Elizabeth Smart’s Mormon Temple Wedding
Elizabeth Smart married her Scottish fiancé, Matthew Gilmour, last Saturday (February 18, 2012) in a private ceremony in the Laie, Hawaii temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes misnamed the “Mormon Church” by the media). Elizabeth and Matthew, who are both Mormons, chose the Hawaii Mormon Temple because of the time Elizabeth spent on Oahu with her family recovering from her 9-month kidnapping ordeal as a young teen. Elizabeth, who was only 14 years old at the time, was abducted from her home at knife-point and forced into a polygamous “marriage” by Brian David Mitchell, a deranged man who raped Elizabeth repeatedly during the time he held her prisoner. After being rescued and reunited with her family, Elizabeth spent several months in Hawaii with them, and it has become a special place to her that she wanted to share with her new husband.
A Wedding for Time and for All Eternity
It is a wonderful thing to see Elizabeth’s amazing recovery from her horrifying ordeal crowned by such a beautiful moment as her wedding. Elizabeth and Matthew met while they were both Mormon missionaries in Paris, France. Although missionaries do not date, after their missions the two of them began seeing each other and fell in love. Because of their Mormon faith, Elizabeth and Matthew wanted to be married in the temple. In Mormon temples, faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have qualified by keeping God’s commandments make covenants, or promises, with God. One of the blessings they receive in return is that a couple who remain faithful to each other and to God can be married not just for this life, but for time and for all eternity. Their marriage will endure forever.
When they arrive at the temple on their wedding day, a bride and groom are taken to special rooms to prepare for their wedding. The bride’s room is one of the most lovely in the temple. There, escorted by her mother or another female family member or friend, the bride dresses in her wedding gown and adds finishing touches to her hair and makeup. The groom likewise changes from his street clothes to all white. After they are ready, the bride and groom are often escorted to the Celestial Room, which is the central room of the temple, designed to remind those who are there of the highest heaven. The bride and groom spend a few moments together in this beautiful room to gather their thoughts prior to the ceremony.
Meanwhile, the wedding guests arrive at the temple. Only adult members of the Church who qualify can enter the temple proper, so other guests and young people remain in the temple waiting rooms until the ceremony is over. The guests who will witness the ceremony are escorted to a room where they remove their street shoes, just as Moses removed his shoes when he approached the burning bush. Then, dressed in their Sunday best and stockinged feet, they are shown to the room where the wedding will take place.
The room inside the temple where weddings occur is called a “sealing room.” This room features an altar in the center, covered by a lacy altar cloth. Chairs are distributed in one or two rows along opposite side walls. Above the chairs are mirrors, which reflect the image of the beautiful chandelier hanging over the altar back and forth until it fades into the distance. Along a third wall is a bench where the bride and groom will sit; opposite the bench at the head of the altar are three chairs. One is for the “sealer,” who has priesthood authority to perform the ceremony, and the other are for each of the two witnesses, who are usually the fathers of the bride and groom.
A temple wedding is a form of “sealing,” which binds in heaven that which is bound on earth. It is the authority to perform a sealing as well as a civil and religious ceremony that sets a temple wedding apart from one held outside the temple. Jesus bestowed the sealing power upon Peter during His mortal ministry:
And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Matthew 16:9).
The authority to perform sealings, which was lost during the period of apostasy following the deaths of the early apostles, was restored to the earth and bestowed upon Joseph Smith by the prophet Elijah, who visited the Kirtland Temple of the Church in 1836 for this purpose (see The Doctrine and Covenants section 110). Since that time, the priesthood authority to perform sealings has been passed down to certain men, known as sealers, who have the specific assignment of performing ceremonies binding husbands and wives, parents and children in Mormon temples throughout the world.
A Mormon Temple Wedding Ceremony
The wedding guests wait in complete silence for the bride and groom to arrive. Mormons believe that the temple is the House of the Lord, and the most sacred place on the earth. Any conversation is kept to a whisper. The quiet atmosphere allows all those present to feel the presence of God, and to contemplate the great blessing which is about to be bestowed. The parents of the bride and groom arrive quietly and are seated, with the mothers sitting next to the bench where the bride and groom will be and the fathers sitting in the witness chairs. Then, the bride and groom enter and are seated next to each other on the bench.
Like most weddings, Mormon weddings begin with the sealer offering words of counsel to the bride and groom. In addition, he explains the nature of the wedding ceremony, and reviews the promises they will make to God along with the blessings God is promising them. He invites the bride and groom to kneel at the altar. The sealer then performs the ceremony. Afterwards, the bride and groom may kiss and exchange rings if they desire. Wedding guests are invited to congratulate the bride and groom quietly as they leave the sealing room.
One unique feature of a Mormon temple wedding in today’s world is that the bride and groom have had no sexual relations before the wedding. Only those who refrain from sexual activity outside of marriage are allowed to be married in the temple. It is thus certain that Elizabeth Smart and Matthew Gilmour did not move the time of their wedding ahead for any reason other than that they wanted it to be a private, personal day, sheltered from invasive media attention. A day when a couple makes such a sacred covenant with God and with another person should be one of the crowning days of their lives, and it appears that Elizabeth Smart’s special day lived up to her hopes. May all her dreams continue to come true.