The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a major change to civil wedding and temple sealing policy Monday morning. In a change to a half-century old policy, members who marry civilly will no longer face a year-long wait before they are eligible for a temple sealing.
In many countries around the world, the law requires couples to marry civilly first before being sealed. The Church allows a temple sealing to happen soon after the wedding, even on the same day when possible in those countries. However, in the United States, Canada, and other countries where laws permit, the process has been to be married and sealed simultaneously. This new policy provides a single global standard to be set for Latter-day Saints around the world. And while it’s easy to see this as a policy of compassion – allowing part-member families to witness a full wedding before the couples goes to the temple – it also makes sense as the Church continues its efforts to align all programs uniformly around the world.
The letter from the First Presidency said the following,
“Where possible, leaders should encourage couples to be both married and sealed in the temple. Where a licensed marriage is not permitted in the temple, or when a temple marriage would cause parents or immediate family members to feel excluded, a civil ceremony followed by a temple sealing is authorized.We anticipate this change will provide more opportunities for families to come together in love and unity during the special time of marriage and sealing of a man and woman.”
Along with the letter, a question and answer section was attached, covering the following items:
- The change in policy should not be be viewed as a lessening of emphasis on temple sealing. The temple sealing should still be seen as the crowning experience on the covenant path.
- Civil ceremonies should be simple and dignified and temple sealing should still be the central focus of the marriage.
- There is no specified time frame between when a couple is civilly married and when they can be sealed in the temple.
- Church meetinghouses can be used for civil marriages, if the couple meets with the Bishop, and follows the guidelines in the Handbook.
- Newly baptized members will still need to wait a year before being sealed in the temple to provide time to prepare to receive their endowment.
A Convert’s Perspective
I can’t help but wonder if some of the frustration that my family members had with not being able to go into the temple, might have been eased with a civil ceremony before hand. It’s very likely my family would have felt more included and less hurt. If I’m being truly honest, some of the joy of that day, was tempered by the fact that my entire family wasn’t in the sealing room with me.
Having said that, I’m just as close, if not closer with the family members who were not able to be in the sealing room with me that day. I know this isn’t always how it works out, but in my case it did. My family has come to learn how special the temple is to me over years of me sharing my testimony. That didn’t make it any easier on the day of my wedding however.
There are many converts out there, whom have had this same, or similar experience when it came time to be married in the temple. If this change helps alleviate the angst and sometimes anger that can accompany this period for someone else in the future, I’m all for it.