MB comes for a first guest post in response to a question from Mormon Heretic on Guy Templeton’s post about Excommunication after Sealings.

I was married in the temple to my excellent spouse in the new and everlasting covenant of marriage.  But we were not sealed to each other.

But before I go into details, let’s first let’s start with an understanding that different people have different ideas about what should and should not be discussed outside the temple. In order to respect those sensibilities I’ve been careful in this post to use only information that is available to all in church publications (hence, all the footnotes) that you can read on your own as well.  And let’s also start with some definitions.

“The new and everlasting covenant”[1] is composed of ‘All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations’ that are sealed upon members of the Church by the Holy Spirit[2] (ratified as in effect by the Holy Ghost)[3].  The covenants referred to are made in conjunction with God’s authority and power.   The new and everlasting covenant is also called “the fulness of the gospel”[4], in part, I believe, because it refers to a complete (full) covenant on the part of an individual to following the revealed gospel of Jesus Christ, uniting him or herself fully with God.

“The new and everlasting covenant” includes, therefore, all covenants to more fully live the gospel, including those made at baptism, sacrament, marriage, priesthood ordination etc.

“The new and everlasting covenant of marriage” is the gospel marriage covenant, made in conjunction with God’s authority and power, and made between God and two of his children who are in or are entering into a marriage[5].  It involves a man and a woman accepting one another in the marriage covenant[6] and, like every other holy covenant, making a covenant of faithfulness to the principles of the gospel on their part as well[7].  And it involves promised blessings on the part of God, pronounced by someone who has been given godly power to do so,[8]  which covenant, “in [the] process of time[9]”, may be “sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise” as the result of faithfulness, integrity, and steadfastness in honoring gospel covenants.[10]

But that’s too long to say.  So we shorten it.  And we shorten it to “temple marriage” or “sealed in the temple”, or “getting sealed” and, when it involves proxy work, “doing sealings”.  And it’s that “sealing” abbreviation that gets us into trouble theologically.

Contrary to Mormon vernacular and happy but theologically sloppy Primary songs and even the misuse of the phrase in church manuals, a husband and wife are not “sealed to each other” in the temple. Rather, they make a “new and everlasting covenant” about their marriage, (a commitment to create a marriage based a full commitment to principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ), they are pronounced married in a marriage that may (if they are faithful)  last beyond this life[11] and divine blessings are conditionally “sealed” upon them[12], dependent upon their individual faithfulness to that commitment they have made.  This is classic covenant pattern.

Temple “sealings,” in other words, the things that are actually sealed in a marriage in a temple, are not sealings (bindings, tying, gluing, eternally in the same celestial mansion) of two people to each other. They are provisional sealings of specific future blessings upon individuals who have made specific promises to God.[13]  The blessings that are sealed upon them, dependent upon their faithful keeping of their promises to live by the word of God[14], are blessings that, like the blessings of other covenants, are ones connected to a holy or celestial life.[15]

But what if it turns out that one or the other does not honor his or her side of the covenant?   Are the sealings of these blessings undone for both?

It is important to note that the sealings of temple marriage blessings are given to each person individually.[16]  When a member of his stake goes through the experience of a parent in a family choosing to have a sealing cancelled, a stake president is sent a letter counseling him to make it clear to the spouse and children of that individual  that one person abandoning his or her promises in that covenant, or rejecting them, or having them cancelled does not affect the condition of those sealed blessings of a celestial nature in the life of his or her spouse or children who seek to honor the promises of faithfulness made and also wish to continue to live a life centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Someone in your family rejecting their sealed blessings of a celestial nature does not mean a change in the celestial life and joy blessings sealed upon you.

Temple marriages are a new covenant on our part to seek to continue to apply the gospel in our lives fully, this time in a marriage relationship. Our covenant there with God includes blessings of heavenly or holy life “sealed” upon us, conditioned upon our own continuing to strive to live a life of godly love, faith and repentance by the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those are blessings the promise of which we may live and choose to retain regardless of the decisions of our spouse or our parents.

So my question is, how do you teach your young people about temple marriage to better prepare them to understand covenant making and receiving there?


Note: Parent to child sealing ordinances are also interesting to consider and good fodder for a different discussion.   .

[1] Doctrine and Covenants 22:1

[2] Doctrine and Covenants 1

[3] Joseph F. Smith,  Doctrines of Salvation, 2:46

[4] https://www.lds.org/scriptures/gs/new-and-everlasting-covenant, Doctrine and Covenants 66:2

[5] Doctrine and Covenants 132:19

[6] Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple, lds.org

[7] True to the Faith, p. 171

[8] Doctrine and Covenants 132:19

[9] Moses 7:21, David A Bednar, Ensign May 2007, p. 22

[10] D&C 76:51-53, Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:94-95, David A Bednar, Ensign May 2007, p. 22

[11] Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye In Holy Places, p.53

[12] Doctrine and Covenants 132:19-20

[13] Kree-L Cofford, “Marriage in the Lord’s Way, Part 1”, Ensign June 1998

[14] Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:46, Doctrine and Covenants 132:21

[15] Doctrine and Covenants sections 121 and 76 as well as 132

[16] Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:46