To Whom It May Concern:
The LDS Church advertises itself as a family oriented church; but let me tell you about my experience with the family values LDS Church. My daughter joined the LDS church and was later married in an LDS temple. We, her parents along with her entire immediate and extended family were excluded from the ceremony. People who were virtual strangers to her were present; we were not allowed to be there. Why? The LDS church prohibits non-members from entering their temples, even for family weddings.
Several people advised us to get over it or do what we needed to do to be "worthy". The problem with that insensitive advice was that I figured I already had.
Nine months of pregnancy, ten hours of labor, sleepless nights of worry, and the hugs and kisses to make the little hurts all better doesn't count? How about helping her learn to walk, ride a bike, drive a car? Does attending every parent-teacher meeting, school performance and piano recital count? Going on school field trips, supervising school assignments, and musical instrument practice? Helping her pick out her a dress for the prom? Cheering as she accepted her high school diploma? Moving her into her college dorm? No? How about holding her hand through months of difficult medical tests and doctor visits, then spending weeks 24/7 next to a hospital bed to see her through a life-altering illness? Doesn't count? How about the time spent discussing life choices? Rejoicing over triumphs and accomplishments; consoling over losses and disappointments? Even accepting choices I deeply disagreed with? After a lifetime of expressing unconditional love and support in all the tangible and intangible ways only a mother can; I was judged "unworthy" and excluded.
I suppose I was naÃ¯ve to have ever thought that wedding ceremonies are celebrations to which everyone who wishes to share a couple's joy should be welcomed; not judged and excluded on the basis of religious affiliation.
The LDS church's exclusionary policy extends to church members who are considered "unworthy" in some way. Several years ago, a friend was excluded from his daughter's wedding because he had fallen behind in his tithing. In other words, a father (and lifelong member of the LDS church) was denied permission to be present at the marriage of his daughter because he owed the church money.
A simple solution would be to encourage couples to marry outside the temple and have the temple sealing later. However, LDS couples living in the United States are actively discouraged from considering this option. (See the church publication Ensign, Feb 2005.) Those who do decide to include all those they love in their wedding ceremony and marry outside the temple are penalized by church policy which requires them to wait one year to be sealed in the temple. However, this waiting period is not church policy in the UK, France, Germany, Japan and many other countries. It is not even a consistent policy within the US. In these countries, church policy allows couples to marry in a ceremony outside the temple and to be sealed in the temple on the same day or another day. They are not required to wait the one year period. In the United States, couples who do not live within an easy day's drive of a temple are permitted to marry in their hometown and then travel to a temple to be sealed. Again, they are not penalized by a one year waiting period.
If the LDS church is unwilling to allow non-LDS family and friends to be present at temple marriages (and I don't think they should be forced to), they should eliminate the one year penalty. This would allow for a more inclusive ceremony and would be consistent with its own policy in other countries and other areas of the US.
I have lived and worked with LDS people for more that twenty years and have found Mormons to generally be kind people; I am not "anti-Mormon". To those LDS people who disagree with me' I ask that you at least try to understand that I speak from a mother's hurting heart. To those LDS people who do agree, I know that you have been counseled never to criticize church leaders even when you think they are wrong. However, I ask you to remember all the examples history gives us of how, only when people find the courage to speak do things change.
If LDS church leaders are serious about their part in healing religious divides and honest about their public pro-family stance they must change their policy. It is time to stop coercing couples into insisting that the people they love stand outside LDS buildings with broken hearts.
Jolene Arnoff Lindon, Utah