Audience is an essential element of planning. But how to approach that today? Those who are members of the Church on hearing that I was sealed to my husband last Friday will be so pleased to hear it. They might send congratulations. Surely there would be smiles, or a tear or two.
Those who don’t share my faith tradition would have no idea what I mean, much less why it matters. Most have been to weddings in not just other Christian denominations but perhaps in Jewish or Hindu or Baha’i communities. We’ve seen the pageantry of royal weddings in Westminster Abbey. If not in person at least on film, we’ve seen marriages in Las Vegas neon spots. Mountain tops, beaches, bottom of the ocean, top of the sky in parachutes. Living rooms, judges’ offices, backyards, malls, caves. Anywhere, really, that you can imagine.
Most things associated with weddings do not happen in sealings. People sometimes think it is just a wedding with only church members present, but that is not correct. There are no flowers, no attendants, no processions, no music, no candles, no rings, no speeches. No crowds, no applause, no money payment, no personalization of vows.
What, then, is there? All temples are beautiful, regardless of their size. The sealing rooms also vary in size, but they have several things in common: an altar at which the couple kneels, mirrors on two sides of the room which give a hint of limitless, continuation, light and white from crystal chandeliers and most of the décor, and the clothing. Simplicity that does not detract; understated elegance that elevates.
Three elements make up the sealing: the place, the words, the authority.
A temple is a dedicated structure. Only members with a valid, current recommendation from their ecclesiastical leaders can enter. That may sound exclusionary, but it’s not. Being a member of the Church is obviously a choice, but so is temple attendance. It is more like being on a path than confronting an obstacle. People who want to go can do so, realizing that the “want to” involves not only desire but agreement to leave behind certain behaviors and to accept certain conditions. A temple is not a place of casual commitments or curiosity but of serious, thoughtful decisions and preparations.
The words spoken in temple ceremonies are sacred. They are not repeated outside the temple. A distinction exists between secret and sacred. One simply means “hidden,” while the other means “set apart, consecrated, holy.” Out in the world, however, we are most likely to hear that “Nothing is sacred.” That perspective is exactly why the words, precious and astonishing as they are, should not be out in the world. The separation allows their specialness a place where they will not be trampled or demeaned. It would not be exaggerating, however, to say that the promises made are breathtaking in their hope, their beauty, and their power.
The authority vested in anyone who performs a marriage ceremony flows from a source. A sealing is also a civil union, meaning that either immediately before or at some time in the past, the relevant civic unit issues a license. The officiator of a ceremony validates, or puts into effect, that license. In temples, the sealer holds that authority, but its source is not from a school or a government or even from the Internet. When Christ tells Peter that what he seals on earth will be sealed in Heaven, this is the authority that is meant.
One final word: My husband died in July 2020. In July 2021, after a year, this sealing could be offered to him by proxy. He can accept it or not. The tears shed quietly on Friday were of joy and expectation of the hope that he will. There is no more “until death do us part.” The lighted ball at Reunion Tower (and yes, you can be married there) was covered in red hearts Friday evening. A coincidence? Of course. A sign from Heaven? Perhaps. Eternity and infinity are terms human minds cannot grasp. We can see their symbols all around. We can love, forever, and most of us believe it does last into whatever comes next. How sweet and good that feels on a Monday.
(I didn’t want to distract with links. That doesn’t mean you can’t look at some. Here a young woman summarizes what a temple marriage is like. Here is a picture of a sealing room in a temple in Chile. The relevant scripture references. “As the Bridegroom to His Chosen” is the song on my mind recently and hence the title.)