Monday, May 21, 2012

The One Thing I Regret About My Marriage

Three years ago I was sealed to my husband in the Oakland Temple. His whole family was there. Mine was not. My grandparents were not present and neither were my sisters. My grandparents are not Mormon and my sisters were not endowed although both held temple recommends.

 I grew up hearing that the only valid marriage was in the temple. And since I live in the United States, I also knew that if I chose to do a different kind of wedding ceremony before my sealing, I would have to wait a year for no apparent reason. (Although if I had done something after, there wouldn’t have
been anything the church could do about it. Not like they would have cancelled my sealing for going to another church or courthouse. Wish I’d thought of that at the time.) It didn’t occur to me that I had any other option aside from a temple sealing. So I chose to be married in a place where some of my family were forbidden to enter.

The church claims that it is pro-family, that family is the most important thing. But it feel utterly justified in banning family members from some of life’s most special events and punishing those members (at least in the US) who choose their family over the church by making them wait a year to be sealed and attaching a stigma to that wait. So basically the church is only pro all-Mormon, all endowed families. My sisters were worthy to enter the temple, but were banned from my wedding anyway. How is that pro-family?

I feel I owe my grandparents an apology. My sisters are members, and one of them is making the same choice I did next month. But my grandparents aren’t members. They were not allowed to see their only child, my mother, get married. They are still angry about it, and in my mind they have every right to be. And then I did the same thing to them. I chose to exclude them from my wedding. And I feel so guilty for that. There are very few things I regret doing, but that is one of them, and it physically hurts to think of the heartless way I acted.

The truth is, because of health issues, they likely wouldn’t have been able to come to California anyway. But they still knew that if they had they would have been unwelcome. They knew they wouldn’t have been allowed to see me get married, and that I made the decision to leave them out. That was not the right choice for me to make. It was wrong of me to choose the church over my family. And I want to tell them I'm sorry. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to apologize to them because it would probably cause problems with my mother. They might hold it over her head or ask her why she hasn’t apologized. And with my sister getting married in the temple, they might give her a hard time too. (Our relationship with them is complicated.) But I feel like I need to make some kind of restitution to them somewhere, so here it is.

Dear Oma and Opa, I owe you an apology. When I got married I did so in a place where you were not welcome. I should not have done that. Even if you had not been able to come, I should have gotten married somewhere that would have welcomed you if you had been there. I should have made it clear that my family was more important to me then some religion. What I did was wrong and unkind and I am so sorry.

I should have gotten married somewhere that welcomed my whole family, not just those who believe a certain way. I regret the decision I made to marry in an LDS temple and if I had it to do over again, I would do it differently. I’m sorry for the decision I made and if that decision hurt your feelings or made you think I cared more about a church then you. I did not feel that way then, and certainly do not feel that way now. Any religion that would exclude family from events like weddings is wrong and I’m ashamed to have been a part of something like that. I wish I had figured that out sooner.

26 comments:

  1. You has a great blog. I'm very interesting to stopping here and leaves you a comment. Good work.

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  2. Oh wow, that is so sad that you are now looking back on that day with regret. It wasn't as if you had the frame of reference you had then that you do now. Chances are you really, truly did not see any other way to do things.

    Have you sent an apology letter to your grandparents and tried to ease the hurt they feel?

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    1. I need to discuss it with my mother. They still talk about not being at her wedding. If I apologize, it might make their relationship with her worse because I'm acknowledging something she hasn't, to my knowledge. And me sister is getting sealed in a few weeks, so they might hold it against her too. I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to apologize for my mother and sister's sake. That makes it even worse. No matter what I do, some part of my family will be angry at me.

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  3. I have similar regrets. Both my parents are converts, so only my immediate family could be there. Meanwhile, my husband is pioneer stock so everyone who wanted to come was there. My grandparents were there for pictures, but that's pretty much it. I really wish we had done a civil ceremony first. In fact, I really want to do a vow renewal for that purpose: so everyone we want to be there can be there.

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    1. I love the idea of doing a vow renewal! That way you can have the ceremony you want. And I just like the idea of re-committing to a partner, of saying that the relationship is still worth it.

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  4. When I got married, to a RM, I was only 19 and wasn't thinking about who I wanted there, just that I wanted to be married. Now as my husband is expanding his horizons on personal beliefs he is a little off put by not having traditional memories of our wedding.
    I would have loved to have my father do one traditional thing at my wedding by walking me down the aisle (he doesn't dance), and I hated that my grandpa drove from California to Toronto, to sit in the waiting room and not see me wed my best friend. There is and was such a stigma of not going to the temple as a sign that you had done something wrong, and the YW lessons just deepened those negative thoughts, rather than celebrate the one of the happiest days of your life.

    I look forward to renewing our vows, to celebrate how we have evolved as a couple, and family. I just wish I would be able to have the ones who have passed during the last 13 years there to see that you don't need everything to be in white, for it to be a real wedding.

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    1. Hey Anonymous. You still live in the Toronto area? You should check out the Toronto Mormon Stories community.

      http://mormonstories.org/local-communities/

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  5. Wonderfully well written. I agree with you wholeheartedly!

    Our family left the church three years ago and I often look back and shake my head at the things I did in the name of religion and am baffled that I didn't see how wrong it all was sooner.

    Signed,

    An Internet stranger. :)

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  6. I am a stranger and just happened upon your blog... Have you considered that there is another option? If they were able to enter the temple and see you be sealed to your husband for time and all eternity, what else would they see? Would they understand what you were wearing? Would they understand the promises you had made before your sealing? Would they have better associations with your family, religion, and the choices you have made? The Lord has kept those things private for a reason. He is protecting them. I would suggest going to to the temple yourself and doing and endowment session and a sealing session with your husband. Remember the promises you have made with him and God. Are they worth it to you? I think the reflection should be on what you decided to believe, not what the church forced you to do.

    I am not trying to be rude by any means, and want to let you know that I was also married in the temple. I also did not have a lot of my closest family and friends attend my sealing. But I also tried to help them understand, and I would never make any other decision. My husband and daughter are too important to me. My relationship with my Heavenly Father is more important to me. I believe that my sacrifice (your sacrifice) will be rewarded if I am faithful to the covenants I made that day. God loves all of His children. He is not trying to punish your grandparents or sisters. We have all been giving our gift of agency.

    I hope you find what you are looking for, and can find restitution with your grandparents and God. Here is hoping for the best for you.

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    1. I appreciate your perspective. I have chosen not to return to the temple because I do not find my God there. I do not find God in the covenants I made, and feel they have nothing to do with my relationship to my husband, especially certain promises made in the endowment that are actually the exact opposite of what i want my marriage to be. So, no, the temple and the things I did there do not reflect my marriage or my belief in God.

      I don't believe that a ceremony makes my marriage more valid in God's eyes. I don't believe in a God who plays favorites; who says "well you happened to be a member of the right tiny church so you get into heaven." I just don't find God in that concept.I don't believe in a God who would reward the choice to alienate your family or who places rituals above human relationships. The church keeps preaching that family is divine, it is the most important unit it society, it is God's structure. But then it places ritual above family relationships. How does that make sense?

      Also, I don't see the need for anything secret to be part of the sealing. The clothing could be left off; it has nothing to do with the ceremony in my mind. The wording itself isn't all that odd; at least not any odder then some other ceremonies. Or if things do need to be kept secret to avoid ridicule, why not allow members to do two ceremonies? What is the problem with that? Why is that so wrong that the church punishes those who make that choice?

      As for agency, my sisters did nothing wrong. They were in their 20s, the same age as me actually, so if I was mature enough to handle it, why aren't they? They haven't misused their agency according to the church's understanding, yet they were still excluded because the church as a general rule refuses to allow women who are not getting married or going on missions receive their endowment. So my sisters did the right thing, but were still excluded. So what does agency have to do with anything?

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    2. Do you still attend the LDS church?

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    4. I still attend and hold a calling. And yes, my bishop knows I have issues with the temple.

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    5. Hey Anonymous,

      Imagine that the church encouraged couples to hold a marriage ceremony outside the temple, so all can participate. And hold a temple sealing the same day (or close), so the covenant can also be made.

      Would this not be better for everyone?

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    6. Yes, I do agree with this. I think it would be great if that was an option, but I understand that the church doesn't want vows made outside of it. I think they think that it make the temple seem less important. But I don't actually know why it is discouraged.

      And when I was talking about agency, I was referring to each of us, have the choice to not be married in the temple or to be married in the temple and have a second reception/ceremony. I know it is not looked on well, but we do have that option.

      Also, sorry for the anonymous bit, it is for work reason... I can't post political and personal things associated with my blog.

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    7. I would argue there is in fact not much of a choice. There is constant push for temple marriage; talks, lessons, quotes, pictures. Everything promises that a temple wedding will be the pinnacle of achievement, the best thing you could do. Nowhere is it mentioned that those who can enter the temple could make another decision. It literally did not occur to me that I could choose something else. Marrying outside the temple is reserved for people who broke the law of chastity or marry a non-member or were unfaithful. If you are worthy to enter, no other option is presented. Then there are the horror stories of someone dying before a sealing could take place, or couples who are mocked and called disobedient for choosing not to marry in the temple. If you want to be a good Mormon, a non-temple marriage is not an option presented to you.

      Also, I would have found the temple more meaningful if it hadn't been my only ceremony. (That was before I noticed the things that keep me from attending.) I have very little memory of my sealing because it was just the first thing on the list for my wedding day. I was tired and stressed and only really cared that I was getting married to my husband. It was irrelevant to me how or where at that point. So how is that better then doing it a few days later so the focus could be the sealing, not everything attached to a wedding. And clearly it's not that big of a deal to the church, since in many countries that's exactly how they do it and the church isn't pitching a fit about that. So why is it such a huge deal in the US? It's a double standard that seems to be designed to punish those who make a different choice than the one the church wants them to.

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    8. I agree church culture and official church lessons teach us to enter the temple, and it is aggressive teaching; repetitive, stressed, and ever present. But even with those things, and with the "stigma" that you might receive for not being married in the temple, no one can take that choice away. I'm sorry that it did not occur to you to do something else. It might have improved your experience on your wedding day, or might not, as you mentioned that later it you found you did not agree with the temple ceremonies.

      I don't know why it is acceptable to have a ceremony before your temple sealing a few days before in other countries. It honestly might not be coming down from the prophet, it might be our local leaders. And leader are human like everyone else. I'll try and do some research to help understand though.

      In the mean time again, I hope you can find restitution with your family. If it were me, I might talk to my mom and sisters and tell them what you are feeling. Tell them you would like to apologize to your grandparents, and see what they say. See if they really would be upset or opposed. That way you could make the choice you want without hurting them. There are always options. People can't hold us back unless we let them.

      Good luck!

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    9. In other countries, religious ceremonies are not legally binding. They don't count in the eyes of the law. So two ceremonies are necessary because of the law. Couples in those countries don't seem to have an issue with that; they don't seem to think that it takes away form the sealing. So why would it take away in the US? Why not just make policy standard across the board? What is the harm in that?

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  7. I found my way over here from FMH, and really appreciate this post. I didn't marry in the temple, so I don't fully identify with it, but I appreciate it because so often I dwell on what I missed out on by choosing not to marry in the temple. I forget how beautiful and fortunate I was to be able to have my entire family attend, even my relatives who aren't members, and my husband's entire family, who also aren't members. I forget how special it was that we were able to craft our own vows. The church is so laser focused on being sealed in the temple, that it seems to overlook the whole marriage thing sometimes. Also, this line? "So basically the church is only pro all-Mormon, all endowed families." Right on. Can't wait to read more.

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  8. I was furious that my husband and I couldn't get married in the temple because the bishop of his student ward didn't think he was ready (we both disagreed). Now I'm so glad we didn't. We got married in his parents' backyard, with tons of family and friends who wouldn't have been allowed in the temple. Even most of my immediate family couldn't have gone in. There are still things I would change if I could (like having a bishop marry us; it was really awkward and I wish we'd just had a friend get ordained or gone to a court house). But this is one thing I'm actually really glad happened the way it did.

    "I don't believe in a God who would reward the choice to alienate your family or who places rituals above human relationships." That's exactly how I feel about it, and that's exactly how I see the church's policy. (Nothing proves it quite as much as the forced waiting period. Why on earth should you have to wait an entire year to be sealed? What possible reason is there besides punishment for having gone off the approved path?)

    I feel for you, and I'm sorry for the damage it's done to your family's relationships. If I were in your grandparents' position, I'd like to think I could accept that my child was doing what she felt she had to do and not blame her for her religious beliefs. I don't, however, believe I would ever think very highly of a religion that excludes family members from the most important experiences in people's lives.

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  9. Have you seen the temple marriage petition? I'm not sure its still online but it had been a year or so ago. A group of church members who feel similarly to you want to communicate to the church that the emphasis on separating families for weddings in the United States is really a double standard and a reversal of earlier church practice. I plan to teach my children that a wedding ceremony is the social celebration of a new family and a sealing is the contract between the couple and God. If the church will not allow couples married outside of the temple to be sealed for a year, then I will emphasize over and over again that its okay to be sealed a year later. I get so frustrated by the conflating of marriage as a legal contract between individuals and marriage as a religious covenant. Marriage serves two different purposes and can be separate (just as it is in Europe). Or I'll tell me kids that a destination wedding is on me. :-)

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    1. I have seen that petition. I'm pretty sure I signed it... I'll need to go find it.

      That's really what gets me; outside the US (and Canada apparently) it's a non-issue. Clearly there is nothing doctrinally wrong with doing a ceremony and sealing, because that's how most of the world does it. So why is the church so difficult about it?

      Way to break down the stigma for your kids. I love your approach. And dude, destination weddings! Can I say I think a Disney wedding would be a blast! I'm a total nerd. :)

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  10. This post unearthed some very deep and painful feelings for me. I too have one major regret from our wedding and it is choosing to be sealed in the temple when it meant my spouse's parents would have to sit outside. They have been so great to him, great to us, and it must have felt like such a slap in the face. They are wonderful lovely people.

    I'm glad I read the comments section though, maybe a vow renewal down the road would help me feel better? I don't think it would do anything for them though, they are very rational/logical and I would guess that they take a very "what's done is done" approach to the whole thing.

    Right now I am distancing myself from the temple. If/when my sister marries, I don't know what I will do. I know it will be heartbreaking for her if I don't go inside, but I feel so much anger and hurt and confusion and pain when I think about the temple (for a variety of reasons) that I can't see myself sacrificing who I am for that one weekend. Unless something very fundamental changes, I will sit outside and honor those who have been forced to do the same.

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    1. I share your pain. I've broken down and cried a few times in the past two weeks because I feel so guilty. And I understand your concerns about your sister getting married. One of mine is getting married in a few weeks, and I've chosen not to attend the sealing for several reasons. It would stress me out, but I also don't want to leave my other sister by herself outside. She has autism and get stressed out easily. The thought of her being forced to sit outside alone while the rest of her family goes inside makes me so angry. So again, the church's policies are making me choose between my sisters; which one do I support?

      I wish you luck in your decisions. It is hard all around, especially when you can't take a decision back. But as a fairly rational, brain-oriented person, I think I would still appreciate a gesture from a loved one, like a vow renewal or apology. But that's just me. Good luck, and I"m sorry that this situation has caused such pain.

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  11. I skimmed the comments, but I'd like to say I completely get what you're saying, although I had a slightly different experience. My immediate family are all active members and those who weren't endowed haven't got married or gone on missions yet. I don't think my younger sisters or cousins minded that they couldn't attend. It's just how things are to them. There were members of my husband's family who aren't LDS anymore or who aren't active--but I don't think they minded. I think I would have minded a lot more if they had. It's a bit weird, I know. It's not like I didn't want my whole family there--that would have been ideal, of course. I think I didn't feel very strongly about this because I hadn't quite allowed myself to question this or issues like this at the time. I was still struggling through the trauma I experienced during my endowment, but I still wanted to be a good person (which still meant a *good Mormon*, then.)

    Although I felt good about my sealing, my husband and I do have little regrets that our marriage wasn't really "ours". If that makes sense. We would do a lot of things differently now. I wish we would have gotten married when we were both had more money and when I was more at ease with myself and my beliefs so we could have the marriage exactly the way we wanted. And of course, even though I had a terrible endowment experience--I didn't see another course of action, but to get sealed.

    But we plan on renewing our vows down the road, so we're looking forward to that.

    Also, here's a link to relevant article on Pure Mormonism: http://puremormonism.blogspot.com/2011/02/go-ahead-and-skip-that-temple-wedding.html

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  12. I feel the same way about my temple marriage! I regret very much that my wife's father was not even allowed to attend. More recently, I waited outside the temple for my brother (who I am very close to).

    Why does the church insist on alienating family members who are not active, endowed Mormons?

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