Temple Issue Extras: Unveiling My Temple Marriage: A Story of Decisions

Posted by on September 2, 2013 in women | 10 comments

We haLogan 8X10d 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.

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10 Comments

  1. Miranda, I love your thought-process as you sort out the complicated matter of getting married in the temple. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  2. I have a question to ask to all of you who drop by here: Why not marrying in the temple is out of the question like it was stated in the blog post above? If a couple is uncomfortable with the language or how much they understand the rituals inside the temple, why not have a sealing latter in life when perhaps the language of the rituals has changed or you, as a sealing candidate couple, becomes more comfortable with the knowledge gained? I am puzzled how often I read about the pain that some of the words and the symbolism causes to people and yet, everyone gets married there. What is that final drop of faith or/and insight or even pressure that makes many people marry in the temple as they walk the path of complexity and paradox regarding this issue?

    • Thanks for your replies to my questions stated above.

  3. I have some thoughts on several of your questions, but I’m not sure if you’d be interested in personal opinions on the subject, or if rather the questions were simply meant to point out areas in which we do not have official answers at this point. If your interested, I’d be happy to share some thoughts on what I believe has shed some light on the subject for me.

    • Please Steve, do share. I would be interested in your personal opinion mostly but also it would be beneficial to identify the areas where we simply do not have info. Thank you.

    • Sorry, EFH, I did not read your comment before posting mine. I realize now that it looks like a response to your comment, but I was actually directing my comment to the author and/or poster of the article.

  4. Although I cringe at some of the previous comments, I picture a loving Savior patiently wrapping his arms in love around his daughters who categorize themselves as “feminists”, writing with his finger in the dirt, and quoting the scripture about the day when “all suffering and mourning will cease”. Maybe what differentiates me from “feminists” is losing my father at an early age in death, losing that security we felt, and in being somewhat “required” (versus “choosing”) to take the reigns in my family as my husband suffered a debilitating injury where he’s unable to create the material, physical, and mental security I, as a woman, want. Is this what feminists want? Is there not a common thread between wanting words removed (key word: sacred) and those who feel “the church” requires too much? Is it not Heavenly Father who does the “requiring”, and does is he not following eternal and unchangeable eternal laws? Does anyone remember or care that the most powerful being in all eternity, who knows all, loves all, created all, is the one in charge who is directing this work? Does anyone really know the depths of which these sacred things reach? Would the feminist want to be in charge if it meant they had the ultimate responsibility for the eternal welfare of their entire family and future creations if based on eternal laws upon which NO ONE can alter? Why would someone want to “bargain” with holy and sacred things of God? I believe God has so much more in store, and more love, more riches, more rewards, and more EVERYTHING to offer women than we can ever, ever, ever, fathom, (but we can only receive them through the eternal law of the new and everlasting covenant); that we should accept the comparatively limited knowledge of these eternal laws with which we are currently governed, and take the feminist worries and concerns, lay them at the feet of the Savior who already suffered so we wouldn’t have to; and spend the time, effort, thought, money, fear, worry, concern, enthusiasm, love, and excitement of life on the BEST things, instead of seemingly good feminist”things”. Like saving children’s lives, or spreading the gospel, or lifting women out of the pit of despair who have nothing and feel nothing and know nothing about their Savior and Heavenly Father who sacrificed his absolutely most precious son, so they (we) won’t be in the power of the adversary for eternity, nor lay in the ground dead, for eternity; so they know their infinite worth, so they can feel the empowerment of being a woman from God’s perspective…(which I KNOW is FAR FAR better than what a feminist thinks she wants…our knowledge and views are sooo limited on earth, aren’t they?), and the humility of relying on, and turning to their Savior; and the resulting opportunity to FEEL his immense love as reflected in the dream about the “Tree of Life”. A book I recommend for increased understanding is called “Ancient Symbolism”. It shed light on my understanding. So, there are my two (and a half) cents. Pride isn’t pretty.

    • Hi Karen. I believe I understand where you are coming from. If I may add to this, I would like to say that you have framed good questions but in the wrong way. “Feminists” as you call the women who are critical of some church policies and speak openly about them, do not want anything like you are inquiring with your questions. We are simply trying to understand certain things from a gender perspective which we think has not been used very much. What is important is to give each other validation for what we feel and have gone through and especially where we all stand in our faith. Simply validation. The attitude of dismissing each other’s voices is not nice way of treating each other, especially inside the church.
      I would have liked to engage more on this topic but it is difficult to do it via the internet with people that have never met in person. It is easy to misunderstand. Take care.

  5. Thank you for this essay. It is sad that an event that should be so joyous must be colored by sexist policy. I applaud you for the great lengths you went to to seek answers, even though the results were unsatisfactory.

    I wonder why witnessing a marriage is limited to male priesthood holders. I have been told that only men may witness baptisms because they are authorized to perform them and can verify that they were performed correctly. In contrast, the men who witness temple marriages are not authorized to perform temple marriages, so the same logic does not apply. It appears that the main purpose of limiting this function to priesthood holders is to reemphasize that priesthood holders are the most important wedding guests. I do not think this is a good message to send to the mother of the bride.

    • Recently someone pointed out to me that for signing the legal marriage license/certificate- the witness could technically be anyone. That has nothing to do with the sealing, it’s just stating that you witnessed a legal marriage and so the couple deserves the rights that the law gives married people and to be recognized as married by the state. You could still have priesthood holders be the witnesses for the sealing as an ordinance, but non-priesthood holders be witnesses for the marriage as a legal contract. I think women should be able to witnesses for the ordinance, but this could be an easy “baby step” that wouldn’t change any policies and include mothers/aunts/grandmothers/friends.

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