It’s April and we’re heading into wedding season. For families that are part LDS and part not, this can be very a difficult time. Faithful and worthy betrothed Mormons are married in LDS temples, which means their non-LDS (or LDS but unworthy or young) family members cannot attend.
The Arizona Republic recently ran a very sensitive and thoughtful article about one such family. “Non-Mormon family not being allowed to attend son’s wedding was wrenching,” by Jamie Rose, tells the story of Cheri Richardson and her struggle to come to terms with her son’s conversion to Mormonism, which ultimately resulted in a temple wedding that his family could not share.
From the time of Chase Richardson’s conversion to the LDS Church Cheri held out hope that, when the time came, her son would choose to marry outside the temple, maybe in a pre-temple civil ceremony, that the family could attend. Even when Chase became engaged to a wonderful Mormon girl (Annie), Cheri held on to that hope. For a while they all seemed to avoid talking about the location of the upcoming wedding. Then, one day,
“Cheri read about it on Annie’s Facebook page: Chase and Annie would be married on March 12, 2010, in the Mesa temple. Beneath Annie’s announcement, a few friends from church had already responded with excitement: ‘We’ll be there!’
“Cheri didn’t know them. They’d be at her son’s wedding. She wouldn’t.”
Cheri went on to explain,
“‘What is hurtful to me is that because of his beliefs, it feels like we’re being forced out,’ Cheri says, ‘and the reason we can’t be there is probably the most hurtful — that we’re deemed “unworthy” by the church to enter the temple.
“‘You’re there for 3 a.m. feedings. You’re there at every single game and headache and shot and broken bone and parent-teacher conference. You hug him when he’s got his heart broken for not making the basketball team, and to be told you’re not worthy to be there on his most important day?'”
The article quotes LDS spokeswoman Kim Farah, “It is easy to understand how feelings of exclusion can develop, but exclusion is never intended.” As a way to consider the feelings of family members who are not temple worthy, the article notes,
“The church allows a family gathering, often called a ‘ring ceremony,’ to be held before or after a temple wedding. Rings are not a part of a temple wedding and can be exchanged informally inside or outside a temple, Farah says, as long as vows are not exchanged, also.
“Cheri read enough about ring ceremonies to know the moment would feel forced and empty.”
Traditionally, one very important element of the Christian sacrament of marriage is the exchange of vows “before God and witnesses.” Therefore, the sort of “ring ceremony” allowed by the LDS Church has great potential to add insult to injury. That’s how Cheri saw it, anyway.
Though Chase and Annie wanted Chase’s mom, dad and sister to wait outside the temple during the wedding, and wanted to find them there immediately afterward, Cheri didn’t think she could do it. To her, conforming to the Church’s rules “would feel as if the church had won.” The day before the wedding Cheri and Chase spoke on the phone. He sounded lonely.
“My heart was breaking for him,” Cheri says. “Before he could even ask, I said, ‘Please. Please, Chase. Don’t ask me. Please. You know I can’t.'”
But in the end Cheri was there. Though she believed the Church was wrong both in policy and doctrine, though she felt humiliated and judged waiting outside the temple, though she continued to be frustrated with this religion that threatened to drive a wedge between mother and son, Cheri loved her son and decided to share in whatever part of that important day she was allowed.
Cheri’s heart broke on her son’s wedding day. Loving him unconditionally didn’t diminish the “wrenching” anguish his LDS temple wedding imposed on his “unworthy” family members. So many parents struggle with these issues when a child leaves his or her family’s faith for Mormonism. As wedding season approaches, parents, remember this. Cheri Richardson found a way to hold on to both of her loves: her love for her son, and her love for her God. With God’s help, you will find a way through the heartache, too.
Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.