Mormon History

For Time & Eternity Romney Style - 1967

For Time & Eternity

Friday, Sep. 01, 1967
Time Magazine

In most Christian faiths, a couple is wed until death do them part. But a Mormon marriage performed in the temple "seals" a couple for "time and eternity." The reason is that Mormons view every wedding as performed in the image of the first marriage, in which Adam and Eve were wed by God be fore they were banished from the Garden of Eden and made subject to death.

Last week in the soaring Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, George Scott Romney, 26, eldest son of Michigan's Governor George Romney, took part in his religion's most solemn rites when he married Ronna Eileen Stern, 23.

It was a year ago that young Romney, just graduated from Michigan State and on his way to Harvard Law School, began dating Ronna, whose sister was working as a Romney Girl in the Governor's reelection campaign. Ronna, whose father is a Presbyterian, had been raised by her mother as a Roman Catholic. She quit college in 1963 to marry Robert Connolly, a Catholic. She divorced him a year and a half ago after the birth of a son, and resumed her education at Oakland University. Last November she was baptized into the Mormon Church a month before she and Scott became engaged.

Most Sacred. Temple marriage is of utmost importance to Mormons. The sealing for "time and eternity" that it offers, provided that both partners lead righteous lives, applies not only to the couple but also to the entire "family unit," including children from previous marriages if brought to the ceremony, and all future children. Temple marriage is also vital to entering the highest of the three kingdoms of glory in the afterlife, the Celestial Kingdom, where all dwell in the presence of God.

Preparation for temple marriage begins with the most closely guarded and one of the most sacred of Mormon rites: the endowments, or joint covenants between the couple and God to fulfill his commandments and practice the Gospel. In return, says a Mormon leader, "the Lord will promise you blessings beyond comprehension." Scott and Ronna made their covenants the day before the wedding in three different rooms of the temple, symbolizing the three degrees of glory. Some 200 people participated, including temple assistants alert to any deviation from the strict five-hour procedure. Any mistake would have to be corrected before the ceremony could continue. Details of the rites, however, are strictly confidential. "If we made them public," says one Mormon, "people who didn't understand our belief might make a mockery of them; sometimes being secret is the only way."

Vital Recommend. The wedding ceremony itself began at 10 a.m. the following day. Though it was the same temple where Governor Romney himself had been married 36 years ago, this time he was turned back the first time he tried to enter. Son Scott had misunderstood at which entrance he was to leave the Governor's "recommend," a document issued by the local bishop only to Mormons of good standing, and without which no one can enter a

Mormon temple. Ronna's parents, who are not Mormons, were not permitted to witness the ceremony. Her mother divorced Ronna's father, James Stern, and is now married to Will Kraus, a Presbyterian. Also not present to be sealed in the family unit was Ronna's three-year-old son, Kevin, whom Ronna and Scott plan to adopt and give the surname of Romney.

The service commenced when Scott and Ronna, garbed in white head coverings, slippers and robes—symbolic of the priesthood which the wife shares with the husband, though she cannot perform priestly rites—entered the small Sealing Room. There was neither music nor flowers.

Governor Romney and Scott's uncle acted as witnesses, their duty being to ensure that no mistakes be made in the ritual. Officiating was Mormon Elder Hugh B. Brown, one of the church's Twelve Apostles, who began with a warm ten-minute homily to the couple. "Hang the marriage license on the wall," he advised Ronna, "and point it out to Scott occasionally."

The formal part of the ceremony began as Scott and Ronna knelt facing each other across the low lace-covered altar and joined hands. The vows Apostle Brown led them through were quite similar to those taken by most Christians. Then, according to Mrs. Romney, Apostle Brown concluded the brief service by intoning, "As Peter of old said, I give unto you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven; whatever is bound on earth is bound in heaven; whatever is loosed on earth is loosed in heaven.' I pronounce you man and wife for time and all eternity." After the official ceremony, the couple exchanged rings —bowing to popular custom rather than church doctrine—and kissed.

After the wedding, the couple and both sets of parents returned to Michigan, where Mr. and Mrs. Kraus gave two elaborate receptions. Then Scott and Ronna were off to Bermuda for their honeymoon before setting up housekeeping in Cambridge before school resumes this fall.