Saturday, November 28, 2009

LDS Temple Marriage and Ring Ceremonies

LDS believe that a husband and wife can not only be married "for as long as you both shall live" but also "for time and eternity." However, eternal marriage can only be done in LDS temples. LDS Temple sealings can result in hurt feelings when younger siblings and even non-LDS parents are not permitted to enter the LDS Temple and witness the ceremony. While God is no respecter of persons, and everyone is invited to enter the LDS Temple; like the Jewish temple in the Bible, an individual must meet certain requirements of purification before doing so. While families generally accept this explanation, someone asked me recently about why LDS discourage LDS couples from having a public civil marriage before the temple sealing and even punish those who do by not allowing them a temple sealing for 1 year afterwards. Instead of a full marriage ceremony, couples can do a simple but meaningful "ring ceremony" preceeding a wedding reception. The exchange of rings is not part of the LDS sealing, and is purely seen as a good cultural tradition. Therefore, a "ring ceremony" can be a sincere, and meaningful way family can participate and witness the union. Doing a faux or sham wedding ceremony would be meaningless to the LDS couple and everyone involved.

Q: The God of the New Testament would never cause hurt feelings, offend, or cause discontent within a family.

A: I agree that no true Christian would maliciously hurt or offend another without cause. However, God is known as the great physician. And as a physician, sometimes a small bit of pain is required up front for healing to occur down the road. While individual members decision to come unto Christ may cause discontent among others in the family because of what they perceive is an misguided, unthankful and even arrogant "holier-than-thou" rejection of their cultural heritage, values, and tradition, the end promise of God to families is that they can be unified and sealed together for eternity.

Matt 10: 34-37 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.And a man ’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

Q: The God of the New Testament would never be exclusive about who can be saved, who can enter a church, or who can enter heaven. We are all sinners and all have need of a physician and all who seek to come unto Christ should be welcome.

A. The LDS temple serves a different purpose than the LDS chapel building does. While the general public is welcome to LDS Sunday and weekly services, the temple is reserved for only those who have met certain requirements of sanctification and purification. Yes, while we are all sinners and are initially "rescued," "saved" and "justified" from sin, death and hell by the grace of Christ alone and not works, after coming to Christ, Christ promises us that He will begin and empower the process of "sanctification" and preparation to enter into the presence of, commune with, and fellowship with The Father. After the initial Justification in Christ, the Sanctifying and purifying empowerment of Christ is exactly what the LDS and New Testament Temple and Covenant is all about. This is why there are rules about who can enter the temple. 1 Cor 5:11 and revelation to living prophets is the basis for the requirements to enter into the New Testament Temple.

1 Cor 5:11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

As far as being selective about who can attend a wedding, no one should forget the lesson of the 10 virgins where only the 5 with extra oil were permitted into the wedding. The lesson of this parable is precisely why LDS maintain a strict policy with regard to who can enter into LDS temples. Temples symbolize entering into the presence of Our Father in Heaven and enjoying Fellowship with the Father.

Temple requirements aside, why can't the LDS Church just permit couples to do a civil marriage before or after the temple sealing so that parents and grandparents are not shut out of what is one of the most important events in their child's life.

A: The reason LDS do not generally approve of civil unions before the temple sealing, is to not lessen the importance of the temple sealing. If the LDS church were to make it routine to do civil unions before the temple sealings, the generally extravagant out-of-temple ceremonies would likely drown out the quieter impression that the simple temple sealing is to elicit.

While the LDS do not approve its members from doing civil unions before or after the temple sealing, LDS do approve couples to do a simple "ring ceremony". The "ring exchange ceremony" is a great idea that allows the entire family to expericence a couples wedding without detracting from the importance of the temple sealing itself. The ring ceremony has always been treated separate from the temple sealing. Usually LDS couples will stand to the side of the alter after the sealing and exchange rings after the sealing ordinance is complete. Therefore, there is no problem doing the ring ceremony later outside the temple. Again, the ring ceremony shouldn't be extravagant and shouldn't be an attempt to outdo the temple sealing.

Q. Okay, so the LDS want to protect what they think is the superior marriage ceremony by discouraging civil unions before or after the temple sealing. But why punish those who decide to do a civil ceremony anyways? Why do they have to wait a year? That seems harsh.

A. Remember that the temple and temple marriage is about the process of repentance and sanctification. LDS couples know that God and His living prophet has commanded them to get married in the temple and to not do a faux marriage ceremony. Therefore, if a couple decides to knowingly go against the wishes of God and His Church, then they will need to repent of a very repentable sin before they are permitted back to the temple. Therefore, there is a 1-year wait. You don't have to be perfect to enter the temple, but when there are commandments that can be kept or repented of according to 1 Cor 5:11, then they should be kept or repented of with Christ' help.

Q: The LDS policy prohibiting and punishing civil unions before the temple sealing is just another instrument of control and abuse.

This question reveals the real issue here. Many approach this issue from the point of view and paradigm that the LDS Temple is not God's House, and that the LDS prophet is not God's prophet, and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not Christ's church on the Earth. Therefore, the policies of the LDS church seem to be just a bunch of oppressive rules a bunch of cranky old men thought up one late night to exercise control and unrighteous dominion over the people of the church. From the LDS perspective, we wish no one was inconvenienced, hurt or offended; especially our families. However, we believe and each have personal spiritual witnesses by the Holy Ghost that our temples, church, prophets, and eternal marriage and policies are of Jesus Christ. So, we are constrained by our love of Jesus Christ to follow God when sometime all we can say when asked why we do certain things is "I know not, save the Lord commanded us."

It is also interesting that anti-theists and atheists number one rejection of God is that the idea of the existence of God for them is oppressive. They don't like the idea of being accountable to anyone. And they use the same argument that the belief in God allows man to contrive false religion which only serves to oppress, repress, abuse, manipulate, exploit and control others.

Also, the issue LDS allowing civil unions is akin to supporters of traditional marriage not wanting gay and lesbian couples who have civil unions to call themselves married. The goal of proponents of traditional marriage is not to be mean, or offend others, but to protect the definition, essence, and institution of what is traditional marriage. Civil Unions grant same-sex couples all the rights they expect and deserve. I support civil unions. However, after all this some are not satisfied and are still pushing to encroach on the traditional definition of marriage. One is left to wonder if it is really equality they seek or to destroy traditional marriage. The same thing applies to this issue of sham weddings vs. ring ceremonies.


DavidH said...

A very thoughtful post. Thanks much for this.

I still find it difficult to defend the one year delay rule. It is relatively new, added perhaps in the late 1960s or early 1970s. Before that time it was not unusual for individuals (like Mitt Romney) to be married civilly first, and then be sealed in the temple a short time later In many countries outside the U.S., this continues to be the practice because the law in those countries does not recognize marriages performed in the temple. It seems hard to explain why, if civil marriage first is wrong, that it is acceptable that in England or Mexico a couple can be married civilly first at a ceremony that all members of the family can attend, but in the U.S., if a couple does so, they must wait a full year to be sealed. If civil marriage first is wrong in an eternal sense, that it should not matter what the reason is. (And if the reason for civil marriage first is love of parents, then, notwithstanding the oft cited passage about Jesus' purpose to be dividing families, it is difficult to criticize that.)

I have never heard of the one year wait as a form of "repentance" for marrying civilly first. In fact, I have never heard of marrying civilly first as being a "sin." Indeed, my understanding is that endowed individuals who marry civilly first do not lose their temple recommend privileges, and may continue to attend the temple while awaiting the one year waiting period.

Nonetheless, while the policy is, in my opinion, difficult to defend, it is what it is. The Brethren, striving to implement God's revelation, feel that, in the U.S., potential dividing families (or family disharmony) is a worthwhile price to pay for emphasizing the importance of temple marriage first.

Anonymous said...

Agreed with David. The Church seems to be just fine complying with laws in countries which require a civil marriage before a temple marriage, which makes the U.S. policy a little odd in comparison.

Jeff Jardine said...

One suggestion: Jesus said that he came to divide houses...we don't need to make excuses as to why the temple sealing ordinance is so sacred and prohibits certain people.

Reed Winters said...

According to the LDS church, does God recognize a civil marriage? Does a civil marriage mean anything to God, or is it just a temple marriage?

BRoz said...

Yes, the the LDS church does recognize civil marriages
for as long as the couple lives.

Anonymous said...

The practice of the church and members in performing proxy sealings for dead ancestors who married civilly is interesting. In effect it is taking all civil marriages and turning them into eternal marriages.

Anonymous said...

David, the Church teaches us to obey the laws of the land--just read the 12th Article of Faith. Some countries have requirements for the ceremony that make it very difficult, if not impossible, for a temple sealing to be recognized as a marriage within the country. This being the case, the couples would have to be married outside the temple before being sealed inside it. While this would make it convenient for nonmember families to attend the actual wedding, as far as I know the Church does this to obey laws, not to cater to the family.

David B said...

i agree with what you are saying outside the US. i dont think I was trying to say anything about "catering to families"