MTV’s Engaged and Underage Episode 6: Mormon Temple Marriage and the Exclusion of Non-Members

MTV Engaged and Underage(Props to Tom Grover for the Head’s up)

MTV is running a series called “Engaged and Underage” on underage marriages in the U.S. One of the couples they are spotlighting is a Mormon couple — she was raised in the church, he converted.

Within this episode, they explore how hard it is for non-LDS families to be excluded from the wedding ceremony in the LDS temple. It’s definitely an interesting Mormon story.  Some parts are QUITE painful.

To watch the episode, click here and then click on the “Engaged and Underage: Episode 6 — Play All” link at the top right of the page (please let me know if these instructions work).

Then return, and discuss. :)

P.S. Where do they find these people?!?!?!?!?!?


  1. I second the last comment…lol. A strange conglomeration of humanity.

    My wife and I eloped to the temple… it solved all these little problems with non-LDS family.

    The conflict in the episode seemed to center around the brides desire that the ring ceremony not be in any way like a wedding, wasn’t there something about her envisioning her ring ceremony/reception only lasting an hour or two?

    Anyway, it brought me back to my brief stint in Utah… everything’s still the same

  2. Do you think Country is affecting things, or the computer configuration?

    What Operating System and browser are you running?

    Just for eliminations’ sake, I’ve tested on Mac/Firefox, PC/Firefox and PC/IE and all worked for me.

    Also, when you say that it’s not working, what exactly isn’t working? What happens when you click on the link?

    Let me know. Thanks!

  3. Proud Daughter of Eve

    To quote:
    “Copyrights restrict us from playing this video outside the US.”

  4. I thought MTV did a good job on this. I know it sounds odd, but MTV’s documentary’s and reality shows like this are often pretty well done.

    Mormonism is more than a religion, it’s an ethnicity with it’s own seperate culture, norms and practices. What we have here is two cultures colliding, but it is not recognized as such. The mother feels justifiably slighted, excluded from her own son’s wedding. The son tries to explain, but ultimately is futile in his efforts.

    The girl in this episode typifies the term “Bridezilla”.

    It’s MY wedding. MY day. MY decision.

    I am glad my wife is not like this, I would go nuts!

  5. “Copyrights restrict us from playing this video outside the US.”

    BUMMER! Majorly lame. :( Sorry about that, guys. If anyone can find this on Youtube, or elsewhere, or some type of workaround, please advise and I’ll post a link.

  6. I remember when this happened to me (I haven’t watched this yet, but can guess.) The problem for me was my parents aren’t idiots and know the difference between a ring ceremony and a wedding anyway. So we didn’t even do a ring ceremony. My family except my parents didn’t come. I think, in hindsight, I probably could have marketed it differently, but I didn’t really want to BS anyone. It’s all worked out over time.

  7. Most of my wife’s family is inactive/non-member and thus were unable to attend. We did a ring ceremony but it felt very…fake. It was a little awkward and we both wished we hadn’t done it.

    My sister just got married two weeks ago to her convert boyfriend. His parents did seem a little bothered, but they were never all that supportive of him joining the church or serving a mission, so this wasn’t too big a deal for him.

  8. Wow, this brought home lots of memories of my own temple wedding–John’s family (nonLDS) couldn’t attend. So we married in the temple early on a Wednesday morning, left on our honeymoon and came back and had a big reception that included both families (though his father still refused to attend).

    Fortunately, I think we were just a bit more mature in the way we handled everything–meaning that I don’t think I ever pouted about it being ‘my wedding.’ :)

  9. Worked for me, and I’m sure that Tennessee is in the U.S..

    I did go to an English webpage first then pasted the link into the address bar. I think the originating page is what labels you as U.S..

  10. I saw this on TV. The bride was rather immature, but then, she was only 19.

    I got married at 18.

    My husband didn’t understand why they just didn’t have a civil ceremony first and then get sealed in the temple the same day. I told him the church frowns on that but couldn’t think why it’s frowned on. I reminded him that when we got married (civilly, since I’d only been a member a couple months), the ceremony was in the relief society room rather than the chapel.

  11. A few thoughts….

    Why wasn’t this guy going on a mission?

    You can tell from the groom to be’s night before the wedding before wife beater, that the couple was doing their endowment and marriage on the same day. I don’t know why anyone would do that. It takes a least a month to process the endowment alone.

    My parents aren’t members and they’re were upset that they couldn’t go inside the temple too. But a good ring ceremony really can do wonders. We didn’t have anyone “MC” it. My dad walked me down the aisle. I said some comments, my husband said some comments and explained the temple a bit, my best friend read a scripture, my husband’s best friend played guitar while his wife sang a song. We exchanged rings with a pledge of “I give you this ring as a symbol of my eternal love.” Then my dad gave a toast and presented us as couple. It was lovely and soothed all the non-member’s bitterness. Some, like the girl in the show, obsess about the ring ceremony not being too much like a wedding, and we were sensitive to that, but in many ways, who the heck cares? People say that you don’t want to take away from the significance of the fact they you were already married in the temple, but do you think your parents, who have painfully thought about how they will miss your nuptials for the past 6 months, have forgotten that it is not a real wedding? I don’t think there is much chance of a mix up. And when it comes to erring, I would rather err on the side of honoring those who raised you, then honoring the made up commandment of “thou shalt not have a ring ceremony that it too much like an actual wedding.”

    The comments from the groom’s sisters about how the church is all about the family and yet left the family out of the wedding certainly stung. I used to rail about this before I got sealed. But then I realized that it would be far more disturbing to have had my parents see me in my temple garb, giving a secret sign to my husband. I actually think it is psychologically better from non-members to wait outside.
    Also, I think we often fail to mention that even a 22 year old non-endowed Mormon person could not see the wedding either. We often frame it as, non-members can’t come in because they are not Mormon or not worthy. But clearly as in the case of non-endowed worthy members, membership and faithfulness are not issues. Perhaps we should couch the exclusion of others as based on being “un-initiated” not un-worthy.

    Finally Susan M, as I understand it, the church has a policy that if you are civilly married before your temple marriage, you must wait a year to be sealed. I believe the policy was put into place to avoid people having the very understandable desire to do just what you recommended.

  12. Oh yeah, I forgot about that.

    I’m sure a lot of people wondered why my husband wasn’t going on a mission. He was even planning on going when we started dating and he got married instead.

    I think the couple could’ve explained to the guy’s mother that a temple wedding isn’t like a normal wedding. There’s no big spectacle or ceremony. No singing, walking down the aisle, etc.

  13. In the UK (at least ten years ago, I presume still today) the laws were such that a civil marriage was required. So folks got the civil marriage outside the temple and the sealing done on the same day. Everybody happy.

    Being from a non-WASP culture can help ease these issues too. We got sealed, had a standard (lame other than at least hanging out with friends) under-the-church-basketball hoop reception, then several weeks later did a full on wedding from a different culture. The relatives there knew we were already legally and religiously married, but all they saw was a big fun party done up their way and whispered to us “yeah, but we all know this is the *real* wedding”. We were happy, they were happy, all worked out.

  14. So this episode already played? Or do we still have a chance to watch the whole thing as a rerun this week? I tried to find it on their online schedule, but it wasn’t working for me.

  15. The whole episode? I guess I should have realized that from what you said before. Duh. No, it stops about a minute in, and I thought it was just a weirdly edited teaser. I guess I got the opening segment or something. I’ll try again tomorrow when it’s not been quite so long a day.

  16. I think it would be OK for the church to allow U.S. members to marry civilly first and then in the temple to be inclusive.

    The current situation creates animosity that lasts a lifetime toward family members and the Church institution, it’s no good.

    Civil marriages, when necessary, could be performed at the Joseph Smith Memorial and then in the temple (at least in Salt Lake).

    I also think the Church should do more to promote a more deliberative dating and courtship process. These two kids are very immature and short with each other. I would be interested to see how their marriage is in 5 years. I think a lot of people who get married this young sadly miss out on such a wonderful chapter of life- being single and free and adventerous and spontaneous without binding responsibility. How wonderful that experience is! I look back on that chapter of life with immense satisfaction.

    I felt constant pressure as a single from Bishops, CES firesides and others to get married. Fortunately, my social awkwardness around really hot chicks provided a barrier that made my single years adequately long. I got married at almost 25 years old to a wonderful gal who saw through my social retardedness. ;-) I had just enough of the single life. I am glad that I didn’t hop on the first ride to the celestial kingdom (in my case, that would have been HELL!). The Church needs to promote more discretion in mate selection and that it’s OK to wait until your mid to late 20’s or even 30’s to get married. I could also go off on an economics and social responsibility tangent, but I’ll hold off for now.


    I saw this on MTV at about 11 PM Tuesday night. Yes I’m 26, graduated college, and I still watch MTV. MTV reality shows remain my immature guilty pleasure. Everyone go ahead and laugh at the 26 year old who watches TV aimed at kids 10 years his junior! HA! HA! (But REALLY they do good documentarys!)

  17. Tom right on about the church letting people get married civilly first. Why not? As you say, few things leave such a bad taste in people’s mouths about Mormonism than the current exclusive policy.

    And don’t feel bad about your love of MTV. I am a 26 year old myself and I still love to watch MTV. It is my guilty pleasure. Especially the trashy dating shows. Oh yeah and the great documentaries too. Especially when I am at the gym. It really takes the mind off the task at hand.

  18. Many perceive the current policy as a “control” or “incentive” issue for the Church–incentivizing nonmember or nonobservant family members to join or become observant. The price of remaining a nonobservant or nonmember parent is to be excluded entirely from the wedding ceremony (as distinct from the reception or the ring exchange nonwedding).

    Allowing couples to be married civilly then immediately sealed might undermine this “control” and “incentive”, because then the nonobservant or nonmember parent or family member could observe the civil/lifetime marriage portion of the wedding. Couples who would like their nonobservant or nonmember family members to be present for the civil/lifetime aspect of the marriage are penalized by being forced to wait a year before the religious sealing aspect is performed.

    This has not always been the Church’s policy. Wasn’t Mitt Romney married civilly and shortly thereafter sealed? Is there a reason for our one year wait policy–other than “control” or “incentivizing”–or other than that the Brethren have set the policy, so no discussion is permitted?

  19. Thanks for letting me know about this, John. I’m old enough to channel-surf past MTV without even dangling my toe in its waters.

    It really does seem like a control or incentive issue, particularly given current practice in other countries that demonstrates it isn’t strictly necessary to be sealed prior to a civil marriage. If there is a simpler explanation that makes sense, I’m oblivious to it.

    One thing I’d add is that our language reflects an institutional bias that blames the outgroup member. When we say that “Sam and Sally weren’t *able* to attend their child’s wedding,” we imply that they are deficient in some way. I’d rather see it put in a light that reflects it to be an institutional decision. Something like, “Sam and Sally weren’t *permitted* to attend their child’s wedding” begins to get at it. I’m sure someone can think of a better way to say it succinctly and still convey the point that it is a church policy that divides family members based on their group membership.

  20. I think that it’s interesting that one of the customs of the early Christian church was to publicly announce upcoming marriages. One reason for that was to allow anyone who had a reason to protest a marriage (such as someone knowing one of the parties is previously/polygamously married to someone else) the opportunity to do so. Likewise, weddings were public affairs for exactly the same reason. See more here:

    It’s interesting that originally, an LDS sealing was not open to the public, precisely to keep polygamous marriages secret. I think maybe centuries of tradition may be the wiser choice than secret weddings.

  21. Wow. That was frustrating. Amanda, especially, showed how immature and selfish she was. No, honey, it’s not “my” wedding, it is for both the bride and groom–and the two families who are joined through the union of the couple. I know in our individualistic America, it’s not always seen so communally, but that’s my take.

    I also got married at 19, and excluded some family (uncle/aunt, grandpa) and thought little of it. Now I feel terrible. I used to think that “the non-TR holders should just convert/get worthy and come if they really want to come!” But I see how close-minded and naive I was on that. There are lots of reasons to not do that. So I felt the excluded family’s pain. The one comment about the hypocrisy of the church in emphasizing family, then excluding family was strong.

    I understand it’s in the Church Handbook of Instructions that ring ceremonies can be held, but they should be minimized, led by a bishop, and very Mormon oriented (opened with prayer, etc). Which would only serve to further alienate the non-Mormon family, IMO. I thought the ceremony in the video was well-done, from what we saw.

  22. All I can say is that this policy has completely destroyed any sort of good will the church may have had in my family, especially my mother. What had been a positive impression of Mormons and Mormonism has now become blinding hatred and opposition to everything the LDS church stands for. Seriously – it was nasty.

    Fortunately, the shrew that I married in the Bountiful Temple divorced me 16 months later. Wedding #2 was held in the backyard of a lovely bed & breakfast in Pinehurst, North Carolina and I was honored to have my family there.

    But my family’s extreme disgust with the LDS church continues to this day…

  23. I think this is going to be the next thing the church makes a big change on. They will make some kind of concession for non-LDS family members so they can view the sealing ceremony. Sealing ceremonies used to be done in Sealing houses and that may be a way that they would comprimise.

    I could be wrong but, I believe that if you get married civilly first you have to wait a year to get married in the Temple. That would be a much easier concession for the church to make though.

    This problem is really unrealized from within mormonism. Most members don’t really give it much thought unless personally confronted with it.


    I completely agree that the church needs to promote more discretion in mate selection. It might be hard though given comments by past prophets that any two people living the gospel could make a marriage work and bishops, CES, and members pressuring youth to marry fast. Many mission president still give the marriage talk to exiting missionaries.

    These really are cultures clashing and it will be a long, slow change.

  24. I forgot about civil marriage required outside the temple in other countries. Whether you do or don’t have to wait a year in the U.S. this might be a way the church compromises with non-LDS members.

  25. I would have felt bad for the guy’s mother no matter what, since her 19-year-old son was apparently throwing his life away — but the anti-Family reality of the temple wedding practice made it so much worse for her.

    I’m sure that my parents’ wedding in the SLC temple set the tone for the relationship that my mom had with her in-laws, my non-Mormon grandparents.

    Mormons should definitely change this practice — and not only when the couples are of mixed religious background. All Mormons should only be sealed in the temple “for eternity” and that sealing should not be a legal marriage. The legal marriage “for time” should be done in public.

  26. Now that I’ve seen the thing, I don’t get the “underage” part. They’re both 19 and legal adults, not children. With modern family planning, what’s wrong with lovers getting married young while persuing education and delaying a family? Seems a lot better than the alternative.

    The hard feelings created by the temple wedding are very sad. They should have had their bishop marry them. BTW, the one year wait period for a temple sealing leaks like a sieve if you know a temple pres and there were no pre-marriage worthiness issues. My wife and I waited a year because we were living together before having the Bishop marry us, but I know a number of couples who weren’t held to that silliness.

  27. It would have killed my non-LDS in-laws to not see their daughter’s wedding, so I’m very grateful that my wife and I decided to get married civilly first. She was baptized 6 months prior and had to wait 1 year after baptism to be sealed (I’m sure it would have been a year from the wedding day if there were worthiness issues involved, but there weren’t so we were sealed 6 months later).

    We were looked down upon by many ward members for doing what we did, despite our good reasons for getting married civilly first (why prolong it when there are raging bags of hormones in the mix?) Now that I know how unnecessary it is to do a silly handshake while getting married, I’m glad we did what we did….and as for our old Ward members who judged us…they can just keep on judging us more and more now that we’re out of the church! :o)

    Thanks for sharing this, John, and thank you to MTV for helping spread the word about how the “family centered church” may not be so family centered, but hierarchically control centered.

  28. what a [edited].. that girl is way too immature, young, and selfish. i feel bad for this guy, converting to her religion, listening to her pout, etc… i don’t like them and doubt they’ll last forever.

  29. hanging in there

    I really want to see this film, but I live in Canada, and the link didn’t work. If anybody knows of a way, please let me know. This topic is one that I am very close to and have VERY strong feelings about.

    I am a convert who was married in the temple, 30 years ago, to a life-long member (whose family tree goes back to Nauvoo), when I was 19 and he was 21. My family, of course, could not attend the wedding, but drove the 2 1/2 hours to be there anyway. It is still one of the most painful moments of my life! When my mother handed my future mother-in-law my wedding dress (that she had lovingly made herself) and we turned and walked away towards the temple, a well-meaning but insensitive woman came up to her and asked if she would like to watch a film in the visitors centre while she was waiting. She could hardly answer, she was so upset and walked off angry and upset and crying.

    The whole thing was a horrible emotional experience for everyone, on what should have been a joyous celebration. I cried the whole way through the wedding ceremony, and to this day cannot think of my wedding day without feeling sick to my stomach.

    We were told by our well-meaning bishop that having anything like a ring ceremony would be a mockery of the temple and so at the time, we believed there was no other option but a temple marriage and reception. My husband and I were both very committed and wanted to do the right thing, believing that if we would hold fast to the truth, someday my family would understand and embrace the gospel. Sadly, that day never came. My mother died 21 years ago and to this day, my father still reminds me of how I broke her heart. I know I broke his heart as well when he couldn’t walk me down the aisle, but fortunately I have had a little more time to express my love to him and try and heal the wounds.

    I realize now, that I spent too many years thinking about my family through the distorted lens of “I have the church and you don’t, so I have to spend all my time and effort teaching you about it.” It took me many years to realize the damage this attitude did to our relationship, and I have spent the last few years working very hard to not think of my family as “non-members who need the truth”, but simply as wonderful, loving people. Our relationship has improved a lot, but I feel really bad for the pain that I caused them.

    The difficult thing about this issue is that the whole “wait for a year” thing is really just a policy issue that has nothing to do with church doctrine. Civil marriage is recognized by the church, but just not as the highest form of marriage. Had we been married 10 years earlier, we could have had a civil marriage and a temple marriage all on the same day. The issue for me is really about the wait of one year and the pressure that is placed on members of the church to only consider being married in the temple, even when family members can’t be present.

    There was so much pressure to marry in the temple that we really didn’t think it was an option to do anything else. We were also quite young and really trusted in our leaders. Had we to do it over again, we would have a civil marriage that all family members could participate in, followed by a temple marriage a year later, attended by only those family members for whom the temple ceremony means something. In the long run, waiting the year would not have made any difference to our eternal salvation!

    I believe that this is a terribly heartless policy! In virtually every other religion and culture in the world, marriage is a time for communities and families to rally around the couple and support and celebrate with them such a wonderful event in their lives.

    It’s too late for me, but there are many other young people who could benefit from a change in this policy. When will our church leaders, who are always speaking about the sacredness and importance of the family, realize that this policy hurts families and creates in those people who are adversely affected, a very negative image of the church?

  30. When I read “hanging in there’s” comments, I’m totally agreeing that it’s really unfortate, and it probably would have been very appropriate to have “something” that was right for their situation. I also understand the underlying pressure to blindly follow what is right (or what you’ve heard is right).
    I can also see that things might have gotten out of hand with having two ceremonies. If you think about it, what sounds more exciting: A ceremony you are planning to your comfort and specifications or a mystery non-ceremony? It’s my feeling that they just want the main focus to be on the spiritual so that you are inclined to prepare accordingly. I mean, how much planning goes into even a small, civil ceremony? A TON. There’s a relatively small amount that goes into a temple ceremony, except that you will be making serious covenants so that’s where your preparations end up being.
    That said, I personally think it’s one of those things you have to decide for yourself, and no one can tell you it’s not right. If one side of the wedding isn’t mormon and it seems like the right thing to do to have a ceremony of anykind, that’s probably right.

  31. What a sad dilemma.

    This did not occur with my family, as we got married in a different church following my excommunication from the mormon church. (I fell in love with a Baptist).

    I had many friends in my old church, and they came to my wedding, and were welcomed with open arms. They actually even got to sit on the front row, since my LDS family (Mom, Dad, Brother, and 2 Sisters) refused to attend. It still hurts, 21 years later. Things never healed for me and them, despite my many efforts. At our wedding, my friends were made welcome from start to finish, and not one of my wife’s church members tried to “preach” to or convert them.

    Amazingly, my father even left the LDS church before his death, and became a Catholic. I couldn’t understand how something that meant enough to him to miss his youngest son’s wedding didn’t mean much for long…

    The exclusionary policy meant that I couldn’t attend my brother’s wedding either. He’s still LDS, and doesn’t speak to me since dad died.

    All this has mad me sad again…

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