This is a complicated post for me to write. A little background information: I am LDS and Husband is not. One of the essential ordinances in the LDS faith is marriage in a temple. [An ordinance, by the way, is like a Catholic sacrament – it is a religious rite or ceremony.] A temple is not a church. We go to church on Sunday and anybody can go to church. Temples, on the other hand, are used for specific ordinances and only baptized members of the LDS church who are qualified to enter can attend. [A member is qualified, by the way, if he or she is abiding by all of the church’s commandments and completes an interview with a church leader.]
My parents were married in the Salt Lake City, UT temple. My mother’s parents were married in the Salt Lake City temple. My brother was married in the Mesa, AZ temple, as my sister will be this month. I can’t think of a single married Mormon who didn’t get married in a temple. We’re taught from a very young age, that this is the place to get married. A marriage anywhere else will bind two people on earth, but only a temple marriage will bind you in heaven. I was never one of those girls who dreamed about her wedding day, or even really thought about it, but I always supposed it’d be in a temple. It didn’t really matter which one, although I was partial to the big, beautiful building in Washington D.C.
And then I met and dated and fell in love with Husband. As I mentioned, he’s not LDS. So although I thought about marrying him for years before we got engaged, I never really pictured how it would go down. A temple wedding was out of the question unless he converted, which, in spite of lots of hopes and tears and effort, didn’t happen. Which, from where I sit now, will probably not happen. Again, despite lots of hopes and tears and effort.
When he proposed, I was terrified and I was terrified to tell my family. When we started making plans, I hated every venue in every magazine. I held out hope that we would find a way to marry outside, even though the wedding would be in Arizona, in August (average high: 103). I scoured the internet for images of a city hall buildings that weren’t utterly depressing. I knew that nothing could really make up for not wedding in a temple, but I hoped to find a place that would let me feel and see something other than what I was missing.
Eventually, blessedly, I found this: a more than modest chapel buried in a patch of desert in a crumbly old neighborhood in the heart of Tucson, a city that’s definitely seen better years.
This is not the temple.
It is tiny. Its harsh wooden pews seat 64 people. It is surrounded by low-lying cacti and dirt. It is not even a church anymore, but a historic building owned by a neighborhood association. Erected in 1915, it’s been rebuilt on two separate occasions, once after being blown apart by a tornado. It originally served one of Arizona’s earliest immigrant communities. It bears a disturbing similarity to the chapel in Quentin Tarantino’s epically gruesome Kill Bill. For us, it was a perfect embodiment of the city where Husband and I met and fell in love, of the landscape in which our romance played out, and of the region from which we were both forged.
I still share and revere the LDS perspective on the significance of temple marriage. If I’m being perfectly honest, I hold out hope that Husband and I will attend a temple someday. But I also value the freedom that not being able to marry in the temple gave us. We found a place that aligned beautifully with our values and personalities. I realized that it was possible for me, a very religious person, to get married in a place with deep personal significance, even if it wasn’t a church or a temple. Our little chapel in the desert did more than distract me from what I was missing – it reminded me who am I and what I was building.
P.S. Here is a temple. For Photo Friday’s sake.