As more or less self-appointed wedding-specialist I simply had to watch the “wedding of the year”, between the British prince Harry and the American actress Meghan Markle. And what a splendid event it was, a joy to watch, and a rich inspiration for ‘pondering’. So let us ponder.
First, it was a “real wedding” indeed, with all symbolic acts in place: the presentation of the bride – a pity the father was absent – the inner circle of family and friends, and the outer circle of the general community. The rings, the vows, the call for dissenters, all under the authority of the officiant, plus the tying of hands, followed by the “I now declare you …”. The kiss came later, for the general public. The symbols were clear, shared and meaningful, while the sermon was a gem of black American preaching, a gush of fresh air in the rather stolid Anglican verbal tradition. For all who love church music, the cathedral choir with the young boys’ voices was a treat, as usual; one cannot beat the Anglican church in that respect. Still, the American gospel choir, with its intense rendition of “stand by me” was just such a glory. The Dutch morning papers today exult about the whole scene, the mix of the best in British and American cultures.
Then there was the pause, when the couple was absent while the audience was regaled on a cello concerto by a (black again) master of the cello and his ensemble. During that pause, in one of the side chambers of the chapel the couple and their witnesses signed the marriage act, before the representatives of the civil authorities, since in Great Britain the civil marriage is embedded in the ecclesiastical. Even if the Anglican Church is the State church, and even if the nominal head of that church was in the audience (Queen Elisabeth), the civil registration of the union still had to be done in order to be a valid marriage.
Now the pondering. First, the Anglican liturgy never really incorporated the signing of the marriage documents in the wedding ritual itself. It is done at the side, in private near the end of the highly public ceremony. Fitting this civic ceremony into the liturgy is feasible, and in other denominational settings this is effectuated indeed. But inside the Anglican ritual this division is telling: liturgies do not change easily, and then only if there is sufficient reason to do so. Historically, the Anglican Church as the state church did have its own struggles with accepting the civil authorities as not only a legitimate, but as a necessary condition for a legal and lawful marriage. Exactly the type of struggle we in the LDS Church are witnessing right now.
Second – and now I come to the title of this rather light-footed piece – what if Harry and Meghan would have been Mormons? Of course, we as LDS would have loved to bask in that sunshine of publicity, but what about their wedding? My mind’s eye sees them driving slowly in their open limousine after visiting the Registrar’s Office in Preston, going South over the M61, off at the Chorley junction into the A 674, then a right hand turn into the Temple Drive. As church settings go, this is not the worst possible: on the left the England Missionary Training Centre and the Distribution Centre, then past the LDS meetinghouse at right, then heading straight towards the Preston Temple, also a sight to be seen. Of course the whole route is lined with people, come from afar to witness the event, and the church grounds are replete with avid reporters, unmovable policeman and roving cameramen. What a treat! What a boost for the “British Mormon Church”.
But then at the temple, what? The couple would be welcomed by the temple president – though I think some apostles would love to do the honors – and invited inside. All the others, family, friends, general public would have to wait outside. The royal family would have to be hosted under some marquees on the temple grounds, wondering why in their own country they could not enter here, and with the crowds forlorn on the periphery. Reporters would be at the temple entrance, gnashing their teeth, all cameras –completely anathema in the temple – would zoom in on the closed doors; the TV reporters would interview people what they think about being excluded, during the whole waiting period. And the wait is not just for a short signing session, but for the whole of the temple endowment-cum-sealing, some two long hours. What would we do as LDS to entertain them? MTC? Maybe, but even then the fact that the family, friends, general public and press would be excluded from the real event would not just “demand explanation”, it would be totally and completely unexplainable, ruining the whole event. Instead of a wonderful spectacle that did build bridges across the Atlantic, we would have a virtual wall between Britain and America. One shudders at the idea.
Of course, this is very hypothetical, a hypothetical nightmare for public relations. I think the point of my earlier blog is clear: we do miss a proper wedding ritual. And, my second point, as long as this is the case, please let royalty not be converted, not the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. We aim to convert the world, but I am deeply thankful that we do not succeed…
PS: Would the dress have been “temple ready’?