Project Conversion

Project Conversion

Marriage In The Temple…Members Only

posted by abowen

Growing up, my family lived on a few acres out in the country with a field we rented out on our right and a patch of woods on our left. The woods had a small slope on all sides, making it perfect for a fort. My best friend and I spent all summer building the fort, complete with a draw bridge down the slope and paths and clearings inside the woods for meetings. We had rules for our fort.

  1. Only members of the fort were permitted inside
  2. Girls were not allowed under any circumstances (except when Mom made us let my little sister play along)

Did you have a fort or club when you were a kid with similar rules? Many of us have. So when I started looking into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regarding the temple and “eternal marriages,” I immediately thought of my exclusive fort in the woods.

In an earlier post we talked about the temples of the LDS church. These are the exclusive “clubhouses” of the faith. Not only are non-LDS persons prohibited from entering, but you must be an LDS member in good standing. This is especially true if you want to perform one of the most sacred ordinances in the church: sealing an eternal marriage.

Eternal marriages are so important because only through this ordinance can we achieve “exaltation,” that highest degree of glory and reward in heaven. When we are eternally married, we are sealed to our spouse not only in this life, but for eternity in the next. LDS members include their children as well. Keep in mind, all Latter-day Saint belief and doctrine is eternally guided. Yes, this life is important, but our eternal fate is the focus and goal of every LDS member.

Members may establish themselves as man and wife in a civil marriage for this life, however for an eternal sealing, you must visit the temple. This is no light affair. The couple must obtain a temple recommend and the ordinance performed by the proper priesthood authority within the temple. Even family and friends attending the ceremony must have a temple recommend. Once the date and time is determined for the sealing and all prerequisites met, the couple and their temple recommend-holding family and a few friends enter the “sealing room.”


Here, the couple kneels, performs the sacred vows under the direction and blessing of a temple priesthood authority and soon, they are sealed in marriage for eternity. Let’s hope you made the right choice, eternity is, you know, FOREVER!

Meanwhile, those without temple recommend or who aren’t part of the LDS church must wait outside the temple or in a waiting room until the ceremony is complete.

That’s right. If this is the only marriage ceremony for your child (i.e. no civil marriage), and you aren’t a member, you just missed your kid getting hitched. Harsh. I have two daughters and I can see it now: Some guy telling me that I can’t watch one of my daughters marry because I’m not a good-standing member of the church. I can also see him knocked out cold on the ground with a bloody nose.

This happens to be one of the most controversial issues in the LDS church today, as families are rightfully upset over not seeing one of their child’s most important days. It’s common to throw insults and judgement of the church for being overly exclusive, a cult, et cetera. Trust me, I get it. But I started thinking about this idea of a sacred space in the temple and suddenly a whole world of “members only” popped into my mind.

  • High profile schools. Often times, school districts are drawn along income lines. This type of exclusivity ensures that only the elite get the best educational dollars and opportunities.
  • Social clubs where net worth and status are the tickets for entry.
  • Ivy league schools.
  • Bulk discount shopping centers.
  • Your clique in school.

What about other religious organizations? The LDS church does not have the market cornered on exclusivity. In the ancient Jewish Temple, only the ritually pure could enter to make the sacrifices. Only Zarathushtis (in most cases) can enter fire temples. Some Hindu sects do not allow non-devotees to enter sacred spaces. There are also limits on entry to Islamic and Christian sites.

In a more secular example, what about research labs? Many times, a security card-carrying scientist must wear the proper garments (sound familiar?), go through a special shower to remove impurities (hmm, baptism, a mikvah, ablutions?), and only then can they enter the clean room (holy space). Even the bedroom of a husband and wife (or other types of couples) can be a sacred place with private “rituals.”

Amazing how the sacred and mundane parallel one another.

The idea is that these places are holy, set apart from the outside world, in a place the faithful consider closest to the divine. I understand the anger, I get the frustration, but we have to understand that this “setting apart” takes place all over society. Our real task is finding out how to accommodate everyone as happily as possible.

  • If you are the parent of a child getting an eternal marriage and you are not part of the church, try and organize a civil wedding (can be religious as well, perhaps in the church) where friends and family of all spiritual persuasions can come and enjoy the ceremony. After that, let the kids do their sealing thing.
  • If you are one of the kids getting eternally hitched, don’t be a jerk. Consider the feelings of your non-LDS family. They raised you. They wiped your butt, cleaned your wounds, put up with your tantrums, supported your endeavours, and brought you into this world. Try to meet them halfway. You don’t have to compromise your beliefs to include your loved ones in this exciting time of your life.

As usual, this isn’t everything to know about temple marriages or the sensitive issue surrounding the practice. My job is to broach the issues, to get everyone talking about the subject, that way we come to an understanding. Ignorance creates rust upon wisdom. Let’s start talking. Let’s start creating solutions. Shake off the rust.

What are some ideas on how these worlds can better suit one another? Were you sealed in the temple and have non-LDS family members? What was your experience? 



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posted December 19, 2011 at 9:53 pm

I was married in the temple. I grew up in a different denomination and so I had very few family members who were able to attend. I was blessed to have my mom and brother by my side. Not having my dad in there was very hard, but I wasn’t going to sacrifice this decision I had made with my love. We decided to have a ring ceremony after the temple so we could walk down the aisle and exchange rings (like a civil ceremony without the vows). It was the best day of my life so far.

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Vegas Mormon

posted August 3, 2011 at 3:57 am

I was married in the Palmyra, NY temple and had a ring ceremony for my many non-member relatives. They thought it was a perfect way to keep them involved in our ‘day’.

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posted August 2, 2011 at 10:36 pm


Your dad does rock! And I’m sure you’ll carry on the tradition.

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posted August 2, 2011 at 5:28 pm

(Looking forward to learning about Islam.)

I am the only LDS member in my family and my wife and I were sealed in the Temple. My grandfather and others were not happy – but my father was amazing about it. He reminded everyone that it was not about them – it was about a young groom and bride and the start of a new family. He told them their job as a family was to love and support, regardless of our choices.

Yeah – my dad rocks.

It was a sacred, holy experience, where my sweetheart and I bound ourselves by covenant to God to build a real partnership, a real union of love and faith. Marriage is hard – but it was that covenant which I believe to be binding that helped me recommit to being a better man, a more humble man, more gentle, kind and patient, even forgiving. I know there are millions of men who view their marriage vows as sacred as I do mine. I’m just saying that my belief in the possibility of an eternal relationship is so profound that I am willing to constantly strive to be fundamentally better.

I am so grateful my dad “got” this – he knew his boy well enough to allow me some freedom without the pain he could have inflicted.

I pray that none of my children or grandchildren leave my faith. But if they do, my job is to love them and support them.

Surely that is what God does with all of us – regardless of our choices.

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posted July 22, 2011 at 6:49 pm

@ David and Dan…
it’s true he definitely didn’t come up with it. If you were given an amazing gift and told you should share it with everyone, wouldn’t you? That’s how LDS members feel about our faith. We believe we have been given an enormous gift and that it would be wrong, selfish of us, to not share it with everyone. We honestly would love if every person we knew came with us into that sealing room.

But previous posts explained it well, if you haven’t mastered following basic commandments and laws, it would be cruel of us to ask you to take on more reaching and stronger binding covenants. You wouldn’t give a 10 year old keys to a car and let them drive.

My parents are both converts to the LDS church and we had a very hard time explaining all of this to our extended family. There has been a lot of discussion and I know some hurt, but we all have moved past it and know that ultimately there is love there, regardless of the situation.

I wish with all my heart that my relatives could have been there with us as we were married, but I am grateful for the eternal marriage I have to my husband and the sealing my family has. I would not trade that eternal blessing for anything.

I know God knows my heart and the hearts of each and every one of us. He knows where we stand and what we stand for. He is our ultimate judge and I am not worried about what others say.

Inclusion is what we would love, what we strive for, but until a person is ready, they cannot enter into the temple. We ask you to respect the fact that eternal covenants are _eternal_ and with that very sacred and binding.

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posted July 22, 2011 at 4:13 pm

As a faithful Mormon myself, I have come to understand the meaning of sacrifice in my life. As we place God first in our lives by serving and humbly doing what he asks of us, our faith grows. We become willing to let go of worldly things such as wealth and prestige in order to feel the sweet closeness to God and the sure knowledge that he will guide us and answer our prayers. Sure knowledge born of the spirit that God lives and that we are on his side produces peace that cannot be replicated by the world. It gives us the power to let go of the world and experience miracles.

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posted July 21, 2011 at 5:35 am


posted July 21, 2011 at 5:32 am

I also had an experience with temple marriage and family on both sides who weren’t members. My wife was a convert, the only one in her family. Only my mother and two of my siblings and two friends of my wife and I attended the sealing, while everyone else waited outside. After the sealing, the photographer took some photos and then we all went to the hotel/reception location where we had a ring ceremony with the whole walking down the aisle, bridesmaids & groomsmen, everything, followed by the dinner/reception. The members of my family weren’t upset at all since they are all very familiar with the LDS Church. My father-in-law is also very accepting, but I think that my mother-in-law is still unhappy about it nearly 10 years later.

I have wondered why we don’t have the same rules that they have in Europe (a civil marriage anywhere followed by a sealing ceremony in the temple), why would we have this set-up that seems designed to lead to unpleasant feelings. It would be so easy that way, right? Why not just do it that way? Who wants it this way?

However, after reading Blackbird’s post, I thought about it a bit more. I realized that this sacrifice that we’re being asked to make today is almost nothing compared with what previous generations have been asked to make.

In the early LDS Church, the people were commanded to gather to Zion (see D&C 133:4 ). This meant that people who believed had to leave their families and move not only across the country but across oceans, never to see them again in this life. I think this was probably more upsetting to non-believing family members than not being able to participate in a sealing. Yet they did it, by the thousands. Did they regret it? I’m sure they were extremely sorry about it, yet they did leave, and look at what they accomplished!

In the Book of Mormon, Lehi had to take his family and flee into the wilderness, never to return, leaving his comfortable home and wealth behind in Jerusalem (see 1 Nephi 2:1-4 ). They did get to take one additional family with them, but what of all the rest of there friends or extended family?

Similarly, in the time of Christ, His followers left everything and went against a society that was so angered by what Christ taught that they repeatedly attempted to kill Him on the spot and ultimately succeeded once He had completed His mortal ministry and allowed it. After His death and resurrection, His church continued, but many of His followers were imprisoned and even killed. How would non-believing family members feel about a child or sibling or parent who would choose to leave them and go against an entire society and risk open persecution and death?

Christ Himself taught,

 51 Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:

 52 For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.

 53 The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

(Luke 12:51-53 )

We can ask why God can’t make it easier for us and our temple marriages, but if we’re willing to look, God has been asking His people to make similar if not much more difficult choices throughout Judeo-Christian history. It is apparent that God doesn’t generally choose to make things easy for us. What did Christ say about it?

 28 Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.

 29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,

 30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

(Mark 10:28-30 )

This is not a malicious or insensitive invention by (and unique to) the LDS Church designed to hurt people’s feelings. It is the pattern God has set and is completely consistent with Judeo-Christian scripture, if not significantly easier on all parties involved than some of the historic alternatives that our believing forbears have had to face. God has always required sacrifice from His people, and this one is comparatively minor.

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