My wife got married on a clear fall day in 1975. She was jaw-dropping gorgeous. She still is, for that matter, but she was particularly beautiful on her wedding day.
I was there that day, too. Mostly. I was partly already gone. By the time our wedding day finally arrived, I was fed up with conventions that had less to do with actual love than they did official sanction.
One of the smartest things I ever did was keep my mouth shut about it. After all, it was her day. Mostly. It was also partly the church’s day. For that reason lots of my friends and family were already gone, too. In fact, they never even got to show up.
We drove to the Salt Lake LDS Temple for the ceremony. Two dozen close family members and friends came to watch it happen. Another two dozen stayed home because they knew they couldn’t get in. They weren’t worthy enough to be allowed in the temple.
The casualty list included some blood relatives, assorted neighbors, all of my co-workers and every friend I had before going on my Mormon mission. They either stayed home or waited in the parking lot.
I was happy enough to be married for time and all eternity but it was also the first time I had to seriously consider the idea of what that meant.
This was a time when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was really cruising with the catchphrase “Families Are Forever.” Just about every station wagon in Utah sported a bumper sticker announcing it.
It’s a nice thought but for the fact that it’s also a veiled threat. The average Mormon family as constituted here on Earth isn’t going to be the same family in heaven. That’s because not everyone will be worthy.
Statistically speaking, families aren’t forever. Somebody in every family is always going to be too apathetic, too unconventional, too stubborn or just too evil to make the celestial kingdom cut.
Won’t you be surprised when you get to heaven and discover that for all that hard work, your forever family consists of you, your mom, two cousins (one of whom you never liked), your least favorite sibling, one of your four grandparents and none of your children.
Of course, this assumes that you made it to heaven yourself. If you didn’t, your spouse will be sealed to some other person, your kids won’t visit and you’ll have to room with a crazy sister-in-law who won’t shut up about what a bum your brother was back on Earth.
It was a beautiful day when we got married but also vaguely troubling. Looking around the sealing room in the temple, I realized just how much the celestial kingdom was going to suck if I had to spend it without the company of some of the people I loved the most.
It seemed an even greater irony that my church — with all that emphasis on families being forever— was also patently divisive when it came to excluding families from gathering together on a momentous day.
I have a friend who is still resentful because her mother couldn’t watch her get married in the temple for the simple reason that her mother drank coffee. I know, you never get the whole story. Maybe her mom was a bank robber, too.
The point is that we don’t have the whole story. Love should matter more than policy, convention or custom. I don’t know about eternity, but it’s what has kept my marriage together this long.
Join us for a TribTalk
P On Monday at 12:15 p.m., Robert Kirby and religion reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack join Jennifer Napier-Pearce for live Trib Talk video chat at sltrib.com about LDS temple policies and calls by some for change.
You can join the discussion by sending questions and comments to the hashtag #TribTalk on Twitter and Google+.