Marriage by Proxy

You know, the Mormon practice of performing religious sacraments for the dead by living proxies is irredeemably weird to a lot of people. This morning I saw a story on the Today Show that might help some folks to better understand this unusual religious practice.

The story was about a man and a woman who are both soldiers in Afghanistan and were married in a double proxy wedding by a man and a woman standing in for them in Montana (a handful of states have laws allowing for single proxy marriages, where only one party is not physically present; Montana is the only one with a law permitting double proxy marriages). You can read about this couple and their experience here. (At the link you can see a picture of the happy couple.)

Military chaplains do not perform marriages in war zones. So a marriage by proxy was the only way this couple could get married now, as they wished to do.

The marriage certificate was interesting to me. It uses proxy language, the kind of language we are very familiar with from our temple ordinances. The names of the proxies, standing in for and in behalf of the individuals getting married, are included on the certificate.

The bride learned she had been married a day after it happened by reading about it in an e-mail(!)

So the next time you find yourself struggling to explain proxy ordinances to someone, share with them the romantic tale of U.S. Army SPC Michelle Williams Fidler and Sgt. Drew Fidler.

Comments

  1. So, proxy honeymoon?

  2. ben orchard says:

    i had…no idea. I’ve never heard of marriage by proxy for living individuals. Cool for the bride & groom though.

  3. Thanks for sharing this Kevin. While I have never run into the problem of people finding proxy marriages as strange, this is a fine example of how it makes sense outside of the LDS world.

    I do, however, think there are some proxy marriage situations with which people do struggle. In visiting with a friend just yesterday, I found that he came from a line where the father had been married multiple times. His line came from the second marriage as I recall. In thinking about temple work for the father, they were trying to decide the appropriateness of engaging in a proxy marriage for him and his second wife when there were other spouses to whom this man had been married.

    Does anyone know the official church stance on such a situation or does the polygamy “clause” cover it as this man could be married to multiple women? Maybe it is like baptism, we just provide the ordinance and then it all gets sorted in heaven with the input and desire of the individuals involved.

  4. Interesting, Kevin.

    I hadn’t known about the laws allowing for living proxy marriage. It certainly takes some of the weird out of our ordinances for the dead, at least at the philosophical level.

    Norman, your last sentence is the only way I can describe it to most people. I see it as covering all the bases, so to speak, and leaving it in others’ hands to decide. Of course, I also have an unorthodox view of relationships after death and our control or influence over them and don’t mind in the slightest not knowing some things, so it’s a little easier for me to say that.

  5. I think this is very insightful and can help explaining things for me. I’m going to check the Today Show clips and see if I can find it. :)

  6. Norman (3): My understanding is that, for both men and women who have passed away, you can seal them to every person they were married to when they were alive. The idea is, like baptism, the ordinance is only valid if the person accepts it.

    I even think (with somewhat less confidence), that if two people had a child together, but were never married, you can still seal them together, because you need to to seal a child’s parents to each other before you can seal the child to them. This is why you run into troubling situations like Thomas Jefferson being sealed to Sally Hemings, who was his slave. Again, we typically just err on the side of sealing everyone to everyone, and then we can sort everything out in the spirit world. No one is bound by a proxy ordinance that they don’t voluntarily accept.

  7. I’ve never had a client who married by proxy, but I’ve run across it in State Department regulations. From Part 9 of the Foreign Affairs Manual, their publication which contains instructions and rules regarding the issuance of visas:

    9 FAM 40.1 N1.3 Proxy Marriage
    9 FAM 40.1 N1.3-1 Consummated
    (CT:VISA-1000; 09-03-2008)

    For the purpose of issuing an immigrant visa (IV) to a “spouse,” a proxy
    marriage that has been subsequently consummated is deemed to have been
    valid as of the date of the proxy ceremony. Proxy marriages consummated
    prior to the proxy ceremony cannot serve as a basis for the valid marriage
    for immigration purposes.

    9 FAM 40.1 N1.3-2 Unconsummated
    (CT:VISA-1165; 03-06-2009)

    A proxy marriage, that has not been subsequently consummated, does not
    create or confer the status of “spouse” for immigration purposes pursuant to
    INA 101(a)(35). A party to an unconsummated proxy marriage may be
    processed as a nonimmigrant fiancé(e). A proxy marriage celebrated in a
    jurisdiction recognizing such marriage is generally considered to be valid,
    thus, an actual marriage in the United States is not necessary if such alien is
    admitted to the United States under INA provisions other than as a spouse.
    (See 9 FAM 41.81 N1.1.)

    So, as Hamlet would say, tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.

  8. anon for this says:

    Mark B.’s comment reminds me of something I may have tried deliberately to forget. A family member (hence, the desire for public anonymity) was married by proxy by her clergyman to a man a continent away whom she had never met. To the best of my knowledge they never met. After she changed her mind some weeks later, everybody simply pretended to forget it had happened at all.

  9. Actually, proxy marriages happen all the time in Texas – usually when an offender incarcerated in TDCJ marries someone in the free world. All the person in the free world needs is an affidavit alleging specific things, identifying documents for the other individual, and someone to stand in as proxy. It’s much more common than most people know.

  10. “No one is bound by a proxy ordinance that they don’t voluntarily accept.” True. Straight out of the handbook. However there is nothing that says a man or woman can’t accept a proxy ordinance with more than one spouse he or she may have had in mortality. Talk to anyone who’s had a good first marriage, been widowed then remarried and is in a happy second marriage. See if he or she doesn’t look forward to the day they can accept the eventual proxy sealing done on their behalf. The result? Happily being sealed to more than one spouse for eternity. And we wonder why all the fuss over polygamy!

  11. Kevin Barney says:
  12. My wife and I got married by double proxy (I in Baghdad, she in Utah) in a ceremony in Montana. We then met up a month or so later to get sealed in Madrid. It all had to be approved by the 1st Presidency, which was nerve-wracking because it took months for them to consider the plan and weigh in on it.

  13. Proximity, if it’s a he, he doesn’t have to wait for the day he can accept the eventual proxy sealing. He can be sealed in the temple to the second spouse immediately, during his lifetime. Your statement only applies to females, who, alas, for whatever reason, cannot be sealed to more than one person simultanneously. But men can.

  14. A short story appeared earlier this year on this topic:

    http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/features/2012/05/21/120521fi_fiction_meloy

  15. I have heard of proxy marriages. I have used this very example to explain baptism for the dead. If I am not mistaken there are other things that can be done by proxy?

    As far as sorting out sealings etc. in the Spirit World or elsewhere, that is true. My mother was married and had 2 children (neither she or the first husband were members) She divorced him. She married again (my father) and had 4 more children. My father did not legally adopt the 2 half-siblings. My parents were converts but none of the children were BIC as my parents did not get sealed until 11 years ago, and my father passed away 7 years ago. I have been the only active child, until 4 years ago when a half-sibling was re-activated (I have a brother that died when he was 14 years old – and the other 3 siblings are completely out of the Church) This half-sibling did the Temple work for his father. In order for the half-sibling to be sealed to his father and his mother, his (our) mother was sealed to her ex-husband. So my mother is sealed to her ex-husband AND my father. Freaked me out, and it still does.

  16. Kevin Barney says:

    Dan, that is way cool that you’ve had this same experience!

  17. Huh. Interesting, Kevin.

  18. Maybe common isn’t the right word, but as a veteran, I know several people who were married in a proxy wedding. I think most people who’ve served downrange in the Army or Marines are likely familiar with situations like this.

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