Sealing Primer

Cedar-City-Temple-sealing-room2017

Recently, I was talking with a young friend about her upcoming temple sealing. She is planning her own wedding next year, and found herself with questions. Her own Endowment left her feeling unprepared and nervous, which I suspect is more common than we generally admit. Sometimes we imagine comfort in saying “It’s so wonderful!” or “It will be the most beautiful day of your life.” Maybe this is reassuring for some people, but for me, when undertaking something as serious as promises with God, I need to know more.

We can actually talk about the temple, respectfully, in far more detail than we usually do. When I was preparing for my own endowment, my friends were kind enough to sit me down and answer all my questions. I had taken the temple prep class several times, but going over the Plan of Salvation, while important, didn’t really tell me what exactly was going to take place.

I decided to share similarly with my engaged friend what she could expect on her Sealing day. Here is my advice:

If you are already endowed, go and do proxy sealings beforehand. Everything about the proxy sealings is the same, with the exception of your names and a word about posterity, as it will be in the live sealing. It’s the best way to sit with the language and feeling of the ceremony and process your thoughts and feelings.

Planning your Endowment for the day of the Sealing is a LOT to process, and I recommend doing it at least a week beforehand. This will do two important things: you will have time to ponder the Endowment, and you will not have to stress about further ceremonies on your wedding day.

You will be wearing your full temple ceremonial clothing over your wedding dress. If your dress has sleeves shorter than wrist-length or a scoop-neck, you will be provided with an over-jacket to cover your arms and chest, an then you will wear your ceremonial clothing over that. It’s a lot, and it can be quite warm. Many brides opt to wear their temple dress for the ceremony, and their actual wedding dress after. This is perfectly fine, and there isn’t one right answer.

Prior to the sealing ceremony itself, once you are completely dressed, you will be presented to your husband at the veil in a truncated veil ceremony. Your soon-to-be husband acts as proxy for the Lord at the veil. The two of you will then proceed to the sealing room, where any family and friends who are temple-worthy will be present.

Sealing rooms are small, even in larger temples. If you have a large Mormon family, the chances are great that they may not be able to accommodate everyone. If you have a part-member family, non-members will not be allowed in to see your Sealing.

There will be two male witnesses of the Sealing. The witnesses sit next to the sealer at the front of the room, while you and your spouse kneel at the altar. The witnesses must be men. You will choose the witnesses, and often they are the fathers of the couple, but they don’t have to be.

The Sealer, if you don’t have one you have chosen yourself, will simply be assigned from the set-apart temple Sealer(s) working that day. The Sealer will usually give a short exposition on marriage and sealing and offer some words of advice prior to the actual scripted ceremony. This can be lovely, or it can be benign, neutral, weird, or brusque, depending on his viewpoint. They are people, and while almost always kind, they are sometimes harried, especially in a busy temple at a busy time of the year. Think of Fast & Testimony meeting at your wedding. There is no way to know what will be said, unless you have picked the Sealer yourself.

There is no place during the Sealing for an exchange of rings, or for personal vows of any kind. The ceremony is short, simple, and takes only a few minutes.

You will kneel across from each other at the altar, clasp your hands, and pledge to give yourself to your husband. He will pledge to receive you. He will not reciprocate in giving. Neither of you will say “I do” but rather you will both say “Yes.” The Sealing is then pronounced.

For a family sealing where there are children to be sealed to the couple, the children are brought in after the couple is sealed, and they are gathered around the altar with the kneeling parents. The children are dressed in all-white but nothing ceremonial. One at a time, their hands are placed on top of the parents’ clasped hands, and each child is sealed individually to their parents.

That’s it. You stand, regard yourself and your spouse or family in the mirrors of the Sealing room, and you’re done.

I offer no opinion on how anyone should feel about this—each of us has to make these calls for ourselves based on our personal prayers, hearts and families. For myself, my husband and I were both recommend holding members in good standing, but we opted to do a civil ceremony and be sealed a year later. It was the right call for us, but I know many other people who have been happy with doing it all in one day. I don’t believe there is a right answer, only what works best for you and for your family. As with everything, you are entitled to inspiration for you, for your marriage, and for your life going forward. Best of luck to you!

Comments

  1. Thanks for posting this, Tracy. You’ve done a great service for a great many women.

  2. Thanks Tracy. This would have been so helpful for me and my friends. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve had friends shell-shocked by not wearing their wedding dress, or being told its too fancy or needs to be covered up, or not realizing there’s the separate veil ceremony, or a half-dozen other little things that this post clearly addresses. I’ll be linking to it in the future!

  3. nobody, really says:

    I’d add just two points to this marvelous essay, Tracy.

    Your family and guests might not be required to change into white clothing for the sealing ceremony. Some temples don’t allow it at all, like Salt Lake City. A big temple on a slow day might allow guests to change, but the bride can generally expect guests to be wearing their Sunday best. This was a point my wife insisted upon when we were sealed, and fortunately for her, the temple we were at only had four sealing ceremonies that day, so family was allowed to change.

    Second, a Saturday at a popular temple will be packed. One of my brothers had ordinance workers coming in during the ceremony to tell the sealer to hurry things up. Tuesdays-Thursdays may help make the ceremony less rushed and more personalized.

    I once overheard a co-worker ask a newlywed bride where she got married – the response was “Provo.” “Oh, that’s too bad….” I could have slapped the person asking the question. Turns out the bride’s grandfather was a sealer at the Provo temple, and her parents had been married there, so it was her first choice of anyplace on earth. Second, there’s a lot to be said for being sealed in *any* temple – having the ordinance done at all is far more important than going to the current “fashionable” location.

  4. This is so helpful and needed. The sealer is a real game of roulette. I don’t remember a word of what our sealer said, including the ceremony, but I’ve heard of many who opine in cringeworthy ways, often filled with sexist observations or instructions to the couple.

    I also remember being put off by sexist things the matron said in the so-called bride’s room even though I was getting my endowment for a mission, not marriage (they still had me as a female patron go in with the brides). Apparently the matron felt we women all needed instructions in the washing and disposal of our theoretical husband’s garments because men are incapable of doing laundry. Since I wasn’t getting married, every worker’s twinkly reassurance to me as “a bride” about my “special day” just made me feel like apparently the only valid path was marriage, not a mission. I hope that experience is a relic of the past.

  5. There is a change of one line from the live sealing and the proxy sealings having to do with posterity.

  6. Very well done! One tiny suggestion: instead of “There is no way to know what will be said, unless you have picked the Sealer yourself”, one might consider that there is no way to know what will be said even if you have picked the Sealer yourself, but doing that gives you the possibility, at least, of inquiring what will be said. Thinking of it as Fast & Testimony meeting (to be taken seriously or not as the spirit moves you) is a really good way of dealing with Sealer or Leadership roulette.

  7. When I’ve given people recommends for their endowment and/or sealing I sit down with them for a full 45 – 60 minutes and tell them all the mechanics of what they will experience. As said above, there is really not much we can’t say but we have a culture of silence for anything regarding the inside of the temple. Plus our current way of letting people opt out of a ceremony that is already underway seems coercive and unfair – they need to know what they are committing to beforehand.

    The Temple Prep class is almost useless for a temple primer in my opinion. It needs some serious upgrades and the teacher needs to feel empowered to really talk about what happens in the temple.

    When I brought my fiancee through the veil neither temple worker knew what they were doing and it was a comedy of errors. I (naively) thought it would be a romantic event, bringing my wife to be through the veil but instead I left wondering what just happened.

    A temple sealing can be a lovely thing but it needs to be approached carefully and thoughtfully.

  8. Another point: If the sealing is actually a marriage (that is, the first time the couple has been married, not a sealing of a previously married couple), there is some paperwork to satisfy the state that is not necessary when the sealing is purely a religious rite. When you first arrive at the temple, you’ll need to go to the temple office and provide your marriage license and any other documentation that is required in the state where the temple is located. If it’s important to someone, ask to have the mother of the bride or groom sign as one of the witnesses on the state certificate or the part of the license that is returned to the county for legal record. Witnesses who serve as part of the ecclesiastical process will both be men, but the purely legal/civil document is not limited to men. (You might want to include this as part of the call when you make your reservation for the wedding, since live marriages are limited to certain sessions, to be sure there won’t be a snag on the wedding day — if somebody in the temple office can’t tell the difference between church law and civil law, that will give them time to figure it out.)

    (This, of course, is for American marriages — I don’t know anything about laws elsewhere.)

  9. “You will kneel across from each other at the altar, clasp your hands, and pledge to give yourself to your husband. He will pledge to receive you. He will not reciprocate in giving.”

    One adjustment to this. The woman gives herself to her husband and receives him. The man receives his wife. There is another way to think about the giving and receiving and who does which that can shift the perception of the whole ceremony.

  10. Kevin Barney says:

    This s great, Tracy. We got sealed in Provo—we were both at BYU, and it simply didn’t occur to me that some other temple might be cooler somehow. Afterwards our sealer paused so we could exchange rings if we wanted to, but we didn’t even have rings, so there was no need.

  11. Ardis brings up an important point. While two men are required for the religious witnessing, if you are being married legally at the same time, any two people can witness the legal document that will be presented to the state. This is nice place to include a mother or other female witness, if one would like, for US weddings.

    Even if you are already civilly married (my husband and I were) we still had to go into the temple president’s office, present our papers, our marriage certificate, and all our pertinent church papers, addresses, parents’ names, birthdates, etc. It took about half an hour of going over all the details before we were cleared to proceed. The temple president reminded us, “We are a record-keeping people, all of this needs to be correct.”

  12. ” Everything about the proxy sealings is the same, with the exception of your names, as it will be in the live sealing.” Close… there is something about posterity in there that isn’t for proxy sealings.

  13. This is a good resource. Thanks, Tracy.

  14. Left Field says:

    The short veil ceremony occurs only if the bride was endowed previously–perhaps prior to her mission. In that case, a temple veil worker acted as proxy for the Lord when she was originally endowed, and her husband-to-be participates in the short veil ceremony so she can reveal her new name to him, while he is acting as proxy for the Lord.

    If the bride is being endowed in preparation for her sealing (even if its done a week or so before), then her husband acts as proxy for the Lord in the full veil ceremony that concludes her endowment, and the short version of the ceremony is unnecessary.

  15. RockiesGma says:

    The giving and receiving is troublesome.

  16. There is much therein that is troublesome to my spirit.

  17. I remember thinking in my endowment that if someone had told me exactly what my covenants would be beforehand I may have postponed or even declined those covenants. At the very least I would have prayed about them. As it was I was in the room with my fiance and my in-laws and I was due to be married in a few days. Declining in the moment felt impossible. And then, deja-vu – ditto for the sealing ceremony a few days later.

    I think if I had known beforehand I would have wanted a civil ceremony and a year to prepare with my husband to make those promises. As it was much of our part-member and inactive/ex mormon families were excluded, and I felt in some measure smaller and of less value to God.

    Thanks for the post, I think this is a very good primer. It definitely ought to be included in temple/marriage prep classes.

  18. One correction to some of the comments. The husband is not acting as “proxy for the Lord” when he takes his wife through the veil. He is acting for himself as her lord. “Lord” was commonly used for a wife to call her husband in the past. When a man gets his endowment, the temple worker s acting as proxy for the Lord as in Jesus Christ, but for women, the husband is not standing in for anyone but himself. The older version of the endowment ceremony made this clear, but now they keep it confuseing, I think so that women will not be as nsulted when they find they are brought into the CK by their husband and not Jesus.

    Brigham Young made it quite clear that Jesus does not judge when, but their husband is the one who judges their righteousness.

  19. Whatever you assume Brigham Young or some specific phrasing to have meant at any point in time, or to mean now, the Book of Mormon is very clear, and that’s where I get my understanding of the doctrine. “The keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.”

  20. Dog Spirit says:

    Wondering, yes indeed! Much of the doctrine taught in the temple seems to be contradicted by scripture. Brigham Young had his hands all over the endowment, and scripture just doesn’t support much of what he designed it to teach.

  21. Yeah, there is no way I accept that. My husband acted as proxy, not as himself. I do not, nor will I ever worship at his feet. My savior is Jesus.

    And if, heaven forbid, any notion of that is not true, I will tear a page from Lilith’s book and meet my similarly cast-out friends on the beach.

  22. Left Field says:

    Both men and women are explicitly mentioned as being given instruction at the veil from the same being. And in every case, we are all said to interact with a “person representing the Lord,” not some with the “lord” himself, and others with a person representing the Lord.

  23. I just gave my understanding of the temple ceremony as I understood it when I went through, before the changes that kind of hid the fact that it is the woman’s husband who brings her into the CK and the veil ceremony represents that.

    I am really with Tracy on this though. If I get to the gate to the CK, and find my husband standing there to act as my judge, I think I will grab his hand and pull hm back through the veil and ask if he wants to be with me in some lower kingdom, cause I refuse to worship a God who loves his sons but not his daughters. So, if the temple ceremony is “true” (whatever that mean), then it does not represent a god I can worship. I think I will check out Thor.

  24. Have all the temples switched to over-jackets to cover short sleeves? Back in my day of attending weddings (5-10 years ago), they provided an undershirt instead. That required additional dressing room time before and after.

  25. I’m with Marian. I think it’s extremely unfair to be asked to make a covenant on the spot. I think there needs to be a mature discussion with those going through the temple what that entails. At the very least, I plan to have this discussion with my kids ahead of time. Lightning strike as it may.

  26. HokieKate, I was sealed in 2015 in Brigham City, and they gave me an over-jacket. I had to take off and re-don the ceremonial clothing over it, and they did make me do that back in the dressing room, but there was no undershirt. I don’t know if that’s policy across the board, or atypical.

    Chadwick, I agree completely. I really wish we could study, pray and ponder, rather than having to decide on the spot, which really isn’t fair or honest. I will also talk very frankly with my children, leaving out only the few very specific details I must.

  27. Great write-up. One other thing I would recommend: after doing the mini-veil ceremony, you and your husband get to sit for a bit in the Celestial room before the sealing ceremony; my husband and I used this opportunity to quietly exchange our own private vows — stuff like loving and cherishing each other always. I had been disappointed to learn that the sealing ceremony did not include romantic vows (at least romantic in the traditional sense; certainly there is something very romantic about being sealed together for eternity on different level), and so this was a way to incorporate a bit of something I think many women grow up thinking, and desiring, will be part of their marriage ceremony.

  28. Excellent summary. The only thing I might add is that you shouldn’t treat the sealing as your party. You definitely should have a party- a special celebration for you and all your loved ones where you dress up in nice clothes and eat delicious food in a beautiful place. Have a wonderful party and make it exactly how you want it to be.

    You should also, definitely have a sealing. But if you try to bring the party to the sealing then you’ll be disappointed because you are not in control of *anything* that happens in the temple. The church and Temple workers decide how your sealing will be, not you.

    For example I wanted to wear my wedding dress (my party dress) at my sealing. I thought it was the righteous thing to do- sacrificing my aesthetic choices to accommodate the requirements of the Temple. I tried very hard to make sure that my dress would be acceptable to use, and as a result it was not a beautiful dress that I felt happy to wear. On the day of the sealing the temple workers declared it was not acceptable* and I was required to rent a regular temple dress. If I had viewed it as a party dress entirely separate from the sealing then I would have been less disappointed at the sealing, and had a dress that I liked and wanted to wear.

    *the mood lighting in the bride’s room made the perfectly white fabric look purple-ish

  29. This brings back such horrible memories of my sealing many years ago. The temple sealer, whom we had never met, gave very specific advice to me. I took it literally and in following it brought about the end of my marriage. What a disaster! I never remarried and have hated going to the temple ever since. Hardly the outcome I think anyone had in mind.

  30. Something to keep in mind with the tricky give/receive language is that in the nineteenth century when this ceremony originated, women could not legally give themselves away–they were the property of their father or husband (hence the tradition of the father walking the bride down the aisle to give her away). For an early Latter-day Saint woman to be able to freely give herself in marriage was revolutionary and empowering, even if we don’t see it that way now.
    A helpful thought with the two male witnesses is that with the sealer, they represent the Godhead together.

  31. acw, thanks for your unique angle on the practice of wives giving themselves away. I’m glad the practice was perhaps reassuring and empowering for some women of the past, but I’m not sure what justifies our continued use of it…it doesn’t make sense to me why men don’t give themselves (and never did) to their wives. Also, the Godhead image is still less than reassuring to me, because I believe the definition of Godhead and God should include Heavenly Mother. Obviously, such definitions are not formally endorsed by the church, but…why? Leaders of the church have a made a number of statements about her crucial complimentary role to Heavenly Father, and our modern doctrine explicitly states that union between woman and man is required to be exalted and to become as gods–so why do we continue to talk as though “God” means Heavenly Father rather than the Divine couple? How can we defeat the misconception that women are superfluous if we don’t even acknowledge Heavenly Mother in the Godhead?

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