Those I Hurt With My Belief

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The other day, while driving my kids to school, we passed by the Houston Mormon Temple, as we always do.  My son, Jordan, asked, “Dad, is that really where you and Mom got married?”

I replied, “Yup. That’s the Mormon Temple.”

Our family is no longer Mormon, so he asked, “Why did y’all get married there?”

“Because we believed that’s what God wanted us to do, even though very few people actually saw us get married.”

Confused, “What do you mean?”

“Well, only certain Mormons are allowed in there, so when we got married, my parents, none of mine or Mom’s friends and virtually all of our brothers and sisters were not allowed in. So almost no one we cared about actually saw us get married.”

Even more confused, “Why would you do that?”

“Because that’s what we thought God wanted us to do.”

He says, “That doesn’t sound like something God would want you to do…”

I give him a high five and say, “You’re 9 yrs old and already smarter than I was….”

Since having that conversation with my kids, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about those people that I hurt by excluding them from my wedding.  I’ve already discussed the reasons why we chose to get married in the Mormon Temple and who was excluded in this post, A Pay to Play Wedding.  This post will focus on the pain my decision caused those I love.

I didn’t realize the actual harm and hurt I caused by making the decision to exclude my non-Mormon friends in my wedding.  It wasn’t until 13 years later, having left Mormonism, that my friends finally opened up to me.  I don’t blame them.  They kept their thoughts and feelings to themselves because they loved and didn’t want to hurt me.  They knew I was doing what I believed was right and they supported me, even though it pained them.  Here are some of the things my friends told me:

“I cried the morning of your wedding because I couldn’t be a part of it.  Then I dried my tears and went to see you at the Mormon Temple, that I wasn’t allowed to enter, to see you walk out a married man.  I missed it.  We hugged, took some pictures.  Then I cried again on my drive home.”

“I felt less than or unworthy, when you told me I couldn’t see you take your vows.”

“It upset me.  We’ve been so close our whole lives.  Why was I excluded?!”

“Confused.  I didn’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to see a good friend get married.”

Hearing those words was a punch in my gut but that pales in comparison to how it felt for them to be excluded.  

A Mormon person will read those responses and might say, “They just don’t understand why we get married in the temple.  How it’s sacred and for all eternity.  If they understood, they wouldn’t feel that way.”

Well, my Mom and Dad are Mormon.  They fully understand why we chose to exclude them in the ceremony by marrying in the Mormon temple.  It still hurt them quite a bit not see me take my vows.  In fact, it hurt so much that my Mom never came to the temple that day.  She couldn’t without crying, so she stayed away to ensure I had a good experience.

What I see now, that I didn’t see then, is the sacrifice my family and friends made for me.  A heartbreaking and unnecessary sacrifice.  Why must so many people we love have to pay the price and bear the pain of missing out on a joyous occasion like a wedding?  Why do I have to come to this realization years later and feel the pain my choices caused others and myself?

I would be easy to blame Mormonism…. soooooo easy….. since it’s them that indoctrinates their children/youth/adults with the belief that no wedding is as good or valid as a temple wedding, regardless of the cost.  It would be so easy to blame them, since they could change the policy tomorrow to match the policy they have in England and other countries, where you get married civilly first and then you have the temple ceremony days later.  It would be easy and logical….

But I can’t.  Not fully.  I am the one who chose to exclude my parents, siblings and friends from my wedding.  I am the one who believed it was the right decision and what God wanted.  I am the one who couldn’t see the pain it was causing others.  I was the selfish one.  Those are my actions and I own them.  

I apologize to everyone I hurt.  One of the reasons Bonnie and I are having a Vow Renewal Ceremony in two weeks is because you were excluded.  The other is because we’ve changed so much the past 15 years; we feel a new commitment is needed and to be celebrated.  We can’t wait to take our vows in front of ALL our family and friends.  The way it should be.  

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