My Mormon Temple Wedding
I was married in 1968 in the Los Angeles Mormon Temple. I had just converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the age of 16 and was married at the age of 21. Having grown up in a non-Mormon family, there were many things about Mormon culture I had not yet learned.
My life had been difficult in some ways. My parents were middle class and paid my way through college. They chose our Southern California neighborhood (having moved there from D.C. when I was 8) by the excellence of the local schools. And they were indeed excellent. My public school education was more than satisfactory, and we had a pool in the backyard at home, but our family life was in disarray. My mother had a personality disorder. She was narcissistic and shrewish, and the rest of us were psychologically battered. I could not find a way to approach her so that she would approve of me, so I distanced myself. My parents were on the verge of divorce for years, and they were attempting to do a role reversal, coming to me, a teenager, to solve their problems. It was then that I developed a yearning for spiritual connectedness to a power greater than myself.
After some church-hopping with friends, I was invited to a youth conference at the local LDS meetinghouse. The second I walked across the threshhold of the building, I experienced an overwhelming spiritual witness from the Holy Ghost that this was the place where the truth could be found, and where I could find peace and help. My parents finally relented and allowed me to be baptized, thinking this would be a temporary thing, and that I might experiment with many religions and philosophies before I settled on one. They just had to make sure this was not permanent, and that’s surely the reason they wouldn’t allow me to attend Brigham Young University in Utah, owned by the Church of Jesus Christ. They knew that many couples meet at college, and they didn’t want me to find a Mormon husband.
I ended up at a college in California that is an inveterate party school. I had only been a Mormon for two years. There was much I didn’t know. I was just 18 and in new territory. I wanted so to live up to Mormon standards. It was the sixties, and many of the students were over-using alcohol, into drugs, and experimenting with sex. Living together was their new norm, so they weren’t so much thinking about marriage. Repeatedly “big men on campus” would come to me in a drunken stupor, confessing how lost they were, how they needed moral guidance. They were older, wiser, and more educated than I, but they were coming to me because of my certainty in my moral code and beliefs.
Interesting that I met my future husband there, an active Mormon about to leave on a full-time mission. Definitely not what my parents had hoped would happen. In fact, we met before school had even started. The following March, he left for 30 months of Mormon missionary service (missions for young men are now 24 months). I transferred to BYU, and “waited” for him, which meant falling in love many times, but not really. We were married 4 1/2 months after his return.
Our temple session was early in the morning. We had come to the temple a couple of days before so I could take out my own endowment. I was surprised by the temple, having taken no temple preparation classes, like they have today. While Mormon meetinghouses are spare and relatively unadorned, Mormon temples are ornate and drenched in symbolism. There was so much light, so much peace. I had never been anywhere like it before. We left the house at 6:30 a.m., my fiance and I, alone. Some members of his family and Mormons from our local ward (congregation) were there, but no one from my family. One’s wedding day is a haze and daze of activity, and the wonderful thing about the temple is that you can go back often, doing ordinances for the dead, and hear those vows repeated. Gradually, over the years, the nuances of the covenants and promises sink in, and your understanding of how eternity works deepens.
There were no photographers at the temple. My mother arranged for one to show up at our reception that night, but I think she felt completely uninvolved with my choice of wedding location. My father had come across the country for the reception, but didn’t bring my brother, because they could not attend the wedding — only worthy members of the Church of Jesus Christ can enter the temple.
Nowadays, people have thought of ways to involve people in the family who cannot enter the temple. If I could do it over again, I would have a ring-exchange ceremony at my reception in order to involve my non-member family and friends. I don’t think my parents would come to the temple for photographs, or to welcome us as we exited into the beautiful gardens. They needed to register their disapproval.
Over the years, my parents came to respect my temple marriage and my loyalty to my vows. The eternal commitment I made to my husband in the temple has helped me to see past the shortcomings of human nature and to get a glimpse of who we are in the eternities. Our six children have stuck with their faith in marvelous ways while becoming successful adults in a worldly sense, too.
My parents both passed away in 1997, and since that time, I have had sacred spiritual experiences that have shown me that they have accepted the ordinances I performed for them in the temple. I even had them sealed together in eternal marriage. Of course, it’s their choice, as they live on in the afterlife, but I know that they “get it” now. As do many of my other ancestors for whom I’ve since done temple work. My eternal marriage has transformed my extended family back for generations, and it has healed our family down through our growing posterity.