actual wedding.

None of my darling bridesmaids (our sisters) were allowed to actually witness our wedding.

None of my darling bridesmaids (our sisters) were allowed to actually witness our wedding.

I feel truly blessed to have been sealed in the temple. I really do. Thirteen years later, I am even more in love with my amazing husband than I was on that gorgeous April Saturday morning…yet, admittedly, I imagine if we only had a civil marriage, we might not have been as committed to working through the bumpy first years to make it to this blissful point.

So what’s the answer? What change or changes could make this better? I could have chosen to be married civilly first so that my dear sisters and brother could attend our ceremony, and then waited the requisite year before we headed to the temple to be sealed.  But that didn’t make sense at the time. Being sealed was the reward. We were worthy to enter the temple. Waiting an entire year from our wedding day to seal our marriage – would have felt like a punishment. And honest to goodness, had we not been sealed initially, I don’t know if we would have wanted to be sealed after the first year we had. It was rough.

The church allows young children to attend the temple, in the very rooms they perform weddings and marriage sealings in to be sealed to their families (in the case that the parents weren’t sealed before they had children and/or in cases of adoption), but not to witness the sealing of a family member. I have never understood this. Why are children not welcome, in the same room, with the same ordinance taking place, during a marriage sealing? If this child exclusionary rule were not in place, my sisters could have been in that sealing room with me. They could have seen me kneeling at the alter with my love: a handsome, hard working, hilarious, honest, temple worthy returned missionary. They could have been inspired by the sweet words Elder Royal whispered to all in attendance that day. Would witnessing something so tender, so special, so meaningful influenced the decisions they made in their lives? Quite possibly. Would it have brought us even closer? Yes. Would allowing younger children (including those who are already attending the temple as baptismal proxies) to witness their siblings’ temple weddings/sealings require a doctrinal change? I don’t believe so. I think it’s a simple policy change that could do a LOT of good.

What if Dan and I were able to me married in a “public meeting, prepared for this purpose…” as Joseph Smith suggested, which would include all family members regardless of their age or religious beliefs or standings, and then later that day (or the next day after the fanfare and stress of the luncheon/reception/family picture taking/first night nerves are over) entered into the holy temple to seal that marriage? This is already being done, with approval from the church, in some countries that require a civil marriage first, in order to be declared legal and binding. Those couples are then allowed to be sealed in the temple as soon after the wedding as they’d like.

Dan & Cumorah temple kiss

Here, in North America, we do not have that option. In our case, Dan and I were both active, temple recommend holders. If we had chosen to be married civilly first so that our families could attend (only one of my six siblings and only one of Dan’s five siblings witnessed our marriage/sealing) and then waited the obligatory year to be sealed, we could have entered the temple as many times as we wanted in that year and, acting as proxies, been sealed for the deceased, but not sealed to each other. Weird, huh?

But we didn’t choose that. Being sealed was so important to us that we chose to exclude family members from our wedding, leaving a little cloud over that otherwise beautiful day in our history. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. If the church sanctions temple sealings performed directly after civil marriages in other countries, why can it not be done everywhere? As Rock Waterman said, “It’s difficult to come to any other conclusion than that this policy is vindictive, especially because the policy is unfairly applied according to one’s geographic location….This double standard shows that either God’s law is subordinate to civil law, or that the leaders of the church are acting arbitrarily.” Amen Rock. Amen.

Dan and I now have four children of our own. Two girls and two boys. I pray everyday that they will end up to be as good friends with each other as I am with my siblings. I pray that they will be able to stand by and support each other in all of life’s moments – big and small. And I certainly hope that we can ALL be together to witness each of their weddings, each of their beautiful beginnings, because that’s what families do. McOmbers