When we decided to get married we knew it was going to be tough for my mom. She had been less active for quite some time but I knew she would want to be at our wedding. We decided to wait for her to see her bishop and do what was necessary to get a temple recommend. We were thrilled that we only had to wait 6 months instead of longer. But we did wait and I was so happy to have her there in the temple with me.
But she was only one of the most important people in my life. Only one of my 7 siblings could attend the temple. The sister that was able to attend is younger than I am and got married in the temple while I was on my mission (not a single one of our siblings was able to attend her wedding). My oldest sister, the one to whom I am most bonded and connected with, who is not a member of the church, was excluded from being a part of one of the most important days of my life. In fact, she has not seen a single one of her sisters get married. Not one. But my other siblings were unable able to attend because of their age. It is accepted in most LDS families that the younger siblings will just not get to participate in the most important event in their older siblings’ lives. But it is truly heartbreaking for those getting married and for those wanting to participate in this momentous occasion.
In addition to my sisters and brother not being able to attend, I had several dear lifetime friends fly out from California to Salt Lake City to “see” me get married. They were really gracious about the awkwardness of standing around while waiting for us to emerge from the temple. We were so grateful for their willingness to come but in the end it did not reflect well on our practice of doing both the marriage and the sealing in a place that excludes so many loved ones from that experience.
The practice of making two other-wise worthy temple-going members wait a year if they choose to get married civilly in order to celebrate with all of their loved ones, causes an undue amount of social and cultural shame and judgment. There is no such stigma attached in other countries where a civil ceremony is required.
When I served in Chile, some of the most committed converts that I had the privilege of teaching were married civilly and then were sealed in the temple for all eternity. This allowed their respective families who were members of other faiths to join in the celebration of their union and rejoice with them. And then, soon thereafter, they were able to go to the temple and seal that union in a quiet and unhurried way that allowed them to take in the beauty of that ordinance. Their civil marriage did not detract from the holiness of their sealing. Perhaps some found that they were able to really concentrate more because their mind was not focused on the group of people waiting outside the temple for them, the reception and/or all the other things that were to come after the ceremony was through. Maybe one could say that it is the couple’s issue if their minds are not in the moment of their sealing but it seemed almost more holy to them because it was an occasion set apart.
Thank you kindly for taking this important issue seriously and seeking the Lord’s guidance in possibly changing this policy in the United States and other countries where the marriage and sealing are combined.