We had so many lovely submissions for our Summer 2013 Temple issue and couldn’t pack them all into 44 pages. (Order yours today to ensure that you don’t miss this touching issue.) Special thanks to Ashmae Hoiland who has allowed us to use some watercolors of temples in this series on the blog (and in the magazine). More of Ashmae’s work can be found at her website, http://www.ashmae.com/.
I always wanted to be married. However, getting married was a difficult decision. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be married, quite the contrary. After all wasn’t the ambition to marry the noblest aspiration of a young Mormon girl? In truth, I had been seeking and praying for a companion for decades—through my teen years; during college and graduate school and the tumult of my 20s; then half-heartedly into my early 30s. No, I definitely wanted to get married. Maybe it would be more accurate to say that getting married in the temple was a difficult decision. But when I found the person I wanted to be with I wasn’t in the place I thought I would be.
Actually, I was in a place of deep hurt and questioning. While my future husband (whom I’ll now call GH) had been an inactive member for 17 years, thus bypassing a lot of the pressure felt by single Mormons. While I was grateful for GH’s return to activity, I also knew he didn’t carry the same cultural weight and questions that I had slowly accumulated for over a decade. Despite this, we both knew, within a matter of weeks, that we would marry one another. As we dated we had many conversations discussing culture and faith and doubt. Often I envied my future husband for his lack of emotional baggage and deep spiritual wounds. As our relationship progressed GH started going back to church, received the Melchizedek priesthood and eventually received his endowments (all without pressure from me). After a year of dating we committed to the next step, making our engagement official. And so we marched into the unknown territory of a seven month engagement.
Like others before us, we wanted our wedding to be inclusive. We went back and forth about having a ceremony outside the temple so that more of our family and friends could be involved. Unfortunately, unlike laws in other countries, getting a civil marriage in the U.S. meant we would have to wait an entire year before getting sealed in the temple. Which was something we didn’t want to do. Was it too much to ask for to negotiate the logistics of a temple marriage while still remaining true to ourselves? That truth being: I wanted to be sealed. We wanted to be sealed. However, in the 12 years since I had taken out my own endowments, I was keenly aware of the temple marriage ceremony and of gender specific language in the endowment ceremony that made me cringe. To that end, I had purposefully limited my temple attendance for those reasons. I had also attended other temple sealings and knew that a portion of the ceremony bothered me. In essence, I wondered How can I get married in the temple when I don’t agree with parts of the ceremony? I wondered if having a civil marriage would be easier than facing the inevitable blight on an otherwise happy day. After talking about my concerns with GH we came to the conclusion that it was better to ask for clarity and risk the inevitable response, rather than going into the situation unprepared. Two months before our wedding, armed with a list of questions, GH and I meet with the temple president and his wife for a private meeting.
While I had several questions for the temple president and matron, the most pressing had to do with the short veil ceremony. My primary concern was two-fold: Why did my fiance stand symbolically in the place of Jesus Christ, my Savior? and second, Why did my soon-to-be husband learn my new name, while I was not privy to his? The inequality of the latter pained my entire soul. It felt inequitable and irreverent on a deep level. Furthermore, I felt that this inequality was wrapped up in a cultural definition of Priesthood and gender and was not based on a doctrinal understanding. GH and I were both in agreement: we didn’t want to take part in that. So we asked if we could do without that part of the ceremony. The temple president seemed surprised, but reacted kindly. (In truth, I wondered if he had ever been asked that question before.) In response he reached for the temple president’s manual. After some searching he finally settled on a paragraph to read to us, but the admonition seemed vague, much like the directions of a poorly written how-to manual. I restated our case. He nodded and kindly said he appreciated our question, but that some things he just didn’t understand, and that unfortunately he did not receive any special rules with his calling. He then told us that we knew as much as he did. Really? I then moved on to my second question.
Namely, Could my mom be one of the witnesses, since my father had passed away? This seemed like an reasonable request, especially since she was a faithful member of the church, held a current temple recommend, and had been sealed to my father. However, the president quickly disagreed, mentioning that the two witnesses had to be Priesthood holders. Which again troubled me.
While it was easy to feel deflated by the outcome of that meeting, instead I tried to be grateful that I had asked the questions. Do I regret questioning elements of a sacred ceremony? No. If I had to get married over again would I still be sealed in the temple first? That’s hard to say. However, if I believe the sealing ordinance is necessary for eternal salvation and my hope of exaltation depends on it, then yes, yes I would sacrifice my internal conflict for a greater eternal end. What remains unanswered, is why my husband stood in place of the Savior? Why I couldn’t learn his sacred name, just as I was required to give him mine, and why both of these matters had any bearing on our mortal or eternal commitment to one another. In the end I still have these questions. And I suppose there is a bit of poetic justice knowing that while all my siblings and close friends were waiting outside the temple for me, in a way, I too was inside feeling a particular exclusion from my own temple marriage.
In the year since we have been married, what I now know is this: Getting married in the temple is just as much of a gamble as getting married outside the temple. Guarantees aren’t included. However, being sealed in the temple has impacted my marriage to the extent that I am now consciously aware of the covenants I have made; not only to my husband, but to God. That is both a strength and a burden. Ultimately, I believe the union of two is greater than the sum of separate individuals. I imagine as years pass and I grow into my marriage, the difficulty, not only of my decision to marry in the temple, but the work needed to maintain our union, will result in an increase of temporal and spiritual well-being. As one friend recently reminded me, getting married at an altar is a symbol that marriage requires sacrifice and that ultimately, no matter who you marry or where you marry them, marriage alters everything. In the end, this altering is what I hope makes living with my decision worthwhile.
Miranda is a St. Louis-based online writing coach and blogger. She is passionate about food, travel, and creating beauty. You can find her on the Internet as @bookbloom.