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Why can't I attend a Mormon wedding?

In a recent post here at Latter-day Commentary, I addressed the question, "Are Mormons Christian?" On that Easter Sunday an anonymous reader responded with several reasons why he felt that we are not Christian. I have addressed most of them already and now turn my attention to a difficult accusation that involves families, weddings and the temple of the Lord.

He wrote that Mormons aren't Christian because no Christian would "keep loving parents from the weddings of their children." The statement was obviously meant for shock value. It certainly gets your attention, doesn't it? You immediately want to know if it can possibly be true and if so, why? It does sound awful when the statement is phrased that way. Let's investigate.

In order to understand this properly, we need to discuss the sacred nature of LDS Temples and the doctrine of Celestial Marriage. We can then address the social difficulties mentioned. The LDS Newsroom has an excellent article on differences between chapels and temples. Another article on Temple Marriage is helpful but incomplete as it does not address all the social issues.

The sacred nature of the Temple

Temples are not regular places of Sunday worship for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are quite different from the thousands of regular chapels or meetinghouses all over the world that are used for Sunday services. Anyone, regardless of religion, may enter a Latter-day Saint meetinghouse, attend services and worship with us.

However, because of the sacredness of temples as "houses of the Lord," only members of the Church who are in good standing are allowed to enter the temples. A member must be observing the basic principles of the faith and attest to that fact to his or her local leaders once every two years in order to enter a temple. A "Temple Recommend" is required to enter.

Those who are not members of our faith may visit a temple during the open house before it is dedicated. Many temples also have a visitor center nearby where those who are not members of our faith may learn more about the sacred nature of temples. Once the temple is dedicated, faithful members attend the temple and participate in sacred ordinances performed there.

The doctrine of Celestial Marriage

Members of the LDS faith believe that marriages performed in temples are “sealed,” or blessed to last for eternity. The concept that the family unit can continue beyond the grave as a conscious, loving entity, with the marriage partnership and parent-child relationships intact, is a core belief of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The purpose of a temple marriage can be found in D&C 131:1-4 where it is identified as an order of the priesthood, the new and everlasting covenant of marriage. The sealing power exercised in performing the marriage is referred to in Matthew 16:19 where the Savior tells the Apostle Peter of the importance and the binding or sealing power of the keys of the kingdom.

“And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” The Church equates the word “bind” with “seal.” This is no civil union "until death do you part." Of course, the sealing is dependent upon the faithfulness of the couple involved.

Social difficulties in Mormon weddings

When all family members and extended family members who want to attend the wedding are faithful members of the LDS church with current temple recommends, there is no problem and no hurt feelings. However, when the parents or extended family of either the bride or groom are not members of the LDS church, it takes a little bit of understanding of the above principles.

It can be difficult for someone not of our faith to understand why they cannot attend the wedding of their own child. Of course they are welcome to attend if they meet the same qualifications. So we are not excluding anyone. All are invited. They simply must qualify. I know of children who have waited years for their parents to get baptized and worthy to attend.

Dealing with hurt feelings of parents or siblings or other relatives when planning an otherwise joyful event can be most distressing. This question was asked and answered by several young Latter-day Saint women a few years back in this Ensign article. While the loved ones may not be able to attend the actual ceremony, there are other ways to show love and respect for them.

Personal observations on marriage

We do not "keep loving parents from the weddings of their children." We invite them to join with us in making the same covenants to enter the house of the Lord. The Lord set the requirements by revelation. He has a right to say who can and cannot enter His house. Baptism, adherence to the Word of Wisdom and the Law of Tithing as well as moral cleanliness are all required to enter.

I understand it can cause some discomfort and difficult feelings when discovering that you must be a faithful member of the Mormon Church to attend a wedding in an LDS Temple. It is especially distressing if it is your own daughter or son that is getting married there. We are not trying to exclude you. We hope you will be understanding when discussing it with loved ones.

I was married in the Los Angeles Temple over a quarter of a century ago. Carol and I are all the more committed today to the principles and ideals that we learned there. The covenants we made there have blessed our lives and helped us through many difficult times. I am glad that Carol's parent's were able to be with us that day. I only wish my own parents had been there.


S.Faux said…
The Temple of Herod had signs posted in the Court of the Gentiles that indicated to foreigners in Greek and Latin that if they passed into the other courtyards they would receive death. Temple restrictions are NOT new to the LDS, but at least the LDS policies are improved.
Anonymous said…
You (/we?) have a U.S. centric view. If I remember correctly, in non-U.S. countries (especially European) couples MUST be civilly (outside of the temple) married first (and non-LDS members can attend), and then the couple can be sealed in the temple.

SO... there appears to be no DOCTRINAL reason why the same couldn't apply in the U.S. Civil (parent's attend) followed by a sealing.
Tim Malone said…
Anonymous: You are correct that in other countries where the temple marriage is not legally recognized, the couples are married in a civil ceremony outside the temple first.

In the United States, the policy is that couples must wait one year from the date of the civil marriage before they may be sealed in the temple. There are exceptions.

Some couples with family members who are not LDS opt to be married in a civil ceremony and wait for a year to be sealed. This practice is strongly discouraged.
Steve said…
Actually this is only partially correct. If a couple is married in their LDS meetinghouse by their bishop, others not of our faith are welcome to attend, though technically it is still a "Mormon wedding".

I've been to ring ceremonies following LDS weddings that are so elaborate, they might as well be weddings. In one, the father of the bride even walked her down the aisle, the bride and groom exchanged vows they'd written before exchanging rings, and they had their bishop pronounce them man and wife, even though it'd already been done for real in the temple a few hours earlier. This might seem like a gray area doctrinally, but everyone there seemed happy to watch.
chuckauz said…
"when the parents or extended family of either the bride or groom are not members of the LDS church, it takes a little bit of understanding of the above principles"

Actually it takes a 'little bit of understanding' by members, of the hurt they are now feeling from being excluded from their child's wedding due to religious rules and ideals.

This is what, I believe, you still don't see in this issue. Its about access or non-access. Since the church won't change its mind to allow the 'unclean' into the temple, the solution is to hold a civil marriage first in an open chapel and then 'seal' the union 1 year later in a Temple, since the church currently demands a 1 year waiting period. But another solution could be an exception for part member families where the couple is married in an open ceremony and then the next day they are sealed separately in a Temple -as they do today in countries were the church isn't recognized for marriages eg Brazil, Italy, Argentina etc. The church then only requires that the marriage isn't consummated before attendance to the Temple for sealing, but the couple is already legally and lawfully married when they show up at the Temple the day after their civil wedding.
kelly miller said…
Why should I cheapen what comes from above
By marrying outside of the temple
I should cherish His gift of sweet love
And not worry so much about people

I can tell them I've waited all my life
With a rich and tender longing
For those blessings between a husband and wife
For that eternal sense of belonging
Tim Malone said…
Kelly! I so much appreciate your wonderful poems and have long enjoyed reading them on your blog. Thank you for visiting my blog and sharing your poem here on my essay about this oh so important and eternally significant doctrine and practice of marrying in the temple.

I've had you listed in my blog roll for a long time and read each of your poems as you publish them. I'm pleased to now be the first to follow your blog with the new Blogger followers widget. Count me as a fan. Thanks for sharing and keep the poetry flowing. I love your work.
If you read the bishops handbook, you will note that in a Ring Ceramony, they should abide by the rules.
There should not be any vow's said.
It dosen't say anything about a father walking a daughter down to the groom.
My daughter had one. The wedding party walked down the isle, then a former bishop of my son in law talked to everyone who was there,(mostly non members) about goals. How the groom had strived to be an Eagle Scout, and a Missionary. My daughter had her YW award, graduate from BYU and other things......then he talked about how these kids had a goal most of their lives to marry in the temple.
They had a song, Exchanged rings, kissed and walked back down the isle.
It was a good way to introduce the church with out any thing being forced on an already skeptic crowd.
It was a great wedding. I have been to some that were really dumb......Like a bishop going off on Way to heavy stuff.....
Keep it simple, and follow the handbook......
The Old Wolf said…
Having just been married in the Palmyra temple (2nd marriage for both of us, and we wanted to do it right), I very much appreciated this blog entry, as it will help explain to my thousands of friends and family members around the globe why we were unable to have a big "to do" and invite all and sundry.

Thank you for your insights.
Anonymous said…
Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints policy of who may attend a temple marriage results in both Mormon and non-Mormon relatives and friends who, for a variety of reasons do not possess the required "temple recommend", are excluded from the ceremony.

Due to this policy, worthy LDS couples who choose a civil marriage first outside of the temple are penalized with a one year wait before they can be "sealed" in the temple. This can foster marital disharmony and is harsh for the couple and their loved ones who do not fit the "acceptable mormon standards" required for entrance into the temple wedding.

Don't let your loved ones be hurt. Tell the leadership of the Mormon Church that isn't it about time for family and to give people the choice without penalizing and isolating family.

For more information and how to get involved, check out
jesusistheway said…
just follow the holy bible and all questions about marriage is answered.

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