My husband and I were married in the Mesa Temple and were very active in the church as we raised four kids. About eight years ago my husband began to have some doubts about the existence of God. He went to our Bishop and was very open about what he was going through and sought his guidance and advice. The Bishop listened and began to regularly meet with him to talk through what he was feeling and his doubts. This continued for two years during which my husband supported and attended church each week with me and our three children living at home. Our oldest daughter was attending BYU Idaho. My husband struggled as he realized he was developing alternate reasons for his experiences that he had previously thought of as spiritual. He was completely supportive of my activity in the church and our oldest son as he prepared to go on a mission and he attended the temple, with the Bishop’s approval, when our son went for the first time. Because of his doubts he was released from his calling and just came each week to quietly support our family. He continued to support and attend church each week until he reached the point where he felt he just did not fit in anymore and he worried that it would become a negative since he did not see things the same anymore. He was totally supportive of our activity and continued to support our son’s mission and our daughter’s attendance at BYU Idaho.
When our daughter became engaged he recognized that he would not be able to attend the wedding since he did not hold a temple recommend anymore. He knew he could not honestly answer the question about believing in God anymore and although he was technically “worthy” this would mean he could not go inside the temple and see her get married. This was very painful. Although he fully supported her decision to be fully active in the church, did not discuss his doubts with any of the kids and was trying to live his live honestly he would not be able to share in this amazing event in her life.
Through the entire engagement he tried to remain positive but shared privately with me how painful this was for him to feel like he was being excluded in something that he had looked forward to since the day she was born. He consciously chose to focus on our daughter’s happiness and support her decisions and yet struggled with negative feelings that began to develop regarding the church in this area. He knew that my parents had been married civilly when they got married in Germany before their temple sealing since that was how things were done there. He couldn’t understand why people in the US weren’t able to do that as well if they were in a situation like ours. He was happy for them to be sealed if that is what they wanted but why couldn’t this be done in addition to a civil ceremony that he could participate in? I had no answers for him because I didn’t understand it myself.
It had never occurred to either of us before how difficult this was for families that were in mixed-faith situations and the strain it put on everyone. On the day of the wedding he stood outside with my brother who was no longer active in the church while everyone else went inside. My daughter shed tears that her dad could not be there for her wedding. My husband felt isolated and alone outside. They did hold a ring ceremony afterward that he was able to participate in but it was not the same… it was very short and could not include any vows or anything like a ceremony. It felt like an afterthought just trying to in some way make up for his inability to participate in the actual wedding.
Our son is now getting married in the temple and this time we will both be outside waiting. It’s caused a big strain for our families as we recognize the challenge this creates. For family members who love, respect and support those who want to be active in the LDS church and get married in the temple it’s an excruciating experience for everyone. It adds such a difficult dimension to something that should be one of the happiest moments for all of us. As parents we have worked hard our whole life to teach our kids love, tolerance, compassion and a desire to do what they feel is right. Choosing to be married in a way that we can’t participate in is what they feel they have to do in order to keep their testimony and show their commitment to the church. They even hesitate to have a ring ceremony afterward because of their feeling that it somehow will lessen the importance of the temple sealing. How sad that we can’t encourage, support and love each other in an inclusive way without them feeling like it’s taking away from their religious commitments.
We could have a wonderful civil ceremony where all could be involved and celebrate the happiness in their decision to enter into a committed marriage relationship. We could focus on all that we share in common and this would not detract in any way from their special ceremony in the temple. We are completely supportive of their decision to be sealed in the temple if that brings them happiness and feels right to them. I don’t see why a wedding couldn’t be done without the pain families are experiencing with the current policy. A way that includes everyone no matter what their faith as well as the religiously significant aspect of the temple sealing. I don’t believe it has to be one or the other.