This past weekend I attended a “Bridal Shower” for a good friend and co-worker. In my community, it is a custom for the women friends of a bride to throw her a party before she is married. We eat good food, play games (often quite silly) and the bride opens gifts while the guests share favorite stories and marriage advice. Usually at the end of the party, the future groom arrives and everyone gets to meet him (there is typically some good-natured teasing at that point).
Thus, I attended one of these events on Friday, and it was a lovely evening. Carrie-Ann, the bride-to-be has a glow of joy about her these days. There’s nothing quite like that intoxicating combo of true love and great expectations. She is a tall and slender blond with a contagious laugh and charming smile. She is an extremely intelligent and successful woman in her field of medical science. And, she is also a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She and her fiance’ Matthew will be married in a temple wedding ceremony, or “sealing”, next week.
Our party included a very diverse group of women in age, culture, marital status, career paths and religious belief. We were united in sisterhood as we shared the common love of our friend and celebration for her joyful event. There were naturally some questions that arose about the temple, our views on marriage, and what a Mormon wedding ceremony is like. I have reflected on that brief conversation and realize that there were many more questions hanging in the air afterwards, as time and place did not permit a further discussion. Perhaps there may be many readers who would also enjoy a better understanding of these things, and I would like to share this with you.
Let me begin by clearing up one of the most common misconceptions with a clear statement: marriage in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is between one woman and one man. Polygamy (multiple wives) was a very limited practice in the early days of the church. It was abolished nearly 150 years ago. Those persons who practice polygamy in the world today are members of other religious sects, and are not Mormons. If any Mormon chose to practice polygamy, they would be excommunicated. This subject is one of the greatest myths that persists about our church. (Now you can help eradicate it!)
Marriage and family is at the core of our faith. In 1995 the First Presidency of the church issued an official statement entitled The Family: A Proclamation To The World. This was issued to help succinctly lay out our view of marriage and family. The proclamation states that “marriage between man and woman is ordained of God and the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”
When a member of the church is married in one of our temples, the ceremony is called a “sealing”. Unlike other wedding ceremonies which pronounce a couple husband and wife “until death do you part”, a temple sealing is performed by priesthood authority which unites (seals) the couple together “For Time, and for all Eternity”. Therefore, the couple is married for this life, and beyond, as long as they keep their marriage promises and do not divorce. As you may imagine, marriage becomes one of the very most important decisions of our mortal lives. Knowing that we can be together with that one special person forever makes it critical to “choose wisely” when selecting a mate, and motivates us to work very hard at making the partnership successful.
The Family Proclamation states: “The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave”. There is great joy and reassurance in knowing that we can be together forever with the people we love the most. Family life continues after death. Therefore, families are our most important priority. Church President David O. McKay stated: “No success can compensate for failure in the home”. Striving to live the gospel of Jesus Christ strengthens our home and family unit unlike anything else. The purpose of our church organization is to provide worship, activities, education and support to each individual family member, allowing the marriage and family to thrive and succeed, and bringing us ever closer to our Savior.
As I watched Carrie-Ann and Matt bubbling over with excitement in anticipation of this important event, I couldn’t help but reflect back on my own courtship and marriage sealing eighteen years ago (…now that’s mind-boggling) Like all young married couples, we were blissfully naïve and ignorant to the challenges that awaited us. We saw only stars in our eyes and the dream of a “happily ever after”. When that “honeymoon” stage ends, it can be a real shake-up. It’s an understatement saying it’s a challenge blending two people into one! There’s the in-laws, the differences in opinion, annoying habits, career responsibilities, time commitments, financial decisions with the accompanying stress, health complications…the list goes on and on. Sometimes it gets so overwhelming that separation becomes enticing. It certainly is an easier option than working things out. The divorce rates are climbing worldwide. It appears that marriage and family are becoming an “endangered species”. So many things are attacking the home and family values. However, there is hope. God wants all of his children on earth to succeed in building loving marriages and families. Knowing that we are building a relationship and a family that extends beyond this life has given my husband and I a common goal and strong motivation which has allowed us to work through the many roadblocks.
The temple sealing ceremony is simple and very beautiful. It is devoid of the pageantry of the typical wedding, such as an organ wedding march, the “walk down the aisle”, the father “giving away the bride”, or any other cultural variations. Instead, this is an event of quiet reflection and sacred communion with the Holy Spirit. When Carrie-Ann and Matt go to the temple next week, they will dress all in spotless white. They will go to a “Marriage Sealing Room” in the temple, which will be reserved to accommodate their invited guests. Those attending the ceremony will be a small invited group of very close family members and friends who must be members of the church and living the required high standards that allow temple entrance. The room decor will be tasteful and conservative, usually in muted pastel colors with gold accents. There will be some mirrors on the walls, and a sparkling chandelier in the center of the ceiling will shine down upon an altar. On either side of the room will be chairs for the guests to sit. Typically, the bride’s family and friends sit on one side, and the groom’s family and friends on the other.
A man who has been specially ordained with the sealing power of the priesthood will perform (“officiate”) the ceremony. First, he will talk to the couple about the promises that they are about to make, and give some fatherly council and advice. The couple will be invited to kneel opposite each other at the altar and hold hands.
The officiator will then pronounce the special sealing blessings upon them – and they must each agree in the affirmative to the commitment. At the end of the blessing, they may kiss across the altar, and when they stand they will now be sealed together for this life, and for all the eternities to come. As long as they keep their promises to each other and to God. The happy couple will probably take a moment to look into the beautiful mirrors hanging on either side of the walls and see their reflections going forwards and backwards for as far as the eye can see and beyond. This is a beautiful symbol of the promise that they have entered into with God that day. Often a couple will exchange rings at this point. An official ring exchange is not part of the sealing ceremony.
Occasionally when we speak of the temple, it can raise more questions than provide answers. This is due in part because members who have attended the temple make special promises with God (“Covenants”) which are so sacred to us that we do not discuss the details outside of the temple. However, our temples should not be viewed as a “secret” place. When a new temple is constructed there is always an open house held where anyone is invited to come inside. If you live in an area near a new construction, I encourage you to watch for the open house announcement, and take advantage of that wonderful opportunity.
These buildings are exquisitely beautiful and filled with a tremendously peaceful spirit. Volunteers are on hand to answer any questions. You may also go to the official website to learn more about the temples and view photos. After a temple is dedicated, then it is set aside as a Holy house to the Lord Jesus Christ and closed to the general public. It is important for all to understand that Temples are reserved for special ceremonies, and we do not hold our weekly worship services there. Local meeting houses are built for that purpose. These meeting houses are open to everyone, and we invite you to attend worship services with us.
The following video shows rooms of the newly constructed Rexburg Idaho Temple. This temple becomes the 126th temple of the church. Each temple is unique in design and differs slightly in décor to reflect the local landscape and culture. However, the designated rooms and ceremonies are the same worldwide . This clip provides a beautiful example of what the inside of our temples look like: