Chapter 4 Section C
Sealing in Marriage
The Latter-day Saints regard the marriage ceremony performed exclusively within temple precincts, as the one and only perfect contract of matrimony. They recognize the full legal validity and moral obligation of any marriage entered into under the secular law; but civil marriages and indeed all marriages made without the binding authority of the Holy Priesthood they regard as contracts for this life only, and therefore lacking the higher and superior elements of a complete and perpetual union. They hold that the family relationships of earth may be made lasting and binding beyond the veil of death. They say that under the perfect law operative in the celestial worlds, the earthly relation of husband and wife, parent and child, will endure in full force and effect, provided such relationship has been sealed on earth by the power and authority of the Holy Priesthood. The ordinary rite of matrimony as established by secular law, and as prescribed by sectarian rule, unites the man and the woman for this world only; the higher law of marriage as divinely revealed joins the parties for time and eternity.
“Celestial Marriage” is a term in current use among the Latter-day Saints, though it does not occur in any revelation contained in the standard works of the Church. The Church adopts and validates the scriptures of earlier dispensations with respect to marriage. It holds that marriage is honorable and ordained of God. Under the teachings of the Church, marriage is the duty of all who are not debarred by physical or other effective disability from assuming the responsibilities of the wedded state. The Latter-day Saints declare that part of the birthright of every worthy man is to stand at the head of a family as husband and father; and equally strong is the right of every worthy woman to be an honored wife and mother.
The Church denounces as false and pernicious the teachings of misled and morbid men who say that the union of the sexes is but a carnal necessity inherited by man as an incident of his degraded nature; and it repudiates the thought that celibacy is a superior condition more pleasing to God. Concerning such false teachers the Lord has spoken in this day:
“Whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man that the earth might answer the end of its creation, and that it might be filled with the measure of man, according to his creation before the world was made.”
The Latter-day Saints affirm that perfect marriage provides for the eternal relation of the sexes. With this people marriage is not merely a contract for time, effective only as long as the parties shall live on earth, but a solemn covenant of union which shall endure beyond the grave. In the complete ceremony of marriage as ordained by the Church and as administered only within the temple halls, the man and the woman are placed under covenant of mutual fidelity, not until death do them part, but for time and for all eternity.
A contract as far-reaching as this, a covenant declared to be effective not only throughout the period of mortal life, but in the realm of the hereafter, of necessity requires for its validation an authority superior to any that man may originate. It is admitted without argument that men have the right to form among themselves associations and communities, to organize sects, parties, companies, churches, clubs, or any other union they may choose to create, provided, of course, such bodies are not inimical to law and order. It is further admitted that any established association of men may enact laws and ordain rules for the government of its members, provided the rights of individual liberty are not infringed thereby. Both church and state, therefore, may enact, prescribe, and ordain, lawful regulations as to marriage or as to any other form of contract; and such regulations are acknowledged to be of full effect within the domain of actual jurisdiction. Thus, marriages may be legally and properly authorized by states and nations, and the contracts of marriage so made are effective during the life of the parties thereto.
But, can it be said that any association of men may create and establish an authority that shall be effective after death? Can any power legislate beyond its lawful jurisdiction? Can a man sitting in his own home prescribe family rules for the household of his neighbor? Can our nation ordain laws that shall be valid in a foreign realm? Can man enact laws to regulate the affairs of the Kingdom of God?
Only as God delegates authority to man, with the assurance that administration under that authority shall be acknowledged in heaven, can any contract be made on earth and be of assured effect after the death of the parties concerned. Authority to act in the name of the Lord is the distinguishing characteristic of the Holy Priesthood. As the Lord hath said:
“All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made, and entered into, and sealed, by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power, * * * are of no 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.”
In application of this principle to the covenants of matrimony, the revelation continues:
“Therefore, if a man marry him a wife in the world, and he marry her not by me, nor by my word; and he covenant with her so long as he is in the world, and she with him, their covenant and marriage are not of force when they are dead, and when they are out of the world; therefore, they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world.
“Therefore, when they are out of the world, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory;
“For these angels did not abide my law, therefore they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity, and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God, for ever and ever.”
This system of holy matrimony, involving covenants for both time and eternity, is known distinctively as Celestial Marriage, and is understood to be the order of marriage that exists in the celestial worlds. This sacred ordinance is administered by the Church to those only who are adjudged to be of worthy life, fit to be admitted to the House of the Lord; for this holy rite, together with others of eternal validity, may be solemnized only within the temples reared and dedicated for such exalted service. Children born to parents thus married under the celestial law are heirs to the Priesthood; “children of the covenant” they are called; no ordinance of adoption or sealing is required to give them place in the blessed posterity of promise.
The Church, however, sanctions and acknowledges legal marriages for time only, and indeed solemnizes such unions between parties who may not be admitted to the House of the Lord, or who voluntarily choose the lesser and temporal order of matrimony.
Within the temple and not elsewhere, are marriages solemnized for and in behalf of parties who are dead. Husbands and wives who have lived in mortality together and now are dead, may be sealed under the authority of the Priesthood, provided, of course, the preliminary temple ordinances have been administered in their behalf. In the marriage rite for the dead as in other ordinances, the parties are represented by their living descendants acting in the capacity of proxy.
The ordinance of celestial marriage, whereby the contracting parties, whether living or dead, are united under the authority of the Holy Priesthood for time and eternity, is known distinctively as the ceremony of Sealing in Marriage. Husband and wife so united are said to be sealed, whereas if united under the lesser law for time only, either by secular or ecclesiastical authority, they are only married.
Husband and wife who have been married for time only, either by secular or ecclesiastical ceremony, may afterward be sealed for time and eternity, provided they have become members of the Church, and are adjudged worthy to enter the temple for this purpose; but no such confirmation of an existing union, nor any sealing of married persons is possible unless the parties furnish proof that they have been legally and lawfully married. No marriage of living persons is performed in any of the temples except under license duly issued as required by the laws of the state. The sealing ordinance extends to other associations than those of matrimony as will be shown.
The actuality of the sealing ordinance in marriage finds an illustration in the personal teachings of the Savior. On one occasion there came unto Him certain Sadducees, and these, be it remembered, denied the possibility of the resurrection of the dead. They sought to entrap Him by a difficult question. They thus stated their case:
“Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.
“Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother:
“Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh.
“And last of all the woman died also.
“Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her.”
Note the sequel:
“Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
“For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.”
It is evident that in the resurrected state there could be no contest among the seven brothers as to whose wife the woman was,-for after death there was to be no marrying nor giving in marriage. The question of marriage between individuals was and is to be settled before that time. The woman would and could be the wife of but one in the eternal world, and that one the man to whom she was given by the authority of the Holy Priesthood on earth, as a consort for time and eternity. In short, the woman would be the wife of the man with whom she entered into covenant for eternity under the seal of Divine authority; and no contract or agreement for time only would be effective in the resurrection.
This exposition seems to have been convincing; the multitude were astonished, and the Sadducees were silenced; moreover some of the Scribes declared: “Master, thou hast well said.” Our Lord added what appears to have been a supplementary question, coupled with instruction of the greatest import:
“But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying,
“I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”
Other Sealing Ordinances
Children born outside celestial marriage, yet within legally established wedlock, are the lawful and legitimate heirs of their parents in all affairs of earth. They are the offspring of an earthly union that is in every respect a legal, moral, and proper relation under the laws of man. That these children will belong to their parents in the hereafter is as uncertain as that the parents will belong to each other. The parents have been but temporally and temporarily married, and the offspring are theirs for the period of their own contract only. Even as husband and wife though legally wedded under the secular law must be sealed by the authority of the Holy Priesthood if their union is to be valid in eternity, so must children who have been born to parents married for time only be sealed to their parents after father and mother have been sealed to each other in the order of celestial marriage.
The Church affirms the eternal perpetuity of all family relationships existing on earth under the seal and authority of the Priesthood; and declares that none other relationship will be binding after death. The offspring of parents not joined in celestial marriage are thus sealed to or adopted by their parents as members of the family organization which shall endure through eternity; thus, husbands and wives who are dead are married or sealed to each other by proxy ministration, and their children are similarly sealed to them in the family relationship.
It will be seen, therefore, that the vicarious labor of the living for the dead, as performed in the temples of the present day, comprises more than baptism and confirmation. The work is completed on earth only when the parties, in the persons of their living representatives, have been baptized, confirmed, endowed, and sealed both in the relationship of husband and wife as once existent and in the family union of parents and children.