Confessions of an Anonymous Coward

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Mormonism 101: Mormon Marriage

So, I've yet again been rather lax in updating this blog (and yes, I know I said the same thing in the last post). I still have quite a backlog of things I've been wanting to post about, though, so I think I'm going to shoot for a post a day all this week again. Anyway, though, on my last Mormonism 101 post, I invited readers to suggest what specific aspects of Mormonism they'd like me to write about, and I got a response: someone wanted me to write a post about Mormon temple marriages and sealings. So I guess I'll oblige.

I'm not going to just reiterate word for word what happens in the ceremony, for two reasons. First of all, because I don't have it memorized. And secondly, because it's available elsewhere on the internet anyway. (Granted, point two sort of invalidates point one, in that it means I guess I could just copy it from that site, but even without point one point two still stands.) What I will do is speak in general terms of what marriage means in Mormonism, and what the temple ceremony is supposed to signify.

"Family" is one of the LDS church's biggest selling points; I don't know how many times I've heard of someone converting to Mormonism because they liked the idea that families can be together forever. (That is, in fact, the title of one of the official church hymns.) "Till death do us part" doesn't apply to Mormon weddings; they are supposed to be eternal.

Well, with certain caveats. They're only eternal if both partners make it into the Celestial Kingdom. Don't worry if you don't know exactly what that means--the Mormon concept of the afterlife is rather complex, and could easily (and probably someday will) make for a lengthy post by itself. The short of it is that only those who stay righteous and attain a high level of salvation are united in eternal marriage. Still, those who are will, in time, become gods and goddesses themselves, ruling over their own worlds and having "eternal increase"--i.e., posthumous spirit children.

(There's another thing, incidentally, that will no doubt be brought to many readers' minds by "Mormon marriage" but that is beyond the scope of this post: Polygamy. Yes, polygamy certainly was widely practiced in the early days of the church, and yes, it still is by some splinter sects, though it's no longer condoned by the main LDS church. There's a lot I could say about its history and about its doctrinal implications...but not in this post. I've got enough to say without opening up that can of worms here.)

The eternal family extends beyond just the man and wife, however. Children are likewise eternally sealed to their parents, in a chain that supposedly links all the way back to Adam. (The apparent idea, though it's not really clearly spelled out, is that if one link in the chain proves unworthy, any worthy children of that unsaved link will be "adopted" by a worthier individual.) Any children born to a couple who have been married in the temple are considered to be "born in the covenant", and automatically sealed to their parents. If the parents marry after one or more children have already been born, however (or if a child is adopted, or under certain other special circumstances), the children may be explicitly sealed to the parents in a ceremony that goes along with the marriage.

Not only is marriage eternal for the exalted, but it's a requirement for exaltation. Temple marriage is, in fact, the fourth and last of the major ordinances that, according to LDS doctrine, are necessary for salvation. In short, in the LDS church, marriage is considered a really big deal.

At least, that's the theory, though you wouldn't really know it from the way it's actually carried out.

Anyway, as such a holy ordinance, the marriage (and the sealing) takes place in the temple. Church members can get married outside the temple, and that of course qualifies for legal purposes--even in the eyes of the church, in the sense that the married couple can have sex without it being considered fornication--but for the marriage to be eternal, and for it to count toward salvation, it has to take place in the temple. This is actually rather a big deal; outside of the ordinances performed for the dead, the only other ordinance that takes place in the temple is that of the endowment, which, again, could make for a post of its own.

One drawback, though, is that this means that only "worthy" members of the church--those with current temple recommends--are able to attend the wedding. If the bride or groom has close family members who aren't members of the church--or even who aren't active members of the church and don't have current recommends--they can't go to the wedding. In fact, in practice, generally the only people present at the wedding are the bride and groom's immediate relatives and perhaps two or three very close friends.

Not that there'd be much room for more spectators anyway--the sealing room in the temple isn't very large. It's a small square room with a few chairs on each side, with mirrored walls that ham-handedly symbolize eternity. Outside of the chairs, the only furnishing in the room is an altar--essentially just a big rectangular block of marble or some other material. The bride and groom clasp hands over the altar as a temple officiator speaks the words of the ceremony. If there are children to be sealed to the parents, they then take the parents' hands and that ceremony is done. The whole deal is very short and rather impersonal, and although the officiator does have the opportunity to speak a few words of counsel and encouragement, given that said officiator is usually a complete stranger to everyone else present this comes across as fairly meaningless. (I related a rather ill-conceived example of an officiator's banter here.)

However, it mustn't be thought that since so few people are present at the actual wedding, a Mormon couple misses out on having a big celebration and receiving presents. No, what happens is that in addition to the wedding, the couple has a wedding reception--which takes place after the wedding, but before the honeymoon (generally just before, in that the couple goes straight from the reception to the honeymoon). It's at the reception that numerous guests are accommodated, that gifts are received, that cake is served and the bouquet thrown. The fact that the wedding itself has already taken place by this time and the reception is purely a social affair (well, a social and gift-receiving affair), though, makes it seem (to me, at least) kind of empty. Not helping the case, either, is that (in my experience) Mormon wedding receptions are generally tacky affairs held in hastily redecorated church gymnasia--impersonal locations that don't really lend themselves to imparting due gravitas to a special occasion that's supposed to commemorate an important milestone in a couple's eternal progression.

So, in short, that's how the Mormon marriage goes. A lot of talk about its eternal importance and spiritual significance, but, in my opinion, with the actual proceedings ringing a little hollow. Still, however unexciting the wedding and the reception may be, it's supposed to represent two people being tied together for all eternity--and I guess that's maybe the main point where the Mormon marriage stands out from that of other Christian denominations. Of course, the divorce rate among Mormon couples remains high enough that many marriages turn out to not even make it to the end of mortality, much less beyond it.

Anyway, so, I hope some readers have found this post informative. As before, if there's any specific aspect of Mormonism you'd like me to write about, let me know in the comments. (Though I won't promise to get to it this week, given that I've already got a backlog of posts I've been meaning to make...)


At 7/06/2007 7:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mormon wedding receptions are generally tacky affairs held in hastily redecorated church gymnasia--impersonal locations that don't really lend themselves to imparting due gravitas to a special occasion that's supposed to commemorate an important milestone in a couple's eternal progression.

I don't think that's just Mormons. Most of the weddings I've been to (other Christian sects & non-denominational) are the same way. Though it's usually a hastily redecorated hotel conference room.

At 11/26/2007 1:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You like to take the magic out of things don't you. So what if the reception is tacky it's the ceremony that really matters. Are you dead inside?!

At 3/11/2008 4:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking as someone who has been aarried in the temple, I can tell you that it is a beautiful ceremony. Don't knock it until you've tried it.

At 7/14/2008 7:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 1/28/2009 1:25 PM, Blogger Josh Daniels said...

"The fact that the wedding itself has already taken place by this time and the reception is purely a social affair (well, a social and gift-receiving affair), though, makes it seem (to me, at least) kind of empty."

I like that they are separate because it increases the spiritual and reverent nature of the wedding itself rather than mixing the two into one giant social affair which is how it seems most non-LDS Temple weddings are.

At 4/25/2009 12:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How is a mormon ceremony any different than a ceremony for other people? Your preacher does the ceremony, and though he may not be a complete he your good friend? Does his counsel matter more because he preaches to you every week? The complete stranger at the mormon temple is of the same religion and has the same beliefs. He's no more or less qualified to give advice than anyone else. It's just like having a neighbor or friend give you advice. Either you listen to it or you don't.
The marriage itself should matter only to the two people getting married. Most of the time I can guarantee they aren't thinking about who is there to watch them promise themselves to each other. It's a private matter for them, not made more or less important by who attends.
Plenty of weddings are tacky--mormon as well as people who aren't mormon. There are random themes, ugly decorations...and mormons aren't the only ones wanting gifts.
It seems to me you have a chip on your shoulder about the mormon church. I don't think I would want to get any addition information from you about the mormons. I don't think I could trust it. You are, like the blog states, just a coward. I think this is your way of getting out bitter feelings you have because of a personal experience.

At 7/18/2009 12:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mormons are stupid. And if they think this is "romantic"... please!

At 9/20/2009 8:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone should be called stupid just because of their religious beliefs. Not everyone is the same and not every one believes the same thing. Grow up!

At 2/20/2010 1:08 AM, Anonymous Groomsmen Gifts said...

Groomsmen play very important roles in weddings. This is why it is considered not only a wedding tradition, but also wedding etiquette, for the bride and groom to present their groomsmen with gifts to show their appreciation for all their help.

At 2/23/2010 3:54 AM, Anonymous Groomsmen Gifts said...

As a groom, it is your right - nay, your duty as a newlywed to carry your bride over the threshold. If you ranked the top masculine moments of your life, scooping up your woman and whisking her into your new home will just barely beat out the time you shared cigars and scotch with your bros after presenting them personalized humidors as groomsmen gifts.

At 3/19/2010 3:23 AM, Anonymous Groomsmen Gifts said...

It's a tradition for grooms to give their groomsmen gifts. The same goes for the bridesmaids, too. As a guy, it's difficult to shop for gifts period. It's not in our nature, but we still have to give one. It's difficult finding quality gifts, too, because there are so many to choose from.

At 3/22/2010 3:18 AM, Anonymous Groomsmen Gifts said...

Finding groomsmen gift is a difficult task. When you decide to buy gifts for groomsmen first of all what you have to do is just think about the personalities of groomsmen. Think about the things they are usually interested in.

At 3/31/2010 5:31 AM, Anonymous Groomsmen Gifts said...

If you want you can personalize some groomsmen gifts in your own way. This will make your groom feel special and you will be always remembered by him. There are some stores that offer personalized gifts to make things easier. You can also place orders according to your needs and the shop owners will personalize the gifts for you.

At 6/25/2010 5:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

so can you have a wedding before the sealing for non member immediate family to attend, then right after go to the temple to be sealed?

At 5/30/2011 4:57 AM, Blogger janetfenton12 said...

It's very important to get the fresh list of groomsmen gifts at the wedding time.You can not easily find it.
personalized groomsmen gifts

At 3/12/2012 1:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mormons are not Christian! You have access to the your research. University world religion courses call Mormanism a Modern Religion. Not Christian.
Mormond are often taught they are Christian so they don't get called a Cult. But if you look at the definition of Christianity, Mormons do NOT fit.

At 5/31/2012 3:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you! Mormons are NOT Christians. Why is everything so secretive? That alone should be an alarm. Open up your teachings and practices so everyone can see exactly what Mormonism teaches and believes.

At 6/20/2012 1:44 AM, Anonymous Sam said...

I'm glad it was noted that Mormons aren't Christians and I'd respect them more if they would stop pretending to be.

At 6/29/2012 1:51 PM, Anonymous danny said...

Christianity as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
"The religion derived from Jesus Christ, based on the Bible as sacred scripture, and professed by Eastern, Roman Catholic, and Protestant bodies"

The LDS Church (Mormons) Articles of Faith (their basic beliefs):

We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression.

We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.

We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.

We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.

We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.

We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.

We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

Note that the LDS church believes in Christ, the bible, and the same organization as the primitive church in Christs time. I'm not sure how one could classify the LDS church as as not being christian...

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At 5/07/2017 5:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah but what about the teachings (clearly unbiblical) wherein Brigham Young clearly says thatbthe denial of polygamy damns you? I don't recall that ever being an issue in the Bible. In fact, I'm pretty sure Jesus Himself says, "For thia reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh" Not wives. And how do you become one flesh with more thab one individual? And how do you explain a "miraculous vision" explaining that polygamy was no longer accepted? Brigham Young even challenged people to compare his words to the Bible to test for authenticity. As it happens, scripture is pretty clear in regards to the test of a true prophet. Response?

At 5/07/2017 5:28 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Also, your articles of faith contradict the Bible. Ergo, it cannot be called Christianity because it does not follow Christ at His words. It has been twisted to accomodate the lust and greed of men.

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