While I was single, I often found myself wondering whether it would be better to remain a faithful Mormon bachelor all of my life or to marry a wonderful non-Mormon girl. I had a few opportunities to do so, and in moments of frustration I almost regretted not having pursued them instead of holding out for a temple marriage, the goal of every Latter-day Saint. By the grace of God, I was able to marry an angel in the Los Angeles Temple earlier this year, but I have never forgotten what it was like to be a single Latter-day Saint who prayed for years to find a spouse.
It was therefore with particular interest that I read this week’s article in the Jewish Journal announcing Reform Rabbi John Rosove’s decision to begin officiating at interfaith weddings. Interfaith marriages in the Jewish community have long fascinated me, since they are one of the few things that can bring together rabbis from all major movements in opposition. Since non-Mormons are not permitted to be married to church members in LDS temples, my regular Jewish readers would probably expect me to agree with those rabbis who refuse to perform interfaith marriages. While they are obviously free to adopt whatever policies they choose on such marriages, if I were a rabbi I would conduct wedding ceremonies for any Jew who agreed to live as a Jew and to raise his/her children in the faith.
There are interesting similarities between LDS temple marriages and Jewish wedding ceremonies: Mormons are sealed together for eternity according to the Abrahamic covenant, Jews are married in accordance with the laws of Moses and Israel, and the ideal marriage in both communities involves pairing with someone of the same faith and observance level. That said, LDS ecclesiastical leaders can and do perform interfaith marriages outside of temples that are valid for this life only – “till death do you part.” The idea is that if church members choose not to marry in the temple, at least they can have an LDS chapel and a church leader play a role on their special day. With any luck, the Mormons members of the interfaith couples will continue to remain active members of the church, raise their children as Mormons, and possibly convert their spouses.
I’ve had several conversations over the years with rabbis on this issue, and have come to the conclusion that those rabbis who focus more on the welfare of Klal Yisrael (i.e., the Jews as a people) do not perform interfaith weddings, while those who are more concerned with individual Jews do. Like Jews, Mormons actively encourage their members to marry each other in an effort to strengthen their community. However, if a Mormon decides to marry a non-member, Mormon leaders would try to honor that person’s choice by counseling with the couple, performing the marriage ceremony, and actively encouraging the newlyweds to make the church a part of their family’s life. Kudos to Rabbi Rosove for reaching a similar conclusion within his faith tradition.
I will be making presentations on Mormonism in Los Angeles at Sinai Temple (dialogue with Rabbi David Wolpe, Oct 18th @ 7:30 p.m.) and Temple Isaiah (dialogue with Rabbi Zoë Klein, Oct 24th @ 6:00 p.m.). The public is invited.