Temple Sealing Question

Our belief that a husband and wife may be sealed together in their marriage relationship for all eternity is one of our major selling points as a religion. This is sort of one of those Truman Madsen “Are Christians Mormon?” things, in that many average Christians believe that their marriage relationships will continue in some sense in heaven, even if that runs counter to official dogmatic theology. This is one of our selling points.

And it’s a really great concept if a man and woman live a long, happy marital life together. In that context the idea works great.

But of course many relationships don’t turn out that way. Remarriage and the specter of celestial polygamy is one issue. But I’m thinking more of cases of divorce or abuse or other such situations, where you really don‘t want to be bound to that person for ever and ever.

And my understanding is that in the contemporary church, generally the institution is loath to undo those sealing ties. If you’re a sealed but divorced woman, unless you have another marriage/sealing in the hopper, you’re unlikely to get a cancellation of your existing sealing. Usually the idea I hear expressed is that it’s not important to whom you are sealed, only that you are sealed. Any sealing is the important thing. And I have some questions about that:

1. Was the idea that any sealing is important, not specifically to whom you are sealed, the way this was understood historically, or is that a recent doctrinal innovation?

2. I’ve heard the expression that one is “sealed into the covenant”; what does that even mean?

3. We’re told not to worry about this stuff, that God will work it all out, that there’s no way we’ll be unhappy with the situation in heaven. But if I’m a woman who has suffered abuse from a husband, I’m thinking that is kind of cold comfort. In that situation our idea of temple sealings turns from a feature into a bug, does it not? I wouldn’t want to be tethered forever to my abuser, and the rhetoric we toss around to ameliorate that situation doesn’t strike me as really resolving the issue adequately.

What I’m getting at is that when things are going well and we’re happy with the spouse, then we conceive of a sealing as a joining of us together as a couple for eternity. And that’s great. But when things don’t go well, instead of breaking that offending seal we want to keep the seal in place but redefine it, as somehow amorphously binding us to the City of God and not specifically to a former spouse. And I don’t really understand what we mean by that, and were I in that position I’m not sure I’d find that rhetoric at all comforting.

In other words, this is an issue I don’t feel I understand, and so I’d like for you to school me on this if you would.


  1. I know #3 is what I kind of assumed growing up. Coupled with D&C 130:2 it makes a little more sense.

  2. In a sense, when we are sealed to one person, we are sealed to whomever that person is sealed to, and so on. Thus, I am sealed to my wife, who is sealed to her parents, who are sealed to their children. Therefore, I am sealed to my brothers-in-law and sisters in law as well as my wife, and to their children.

    Perhaps the sealing chain is like a electric power grid. Once we are “plugged in” to the sealing grid at any point, we are connected (sealed) to everyone else plugged into the grid. Being “plugged in” to the sealing “grid”–and thus connected/sealed to (ultimately) all of humanity–does not mean we are “married” to everyone in the grid, nor that we celestially “cohabitate” with everyone else (whatever that means) on the grid. Perhaps it does not even mean we will celestially cohabitate with the person to who we are sealed as spouses.

    One may ask: Given: if a woman is born in the covenant or sealed to her parents, she is therefore “plugged into” the sealing grid. Then, does being sealed to a marriage partner give her any more blessings or connection to the sealing “grid” then she already has?

    Perhaps it does. That may be why the Brethren are loathe to have any person “unplugged” via a sealing cancellation from a former marriage partner.

    If there are blessings from being “plugged in” via marriage sealing, and they are lost when a sealing is cancelled, then one may also ask, why aren’t cancellations deferred until both former spouses are ready to be sealed to new partners? Perhaps because it is deemed “easier” for a man to find a new spouse? Or simply a remnant of chivalry/paternalism/discrimination?

  3. Fletcher says:

    For #2, I would suggest that when a couple is “married” in the temple, the sealing that actually takes place is the sealing of the blessings of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob upon that couple as they enter into the covenant, together. One of the benefits of entering into that covenant is that, if both people are faithful, then they maintain the marriage relationship throughout the eternities.

    Abuse would certainly be something that disqualifies the abusing partner from receiving those blessing sealed upon the couple. I think it would be helpful if people didn’t confuse the covenanting with the sealing. Maybe, in the future, people shouldn’t refer to their temple marriage as a sealing, but refer to it as entering into a covenant where blessing will be sealed upon the couple.

  4. My understanding of the sealing ordinance is near the end these words or close to it are spoken ‘if you live faithful to your covenants’

    To me that means that if abuse or other covenant breaking acts are performed the sealing is broken. I think it’s also important to remember that the sealing needs to be confirmed by the spirit before it becomes fully binding. It is a ‘covenant and promise’ and my faith is that we must be true and faithful and prove our worthiness to have these blessings for eternity. Obviously our acts can be much less than true or faithful.

    I hope that helps.

    Jonathan B.

  5. If a man abuses his wife or children, or even other people such as co-workers, surely he won’t be able to receive the Celestial glory. If the wife has continued living righteously anyway, perhaps she will arrive in the CK with out him as long as she has made the required covenants.

  6. Blaue Blume says:

    Thirty-six years ago, as I, temporally divorced but still sealed, was about to marry his daughter, my future father-in-law, a specialist in sealing problems in the Genealogical Society, gave the following counsel when I asked him if I should seek a cancellation of the previous sealing: No. He said we tend to inordinately personalize the sealing ordinance without seeing its eternal implications and applications. We see the sealing ordinance as an immediate, self-centered and short sighted confirmation of “You are mine!” relative to both spouses and children. In actuality, because the ordinance is contingent upon faithful obedience to the covenant, the person across the altar may not be our eternal companion, the most satisfying outcome of course being that that did become the case. But if we are faithful to the covenant, despite what the person across the altar does, the assurance of the covenant is a spouse (or parents, in the case of sealed children) eternally. Therefore his counsel: rather than disrupt the covenant for the former spouse and thus its possible eternal implicatons and potential blessings, were repentance to take place, it should be left in place. How historical is this perspective? I don’t know, but my father-in-law would have been privy to this insight at least thirty years before he shared it with me thrity-six years ago!

  7. By The Rules says:

    To extrapolate#3and #6 a bit:

    For a woman who has had children born in the covenant, and is sealed to come forth as a Queen, why cancel that sealing? Why would a woman want to walk away from her (only?) opportunity to come forth as a Queen and reign in the house of her posterity?

    I agree, there is a lot of misunderstanding about sealing, and the covenants/blessings associated with that ordinance. But such a sealing is necessary for the highest order of the Celestial Kingdom and generally should not be cancelled with the erroneous thought that it is the other half of a “divorce”.

  8. I will forgo mentioning my own experience, and instead relate a recent conversation I had with a divorced lady I know.

    Basically, she had gone a little crazy in her 40s and divorced her husband because she wanted to “find herself.” After about 10 years of trying and then realizing she’d made a horrid mistake, her ex-husband had re-married. She now admits that she never should have divorced her husband and that “finding herself” was really a stupid excuse on her part to stop living the gospel for awhile.

    Anyway, she made the comment “well, we’re not married anymore, but I’m still sealed to him.”

    Maybe after the wisdom of a few years, some people who divorced for reasons other than abuse or infidelity might find some comfort that despite their dumb choices, the sealing remains intact.

    I don’t know. I’m still working through my own issues. I hear it’s easier for a woman to get a sealing canceled then for a man, though that may be because a man can get sealed multiple times without canceling the other sealings out, though I admit I have no real knowledge in this area.

  9. What I don’t understand is (if we are not supposed to “personalize” our sealings) how the concept of sealing really is different than a different Christian’s belief that he and his family will all end up in heaven together. Plenty of other Christians believe they will be together with their families in the next life, although some (most, I imagine) don’t imagine living in nuclear family units. But neither do we, really, right? If it is all about being connected to God and blessings, how is it different than just ending up in the right kingdom with God?

  10. But if we are faithful to the covenant, despite what the person across the altar does, the assurance of the covenant is a spouse (or parents, in the case of sealed children) eternally.

    This makes sense, Blaue, that the sealing is a covenant, and you wouldn’t want to break that covenant. When I was a teenager, I was filled with angst because I thought that my mother wouldn’t go to the highest level of the celestial kingdom because she was divorced. But she told me that she had made and kept her covenants, so God would not deny her any blessings based on the stupidity of my dad. I believe this is true, and your comment seems to support it.

  11. The part that grieves me is that as an adult convert, I am not sealed to my parents, and now that I am divorced, I have no hope of having my children sealed to me. I am floating, untethered, outside the “grid”. And there is nothing I can do about it.

  12. TracyM, that is hard.

  13. Because the sealing is inclusive of sealing to children, the church does not want to annul spousal sealings which would also annul sealings to children. When no children are involved, I have seen these annulments move very rapidly. (in two cases where the couple were married less than 4 months, the annulment of the sealing was rapid with no following marriage.)

    In a relationship where the spouses are not living the covenant, the sealing between spouses is annulled in and of itself, per President Hinckley, when he spoke at the San Antonio Temple Dedication. The Paperwork is an ecclesiastical formality.

  14. Latter-day Guy says:

    “Was the idea that any sealing is important, not specifically to whom you are sealed, the way this was understood historically, or is that a recent doctrinal innovation?”

    I tend to think that it is something of an innovation. I wonder if there is any connection here with Nauvoo polyandry/Law of Adoption stuff, as (today) we would consider those kinds of sealings somewhat––er––irregular, but at the time they were considered to be salvific.

  15. Hael No says:

    I am dying with questions here…

    My dad converted when I was about four or five years old. I remember going to the Temple to be sealed to him, my mom and my baby sister. Since then my mom has become an abusive alcoholic and is planning on filing for divorce as soon as financially possible. She has also left the Church, though “unofficially;” she considers herself a Quaker but is too lazy to ask for her name to be removed from the Church records.

    [quote]In a relationship where the spouses are not living the covenant, the sealing between spouses is annulled in and of itself, per President Hinckley, when he spoke at the San Antonio Temple Dedication. The Paperwork is an ecclesiastical formality.[/quote]

    My question then is… am I still sealed to my parents if my mom was physically abusive towards me and my sisters and both parents have disobeyed the Word of Wisdom and been unfaithful?

    I am completely convinced that my family has cursed itself to have bad relationships and therefore have avoided, and plan to continue to avoid, the institution of marriage. If I am not sealed to my parents (whether that is true or, if not, hypothetically) is it possible to marry just to be Sealed? A Temple Marriage that is later dissolved, except the sealing?

    Just questions. :D Thanks!

  16. Mephibosheth says:

    Right. There’s an interesting incongruity that Mormons don’t like to refer to themselves as being “saved” but will think nothing of referring to themselves as being “sealed,” even though both refer to a future state conditional upon continued faithfulness.

  17. By The Rules says:

    IMO: Once you are sealed into the patriarchal chain, even if link is removed, you are still part of the overall “grid” or patriarchal order. No worries, just saddness over those family links that are missing, but you can still go visit them whereever they end up.

    “although some (most, I imagine) don’t imagine living in nuclear family units. But neither do we, really, right? ”

    I imagine living with spouse, and my adult children living with their spouses. I don’t imagine living with my mother in law.

    For this reasion, I conclude that the most important mortal relationship is spousal, and should receive highest priority.
    Don’t ignore spouse for sake of children every time a choice comes up.

  18. StephanieQ says:

    My FIL told me that the church answered all his questions; hence why he joined as a 19 year old.

    Does it strike anyone else reading this post and the comments that the church doesn’t have all the answers? There is a lot of confusion here.

  19. StephanieQ says:

    BTW, I noticed another Stephanie. I am different–I only comment once in a while, long enough to forget that other people have the same name as me and are more well known. Hence I will add another letter

  20. Hael No says:

    #18, I think we cause the confusion ourselves. We’re trying to interpret God and His plans when we are only human. I could draw up a chart with every problem I have with the Church on one side and it’s delineation and it would most definitely come down to something I have done to screw up my understanding, or in some cases another person, like my parents. I feel like some people can see that more than others, or have less questions. I have too many and I don’t believe in love, and often times faith, which are two key elements in the Church.

  21. Michelle says:

    now that I am divorced, I have no hope of having my children sealed to me. I

    What a heartrending time for you.

    But I tend to think that your faithfulness to your covenants, even if they don’t currently include sealing, will bless your children and bind them to you in ways that may not be seen or known right now.

    God is good, perfect, and just. Would He cast off your children from you eternally because of things outside of your control or theirs? I can’t imagine that he would. I sort of think of the question about infant baptism — it just doesn’t gel in my mind with the nature of God to make children suffer innocently and eternally because of the sin of a parent. Or to make a wife suffer and be lost from the “grid” because of the sins of her husband. As you and they seek Him themselves, you have the opportunity to be part of the covenant blessings and lay claim to ALL the blessings God has.

    I see your temple covenants as definitely binding you to the grid, even if right now there is no direct sealing in your current situation.

  22. serial polygamist says:

    Given the early church proclivity to polyandry, particularly for Joseph, we have decided that the Celestial Order is way more “open” than we could suspect.

    This idea would fit with the general idea that the ordinance is the important thing, getting us in the door. What happens on the other side of the door might be astonishing to us mortals. We have not idea what happens to our understanding and emotional states in the Celestial Kingdom where every body is perfect, every mind the mind of a God, and every emotion is keyed to be a cooperator.

  23. prairie chuck says:

    OK, I understand the whole “sealed if you live faithful to your covenants” and “In a relationship where the spouses are not living the covenant, the sealing between spouses is annulled in and of itself, per President Hinckley, when he spoke at the San Antonio Temple Dedication. The Paperwork is an ecclesiastical formality.”

    So if the paperwork is just a formality, and the sealing is based on worthiness, why then are men allowed to be sealed to more than one woman and women only get one chance to get it right? If God is going to sort it all out in the end and the “paperwork” is just a formality, why have an ecclesiastical formality that disadvantages women?

    I have a great-aunt by marriage who did not have a happy marriage to her first husband (my great-uncle–there were hints that he was abusive) but had a very happy marriage to her second. She joined the church after both husbands had died. But she was never allowed to go to the temple for her endowments because she was told she’d have to be sealed to her first husband. She was a faithful member till she died, but now what? She’s a ministering angel because she didn’t choose right the first time round?

    It just seems wrong that we invoke “ecclesiastical formality” but give men greater latitude in the whole choice of sealing and correcting bad choices. We say “God will work it out in the end” but if you DON’T get sealed (doesn’t matter if you get a good guy or not, just get sealed!) then you will not enter the Highest Degree of Glory.

    Could it possibly be that God already has it all figured out it’s our loving relationships that “plug us in” and all the temple sealings and unsealings are for our benefit alone?

  24. #22. Amen.

    Most of our thoughts about who will be with who, etc., seem of a terrestrial nature, not celestial. Paul, who had seen the third heaven, could not explain the nature of a resurrected being. We can’t expect to do better. Celestial sealing, whatever it is, will be part of a celestial resurrection, whatever it is.

    One celestial aspect, per John 17, is that believers will become one, “even as” the Father and Son are one. I can’t imagine any room in such a one for past anger, fears, hurt, jealousies, sins or any other feelings that are less than godly. They will be done away, white as snow, not scarlet, or we won’t be ready for that state. That is the promise of Jesus’ atoning work, if we can believe it.

  25. Antonio Parr says:

    Of course, another way of looking at our message regarding eternal marriage:

    Unless you join our Church, you will never see your spouse again.

  26. So if the paperwork is just a formality, and the sealing is based on worthiness, why then are men allowed to be sealed to more than one woman and women only get one chance to get it right? If God is going to sort it all out in the end and the “paperwork” is just a formality, why have an ecclesiastical formality that disadvantages women?

    Feminism can cut both ways on this. Let us assume that men, too, are only permitted to be sealed to one woman at a time. Now take a hypothetical couple that gets a divorced. Following the statistical norms, Ex-Husband is able to find someone new. Ex-Wife isn’t.

    So, in our hypothetical–who are we going to omit from the New and Everlasting Covenant? Do we want to give Ex-Husband the power to unilaterally cut Ex-Wife out of that covenant just because, by demographical accident, he’s found someone new and she hasn’t? Or should we just not allow Ex-Husband to be sealed to Wife #2, and hope that their marriage survives in the face of a tacit statement from the Church that theirs is a second-class union?

  27. (wrapping up) –

    So, the status quo basically gives divorced Mormon males a strong incentive to remarry, while giving a theological pass to divorced Mormon females who are disinclined or unable to do so.

  28. My mission president was a temple recorder before he was called to be a mission president and he gave a really long, detailed talk on this because of certain misunderstandings in the mission.

    In my mission, there was a tendency for members to have a temple marriage, have kids, get divorced, leave the Church, get remarried to a nonmember, and then come back to the Church with their new spouse in tow. The missionaries would teach the new, reformed family that they could be sealed with their children (from the first marriage). Even if the spouse wasn’t the original parent, he/she considered him/herself to be like the original parent and usually loved the children deeply and very much wanted that.

    Unfortunately, after promising that they could be sealed as an eternal family, it turns out that it doesn’t quite work that way. Even though they were divorced by all secular means, the children were born under the first covenant and didn’t need to be sealed again. Or, even trickier, if I remember correctly, the first temple married couple could get married, have no kids, get divorced, and remarry and have children with other spouses and the children would still be born under the first marriage sealing. How heartbreaking to explain to someone that they couldn’t even get sealed to their biological children!

    My mission president (from what I remember) explained that being sealed into the covenant and being born into the covenant really means the Abrahamic Covenant and everything that goes with it. We pair it with marriage, but the sealing has little to do with the actual marriage, except perhaps using the marriage as an object lesson in the links which make up the family of God. In the grand scheme of things, it wouldn’t really matter who was sealed to who – we were all being sealed into the family of God, not necessarily just to the immediate relations like spouse or parent or child. Just like the spouse who became like a parent, it didn’t matter if the children were biological or not; the parent loves the kids as if they were his/her own. Such is how it would be in the Celestial Kingdom.

    I should dig my old mission notebooks out and see if I can find the notes to that talk.

  29. Kevin,
    I agree with your post. I have heard the exact frustration that you describe (being either “on the outside”, or being sealed to an abuser) from many women in the church. One woman quit coming to church altogether b/c she was divorced and so couldn’t be sealed to her son w/o a man. Another tried and tried to get a sealing canceled, and finally did, but to do so she made some unwise re-marriage choices. She was strongly motivated by the desire to sever sealing ties with the ex. It was kind of like “I’ll take anybody rather than him”. It brought her a lot of suffering.
    I have thought about this alot, and I don’t have any good answers. I really don’t think anybody does. Lots of opinion and conjecture.
    I think it is hard for the leaders of the church to change things that they don’t understand themselves. It is easier to assume that whoever of your predecessors put a particular policy in place must have known what they were doing.

  30. Kristine says:

    It seems to me that there are two problems here–a doctrinal/theological one, and a practical/affective one. Moreover, the people affected by these policies are not likely to be the ones doing the doctrinal speculation, or at least not in a position to have their speculations heard by anyone who can do anything about it. If you’re a happily married Mormon hierarch, the kinds of theological answers that seem satisfying to you may feel wholly inadequate to a divorced woman who is living through the application of those doctrinal puzzles.

  31. Blaue Blume says:

    The first saving ordinance that a child receives is from a mother who has been sealed in marriage: being Born in the Covenant. A father, no matter how faithful, can not give this blessing. The covenant, if not canceled, exists beyond the temporal divorce. In my first marriage there were no children. There was a remarriage by her outside the Church and a child was born to that second marriage. That child is Born in the Covenant, because the sealing was not canceled. If that child some day were to join the Church, he would discover himself listed BIC on the genealogy charts. The bestowal of this blessing, whether the mother is conscious of doing so or not, is a powerful reason why women are encouraged not to seek a cancellation unless remarriage and sealing are in the offing. The child born to the second marriage is not “Mine!” because it is “My” covenant. That child has a covenant promise of parents eternally if he were to enter into his own covenants (baptism) in the future. That I may be that parent is the possible outcome, but is not a basis for any sense of “ownership” of the child on my part, only thankfulness that the covenant could bless his life. The issues are by no means simplisitic and do not answer to the standard codifiction of feminist vs. partriarchal.

  32. Mark Oliver says:

    A Bishop of mine in LA (years ago) said that the sealing is a promise that we will be sealed to someone rather than the specific person. It’s an interesting idea; I definitely had not heard that before. But it makes sense – there are all sorts of reasons that I can imagine that two specific people might not want or be able to be together in the long eternities. So getting a promise that we will be with someone seems like a very reasonable thing to provide through the Temple covenant promise.

    Anyway, there you have it. It might be crazy and make no sense, but that bishop is a thoughtful man who came to that conclusion through whatever thought/prayer process he used. And he said it in Sacrament Meeting – and I only mean it’s something he’d thought long enough about to be willing to share in a meeting, not some speculative wondering to the side at a FHE or something. :-)

  33. Thomas Parkin says:

    I think it probably serves to remember that the ordinance and the potential blessings and effects of the ordinance are two different things. The comparison to baptism (and to a lesser extent PH ordination) seems to me to tell a lot.

    We are no more ‘sealed’ to our spouses, or anyone else, upon receipt of the ordinance, than we are cleansed from all our sins at the moment of baptism. The ordinance of baptism allows for receipt of the Holy Ghost, and all the potentially accompanying spiritual gifts which are totally necessary to learning anything _at all_ about God, and are totally necessary to sanctifying us – or, you might say making us whole (holy), finished, adapted to Celestial Law (which is something we don’t even guess at … I really appreciate #22. For the most part, the laws we live by are not even terrestrial laws, they are telestial … there are some hints about this in the Temple.) But, obviously, baptism alone is no guarantee that a person will even realize this process exists, let alone find themselves involved in the process.

    Sealing ordinances are the same. Folks have put themselves in a position where, if both parties are on the path (faithful not only to rules received but to the process of higher laws discovered), which is not fully spelled out but can only be progressively discovered by revelation to the parties involved, they can find themselves more and more emulating the kind of relationship Father and Mother in heaven have. Which, I think, is at least in one instance named Elohim: a state of unity and love that, if it is possible, exceeds even the oneness experienced by the Godhead or among Celestial beings in general.

    Do we have to have the ordinance? Yes. But most people, maybe even people who have received the ordinance, are on a holding pattern, I think, as far as this life goes. Even baptism is not part of the ‘mortal probation’, the test, for the vast majority of people on the earth. These ordinances belong to eternity and worlds to come, and on the rare occasions in time and place that they are practiced on the earth, it is more like the establishment of a beachhead here.

    But we insist on thinking about these things in a legalistic way. We insist on projecting the deeply broken ways we go about things on to those future relationships and situations. As far as the here and now, the blessings of love and community are available to everyone working at them, regardless of ordinance, and no one is unplugged from that grid because they haven’t taken them.

    My 2 cents! :) ~

  34. Kevin, a fantastic OP and some really important questions.

    Blaue, I appreciate the distinction that you make between sealing and covenant, and the rejection of feelings of ownership that sometimes accompany our behavior towards sealings.

    I also think that the responses indicate just how difficult question #3 is: I don’t see anything that isn’t either despair or a reworking of “God will sort it out.”

    About the grid analogy proposed by DavidH and extended by others…Why then the need for a spouse in the sealing? Why couldn’t this be anyone who is already plugged in? How about just a sealing to Christ?

    I have more questions than answers, but I feel like there must be something important (divine?) about the spousal relationship. Thus, it is unsettling to me to think that a person should have to choose continued association with an abuser in order to reap the rewards of eternal life.

  35. Melisma says:

    Based on some things that I had read, I wondered if my children would still be sealed to me after my cancelation of sealing to their father. I thought this, because our children were sealed to us and not born in the covenant. However, in my official letter from the First Presidency, I was assured that my children will still have the “right and privilege of eternal parentage…” and that this pertained to children who were sealed as well as those who were born in the covenant.

  36. None of these answers make allowances for someone like me- not BiC, my children were not BiC, and now I am divorced from their father. Do we just hang out, waiting? Like Kristine said, the answers are hollow. Telling me that it will all work out on the other side does nothing ameliorate the pain and questions now. It makes we feel like we’re flopping around in the dark, hoping it’ll work, and makes me think of what John C said in his other thread- if it’s ALL religion, then none of it is.

    BTW, I just got back from the temple not 30 minutes ago.

  37. Some of the questions we have discussed are addressed on the new.familysearch.org page on sealing policies:

    “Undocumented marriage. A deceased couple who lived together as husband and wife may be sealed, even if the marriage cannot be documented.”

    “Woman married more than once. A living woman may not be sealed to more than one husband. A deceased woman may be sealed to all men to whom she was legally married during her life. However, if she was sealed to a husband during her life, all her husbands must be deceased before she may be sealed to a husband to whom she was not sealed during life.”

    “Man married more than once. A deceased man may have sealed to him all deceased women to whom he was legally married during his life.”

    “Divorced couples. Deceased couples who were divorced may be sealed. This may provide the only way for their children to be sealed. However, if they were sealed in life and the sealing was cancelled, First Presidency approval is required for them to be sealed again.”

    Thus, a divorced woman (or man) may be sealed to her (or his) children, but under current policy that must await the death of the parties.

    In the hereafter, women are sealed to all of their husbands on earth, and men are sealed to all of their wives on earth.

  38. In a case like Tracy’s, my understanding is that if she remarries, and her first husband consents, the children can be sealed to her and her second husband. Alternatively, the children can be sealed to both her and her first husband after they are deceased–that is, she and first husband are sealed again so that the children may be sealed to them.

    Again, from new.templesearch.org:

    “Deceased children usually are sealed to their natural (biological) parents, but may be sealed to adopted, step, or foster parents, to guardians, to divorced parents (if the parents’ sealing has not been cancelled), or to grandparents if any of these nonbiological parents helped raise the children. If the child, mother, or father is still alive, First Presidency approval is required to seal children to parents other than their biological or adoptive parents.”

  39. Melisma says:

    I figure that if things don’t happen the way we want them to in this life, Re. sealing, then our descendants will work it out for us after we are gone. Not that this helps one’s feelings in the here and now.

  40. Melisma says:

    People make mistakes all the time when it comes to submitting names to the temple. Somehow it will eventually all get put right

  41. I’m going through a divorce right now, so this is of more than passing interest to me.

    Temple sealings actually have at least two purposes. First, they seal us to our spouse and/or children. Second, they seal us to the Lord.

    We can break that seal ourselves by failing to remain faithful to our temple covenants, as described in D&C 132:19, or we can ask the First Presidency to do it. Either way, cancelling a sealing effectively cancels *both* of these purposes.

    The best explanation I’ve seen of this is at http://www.lds.net/forums/lds-gospel-discussion/27286-absolving-previous-temple-marriage-records-question.html#post439196.

  42. I found this article explains it well: http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleCasslerPolygamy.html (Its a chapter from the book “Women in Eternity, Women of Zion”)

    Of course, it doesn’t claim to be “true” but its a strong case for one particular explanation that sealings matter more for having fulfilled the commandment to be sealed and can be transfered from one spouse to another without having to preform the ceremony again AND that there will not be polygamy in heaven as a rule.

    I too have questions regarding sealings that are special to my circumstances and one that may be a stumbling block to my mother deciding to join the church. Her husband is deceased, she is living, she has no plans to be married again and wants to be sealed to my father. Can a live person by sealed to a dead person (currently in church policy) and I can be sealed to my mother and father if her live sealing were to take place?

  43. Phouchg says:

    My first (temple) marriage ended in divorce. At the time of my second and final wedding, for various and sundry reasons, we had a civil marriage. I had pursued a sealing clearance so that my bride and I could eventually be sealed. However, before that could take place my own research and questioning led me to understand that for me the LDS church was not the true church and I would eventually resign.

    My ex-wife died several years ago just after I remarried. The sealing was never cancelled. When word somehow got back to the former in-laws that I had resigned from the LDS church my former mother in law sent me a scathing email excoriating me for abandoning her daughter in the hereafter.

  44. Michelle says:

    “It makes we feel like we’re flopping around in the dark, hoping it’ll work,”

    I’m going to ask a honest question here, and I hope it doesn’t come across as insensitive. Aren’t we all really flopping around in the dark to some (very significant) degree or another? Isn’t that really the stuff of the painfully slow process that learning to walk by faith is for all of us?

    Honestly, I continue to be sore amazed at how HARD the walk of faith really is, but if eternal promises are hollow, I’m left asking what any of us really have to hold onto. There is so much of mortality that leaves us wanting, so much that is broken, so much left unanswered — so much that needs the Savior. To me, the eternal promises are really all any of us has.

    To me this is sort of like trying to “make sense” of a tragedy like a premature death or innocent people suffering in so many unspeakable ways in so many places all over the world. If we don’t look to eternity, how can we not be consumed by the messiness of mortality, even just in observation mode, let alone through our own personal hells?

  45. “To me, the eternal promises are really all any of us has.”

    I agree- and this is why I seek, yearn, hope and pray for an answer more solid than “…we don’t know, you’ll have to wait and see.”

  46. Michelle says:

    Tracy, I can understand. It’s hard enough to hope for things that may seem a little more defined (although I guess that is some of what I wonder — is it really all as defined as we think? I tend to think that maybe it’s not).

    BTW, I just signed back in to say that my comment was not meant to be a ‘snap out of it and just have more faith’ kind of response. My heart hurts for you and for many others I know in similar situations, and you are in my thoughts and prayers. I’m so sorry for all you have been through and are going through and will, I imagine, continue to go through.

  47. Michelle says:

    One last thought — I am praying that as you yearn and seek and ponder that you can receive answers to these questions — revelation for your own little kingdom — that can fill that space that is hollow for you right now.

  48. Melisma says:


    Your mother could be sealed to her deceased spouse after joining the church and doing her own ordinance work in the temple. This is from the new family search website:

    Sealing a Deceased Spouse to a Living Spouse
    To be sealed to a deceased spouse, see your bishop. Then take the following items to the
    • Your temple recommend and the Recommend for Living Ordinances.
    • A Family Ordinance Request for the deceased spouse if any ordinances need to be
    performed before the sealing. (See your family history consultant.)
    • A family group record that shows the living and the deceased family members to be
    sealed. (This is not required but is helpful to temple staff.)
    Note: A living woman may not be sealed to more than one man.

  49. Antonio Parr says:

    As always, Kevin’s post provokes careful thought.

    I have read the thoughtful responses to his inquiry, each written, no doubt, but highly intelligent people of pure intent. Notwithstanding the intellectual firepower behind these posts, none seem to provide a solution to the problems identified by Kevin.

    As I understand it, the idea of the restoration was to bring “plain” and precious truths back to a covenant people. It makes me wonder about the implications of a practice that is more convoluted than “plain”.

    Sealings that unite us to each other as part of the family of Abraham are plain enough. However, absent a “Leave it to Beaver” or a Huxtable family experience, laying property-like claims on children or spouses becomes convoluted to the point of appearing contrary to the intent of the restoration. Such complicated sealing issues also seem to detract from the simple beauty of the atonement, which is particularly troubling.

  50. Antonio Parr says:

    ~by~ intelligent people. (Not ~but~ intelligent people.)

  51. A divorced woman in our Branch was sealed to her second husband and all 7 of her children were also sealed to them as the children’s father gave his permission. It was touch and go getting the permission almost up to the day of the sealing but he finally came through. The first husband is not a member.

  52. Comment #41 references D&C 132: 19 saying that we must live worthy for the covenant and sealing to be in force.

    Well, if it says that–maybe the Holy Spirit of Promise?–it also says YOU CAN DO ANYTHING except shed “innocent blood” (and Vs 26-27 seem to define that as becoming a “son of perdition” by denying the Holy Ghost) and all the blessings, power, kingdoms, etc. will still be yours.

    Since that defies several key principles, and all the current and common wisdom reiterated by many other comments here, I am led to believe that God didn’t say it. Study the history of Section 132. It was given (supposedly by God) to help Joseph convince Hyram to finally agree to endorse and participate in polygamy!

    19 And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection; and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths—then shall it be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, that he shall commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, and if ye abide in my covenant, and commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.

    26 Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man marry a wife according to my word, and they are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, according to mine appointment, and he or she shall commit any sin or transgression of the new and everlasting covenant whatever, and all manner of blasphemies, and if they commit no murder wherein they shed innocent blood, yet they shall come forth in the first resurrection, and enter into their exaltation…
    27 The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, which shall not be forgiven in the world nor out of the world, is in that ye commit murder wherein ye shed innocent blood, and assent unto my death, after ye have received my new and everlasting covenant, saith the Lord God; and he that abideth not this law can in nowise enter into my glory, but shall be damned, saith the Lord.

  53. (#49 & #50),

    This area of doctrine is likely more muddled because there aren’t any auxiliary or FHE lessons that cover it, no hymns or primary songs, no pamphlets or church videos– and with a couple of good reasons I can think of: 1) Each individual case doesn’t just fall into a Column A or Column B, hence the “it will all come out in the wash” response; 2) Why promote “outs” that could tempt couples to more easily split when there’s a glimmer of possibility that they can work their marriages out?

    As for myself, I don’t believe it’s all that convoluted. I just don’t think we fully understand what’s in store for us in the next life. I like the idea of “the grid” because we were all brothers and sisters in the pre-mortal existence, then we come to earth for this relatively brief test, then we return to the next life, remembering everything as brothers and sisters again. Parents, grandparents, children– brothers and sisters again, or have we completely changed the dynamic of our relationships? It kind of reminds me of Spock’s comment about Khan, that he thinks two-dimensionally. Sometimes even we, as Latter-Day Saints, do the same.

  54. #48, thank you for pulling that up for me. Its very nice to see it in print and from an official source.

  55. StillConfused says:

    I am currently sealed to my ex-husband. My current husband would like me to be sealed to him. But he is sealed to his deceased wife. Reality is that I don’t really believe that any of that stuff matters at all, and if it makes my husband happy, I will do it for him. But I find it strange that he can be double sealed and I cannot. Since I don’t really believe any of it, I don’t have a huge problem with it but it seems like women who do believe in that stuff would find it difficult

  56. “I find it strange that he can be double sealed and I cannot.”

    You can, if he dies first – or if someone does it for you after you die. Someone already mentioned this, but you might have missed it.

    Fwiw, I believe in a “council of the gods” concept – where the exact nature of sealing relationships doesn’t matter all that much. I believe strongly that the *concept* of sealing and being sealed is as critical for its impact on human psychology and what it does to those who believe it in the here and now (what it helps us become and how it can influence marriage and the idea of becoming one) as it is for any absolute, factual, objective accuracy. I love the pure idea, even if I don’t care all that much about the details.

  57. If the husband qualifies for exaltation and the Lord God forgives him of all sin, then hopefully the wife can find room for forgiveness. And if the husband is forgiven and perfected and sanctified, he’ll be a different creature than he appears today. It would be a shame for his wife to continue to hate him — if she does, she might forfeit her own exaltation.

  58. These are complex issues. Stapley and I have finally finished our twin papers on adoption–they are under review at JMH. While understanding early Mormonism doesn’t necessarily fix problems some have with 20th-century understandings, it does open new vistas on this complex set of problems.

  59. Because the sealing is inclusive of sealing to children, the church does not want to annul spousal sealings which would also annul sealings to children

    I’m inclined to disbelieve this statement. Having perused membership records before, a woman who has had her sealing annulled and then was sealed again to a new spouse … her children are still listed as “born in the covenant” (and they were in that state prior to her new sealing).

    Basically, I envision sealing to be a hub-and-spoke model, not a tree model.

  60. I didn’t read all the comments here, but I just wanted to say, that I married a creep, got my marriage annulled, and was able to get my sealing canceled long before I was ever dating anyone seriously. Many people told me that I wouldn’t be able to do this because of some of the reasons you mentioned. However, I told the 1st presidency I didn’t think I should have to have any sort of binding, even if it was mental, to the schmuck I was married to, and they granted my request. Maybe the tides are turning in regards to how the church approaches this matter. Hope so.

  61. By the way, I understand that it was probably easier for me to get my sealing canceled because I didn’t have any children with my ex-husband. I’ve never heard of any one else getting their sealing canceled before preparing for marriage again. (I later, married again in the temple, by the way.) I just like to think that the first presidency understood, in my situation at least, that the tie was hurtful to me, and the breaking of that tie had nothing to do with my devotion to the church or commitment to my covenants.

  62. chillypepper says:


    I have to take issue with the idea that the doctrine of the sealing ordinances is convoluted.

    A lot of people here have expressed their worry because of divorce or other circumstances that don’t fit the simplistic marry/have kids stay together forever ideal. I don’t mean what I am going to say to cause any hurt or defensiveness by anyone.

    But sealing ordinances are an eternal principle. Divorce is not an eternal principle. In the modern day it is allowed within the church, and God will work it out for those who have suffered its tragedy. But there are no easy fixes or explanations, or they would have been given to us, I’m sure. And I think the church would be unwise to produce a handbook on how every imaginable permutation of the traditional family will be dealt with eternally. Doesn’t that seem like an impossible task?

  63. chillypepper says:

    To summarize what I meant to say, There is an eternal principle of eternal marriage and the earthly practice of divorce. The only doctrine I can think of that can bridge the divide between eternal principles and earthly practices is the atonement of Christ, which can’t be explained in a handbook, much less understood by our mortal minds. Again, no offense at all intended to anyone.

  64. An important aspect to the sealing ordinance is the doctrine of “The Holy Spirit of Promise” see: http://scriptures.lds.org/gs/h/39

    Essentially, “All covenants and performances must be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise to have force after this life…The Holy Spirit of Promise witnesses to the Father that the saving ordinances have been performed properly and that the covenants associated with them have been kept.”

  65. Chillypepper and JA Benson:
    I too, believe the sealing ordinance to be an eternal principle that’s on a different plane than earthly marriage and divorce. I also believe that the Holy Spirit of Promise must seal a marriage. When I asked for my sealing to be cancelled, I actually mentioned that I didn’t think the Holy Spirit of Promise sealed our marriage. I think the covenants we make with our father in Heaven are much more than a piece of paper. I told my stake president this when I was questioned about why I would want to forgoe the individual blessings of my sealing. (I’m not convinced actually, that I ever lost blessings, but who knows.) I think it’s difficult for any well meaning person to understand why you wouldn’t want to be sealed to someone who’s caused you a lot of pain. Consequently, I was very grateful that the first presidency accepted my plea to break my sealing before I was ever going to be married again, even if they just did so to ease the anguish of my mortal mind. I’m happy now, to be officially sealed to my eternal companion and that the 1st presidency was mindful of the problems that Mr. Barney addressed in this post.

  66. I think the idea that it doesn’t necessarily matter _who_ we are sealed to but just that we are sealed into the “grid” is an interesting one. If that’s the case, if all that matters is that we are sealed in a huge eternal chain to all our brothers and sisters, then another question would be why does it matter what gender we are sealed to in this life? If the end goal is to be sealed to everyone else, both male and female, what does it matter? I get the idea that it frustrates the eternal plan (that we have such a pathetically limited understanding of) because two people of the same sex can’t naturally multiply and replenish the earth and bring spirit children to earth, but….this all relies again on our own _very_ limited understanding of the eternal plan and on how we define things in very limited earthly terms. I just wanted to another question to the mix from another perspective.

  67. 1. If it doesn’t matter to whom we’re sealed, if the covenant is all that’s important and the characters are secondary, then why do we plump this doctrine up as being about families being together forever in missionary discussions with non-members? We say that we have this special ability to keep people together and yet we can’t even figure out the logistics and so then we say they don’t matter and it’s not about being in one tight little unit anyway.

    2. If women can be sealed to all their dead husbands, why can’t they be sealed to all their live husbands? Men can be sealed to many women, in this life, whether the people are dead or alive. Why can women only be sealed to dead men after the women themselves are dead? This seems so absurd to me.

    3. Tracy, what makes you think that any blessing would be denied you or your children? Is it that you genuinely fear that it won’t all be given to you, or are you just resentful that the church doesn’t offer more specifics on how the sealing thing all works? The latter I understand, the former I don’t.

  68. I think sealing of children to parents and sealing of spouses are two very different things. We talk about them using the same terms, but the actual ordinances are so very different. For one, sealing of children involves no covenant, sealing of spouses clearly does. For another, the sealer declares that children are sealed to parents (I seal you, John Doe, to your father & mother, Joe and Susan Doe), but insofar as I can recall, he doesn’t say anything similar to husbands and wives. In fact, I believe the only use of the word “seal” in this ordinance is the “sealing” upon husbands and wives the rights, powers, and blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob–and, just like the D&C says, thrones, principalities, powers, dominions, and exaltations. Though we may speak of being “sealed” to one’s spouse, I don’t see a lot of evidence that that’s actually what’s taking place. Rather than a “sealing” to one’s spouse, perhaps we should think of it as a marriage to one’s spouse accompanied by a covenant with God which leads to God “sealing” the blessings of Abraham upon you for keeping your covenant with Him. I don’t think that your receipt of those blessings (i.e. thrones, principalities, powers, dominions, and exaltations) are in any way dependent on your marital status or your spouse’s later worthiness.

  69. Help me here–
    I was sealed to my ex-wife. She later left the church, left me and our kids, and we were divorced. In my anger at the time, I wanted my temple sealing to her formally, officially, permanently, and forever cancelled. (Did I mention that I was really angry?) My bishop hemmed and hawed for months, then finally told me he felt that I would greatly regret it if I had the sealing cancelled. As I contemplated it spiritually, and as the anger subsided, I had a sense that my ex-spouse would one day want to return to the church and have her temple blessings restored, and that she would need to be sealed to someone. Therefore, I should not seek to terminated the temple sealing. And so, I took no further action on it. In the years since, I have felt peace with this. I have assumed that her leaving the church terminates the sealing per se, but that if she returns to the church and has her temple blessings restored, then the sealing will automatically be restored as well. Does anyone have any insight into this?

  70. Just an FYI-

    Any and all questions regarding temple sealings, blessings, etc. can be taken to your local temple president or one of his counselors in the temple and discussed thoroughly. You don’t need an appointment. Just stop by their office the next time you attend and if any of them are available, they will happily sit down and instruct you in the matter. I’ve done it several times and it has always been a spiritual feast and blessing.

    Using reason, it is easy to discern that the idea of being “tethered to” an abusive or unrighteous spouse in the next life is a non-issue. In order for ANY of us to enter the celestial kingdom, we all must repent and fashion ourselves into new men/women after the manner of Christ. If a formerly abusive person has repented and their personal transformation has been real and genuine, then that person has been purged of their former evil behavior and will be worthy of the love and forgiveness of whomever they might be sealed to. If their spouse, or former spouse will not subject themselves to that same transformation process and become loving and forgiving on a celestial scale-then they will forfeit the celestial kingdom on their own.

    The first principle of the gospel is “faith in the Lord Jesus Christ”. In order for our “faith” in Christ to become an active power in our lives, we have to be willing to place our confidence in Him, and His power, and His wisdom, and His love. We have to trust him. And since most intelligent people will only place their trust and confidence in someone they know, it is imperative that we strive with all our might to come to “know” Christ.

    The solution to finding peace amid doubt and fear isn’t information, it is faith. It is a deeper knowledge of and association with the Savior. Peace can come, and does come, no matter how many questions remain unanswered, if we obtain a personal witness that He lives and that He has it all under control.

  71. We live in a very imperfect world with a very imperfect understanding. God is not going to bind us to the imperfect decisions we made in this life. There are many couples who, for whatever reason, have a loveless marriage, yet they stay faithful to their covenants and marriage vows and do the best they can given their circumstances. My own grandparents fell into this category as did an aunt. Perhaps things will change after this life, but if not it would be a capricious and cruel God who would force them to spend eternity together.

    One thing that bothers me about divorce in the LDS context is the immediate assumption many make that one or both must have sinned or done something grievously wrong; that someone is at fault both mortally and spiritually. Yet, I know couples who were both very good people but just didn’t get along. They divorced, remarried and had good and happy second marriages.

    It may sound trite to say that God will work it out, but He will. Nobody is going to be left stranded or forgotten. Nobody will be punished in eternity for the sins of another.

    In the end, we must not view eternity through the eyes of mortality. We haven’t a clue and to pretend that we do is the ultimate in hubris.

  72. Glenn Smith says:

    I wonder if the following scripture has any influence on the reluctance to annul sealings:
    Matthew 5:31,32 (Retention of sealing avoids charge of adultery ??????)

    31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:
    32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.


  73. Nope. We’re not Catholic.