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.