The One and Only
I met my husband, a righteous RM [a returned Mormon missionary], at a dinner group wherein our apartment of "girls" cooked for his apartment of "boys". I now look back and see that even the landlords and perhaps others at BYU contributed to the lack of development of the BYU students by not recognizing them as men and women. Anyway, although we saw each other frequently as part of this dinner group, we went on only four dates prior to our engagement. Of those, two were group dates. We were apart during the summer prior to our engagement and he insisted that there be no mushy letters exchanged between us, so everything was quite on a newsy and somewhat superficial level, except that towards the end, he divulged his spiritual side.
My general authority in the making was almost mine!! I was nearly 21, an old maid by BYU standards, where so many women/girls (take your pick) got married by the mature age of 20. We had a short engagement, during which we limited ourselves to five-second kisses in order not to stir up any passions. Little did I know at the time, there weren't any passions, nor would there be any for the duration of our marriage, for I felt no physical attraction to him. No wonder, I mused later, it was so easy to comply with our self-imposed restrictions. At the time, I felt that a spiritual attraction was the ultimate and he certainly was righteous, having served in a branch presidency. All of our restraint was a sign of our strength.
At no time before or after my marriage do I remember hearing a church leader advise young people to find someone they love, someone they can be emotionally close to for the rest of their lives, someone with whom they could develop a relationship that would grow and flourish. The "eternal companion" label used again and again always seemed to reek of missionary overtones, not best friend and lover.
A temple marriage was the only way to get married, as I was taught at BYU. People who got married outside the temple in a civil ceremony were second class citizens who lived with their mistake for at least a year, if not a lot longer. At the least, those who had civil ceremonies were not as righteous as those who had temple marriages. Also, they were told they would not have the benefits of being sealed or if they gave birth to children within the first year, of having their children sealed to them. I was new in the church and quite impressionable. I wanted so badly to please and impress my friends and church leaders. So there would be no marriage outside the temple for me.
Although my family lived in another state where there was a temple nearby, they could not attend, so it seemed logical to marry where my husband's family could attend. After all, what would a wedding be without guests?
Cold feet is one thing, but as I sat in my parents' hotel room the night before the wedding, I wished they would just ask me if I wanted to reconsider and go back home. They didn't, and I was too proud to ask.
As I have reflected back on it in the years since, I remember my wedding day as one of the worst days of my life. I agonize still over how much the events which transpired during my engagement and wedding day must have hurt deeply my parents. I was their only daughter. Yet, I refused to drive to the temple with them for fear of smelling like my dad's cigarette smoke. Surely that would get me in trouble with the people at the recommend desk. Since the church teaches that Mormons are superior to non-members, I felt justified in more or less snubbing my parents at my wedding, in the name of righteousness of course. They were, after all, not "worthy" to be at the ceremony. If they would have only changed their evil ways, i.e. stopped smoking and drinking, and become active, tithe paying members of the LDS church, they could have shared in my happiness. Of course, my thoughts at the time were heavily influenced by my fellow students and teachers at BYU, but still, I must take full responsibility for this arrogant attitude I portrayed.
I was 21 when I married in the Salt Lake Temple, which to me resembled a magical fairy castle. I have grieved many times since about my decision to get married in the temple, with only my husband's family (many of whom I did not meet until that day or shortly before the wedding) there and my parents standing outside the temple shivering in the December cold. My grandparents and my brothers stayed home, as did my aunt and uncle and cousins.
My husband and I got to the temple and waited in a long line of brides and grooms. What kind of a factory was this, I wondered. It was so communal and impersonal. We stood in one line, then in another. The temple was really busy that day and I did not know my way around, so it was that much more intimidating. I went to the bride's room alone, alone with at least twelve or more brides, that is. All of the other brides there had mothers helping them fix their hair and dress. I had no one with me. A temple worker came up and told me that my high-necked, long-sleeved dress was immodest and that I needed to put white fabric inside to "make it look nicer". Yes, the fabric appliques might have been a little sheer but nothing was revealed. I was completely covered. Nonetheless, I had to remove my dress and put pieces of fabric on under my dress to satisfy the temple worker.
We walked into the sealing room. Who was there for me? Few of my friends were there. But not my best friends. Not my soon-to-be former roommates or friends from high school. Not any of my family or people who really knew me, cared about me, and loved me throughout my life. The room was full of people I scarcely knew or did not know at all. The only relatives of my husband's that I even knew beyond a five-minute hello were not in attendance because of an accident. I knew we hadn't even invited a lot of the people who were seated there and was angry when I found out later that my husband's mother took the liberty of inviting them. I thought this was supposed to be my wedding.
The temple sealer gave a short talk on marriage and children. All I could think was how bad I wanted to get up and run out of the room. I just wanted to leave and never come back. These people didn't know me so I would never have to face them again. But I kept thinking that Christ wanted me to be married and that this was the only way for me to progress. So I proceeded. Fake tears of joy came to my eyes at the conclusion of the ceremony which was little more than the opportunity to say "yes". There was no music, no flowers, no ring ceremony, nothing like the wedding I grew up looking forward to. But because of it being sacred (in my opinion, a secret meant to draw people in), I had no way of knowing all of this until it was too late.
We were pushed out of the sealing room by the sealer in order to avail the room to the next couple already waiting. Cycle time between weddings was about 20 or so minutes, it seemed. We walked down a long hallway to the temple grounds where my parents were waiting. Of course, my mom was crying and not tears of joy. My dad said I looked pretty. I felt horrible. I will never forget that sick feeling in my stomach as long as I live. We got our pictures taken on the steps of the temple, after waiting our turn behind several other couples. It was a wedding factory. We were nothing like the happy couple (one happy couple as opposed to a dozen or more) coming out of the church with crowds of loved ones throwing rice or confetti I had always envisioned.
My husband's family seemed to keep to themselves and not even extend themselves to my parents, the foreigners by all accounts. Of course, my parents, as non-members, were to be feared for their potential evil influence. My husband's family have not changed much in the years since either. Anyone who is not a member or who lives above the poverty level is not righteous like them. But that is another topic for another time.
My feeble attempt to absolve myself of guilt for not including my parents in the wedding was to have the ring ceremony outside the temple. Of course, it would happen that my husband didn't have my ring. Eventually that got straightened out, but it was not what you would call picture perfect or a cherished Kodak moment.
As soon as the pictures were done, we rushed off to a dingy, dirty, poorly lit, cluttered hotel room full of crying children so that my husband, his father, brother, and brothers-in-law could give a blessing to my husband's brother's newest baby. Well, I guess our moment in the sun was done and it was time to focus on the next family event. The sheer size of my husband's family meant that there would be several events in a single month, so it was rare that anyone was really special for more than a few minutes, even if it was a wedding day for a family member. Nonetheless, this little side show blessing hardly seemed like the perfect way to cap off what was supposed to be the morning of my life.
We raced back to BYU after the blessing to our next stop, to turn in my husband's final paper for school. Remember, we were BYU students, and there getting married in the middle of the semester or during finals is quite normal and natural. I had spent the entire day before typing the paper, so I had had little time to get myself ready for the wedding day, but that, too, was normal.
After dropping off the paper, we headed for the hotel. When we went in, my husband tried to french kiss me. He might as well have raped me. Up to that point, I had kissed him for five seconds or less in order to keep our strict moral code intact. I had a stomach ache for the rest of the day just thinking of what was to come later.
I knew I did not seem like a happy bride but at the same time I felt like no one really seemed to notice. My husband's relatives conglomerated in the kitchen of the home where our open house was held. We, the bride and groom, were sort of the sideshow. My parents, being non-members, were on the periphery. I heard later that when my new brothers-in-law learned my dad worked for the government, they nearly decked him (they were all faithful John Birchers who hated government interference in the lives of citizens). I hated every minute of our reception and was so upset at being asked to open all of the presents afterwards. And then what we received from my husband's family was obviously bought at Pic and Save or else 20 people went in on a $20 gift. How generous they were! How special I felt! NOT!
Our motel room smelled like smoke. We masked the smell with mint air freshener provided by the motel office. There was no other room, nor could we leave and go to another. We had only $3 in funds so we were forced to use my husband's gas credit card to charge our motel room. Unfortunately, this was the only motel in town which took his card. Ironically, and I did not find out until later, the wedding night and honeymoon are supposed to be a groom's gift to his bride. I had made all of the arrangements since my husband did not have time. This pattern of me taking over for his inadequacies continued throughout our marriage.
Over the years, the worst cross to bear about my wedding has been having to keep all of this to myself, or, at least, feeling obligated to do so. Several times, heated discussions between my mother and I nearly ripped me apart. She continually told me how painful my wedding day was for her, how she threw up in disgust at my marrying into such impoverished circumstances. (The poverty, too, was normal for BYU students.) After these discussions, I would go home and cry for days afterwards. Oh that I could only tell her how painful that day was for me! But I had to keep up a strong front for the church, so I thought, and I did. To this day, I cry and sob every time I see a wedding on television or movies, a wedding where the people who are married are surrounded by loved ones in a special, exclusive celebration.
After my daughter was born, I got a glimpse into what it must have been like for my mom to be on the outside while strangers attended my wedding. I knew how special my daughter was and how much I wanted to share as much of her life as possible. I realized my mother must have felt likewise for me. It was much later that I shared with my mom that a temple wedding is not a real wedding as non-LDS people know it. I feel as if I had no wedding. It is a simple, generic, impersonal ceremony in a wedding factory. There are no candles, no flowers, no music, no bridesmaids, no decorations.
Worst of all is the propaganda from the LDS leadership that righteousness (i.e. pay your tithing, have as many babies as you can as fast as you can, etc.), not love, is the main ingredient which makes a marriage work. For me, this engendered years of guilt because I was unable to reconcile why my marriage didn't work, when I had tried so hard to do what was right. I don't blame my husband that I did not love him: I blame the LDS culture and the pressure to be married and to select a spouse based on a checklist approach where righteous and RM are the two key ingredients for a husband. Also, I do feel that it would have helped if we had gone on more than four dates before we got engaged and written more freely of our feelings when we were apart. Essentially, we had no courtship, no time of testing the waters of a relationship. This was fairly typical of many BYU students with whom I came in contact.
I often fantasized about but never had the courage to write a letter to the general authorities of the church, telling them of my deep hurt and grieving over temple marriage, which they continue to proclaim is one of the greatest accomplishments and blessings of all for all LDS people. I felt like my wedding was a total exception to that. I often thought maybe hearing a well reasoned letter which describes the excrutiating heartache created by including and excluding families according to their "worthiness" was an absolute travesty. Yet, I feared that so doing and signing my name would jeopardize my standing in the church.
My wedding broke my heart and that of my family. In some ways, we may never heal from the pain, each for our own reasons. Today, I face the prospect of having one or both of my children marry in the temple, since they have been raised in the church and taught that temple marriage is the only marriage truly acceptable to God. If this happens, at least I will know that what they are getting is an impersonal, watered-down version of a real wedding. I, like my parents before me, will grieve because I cannot attend and share in their moment, but at the same time, I will grieve more for what they could have had instead, an intimate and personal celebration shared by all of their beloved family and friends, not only those who are supposedly worthy.
Anonymous in SLC
15. Temple Divorces
|507. Women Write about their Temple Weddings||523. Was the Temple a Turning Point in Your Believing in Mormonism?|
|533. Video on the Mormon Temple Rituals [recommended]||514. Summary of the Mormon Temple|
|550 Benson: Ground Zero in My Unbelief in Mormonism - the Temple||564. Did the temple ceremony help you leave the Mormon church?|
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