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Ritual Violence IV

I just read chandelle’s account of getting engaged in the LDS church. It illustrates pretty well what I was trying to say in my last ritual violence post:

it goes without saying that this destroyed my father. i’m an only child. my mother abandoned me when i was 2, so my dad had a lot invested in me. to that point, he’d never been anything but supportive about my desire to be a mormon. when i introduced him to jeremy, and then announced that we were getting married, he took it better than i would have expected. he welcomed jeremy into the family and congratulated us both. then we told him what “getting married” means to a couple of active, faithful, worthy mormons – namely, that he would be forbidden from seeing us be married.

it didn’t go over well.

the next morning, my stepmother called to inform me that my father had been drinking a great deal the night before. my father is a former alcoholic, so that was a pretty good indication of his mental state. they said that they would not be participating in the wedding plans at all, since they were not welcome to view the actual event themselves.

i was crushed, but buoyed by the sense of righteousness granted me because i was overcoming the “persecution” of my family to “live up to my church standards.” i had support all around from jeremy’s family and the ward i lived in, so much sympathy and admiration for destroying my family.

I really feel for the father. Not that I’m blaming anyone, least of all chandelle. I have enough blood on my hands in regard to excluding people from my wedding that I don’t need to add hypocrisy to my list of vices. It’s just a hard, unloving situation that we find ourselves in when we are trying to Do the Right Thing.

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  1. Kullervo said,

    January 24, 2008 @ 9:40 am

    My wife’s family was entirely excluded from our wedding, not being Mormon and all. They took it very hard, and seven years later there’s still some hurt and anger over it.

    Looking back, we wish we had eloped. I mean, we were true believrs so of course we were getting married in the temple, but including my family and excluding hers was a complete slap in the face.

  2. chandelle said,

    January 24, 2008 @ 12:55 pm

    we wanted to elope as well. we very nearly did because i couldn’t stand the pressure from my family and i couldn’t have cared less about the dress and flowers and crap…just not that kind of girl. i just wanted it to be us and not have all this cultural and religious baggage attached. maybe i should have known way back then that my time in the church was going to be pretty short.

    you know, reading it again here i am reminded of the pain that i suffer with to this day, having to sort out in myself the self-assurance and self-righteousness that made me think that i WAS doing the right thing and made me even, to a certain degree, thrive on my father’s unhappiness and devastation. those persecution complexes, man. they are compelling.

  3. Jonathan Blake said,

    January 24, 2008 @ 1:21 pm

    That’s why I’m leery of taking on the persecuted-minority shtick as an atheist. It’s just too tempting to get all self righteous, and then what good would my deconversion from religion be?

  4. Anonymous said,

    January 24, 2008 @ 5:07 pm

    But isn’t that a choice you made? How fair is it to your daughter to have her grow up being taught that it’s the only to be married at church, but at home knowing that you disapprove and will be crushed not to attend? On the other hand how fair is it to your wife, who obviously believes to not have her daughter have those blessings (whether or not you think they are false). Of course what I’m seeing her is an undercurrent of selfishness on your part, which is really very sad for your entire little family.

  5. Jonathan Blake said,

    January 24, 2008 @ 7:20 pm


    You’re right that it’s not a fair situation and that I am being selfish when I ask for some consideration in return for the sacrifices that I—like all parents—make. Having said that, I want the LDS way of doing things to get its fair share of culpability, too. The insistence in the U.S. on a temple wedding first—unlike in other places of the world—combined with the exclusion of non-LDS family and friends from those weddings are the root cause of the conflict. If the LDS lifted either of those restrictions in the spirit of love and compromise in order to bring families together, then I think there would be very few complaints.

    I don’t honestly expect temple sealings to be open to the public. I understand the idea of sacred space and how important it is to some people. I see no reason, however, to insist on performing a temple wedding first instead of allowing the couple to get married outside the temple where all can come together to celebrate and then being sealed soon thereafter. I stand ready to compromise. I would be perfectly content to see the wedding if the temple sealing happened afterward.

    Instead, no compromise is offered and non-LDS family and friends are consoled that they can choose to attend the temple if they are willing to become worthy. This is effectively saying:

    All* are welcome to come to the temple.

    * Participants are required to believe in God in the prescribed fashion; believe that Joseph Smith and all current LDS leaders are God’s representatives; join the LDS club; be obedient to the directives of the aforementioned leaders, both general and local; pay dues amounting to 10% of their income; attend club meetings regularly; work for the club without pay; avoid association with clubs and persons with views which oppose those of the LDS club; wear special underwear; and commit to stand ready to give the LDS club everything the they possess under penalty of disembowelment, dismemberment, and death. Only then will claimants be able to attend the temple wedding of their family members or friends.

    That’s no compromise. That’s using ritual to control people by holding their family weddings ransom while demanding that they do as you say. That’s the long way of expressing the same thing as I said at the end of Ritual Violence V.

    Is that what Jesus would do?

  6. chandelle said,

    January 24, 2008 @ 7:32 pm

    it’s exhausting just to read that.

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