Temple Marriage Policy: Argentina and U.S.A.
In a September 2011 Ensign article titled, Giving God a Chance to Bless Us, a church district in Argentina is highlighted for its unusually high rate of temple marriage among young adults. The article describes a number of factors that may contribute to this success: encouraging temple-worthiness among young, single adults; providing young single adults with ample social opportunities to meet each other; and encouraging young people to take the risk of marriage in spite of financial difficulties or the imperfections of their significant others.
These factors seem relevant, but I wonder if there is another factor improving temple marriage rates that the article is not mentioning: local temple marriage policies. Argentina is one of several countries that legally requires couples to marry civilly or in a public place. In these countries, LDS couples marry outside the temple and then enter the temple to receive the sealing ordinance.
In my country, the United States of America (U.S.A.), these legal restrictions do not apply. Unmarried couples may enter the temple and become married and sealed at once. However, the Church has applied some extra rules to couples in countries like my own to counterbalance this freedom. In countries like mine, the Church forbids couples who choose to marry outside the temple from being sealed in the temple for at least a year after their marriages.
This policy creates a difficult barrier to temple marriage for LDS couples in the U.S.A. whose parents, siblings or close friends are not members of the church. If they marry in the temple, they must exclude people who are close to them from the marriage ceremony. If their parents or other loved ones are undecided in their opinions about the LDS church, this exclusion may solidify their opinions in a negative direction. The church allows couples to have a public ring exchange ceremony as a sort of compensation prize for family members excluded from the marriage ceremony, but the church imposes regulations surrounding this ceremony forbidding vow exchanges and making this “ceremony” as unceremonial as possible.
In contrast, Argentinean LDS couples may marry with all of their friends and family present, regardless of faith. Immediately thereafter, they may enter the temple and seal their marriage for eternity. If we allowed couples in all countries to have this option, especially if they have non-LDS families, could we improve temple marriage rates worldwide?