It’s Never too Late to Apologize

It’s Never too Late to Apologize May 16, 2019
As the Church announced that people in the USA and Canada will now be able to do a sealing ceremony in the temple regardless of whether or not they do a civil ceremony in other settings, I’ve seen both responses of celebration and also sadness. When shifts like this happen… it’s positive for those going forward… and also brings back sadness or resentment for those for which the changes came “too little, too late.” We celebrate with mixed feelings, because again… there will be no apology or acknowledgement of the pain suffered by so many in the past. We have a long history of shaming people if they chose to marry or were “unworthy” to marry outside of the temple. And many people, including non-members, have been hurt ing being kept on the outside of such an important family event.

In my own temple wedding people who were not able to attend included my own siblings (not old enough), my dear godparents who are like family to me, my only living grandparent (Gram), Andy’s father and step mother (all of these not members of our church), not to mention other family members who I won’t mention here because they were members but not “temple worthy” (the best way to shame people from within publicly). I know my parents won’t mind me saying that they were not truly temple worthy (hadn’t been attending as regularly and my mom loves her coffee), but we had a wonderful bishop who let them go anyway. That’s what we call “bishops roulette” which is the unfairness within the system that just happened to benefit me.

Although we had a beautiful ceremony, I regret dearly having done this to my family. I didn’t think twice about it as a more orthodox member. And now it’s embarrassing to me and painful. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for people who have their children convert to our church of “family focus” and then not be able to attend their own kid’s weddings.

We at least had a ring ceremony afterwards (which again, depending on your bishop) might be frowned on or accepted. I walked down an aisle with my dad (frowned upon), I had bridesmaids walk in front of me (frowned upon), our bishop allowed us to say words reminiscent of vows (frowned upon) and we gave each other our rings in this ceremony. All frowned upon because supposedly including our family and feeling special in this way would “take away” from the meaning of our temple sealing. Nothing could take away from what I felt in the temple with my husband.

What an awful way to cause family angst at a time that is supposed to bring family together, soothe old wounds, reunite people, and send off a couple in strength and support. I don’t know of any other religion that separates people/family at a wedding ritual (let me know if I’m mistaken).

I celebrate this change… but I refuse to celebrate without acknowledging what hurt we’ve caused in the process.

Today’s guest post is written by Blue Haught.   Opinions shared on guest posts may not completely reflect the positions of the blog’s author. 

Blue Haught is a divorced Father of 6 (4 living), former Mormon, Director of Surgery, Arizona native, and avid outdoorsman.
To my ex-mother in law,
I am sorry. I wanted you there. And your daughter did even more than I did. I will never forget walking out of the Mormon temple in Mesa, after being married and seeing you waiting outside. You didn’t get to see your own daughter get married. You were smiling, but there seemed to be immense pain behind the smile. I know you were smiling to show your support. But that had to be one of the most painful feelings – to not be allowed to witness one of the most important events in your daughter’s life. I give you so much credit. You really didn’t show us, my family (who were all allowed to attend),
 or anyone else involved any ill will. You smiled, took pictures outside with us, spoke warmly to my family, and did all the things the mother of the bride is supposed to do. The only reason you couldn’t come is because you weren’t Mormon.
Why am I apologizing about this 19 years later? Well, for one because the church that prevented you from seeing your daughter get married won’t be apologizing. One of the members of its First Presidency recently even said, “we don’t seek apologies, and WE DON’T GIVE THEM.” They won’t be apologizing even though they recently rescinded the policy that used to make couples wait a year to be sealed in the temple if they had a civil (non-temple wedding first). It might be hard to understand, but for Mormons being sealed/married in the temple is the absolute pinnacle, the single most important act in Mormonism. The amount of shame, speculation, and ridicule that would come from not being sealed in the temple makes it very uncommon for Mormon couples to choose that route. In essence, if you got married civilly you were deemed unworthy to be sealed in the temple and had to wait a year. Kelly and I did discuss that option, though. We talked about how both you, your mom, and Kelly’s dad wouldn’t be able to attend our wedding. We mulled this over for a couple weeks, and regrettably we chose to do what we were told was the only route pleasing to God. If we were faced with that same dilemma today we would now have the option of being married civilly with anyone who wanted to attend and then to be sealed later.
When I first heard about this policy change I was happy. I thought, ‘thank goodness families don’t have to be ostracized on one of the most important days in a person’s life.’ But then my thoughts turned to you. And how sad I felt. How sad your daughter was. How sad you must have been. And my feelings turned to anger and regret. You should have been there! Of any person in my life (other than my mom, who passed away 10 years ago) you have been there most for me. Even though your daughter and I aren’t married any more, you still invite me to ALL family functions. Every holiday. Every big event. You invite me. When you watch my kids you often send me home with food. YOU of all people should have been at my wedding! If anyone is “worthy” you are. You have always been more Christ-like than the church that bears his name.  I’m just so sorry you were forbidden and excluded.
Mormonism as it relates to families, only works if EVERYONE is in. If EVERYONE is “worthy”. If EVERYONE is believing. The moment one person “falls away”, the moment one person comes out as gay, the moment one person begins drinking coffee the whole idea of heaven and eternal happiness collapses. Because at that point the family won’t be together in heaven. They will be separated. They will be forbidden. They will be excluded. Just like you were at our wedding.
I’m so so sorry.

Natasha Helfer Parker, LCMFT, CST can be reached at natashaparker.org and runs an online practice, Symmetry Solutions, which focuses on helping families and individuals with faith concerns, sexuality and mental health. She hosts the Mormon Mental Health and Mormon Sex Info Podcasts, is the current past-president of the Mormon Mental Health Association and runs a sex education program, Sex Talk with Natasha. She has over 20 years of experience working with primarily an LDS/Mormon clientele. 
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