Church eliminates temple marriage waiting period

Another change:

In a major change to a century of Latter-day Saint wedding tradition and policy, members who marry in a civil ceremony no longer face an automatic year-long wait before they can be eligible for a temple sealing, an ordinance that allows a marriage to continue after death.
“The policy requiring couples who have been married civilly to wait one year before being sealed is now discontinued,” the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Monday morning in a letter. “Couples who have been married civilly may be sealed in the temple when they receive their temple recommends.”
The change will make it easier for some families who have struggled to balance temple marriage celebrations when some family members are not church members. Only worthy church members can enter temples and attend temple sealings.
Presidents Russell M. Nelson, Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring signed Monday’s letter and sent it around the world to the church’s international and local leaders.
But the change will be felt most keenly in the United States and Canada, where a one-year waiting period for a temple sealing after a civil marriage was the policy for about 100 years, according to a previous blog post by independent historian Ardis Parshall.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

18 thoughts on “Church eliminates temple marriage waiting period

  1. What a wonderful, humane decision. Especially for couples who must travel some distance to a temple in the least expensive way with no chaperones along. I have known of several couples who ended up with a civil marriage at the end of a long and love dazed trip. I honored their honesty, but cringed a little that everyone knew the reason for the sudden change of plans.

  2. Such a blessing and relief. My mother’s siblings still harbor a great deal of negative feeling toward the church because they were excluded (my mom is a convert) from my parent’s wedding back in the 1960s.

  3. God is saying to the children of Israel, “Everything you complain about, my servant will rectify. Now will you receive him as you profess to receive me?”

    Will we?

  4. There was someone in my ward growing up who wasn’t able to attend his daughter’s marriage ceremony because it was in the temple and he wasn’t a member. He respected that the Church would not cave in to the ways of the world, that he investigated and joined the Church. (See “Karel VanderHeyden” in _Mormon Lives_ by Susan Buhler Taber.)

  5. Where was this policy in effect? In Brazil, for example, there was no waiting period when I was growing up. You had to marry civilly and the day after the couple would marry in the temple.

  6. Lucas, in most countries outside of the US and Canada, you have to have a civil wedding before you can be sealed and there has not been the waiting period to be sealed. The guidelines in those cases, is to not delay the sealing and couples are encouraged to go to the temple for that ordinance soon after their civil wedding. This was due to local laws. There were no such laws in the US or Canada. I’m sure at the time this policy was put into place in the US and Canada, there was a reason. That reason probably no longer exists.

  7. Thank you, Joice. I suspected that was the reason I didnt think this was such a monumental announcement lol

    This will make it so families can have a big party separate to the sealing (but with an actual civil cerimony), then have a private sealing cerimony with a more intimate group/smaller sized group (as it is done in other parts of the world).

  8. There are other issues involved. It is possible that this is a move toward making sealing a purely religious ceremony not governed by the laws that might be interpreted to require marriages that could be problematical. It may soon be that all marriages will be performed civilly then solemnized in a sealing.

  9. It is possible that this is a move toward making sealing a purely religious ceremony not governed by the laws that might be interpreted to require marriages that could be problematical.

    This is exactly it. It’s both (i) a reversal of a policy that had outlived its usefulness by many, many decades, and (ii) a preemptive strike to avoid the Church ever being forced to perform a “marriage” that runs counter to its doctrine. Next step: the Church gets temples out of the civil marriage business entirely.

  10. Pat and iasot, that’s very wise analysis. It had not ocurred to me, but now that you mention it… yeah.

    If temple sealers no longer do civil marriages, would they have bishops stop doing them too?

    I’ve kind of chuckled at people claiming to be “married in the church” when married by a bishop in the meeting-house. He’s only using civil authority, not any priesthood authority.

    Am I correct in understanding that there is no _Priesthood authority_ in today’s church to marry people “in the eyes of the church?” And that bishops are only using civil authority to do so?

  11. So, some think that any space were legal marriages are solemnized, such as the Relief Society room, or a Catholic chapel, will be required by the state to also be available for marriages between people of the same sex? I really doubt it.

  12. As long as it is a ‘not for profit’ situation, under current circumstances it would probably not approach the ‘public accommodation test, but the goal posts are being moved daily. People have sued to be allowed to marry in the church of their choice as long as there are payments being accepted. I’m surprised there hasn’t been a court case in California attempting to force the Church to allow marriages in some of the temples there. After all, it could be argued that requiring tithing as part of the awarding of temple recommends is a way of paying. I don’t believe this is true of course, but we have seen some very strange decisions in the courts lately.

  13. Bookslinger, yes, when a bishop performs a wedding, it is a civil ceremony only.

    I don’t know if everyone remembers, but in 2014-15, BEFORE Obergfell came out, the Church updated the policy for bishops who officiate at weddings. They are only allowed to marry people from their ward. They cannot perform a same-sex marriage. And no church owned properties/facilities can be used to host a same-sex wedding.

  14. IMO — a bishop is sort of wearing two hats — one for the state and one for the church. As we respect the laws of the land, certainly a bishop shouldn’t marry a couple without them having obtained a marriage license. Hence, it is a civil ceremony but the words he uses vis-a-vis the handbook puts a priesthood authority spin on things. (States have laws that regulate what happens when someone with apparent authority performs a wedding ceremony.) Threadjack: The words of the church ceremony as performed by the bishop is what should tell everyone that second marriages are to be just as important as the first, and that spouses are to give their heart and soul into that marriage, regardless of what number it is. Hence my feeling there is no such thing as a marriage of convenience. If you can’t “cleave unto him/her and none else; [and]… observe all the laws, responsibilities, and obligations pertaining to the holy state of matrimony; and .. love, honor, and cherish him/her as long as you both shall live…” then perhaps you shouldn’t re-marry.

  15. Courts in the United States have repeatedly affirmed that the state will not force a religion to perform marriages and other things in conflict with the state’s teachings.

    That said, most people aren’t lawyers and therefore aren’t sufficiently knowledgeable to understand that it’s the right of a church to refuse to perform marriages or other things that are in conflict with the church’s beliefs.

    There’s another potential factor. When people divorce and wish to remarry, there is often a significant amount of angst regarding getting a prior sealing cancelled. I think former spouses are consulted when a woman seeks to be sealed at the same time she is married. Separating civil marriage from sealing would have the benefit of allowing folks to do whatever they might wish to do, taking the Church out of a fraught situation. This would also allow the matter of handling the sealing power to be retained in the hands of the President of the Church even though the membership of the Church has grown so significantly.

  16. “Courts in the United States have repeatedly affirmed that the state will not force a religion to perform marriages and other things in conflict with the state’s teachings.”

    It would be an assumption to think that is going to continue. (I assume you meant “in conflict with the religion’s teachings.)

    Removing tax exempt status of non-PC charitable institutions is a very tempting target. It was already tried against the church in the UK in regard to the temples as they were not deemed “open to the public.” (Whatever became of that?)

    So technically, churches might not be “forced” to do/recognize SSM, but those who refuse could have their tax exempt status revoked.

  17. I think the argument also goes like this: “Our elected or appointed public officials are not allowed to discriminate. They have to perform all forms of weddings as long as the parties have a valid marriage license. If you (religious minister/bishop or sealer/priest) want to represent the state and perform marriages, you also can not discriminate. If you feel you can not perform SSM, then you will no longer be able to register to perform marriages at the local clerk of court’s office. In fact, we’ll make it even easier for everybody. We’ll change our state laws in such a way that only elected/appointed public officials can perform marriages. (That’s how it’s done in Europe and other places, anyway.) Then, after the couple are marriage civilly, they can go have a separate religious ceremony at their leisure.” So, no, they won’t “force” a religous leader to perform SSM against his or her will. They’ll just pass laws that remove all ability of religious leaders to perform any state recognized marriages.

  18. As I have said before, the Church should not require any of its members to have a civil marriage at all. So long as it is done in the Temple then it should be considered in the eyes of the Church as proper and acceptable. Having a civil marriage should be the choice of the couple. What the state decides about the couple shouldn’t be a Church concern. What the Church decides about a couple certainly isn’t a state concern.

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