Left Outside, But Not Hurting Inside, Just Scratching My Head

All three of my children were married in a Mormon temple.  As you may have surmised from my blog, I don’t have a recommend.  So I did not attend any of the formal wedding ceremonies of my children.

During the most recent wedding ceremony, I was joined in the temple waiting room by my two brothers, a sister-in-law, a brother-in-law, and several grandchildren.  My grandchildren got a little unruly, and this sparked the ire of the temple greeter.

Attending the formal wedding ceremony were my wife, my mother, my son and his wife, my daughter and her husband, a brother-in-law and his wife, the wife of my brother-in-law, and probably some of my wife’s other relatives.  In the Faith section of the SLTrib (11 Jun 2011), Peggy Fletcher Stack writes about this phenomenon in an article titled “Left Outside, But Hurting Inside”:

You see them on Salt Lake City’s Temple Square nearly every day.  They pace nervously or stroll aimlessly, staring down at the tulips or up at the spires.

They are not tourists or temple goers.  They are parents, siblings, cousins and friends of Mormon couples being wed inside the LDS sanctuary.  But, for one reason or another, they are not allowed to view the ceremony. . . .

Whatever the reason, their exclusion can divide families at a time when weddings usually unite them.

The Stack article, when put on sltrib.com had 1,663 comments.  I didn’t read them all, but the one’s I did read all expressed frustrations with the exclusionary policy.

The exclusion didn’t divide our family (except during the time of the actual ceremony and that was only a physical divide).  But my brothers had flown in from Chicago and St. Louis, and it was disappointing that they had to miss my son’s wedding ceremony.  Since my brothers and I were raised Mormon, we all knew the rules.

But excluding family members from weddings seems rather strange for a church that claims to emphasize family values.  According to “The Family:  A Proclamation to the World”, a document that has almost the power of scripture:

. . . we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon the individuals, communities and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.

Shouldn’t this be an encouragement to LDS Church leaders to develop a more family-friendly wedding?

The following is the closest I seen to an official Church response to the issue (again quoting the SLTrib article:

“The church is very aware of the issue you raise, and it has been exhaustively discussed over many years,” LDS Church spokeman Michael Otterson wrote last fall to Jean Brody, a former Mormon in Canada who is concerned about being shut out of her grandchildren’s weddings.  “This is a sensative and difficult issue, with many complexities, not all of which are always apparent.”

Talk about a nonresponsive answer!

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8 Responses to Left Outside, But Not Hurting Inside, Just Scratching My Head

  1. Joseph West says:

    Nice post, Roger.

  2. brentallsop says:

    Hi Roger,

    Thanks so much for this great blog post. Wow, you missed the wedding of all 3 of your children. All 3 children getting married (I have 3 also, not yet married) would be a once in an eternal life experience, so I guess it’s hard for me to imagine how anyone would not be hurting inside.

    But I very much value this particular POV. If you haven’t heard, we are surveying for what everyone does feel about this particular issue with the open survey system at canonizer.com. (see: http://canonizer.com/topic.asp/22 ).

    So far, there are mainly just two camps. Everyone that I know of, in the policy should change camp, is devastated when they miss the wedding of a loved one. If you are really not hurt inside, just scratching your head, I bet there are many other people that feel the same way. Would you be willing to get a camp started, concisely stating your beliefs, as you’ve done here, so future people that feel the same way can indicate they feel the same way?

    Brent Allsop

    • roger hansen says:

      Hi Brent,

      I love my children (and their spouses) and I’m pretty sure that they know that (even though I’m not a very demonstrative person). I’m also not much of a joiner (in the organizational sense). Ceremonies are not a big deal to me. But supporting my children and grandchildren is a big deal. For me, being on the “outside” of a family wedding is awkward, but not earth shaking. I think my brothers feel the same way. I just want to support my children anyway I can.

      It’s the LDS Church that I feel bad about. They claim to want to promote the family, but many of their actions have the opposite effect. Not only are wedding ceremonies a problem, but also the shunning of missionaries that come home early, the shunning of gay members who want to marry, and the shunning of family members who chose leave the church. The LDS Church seems willing to stress families on a number of issues.

      Additionally, how does the exclusionary policy speak to ecumenicalism?

      • rogerdhansen says:

        A friend asked me what I meant by ecumenicalism is this context?

        I meant a more “open” wedding ceremony–one open to all–would put the LDS Church in a very favorable light. It would look like we are making an effort to peacefully co-exist with other demonstations and belief structures.

  3. susan says:

    I have often wondered if temples could continue with the temple ritualism, but set aside a portion of the temple where the actual ceremony is performed and where family members and friends could participate, irregardless of their religion; not the hokey waiting room where you sit and then join each other when it’s all over, take pictures together as an “eternal” family (even though half of you weren’t inside), and then join each other at a local ward gymnasium to eat ham, funeral potatoes, and green jello.

  4. C C says:

    great idea indeed but will never happen. when you realize the church is a corporation in the business of religion you can then understand this policy. bottom line – changing it would affect the bottom line. this policy brings in untold amounts of tithing $$ for those who simply MUST attend the wedding of their loved one and catch up their tithing in order to obtain the recommend to do so.

  5. Pingback: Dilemmas of a “Jack” Mormon | Tired Road Warrior

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