Temple annulments and temple divorces

Current policies around temple divorce can add more hurt to an already difficult situation; but it does so, I believe, because the church wants to recognise the persistence, the continuing redemptive force, of commitments made during the sealing ceremony.

At present, the institutional church is reluctant to cancel sealings for those who have received civil divorces. This policy can – but does not always – lead to painful situations in which people are (or feel) ritually tied to previous partners who may have treated them or their loved ones badly. This pain is real and to many it appears as though the church is blind to this hurt.

Rituals and ordinances in Mormonism are more than symbols, they mark dramatic shifts in the salvific status of the individual. The church’s position on temple sealings is grounded in this view. Their reluctance to offer a cancellation of sealing, it seems to me, reflects a concern that cancelling a sealing is to act as if the rituals and ordinances performed at the time of the marriage no longer have force in the present. This position can be compared with the Catholic church’s practice of marital annulment. In rare cases, the Catholic church will offer an annulment of a marriage but the implication of this annulment is not that the marriage has ended but rather that the marriage never occurred. That is, the change in status that marriage is supposed to bring was, in fact, never actualised. From a Mormon point of view, this position is deeply problematic. It suggests that the covenants made at the time of the temple sealing never occurred. This is reflect in the language used to describe the process, i.e., sealings are cancelled.

But this view of sealings conflates two quite separate parts of temple marriage: 1) the willingness to be faithful to another person and to be with that person through eternity and 2) the person to whom that promise or commitment is directed.

When people are sealed in the temple they make a set of promises or commitments to both God and their prospective partner; promises that involve fidelity, giving wholly of ourselves, and receiving the other person unconditionally as well. The promises also have a temporal dimension; namely that these people will commit to live in this relationship for eternity. Like the baptismal covenant, however, these promises are made in the spirit of willingness. We cannot fully live them on earth and so these promises and covenants represent our willingness to live in such a relationship for eternity. This willingness – again much like baptism – brings with it certain blessings that are tied to temple sealings. I believe that the willingness to live in that type of relationship remains in force even after the relationship has dissolved. In this view, a cancellation of sealing could be treated much more like a divorce than an annulment, where there is a recognition that the marriage has occurred and that the promises made in that moment are still important (especially because they were made to God as well as the other person).

There is a clear policy change that could follow from this view. Temple divorces would be just that, a divorce and not an annulment of a covenant. The promised blessings would remain and the details (as so many other things in this life) will be left ‘until after the resurrection’.

There are some problems with this view. One obvious objection is this: if sealings represent a willingness to be sealed only then should the church allow people to receive the sealing ordinances if they are willing to be married but merely have not found that person yet. I see good reason to allow single parents to be sealed to their children but I think the church could retain the importance of the marriage sealing and still make this adaptation. For example, the church could argue that an important manifestation of this willingness to enter this type of relationship is that two people come to the temple to be married.

The church’s current approach to marriage sealings can cause some pain but I believe some of this could alleviated if we approach the cancellation of sealing as a divorce rather than an annulment.

Comments

  1. Very interesting perspective, and I wonder if part of the concern is that the Church’s sealing ordinances are to be permanent and eternal, and therefore we want to avoid any implication that they can be terminated.

  2. Steve, that is likely to be part of the concern, but it seems central now. Divorce and remarriage are so common, even among people sealed in the temple, that there must be a wide recognition among the leadership that it is the ordinance that matters most.

  3. I’m not grasping this concept. Say the church made the change as you suggest. Then I divorce my husband, who I originally married in the temple, according to this new way in the church. How do I describe my present status as a temple divorced but still sealed woman?

  4. There’s another element to this discussion. As you note, the Church will cancel the sealing between husband and wife. However, the Church does NOT cancel the sealing of a parent and child. At least for me, that raises very difficult questions about what the sealing between a parent and a child means and why it is more “sacrosanct” than the sealing between husband and wife.

    For example, we often talk about eternal families as if our temporal families will be intact in eternity the same way they are intact in mortality. And yet it’s clear that won’t be the case: a child grows up and forms a new and tighter relationship with his or her spouse. I will visit my parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, etc., but my eternal home will be with my wife.

    In some sense, then, it feels like the sealing between me and my parents diminishes when I am sealed to my wife. It’s not that the love or connection between parent and child diminishes, but that the new relationship between husband and wife supersedes it in some unspecified but undeniably real way. “For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife” (Matthew 19:5).

    Assuming that we really are to “cleave” only to our spouses, even to the exclusion of father and mother, it seems odd that the sealing between husband and wife can be severed, but not the sealing between a parent and a child. There are many other related questions in this vein, but I’ll leave those for another time when I’m not rushing off to a lunch appointment.

  5. Granny, you would have a temple divorce and you would not be ‘sealed’ to a partner. The sealings to any children you may have would remain in force and you would still be entitled to promised blessings associated with the sealing, such as top kingdom of the celestial kingdom. These would obviously remain contingent on faithfulness, etc.

    So you would have received the sealing but you would not be currently sealed.

    Royce, sealings are a web, involving multiple connections. We are currently in a time when we focus on sealings between spouses but I think this move shifts that focus away to the salvific force of parent-child sealings too.

  6. “But this view of sealings conflates two quite separate parts of temple marriage: 1) the willingness to be faithful to another person and to be with that person through eternity and 2) the person to whom that promise or commitment is directed.”

    I don’t see how those things are at all separate, much less quite separate. I think a better description of what happens is entering a commitment to be faithful to a specific person and to be with that specific person through eternity.

  7. In a sense, Aaron, this sort of thing already exists in church teaching and policy. For example, it’s clear from policy statements in handbooks that divorced persons who have been sealed, and where one partner has been excommunicated (the newest language states that the latter “revokes” all temple blessings) still carry a sealing imprint. It wouldn’t take much of an acknowledgement to say that, like children of temple divorced couples, sealing status remains intact, as an abstract concept, perhaps as a communal connection, but there nevertheless. Indeed that seems to be the upshot in any case.

  8. Anon for this one. says:

    Actually, without going into too much detail about the sealing, there are two parts as stated above, but I would break them down into components differently. In the discussion, there are some things to remember as well: (1) all the ordinances are conditional based upon the factors of righteousness, etc. (2) The sealing ordinances (a) seals the parties together in the eternities & (b) provides certain inheritance rights (think of the ceremony and you’ll know what I mean). In my opinion, the Church’s desire to keep the sealings as long as possible without cancelling them upon a civil divorce is for (2)(b) rather than (2)(a). The more I study the ordinances, the more important I think they are and that inheritance thing is a big deal.

  9. Part of the reason I think this won’t get sorted anytime soon is that it is a bigger theological problem for women than for men. (Because the current situation allows men to remain sealed to multiple women (i.e. they do not need a cancellation of their first sealing to be sealed again) and women are the ones who don’t get an “it will be sorted out in the next life” pass.) Those aren’t the kinds of problems that tend to get prioritized in an all-male bureaucracy.

  10. Anon for this says:

    I am divorced with a temple sealing / my children BiC, etc. As you might imagine I’ve reflected on these things a lot. This a very sensitive subject. I’ve felt strongly that there is still a lot of further light to be given on the subject of sealings. I have many thoughts I could share, but I’ll leave it to one simple thought. I believe sealings should rarely ever be cancelled. I believe sealings should stand as a witness to the covenants entered into, and will stand at the last day to the benefit or detriment of those who made those sacred covenants before God, angels, and witnesses.

    I think because divorce is becoming so widely accepted and common, that culturally we may be becoming numb to the gravity (particularly with the added layer of some of the highest and most sacred covenants) of its reality. I believe the Savior and the new testament are pretty clear on the gravity of divorce, something I think we shy away from culturally because of the nature of how sensitive the subject is, how much pain and hurt exist, and as we seem not to possess a full light and understanding on how to view and deal with it. It becomes much easier to just sweep it under the rug and hide under the protective cloak that it will all work out in the end, rather than confront what may be some truths surrounding this reality.

    In this thought, it is not to say that the relationship will endure, it most certainly will not in many cases, but rather it is (and I believe rightly) an open acknowledgement of the covenants made that do exist and that do mean something eternally.

  11. WVS, yes, I agree that in some ways this is implied and it is certainly present in the folk discourse. Formalising it would be helpful for some people, imo, and would not require substantial theological adjustment. However, like Kristine, I doubt this will thought through with a view to making these kinds of subtle changes anytime soon.

    Kristine, women are primarily the group that suffer most because of this situation and were certainly the group I was thinking about most when I was writing these thoughts. I have also met some men who are very uncomfortable with the idea of having multiple sealings and who have (unsuccessfully) tried very hard to have their sealings cancelled.

    gst, I am influenced here by my reading of Kierkegaard’s notion of faith which seems to separate somewhat the experience of an unconditional commitment from the thing/person to whom one directs that unconditional commitment. This is not to say that the other person is not essential in the first instance but that the experience of the unconditional commitment can persist in the absence of that other person, in fact, it is only faith if it persists in their absence.

  12. I think you might not be aware of changes made in the practice of obtaining sealing cancellations. I received mine in a matter of weeks a couple of years ago. I was not engaged and had no intention or remarrying. My stake president told me President Monson felt a person would retain the blessings sealed upon them in the sealing ordinance even if the marriage sealing was cancelled.
    A friend also received hers about a year before that from her deceased husband in order to be sealed to her prior deceased husband.
    Ask your stake president if you desire a cancellation. He can direct you.

  13. Anon for this, thank you for sharing your thoughts here. I have not experienced divorce but I am the child of a relationship that was once sealed in the temple. It is precisely your perspective that I have in mind when I speak of the continuing redemptive force of those covenants. My hope is that this very minor change would be faithful to the vision you have of the sealing – a vision with which I agree – but that it would also accommodate those for whom that tie can be painful. But I appreciate that I have more to understand here and that there are things I do not see clearly because I have not been through the experience.

  14. TJ, I have seen a few people apply for a cancellation of sealing unsuccessfully and seen people dissuaded by their priesthood leaders. I do not doubt your experience, of course, and recognise that things change over time and are more relaxed now than they used to be. I would not say that I am an expert but I would also say that I am not completely uninformed either. (As a caveat, in case my wife reads this, I am not looking for a cancellation of my sealing).

  15. The sealing power is also the power to “loose”. I don’t think anyone’s gonna end up sealed to who they don’t want to be sealed to. That said, giving mortals a little more agency on the matter might be nice. After all, we’re practicing heaven, right? :)

  16. J. Stapley says:

    Always great to hear from you, Aaron, and this is well thought through. I’m currently working on my sealing chapter and am getting into the weeds a bit on these issues, so I doubly appreciate your thoughts. Like WVS, I think that this does formally exist in the case of children born in the covenant, with parents who have been excommunicated or had a sealing cancellation. The official discourse revolves around the blessings of “eternal parentage” even though who those parents are isn’t clear. The analogy would be a shift towards a focus on the blessings of “eternal [parentage?]” for single folk. The biggest hurdle is that all this is in absolute tension with the historical teachings and practice that indicated that sealings were certain and inviolable.

  17. I’ve always taken the view that the formal cancellation is just an acknowledgement of something that has already happened. The sins that represent the breaking of the covenant (adultery, abuse, contention, pride) are what destroy it. I know this won’t square with all conceptions of temple covenants, and there are some weird things with sealings where they are said to have effect regardless of one party’s unworthiness (not something I can really wrap my head around). With baptism this is explicit: we have to keep remaking the covenant because we constantly violate it. Sin breaks covenants, repentance repairs them. I realize that the paperwork still matters to people, especially when the making of new covenants becomes contingent upon it.

  18. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    An important twist here is that the sealing between spouses is voluntary, whereas for many children it is involuntary. Canceling a sealing is problematic for those who are married, as Aaron discusses, but children simply do not have the option to cancel their sealing to their parents (or to one of their parents), that I am aware of. Clearly, this would seem appropriate in certain situations. As Royce indicates, above, sealings take on a different character once children grow up and are sealed to their spouse. It seems possible that sealings between spouses are conceptually different from sealings between parents and children. It’s interesting to me that we don’t spend much time teasing out these differences.

  19. In a sort of TL;DR — don’t conflate marriage and sealing.
    Culturally we do that, starting with telling our children that our goal for them is that they get “married in the temple.” But surely it is possible to seal with or without marriage, and marry with or without sealing. Allowing for those degrees of freedom will solve a few knotty problems. And leave us with many more. Because relationships are complicated.

  20. I will start out by saying that I am a divorced man and this topic has been on my mind a lot recently since I do desire to eventually remarry in the temple one day, but I was uncertain how the sealing power would work in the case of my ex-wife. As was said above, the conditions of the sealing power that is performed on a man and wife is conditional on the faithfulness of those parties to that covenant. Another challenge we face as a Church is that divorce is such a sensitive subject, most Church leaders are only marginally familiar with the topic. Now, it is a sensitive topic, I know, but I think that if more members were willing to discuss the topic of temple sealings and annulments, there would be more clarity given to us from the Brethren by revelation to us.

  21. Clark Goble says:

    Steve …ordinances are to be permanent and eternal, and therefore we want to avoid any implication that they can be terminated.

    Except the very notion of the sealing power includes the idea of loosing. “whatsoever you bind on earth, may be bound in heaven; whatsoever you loose on earth, may be loosed in heaven” (Matt 16:19; 18:18; D&C 124:93; 127:7; 128:10 etc.) The loosing power is intrinsically bound up with the binding power.

    Now one could make the symbolic play where we somehow increase the incentives for not thinking of marriage as eternal if we allow easy termination of marriage. I think the problem there is perhaps emphasizing more care in the dating process rather than trying to make it harder to divorce. (I think the same thing in the broader non-Mormon culture as well). In particular while I can’t speak to what say BYU culture is now, back when you and I were in our 20s there was perhaps too much emphasis of getting married soon. Of course there’s a danger there that people trying to pick the right person just get too choosey and often about superficial qualities.

    Royce, regarding the sealings of children I think that’s just such an emotional issue the church doesn’t even want to touch it, preferring to leave it until the millennium when sealings all get fixed presumably. Of course one could easily say that they could easily do that with divorces by just doing things that deal with the emotional issues here and now and if it needs fixed leaving it to the millennium. Instead we have a situation where they are left in place to get fixed in the millennium leaving the emotional anguish in place.

    I’ve no idea of the thinking of the brethren on this so I don’t think we can speak to why they have taken the position they have. My sense is that it’s easier to leave the status quo than start a big debate on the topic, but I could easily be wrong on that. It might also just reflect the peers they encounter in less formal settings.

    J. Stapley, I look forward to your article. My sense, perhaps completely wrong, is that all of this is wrapped up with the theology of adoption and the idea of stewardship at Adam-ondi-Ahman. What I’m confused upon is there appears to be two lines. One is a line of accountability through ones priesthood authority (presumably a kind of stewardship) while the other is a familial one that presupposes worrying about male lines more than female lines. (If only because when all of this was thought through in the 19th century that was the bias of view from historic cultural practice) Exactly what a sealing of children to parents means is somewhat unclear.

    In addition there’s a more problematic idea of having visitation rights between kingdoms. I’m not sure when those ideas developed or by whom. The idea that being sealed implies a kind of right of demand for visitation. That, to me, seems deeply incoherent for a variety of reasons. (Not the least of which being a kind of freedom of association one would presume for at least celestial beings)

  22. Long ago, if a lady was getting way too old for marriage (like 35), a regular thing was to seal them to Joseph Smith or Brigham Young. No marriage, just a sealing. Temple adoption used to be a thing, too. John D. Lee (yes, *that* Lee) was sealed as a son to Brigham Young.

    Usual disclaimers, your mileage may vary, further light and knowledge, etc. etc. and so forth.

  23. hawleyberry says:

    My heart leapt at the very thought of single parents having the opportunity to be sealed to their children. My daughters have no father (I adopted as a single parent) and this has been a thorny question which pops up every now and then from well-meaning nosy people. I resolved it by concluding that our relationship is what it is with or without a “sealing” and that I believe in Heavenly Parents who would honor the nature of our relationship. Still, even being really ok with it, I would still jump at the opportunity for them to be sealed to me and through me to my parents and so on. Wishful thinking, so I’ll continue to be one who believes that “it will all work out in the end.”

  24. All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations,’ must be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, if they are to have ‘efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead. (D&C 132:7.)

    The ratifying seal of approval is put upon an act only if those entering the contract are worthy as a result of personal righteousness to receive the divine approbation. They ‘are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.’ (D&C 76:53.) If they are not just and true and worthy the ratifying seal is withheld.

    So, in truth, it is the Holy Spirit that seals not the priesthood leader who is performing the ceremony. You are really just getting married in the temple and you work toward being sealed. With that being said, I don’t know what the big deal is with cancelling a ‘temple sealing’ after a divorce. In my mind, if two people have decided to part ways (for whatever reason) then God himself doesn’t consider them sealed.

  25. A Happy Hubby says:

    I am a bit with Royce on this topic. It seems to me that the only sealing that makes sense is between a couple. The children will be sealed to their spouses – even if they die before being married.

    But then again, I have come back to wonder why God would divide up loved ones in the first place and then make them go do this “sealing”. It just does not compute in my brain.

  26. I disagree with Jenny a bit. The sealer actually says “by authority… I seal you….” Couples are sealed with priesthood authority, but the Holy Ghost ratifies. (Sealing language is used in other ordinances in the temple, too.) It’s a distinction without much difference, since in the end, everything (the performance of the ordinance, PH authority, personal worthiness, etc) all have to come together for the ordinance to be effective.

  27. I don’t think my earlier comment incorporates the way Joseph talks about the intergenerational sealing/”welding link.” Perhaps DC 128 (and baptism for the dead) is talking about a different relationship than the sealing between a parent and child, but I don’t know of other canonical references to multiple intergenerational sealings.

  28. All I know is that I really hope there isn’t this much paperwork in the next life.

  29. I’m afraid my last comment was too flippant for your thoughtful post, Aaron. I do get very frustrated by discussions of the sealing ordinance because of my own personal issues–not because I’ve been divorced, but just because the details make the whole thing seem suspect to me. There’s a great mystery surrounding it, yet there is also all this red tape. On the one hand, God will work it all out, but on the other, it’s so very important that we fill in all the forms correctly. I find it intellectually frustrating–crazy-making, really, and I technically don’t have anything eternal at stake here (presumably, as someone sealed to her current spouse and BIC children). I can only imagine how emotionally frustrating it is for people who are sealed to people they don’t want to be sealed to and not to those they want to be sealed to. I think the best solution is probably the simplest solution: seal everybody to everybody and let God work it out (since he’s going to anyway).

  30. My husband is a bishop and last year helped a woman in our ward get a sealing cancellation even though she was not dating anyone else at the time. I can confirm that what TJ said is true, and that it was a relatively quick process. I think it was very healing for this sister.

  31. My ex-husband had his name removed from church records shortly before our divorce. My records still indicate that I was sealed on a particular date, but not to anyone. My kids all have “BIC” in their records still. I have no idea what it all means in an eternal sense, but I also don’t feel stressed about it. I have wondered if I would still need a sealing cancellation if I ever get re-married, since I’m not sealed to anybody, but I’ve never asked my bishop about it either.

  32. Kristine says:

    TJ & Anon–the problem is that it depends entirely on the Stake President. Women have no mechanism for direct appeal, and if the SP doesn’t want to go to bat for you, you’re out of luck.

  33. Former stake president here (I was recently released, yay!), longtime lurker, firsttime commenter etc. etc. TJ is right—today, if the application for cancelation goes to the First Presidency, it almost surely will be approved quickly unless information is missing from the application. As a SP I received instruction from the Twelve that I was NOT to dissuade or “talk members out of” seeking cancelations. If they expressed a desire for it, we were to assist them in putting the application in. This was to be followed, whether or not the person had current or future prospects of another marriage/sealing. Of course, to what degree this message has been taken to heart and/or applied by SPs and filtered down to bishops will vary.

  34. Clark Goble says:

    Kristine do men have any mechanism for direct appeal? I thought everything goes through the SP.

  35. Reading all of these posts with great interest. I am a woman who lived through it. I had many questions and was given wise counsel. Two weeks after my divorce from my husband, he remarried. I stayed single and raised my 4 children by myself. He was sealed to his second wife 4 years after their marriage. I was required to write a letter which I sent to his Bishop expressing my thoughts. I was so happy for him. So now he was sealed to her and to me in this life. He didn’t keep his temple covenants during our marriage or after his second marriage. I was told by my Stake President that it was O.K. I still had “A Sealing.” That covenant belonged to me and my children as long as I was faithful. After 14 years I met a good man who would not marry me unless we married in the temple and were sealed. His first wife had passed away. I applied to the General Authorities through my Bishop and Stake President for a Temple Cancellation from my first husband. My first husband was asked to write a letter just like me, which he never did, and so my Bishop intervened and continued the process anyway. I was interviewed by all my local Authorities two times. It took six months to hear back from the Authorities in Salt Lake, but they sent me a letter hand carried by the Stake Executive Secretary to me at home. It was a simple letter, a short letter, but in it was so much love and concern. They were happy I had found someone worthy who wanted to marry me in the Temple and be sealed. That took place. Now my present husband has two wives. One living, and one dead. I was told by my Stake President that my children were sealed to me as my first husband did not keep his covenants and would be given to my new husband in the next life as part of his posterity. Are you grasping this? My first husband could be sealed to two wives in this life, but I could not be sealed to two husbands in this life. My first sealing was intact, only separated by a civil divorce. It was still in force as long as I kept my covenants.

  36. Anonforthisone says:

    My daughter received her sealing cancelation within a month of her civil divorce, and within a week or two of the submission by the stake president of the request of cancelation. There no longer is any requirement that an engagement/marriage be pending before a woman may request a cancelation. My recently released stake president told me that it was rare, if ever, to get push back on a cancelation request from the FP. That cancelations are granted fairly routinely–he said even for people seeking third or fourth cancelations after that many divorces. If there are stake presidents who are not submitting requests, my impression from my corner of the world is that they are acting on their own accord and not in accordance with what appears to be the current practice of the FP.

  37. I don’t really mind being technically sealed to my ex-husband. What does slightly bother me: if I were to remarry a non-member or marry outside the temple and have kids, my kids will technically be sealed to my ex. That’s weird. Another odd thing (although maybe this is a clerical error) is that in spite of my divorce, the online ward directory still lists my ex-husband’s surname at the top of my public profile instead of my own. I do think it’s odd how the church treats sealing cancellation. The marriage sealing ceremony is so clearly about making commitments to that specific person that it doesn’t really make sense to “keep” the sealing in order to maintain some covenant that’s obviously not in force because of divorce. If it’s essential that everyone be sealed and it doesn’t actually matter whether one has an ongoing relationship with the person to whom their sealed, why not go back to sealing everybody (single or married) platonically? Why force women to choose between being sealed to deceased/living husbands?

  38. I think there’s some question about sealing itself and whether it is necessary to be sealed to an opposite sex partner specifically or to the human family as a whole. This question has suddenly been – kind of – answered in the church’s vociferous opposition to gay marriage. It’s still a question Bushman raised about JS’s original intent that I don’t think we clearly understand even now. What was he on about exactly?

    The other reason the church seems loathe to allow sealing cancellations is the inequality in covenant between men and women. They are “protecting” the woman’s access to exaltation (through the man). The man is free to become a conduit for other women to attain exaltation, but if the sealing is cancelled, the woman is unfairly barred.

    But this is an interesting framing and useful in the discussion.

  39. Clark Goble says:

    Angela I think that’s right. And it does pop up in discussions of gay marriage. So in previous discussion here for instance the issue was raised whether in a polygamous 19th century marriage whether the women were just sealed to their husband individually or whether they made up an entire family unit (i.e. sealed together).

  40. Nitpicker says:

    “When people are sealed in the temple they make a set of promises or commitments to both God and their prospective partner; promises that involve fidelity, giving wholly of ourselves, and receiving the other person unconditionally as well.”

    Well, kind of. They promise to receive the other person, but “they” don’t exactly promise to give wholly of themselves; more like “she” promises to give of herself.

  41. marcella says:

    I’m glad to hear that temple cancellations are getting easier for women to obtain. When I was divorced over 25 years ago I was told by my Bishop that I was not to ask about such a thing and he didn’t even want to change my last name back to my maiden name on my church records (never mind that I’d never legally changed my last name to his when we married). It took me years before I would attend the temple and even longer until I no longer felt ill at the thought of going there. I’m glad it’s not like this for everyone anymore.

  42. J. Stapley says:

    ANON (March 30, 2016 at 9:40 pm) would you be willing to let me interview for the study I am doing on this topic?

  43. Swisster says:

    ANON (March 30, 2016 at 9:40 pm)
    I want to make sure I understand. Was your first sealing canceled? It sounds like you were sealed to your second husband, yet you say that your first sealing is intact, and that you are only sealed to one man.

  44. Clark: It doesn’t seem to me like there’s room for argument. The polygamous wives have no real relationship to the sister wives, only to the husband. They are multiple marriages, not one big poly-marriage. Any friendships that form are not kinship, just friendship. Or maybe like allies in Survivor.

    I believe I am right that the logic in preserving the sealing is to prevent women from being barred from exaltation, but it’s also infuriating doctrine that infantilizes women and disrespects their agency. Not quite Law of Sarah level disrespect, but it does cause women pain. I realize that the church is willing to call this God’s will.

  45. J. Stapley: I am politely declining your offer to interview me about my Temple cancellation. I have too many negative feelings about the whole matter. I am afraid I would come across as a bitter, disenchanted Mormon woman. It has taken me years to talk about it nicely on this post. In other words, “you don’t know the half of it…..” My membership is intact as well as my faith, and the latter part of that statement is a huge relief. Thank you for your interest.

    Swisster: I am sorry for the confusion in my post. My Temple sealing to my first husband was intact even though we had a civil divorce, and he had remarried and was sealed a few years later to his second wife. My Stake Pres. said my sealing belonged to me and my children as long as I kept my covenants. When I met the man who was to be my second husband, he insisted I get a cancellation of my first Temple marriage so he could be sealed to me. That was done, and we were married and sealed in the Temple a week later after receiving the cancellation letter from Salt Lake. I had to show that letter to the Temple President when my second husband and I were married and sealed in the Temple. I just found the whole thing upsetting because of the gender inequality in the rules. I realize we in the Church belong to a Patriarchal Order and that is just the way it is. There has to be order, and that is the bottom line. I imagine when we get to the other side and understand better, we will laugh at our childish feelings and behavior.

  46. I went through the whole process, too. I obtained a cancellation with no hope or expectation of ever marrying again. In the process I learned a GREAT deal about what the sealing actually is, what it actually means, and how little we understand of it. For me, it was the right choice. For many, it would not be because of the nature of the covenants.

    Even knowing it was the right choice, I felt the gap that the removal of the sealing covenant left in my life. I would not recommend taking the path I took without thorough understanding of what is being done.

  47. Clark Goble says:

    Angela clearly in terms of 19th century practice most homes were fairly independent often with different houses. There were a few exceptions but while I don’t recall the exact statistics they were exceptions. Likewise in Nauvoo they were quite independent even if in some cases they were friends. Likewise you’re completely correct that the ceremony was always between two people and not more. Exactly what that means as a family isn’t clear either on formal doctrine lines or more practical social engagement. It goes without saying I think that this is not a good situation for humans to be in and I doubt many relationships between the women were ideal. However in some cases you had sisters married to the same husband and so forth.

    Again, I think we both agree with each other on the reality of 19th century practice and hope it doesn’t return. The larger questions of family or extended family seem worth asking even if they are far from clear in the history.

  48. “If it’s essential that everyone be sealed and it doesn’t actually matter whether one has an ongoing relationship with the person to whom their sealed, why not go back to sealing everybody (single or married) platonically? Why force women to choose between being sealed to deceased/living husbands?”

    This is my question exactly.

  49. “Office” of the First Presidency and First Presidency; Huge difference. While I share some of the same vitriol as ANON, that part of the story should probably be told someday J. Stapley.

  50. I did not wish to add anything negative to my post but have decided that maybe knowing some of the bad experience I had with obtaining my sealing cancellation might explain to others who have never had to go through the procedure how unnecessarily difficult church leaders can make what is already a painful experience.
    I did receive my cancellation within a couple of weeks. That was after President Monson changed the rules. A few years prior to that I had approached my prior bishop to tell him I just had to have a sealing cancellation. My former husband, who was a nightmare, used the fact I could not get one as the means of staying in touch. I had to be notified every time he moved. He was doing this for me. Then he would proceed to spew poison into my life. This lasted over ten years.
    My bishop’s response. He laughed in my face. No exaggeration.
    My life went into a tailspin after that.
    When my stake president told me about the change in practice but not formal policy, as he was careful to explain, I decided to file. He contacted his superior and it was explained to him that my letter should be short and without a lot of detail. Just the basic facts. In other words, do not go into the details of the emotion. Fine. I filled out the letter, met with my bishop and made my appointment with my stake president.
    I thought he was just going to sign the letter and send it. No, he wanted me to give him some details so he could “sell it to the general authorities”.
    Yes, he said “sell it”. I was not interested in having him sell my story to anyone. They had made it clear they did not want to hear the details from me, why would I need him to sell it to them? I refused to add anything else.
    This whole process left me feeling like the church leaders were treating me like a child. This was my marriage. I was competent in making the decision as to whether or not I wished to remain sealed to the man. I could tell my own story. If they wanted to explain the consequences of my actions to me, that would have been fine. The consequences of this course of action, of course, were never even mentioned.
    Back in high school seminary, my teacher told a story about someone who came to him to repent. He told him he would forgive him but would be watching him carefully after that to see if he repeated the transgression. I was horrified and told him so. Forgiveness requires that the person be trusted again. No, he said. I have decided he is correct. I will forgive but they will never again have my trust.

  51. Just a footnote to my posts here. I wish the Church would establish some mechanism to receive feedback from the members on policies and procedures that are causing harm. I know I do not want to tell this story on the internet. But what avenue have they provided to fix things? In my experience appealing to a bishop or stake president or even higher is an exercise in futility.

  52. I am grateful for the change in policy. It has been a major factor is my healing. May I suggest a complementary change. When the divorce involves adultery, church leaders should not rush to baptize or re-baptize any of the participants in the adultery. The woman my former husband got pregnant during our marriage was baptized less than a month after our divorce. To me this made the Church an actual participant in the betrayal. I find it impossible to believe what they preach when their actions spoke so loudly. They actually make more effort to see that someone does not do temple work outside the rules than they do to see that life shattering sins are repaired prior to participation in the ordinances of the gospel. How hard is it to see that someone has expressed remorse for adultery? It takes what, a phone call? Something I never received.

  53. Anon for this says:

    Couldn’t agree more, Emma. To me that seems like a mockery of the sacred ordinances, and even the Atonement to brush the seriousness of sins like adultery (or even betrayal through an unjustified divorce, etc.) under the rug and pretend like everything is okay by allowing the sinner back through these ordinances so quickly, all the while leaving individuals and often innocent children devastated in the wake of these choices. In my mind it is a betrayal, and I do not believe God recognizes these things, and I would be happy to see policy catch up to what I believe is this reality.

    I believe the idea that you can seal, loose, seal, loose, etc. is likewise a mockery of the sealing power and those sacred covenants made in its use, and also not recognized by God.

  54. I think Steve Evans has a really good point. The Mormon church likes to talk about how the temple sealings mean that couples can be married for eternity and families can be together forever. However, if they advertise the fact that sealings can be cancelled by either the recipients or the church, then it calls into question the efficacy of the sealings. “Sealings are eternal, unless one of you, or the church, decides that they aren’t.” It introduces a kind of precarious nature into the sealings. Are they really permanent?

  55. I believe that sealings are like the blessings pronounced in the temple, temporary in this life, permanent in the next if certain conditions are met.
    I am saddened that the Covenants that make temple sealing permanent are not honored with more fideluty. So much heartbreak could be avoided if they were.
    One of the concerns I have is people remarrying in the temple without cleaning up the messes they left behind. I have seen much resentment by divorced ex-spouses when their former mate remarried in the temple without any real repentence shown. I have known a number of men brag about how in the next life they will have multiple women sealed to them even though all these women divorced them in this life. I have watched older women so anxious to marry they will excuse any behavior in their husband’s treatment of his former wife and children ao long as they can have a temple marriage. As if it could possibly be eternal.
    I do not know how much weight the Church gives to the letters requested of a former spouse’s prior to a new sealing. The one case I know intimately of, the Church sealed a couple despite the ex-wife’s protest that this couple’s adultery had been the nail in the coffin of her marriage. Perhaps they do not want to get into the middle of a he said, she said fight. You cannot force a person to feel real remorse, but you can require apologies, something that just seem to be required in general authorities talks about repentence but not in reality.

  56. Jennifer in GA says:

    For the past few years I’ve felt the church is basically teaching two different things about sealings and expecting the membership to accept the contradictions: The sealing ordinance is both extremely important (“Never settle for less than being married/sealed in the temple!”) and not important at all (“You are still sealed to your abuser? Don’t worry about- God will sort it out in the hereafter!”)

    At this point, I’m almost ready to wash my hands of anything temple related (except the initiatory) because there is so much conflict and pain.