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.
- Only members of the fort were permitted inside
- 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?