On a process as long and drawn out as this has been, it’s hard to really pinpoint the exact moment that I started drifting away from Church teachings and having an utter revulsion for the doctrine. For me, there were a few factors, not the least of which being their attitude toward marriage. Now maybe attitude isn’t the right word. Or maybe it is, as they have such strict and condescending views about it. But it wasn’t until I was planning my wedding that things got serious and brought up issues from the past that disturbed me.
I didn’t get to see my sisters get married. My older sister got married in the temple, as a Mormon girl is wont to do. If you’re not versed on Mormon tradition (or maybe I should call it regulation) you would think that this is a good thing. And indeed at the time we all thought it was wonderful, but that doesn’t change the fact that when one gets married in the temple, very few people get to witness the event.
At the time she was married, I was 19. In order to go into the “sealing room” (as temple wedding ceremonies are called “sealings”) one has to meet the following requirements:
- Be a member in good standing (includes following the “Word of Wisdom” and paying a full tithe)
- Go through an interview process with the Bishop and Stake President to be issued a “Temple Recommend” (a card that you have to present at the entrance to the temple in order to be admitted entrance)
- You have to have already taken your “Endowment”, a ceremony also performed in the temple. I personally can’t tell you what it is or what goes on there, because I never went through it. But it’s after this that members get the so-called “Mormon Holy (or “Magic”) Underwear”, aka “The Garment”.
The time that one takes their Endowment is only slightly standard. It’s usually either before you go on your mission or before you get married in the temple. For me, since I was single so long, I could have taken it out ten years ago, but I never did. I never got myself into a place of the so-called good standing, obeying all the rules enough to feel “worthy” to go. So when my older sister got married, I was too young, so I got to wait outside with the rest of the family that weren’t members (my mom’s side of the family, my brother-in-law’s family).
My younger sister got married civilly first, because at the time her husband couldn’t go to the temple. Unfortunately there was some family drama going on (that I won’t get into here) so they moved their wedding date up. Because of that, I wasn’t able to get time off work in order to attend (it was in Utah and I was down in Texas at the time). Once they were able to go to the temple to be sealed (you have to wait a year to do so if you have a civil ceremony) I went up to Utah for that. But again, I wasn’t able to go inside. So I waited with my older sister’s children in the temple waiting room.
It’s not something I speak of often, but it’s something that stuck with me because it hurt. Arguably the biggest days of one’s life, and I wasn’t allowed be to be there to share in it because I wasn’t fully Mormon enough.
When I started planning my wedding, my older sister had already started her spiritual journey away from the current church and more toward the original teachings of Joseph Smith. One thing that she told me was that he had taught that a wedding was to be a celebration for the families. Everyone should be able to see the ceremony and share the joy of the day, and then later the couple is to go to the temple to be sealed. They used to be two separate ceremonies. I’m not sure when that changed, because I can’t find it. The Church is good at burying that kind of information.
When growing up, they always stressed the point that any wedding ceremony outside the temple is “til death do you part” but that the sealing ceremony is “for time and all eternity.” This was emphasized by anecdotes of a couple getting married outside the temple then being killed in a car crash on the way to the reception. “If they would have gotten sealed, they’d still be together. Now they have to spend eternity alone.” There were also tales of Bishops making brides cry by including the dreaded “til death do you part” in the non-temple ceremony against their expressed wishes.
It was this judgmental attitude that convinced me that I didn’t want my ceremony to be anywhere near the Mormon Church or it’s leaders.
As my husband is a heathen (quite a fond term for me. He’s pagan, so the term fits quite well) we planned what’s called a “Handfasting” ceremony for our wedding. For those that don’t know, it’s a ceremony that predates Christianity, going back as far as “New Earth” creationists think the world has been around. In the ceremony, those being married join hands, then with their vows the priestess (in our case) drapes a cord across their hands, which are then symbolically tied, thereby uniting the couple.
I never would have thought that the biggest day of my life would be so in more than one way. Not only did it emphasize the problems that I had already seen and experienced with the Church and its exclusionary practices, but though it I was introduced to my videographer, Ris, who then introduced me to podcasts and books that have challenged and changed my views. I never expected my life to change so much from such an event, certainly not in such a way.