The metaphor of a marriage is often used to describe the relationship between the Savior and His Church. The Savior is the Bridegroom and the Church is the Bride. This metaphor is useful because the Church can instruct husbands that they should love their wives with all their hearts; to be willing to give up their lives for their wives just as the Savior gave his life for the Church. This metaphor also has other potential applications, pointing towards the festivities that will take place when The Bridegroom and The Bride ultimately unite in their bond of holy matrimony.
A few Saturdays ago my wife and I experienced an unusual confluence of events that led me to ponder marriage traditions (ours and others), the meaning of wedding parties and feasts, and the wedding feast that is supposed to take place at the Second Coming.
At the time Diane was preparing an assigned talk on the Sermon on the Mount. As part of her preparations she somehow ended up reading a CES talk by Elder Holland that discussed the meaning of the â€œwedding feastâ€? that is supposed to take place as a part of the Second Coming. In this talk he stated:
In the language of the scriptures, we are the ones designated in all of history who must prepare the bride for the advent of the Bridegroom and be worthy of an invitation to the wedding feast. Collectively speakingâ€”whether it is in our lifetime or our childrenâ€™s or our grandchildrenâ€™s or wheneverâ€”we nevertheless have the responsibility as a Church and as individual members of that Church to be worthy to have Christ come to us, to be worthy to have Him greet us, and to have Him accept and receive and embrace us. The lives we present to Him in that sacred hour must be worthy of Him!
Consequently we were discussing this feast and what it might be like.
In the morning on this particular Saturday, we decided that we would go to the temple. We chose to perform proxy sealings. It was a very spiritually satisfying experience and we left feeling happy and refreshed.
Later that same day we attended a wedding of some good friends of ours. This wedding was remarkable for a number of reasons.
First, this was truly a multicultural affair combining a number of traditions. The bride was Chinese and the groom was (South Asia) Indian. Numerous family members and friends attended and many were dressed in their very best clothing that was representative of their respective cultures. The Indian women were particularly resplendent in their elegant saris and for the intricately designed gold necklaces and earrings that they were wearing. At a certain point of the wedding, a friend of the bride and groom spoke and said that the bride had wanted â€œa simple weddingâ€? but that â€œthe two oldest civilizations in the world have conspired against you.â€? There was plenty of evidence to back this up and it was a major pleasure to observe simultaneous merging of two families and two ancient cultures.
A third culture, the Latter-day Saint culture, was also present at this wedding, because an LDS bishop officiated over the civil wedding ceremony. My wife and I had that very morning heard the sealing ordinance performed many times, and we looked at each other with some surprise as we heard the LDS bishop using phraseology that was largely lifted and adapted from the wording of the sealing ceremony. Of course there were significant omissions and edits but there was no doubt whatsoever that the bishop had taken everything he possibly could from the LDS sealing ceremony and adapted it to this civil ceremony. He also ended the ceremony â€œin the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.â€?
At first I wondered if this ending was appropriate (as the groomâ€™s family, to my knowledge, is not of the Christian religion). Then it occurred to me that the brideâ€™s family was in charge of this part of the event and that an LDS bishop cannot be expected to abandon expressions of Christianity. If a rabbi were to officiate at a similar type of event I wouldnâ€™t be perturbed to hear him say â€œBaruch Ha-Shemâ€? or â€œAdonai.â€? I pondered why I had been surprised at the phraseology being used from the sealing ceremony. It wasn’t so much that I objected at all to the language and what it meant. I simply wasn’t accustomed to hearing so much of that language outside of the temple setting.
But letâ€™s move on â€¦
Second, Salt Lake City’s Grand America Hotel is a wonderful place for any event. The hotel takes up an entire city block and has very spacious hallways and conference rooms. The rooms inside are tastefully and luxuriously decorated. The hotel also features beautiful courtyards and patios where outdoor events can be held. Iâ€™ve only been in this hotel a few times but itâ€™s always a pleasure to be there. From my experience, this hotel really aims to please in original and delightful ways. It was an excellent elegant setting for a marriage celebration.
Third, this wedding involved the participants eating a lot of great food. After the wedding ceremony was completed, we went out onto the patio to chat with others and snack on crab, shrimp and vegetables to our hearts content. There was also orange juice to drink. After this we went into a banquet hall for the actual wedding feast. There were two extensive buffet-style spreads to choose from. One was vegetarian and one had meat (fish, chicken and steaks were available). I believe the vegetarian option was made because the groom and much of his family practices Jainism (a religion that forbids violence against any living creature). Finally, dessert was its own affair. We were invited to go to yet another spacious and beautiful room (with an entrance that led out to a porch area or patio) where guests were allowed to select from a wide variety of delicious pastries. Guests were also offered coffee or tea if they so desired.
I would add a fourth point to this, but we missed the music, dancing and karoake portions of the wedding. We had to go home and give Max the marvelous pug his walk. Due to wedding preparations and festivities no one had been there all day to take care of the family dog.
Though I was sad to miss the music and dancing portion of this wedding, I was still quite in awe of what I had experienced. It was incredibly satisfying to take part in these festivities, to see the scope of planning and execution that had taken place, to mingle with and observe all the other guests, to eat such delicious food. And I was led to reflect on the idea that in some way I had been given a small glimpse of the much greater grandeur, beauty and multicultural (D&C 58:9) aspects of the wedding feast that will take place after the Second Coming.
I have not experienced many luxurious weddings like this one. Of course I have attended temple ceremonies for the living besides my own and have always enjoyed the transcendent beauty of LDS temples. Iâ€™m grateful for the LDS sealing ceremony and believe it to be one of the ultimate expressions of authoritative priesthood power. I wouldnâ€™t want to replace that with anything else. Any lingering concerns or reservations that I have are more to do with the traditional festivities that take place after LDS sealings. As you will see, my concerns are more with symbolism than substance.
In LDS culture we often replace the wedding feast or wedding banquet with a wedding reception that is held in ward buildings and cultural halls. There is nothing about this tradition that is unwholesome. Perhaps with LDS families as large as they are (I have more than sixty cousins) and with the financial burdens that are already shouldered (tithings and offerings, missions, university educations, etc.) this is the best and only way to go. Any more expensive expectations could break our backs and even create a sense of rivalry and competition between some of the Saints (in their attempts to be more lavish than one another). We don’t need another reason for either debt or dissension.
I have wondered though, recently, if as a resulting downside of the reception tradition we are missing out not only on the “let’s get down and really party and dance” aspect of many weddings but also on the potential richness of the wedding feast metaphor. The family makes its preparations. As guests we show up, drop off a gift, stand in a line, shake hands with the bride and groom (and their families), chat a bit with some friends, eat a few desserts, and then leave. The efficiency and speed at which this can be done is astonishing. On more than one occasion I’ve gone through all these steps in as little as 15-20 minutes. Unless I am friends with a lot of the other guests (which surprisingly often is not the case), there is little reason to tarry.
It seems then that from a symbolic and scriptural standpoint, the LDS wedding reception tradition cannot begin to approach the pattern that will be set by the final wedding feast that is to take place.
I’ve already outlined some reasons why the reception tradition might be the best thing for us at this time. Rather than revelry and lavish festivities, our main focus is on temple worthiness, temple sealings and our eternal family unions. Festivities play a secondary role. For now we are temporarily exercising some restraint and economy in our expressions of joy, hoping to endure faithfully until we and our families are safely at the other side of the judgment bar. At that point the feelings of contentment, peace, consolation, joy and revelry will no doubt surpass our current understanding or anything we have ever experienced previously. We can only attempt to imagine what the celebration will be like then. (Isaiah 64:4, Haggai 2:8, John 14:2)
As I pondered the topic of â€œthe wedding feastâ€?, I did a scripture search. While I did not feel there was a huge body of scripture to deal with on this exact topic, there are certainly some scriptures that are worthy of consideration:
1 And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said,
2 The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son,
3 And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.
4 Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage.
5 But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise:
6 And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them.
7 But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.
8 Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy.
9 Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.
10 So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.
11 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:
12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.
13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
14 For many are called, but few are chosen.
And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.
Doctrine and Covenants 58:6-12
6 Behold, verily I say unto you, for this cause I have sent youâ€”that you might be obedient, and that your hearts might be prepared to bear testimony of the things which are to come;
7 And also that you might be honored in laying the foundation, and in bearing record of the land upon which the Zion of God shall stand;
8 And also that a feast of fat things might be prepared for the poor; yea, a feast of fat things, of wine on the lees well refined, that the earth may know that the mouths of the prophets shall not fail;
9 Yea, a supper of the house of the Lord, well prepared, unto which all nations shall be invited.
10 First, the rich and the learned, the wise and the noble;
11 And after that cometh the day of my power; then shall the poor, the lame, and the blind, and the deaf, come in unto the marriage of the Lamb, and partake of the supper of the Lord, prepared for the great day to come.
12 Behold, I, the Lord, have spoken it.
Doctrine and Covenants 65:3
1 Hearken, and lo, a voice as of one sent down from on high, who is mighty and powerful, whose going forth is unto the ends of the earth, yea, whose voice is unto menâ€”Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
2 The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth.
3 Yea, a voice cryingâ€”Prepare ye the way of the Lord, prepare ye the supper of the Lamb, make ready for the Bridegroom.