Cache Valley residents are weighing in on a Monday announcement from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that members who marry in a civil ceremony will no longer need to wait a year to receive the sealing ordinance in one of the faith’s temples. Church officials said that this change is to encourage that no family members be left out of the big day.
“As long as only worthy individuals are still being allowed in the temple, I see no difference,” said one Latter-day Saint, Connie Anderson.
Anderson said that she was able to have all her family present at her wedding, decades ago, because she didn’t get married in the temple.
“I didn’t have to worry,” Anderson said, adding that she saw the change as a positive inclusion for all church members.
In a letter announcing the changes, the church’s First Presidency states:
“We affirm that the sealing of a man and woman in the temple offers eternal blessings to the couple and their posterity that can be gained in no other way. We encourage all such couples to qualify for sealing ordinances and blessings.”
Latter-day Saints believe marriage lasts until death but that the temple sealing ordinance extends a marriage beyond death into eternity.
According to the church’s announcement, couples may now be sealed in the temple when they receive their temple recommends and are no longer subject to the general one-year waiting period.
To obtain a recommend, members are required follow several of the faith’s commandments, including paying 10% of their income to the church and abstaining from alcohol, coffee, tobacco and extramarital sex. Children and other family members who don’t meet those requirements are not allowed inside the temple for the sealing ceremony, with the exception of children being sealed to their parents.
It remains to be seen how many Latter-day Saints will use the policy change as an opportunity to plan civil marriages that more people can attend and follow up with temple sealings.
Adrianne Guymon manages wedding venue Castle Manor in North Logan and said that currently only about half of her clients are members of the church.
“We do see a lot of people come in and do a ring ceremony after their sealing,” Guymon said. “I don’t think too much will change since so many people already plan their receptions with us, but we would plan for any ceremony they want.”
Guymon said that she doesn’t ask what religion any individual is but can tell when clients are from the Latter-day Saint faith because they tend to work the venue around the sealing time.
“Maybe we will see more members doing a separate ceremony, but time will tell,” Guymon said.
Cami Peterson, another church member, said that she has been married for three years and that she didn’t realize there was a one-year waiting period after civil marriage.
“This is a good thing that will benefit members,” Peterson said. “I feel like there is a lot of different levels of worthiness and not everyone needs to wait a year.”
Peterson said that her sister was recently married and waiting to be sealed and that she hopes this will affect her plans if she is ready sooner.
“It has worked the other way around,” Peterson said. “It doesn’t matter if you do a ceremony after the wedding sealing, so why would it matter the other direction? I don’t think this is too much of a change.”
Anderson agreed. “It’s great that they have the option,” she said.
To Peterson, it has always been up to the couple to include family members and it is still up to them to plan a civil ceremony if they want to accommodate nonmembers and members who can’t enter the temple.
“I know people who have had ceremonies after their sealing so that those who weren’t allowed inside the temple could still celebrate,” Peterson said. “If the couple only plans for a sealing, that’s on them.”
Joshua Wallace, a church member who was browsing for a suit at the Kater Shop in Logan on Monday, said that he thinks this might be a conversation that stemmed from what he calls a “disregard for marriage” if not done in the temple.
“My first wedding was a civil ceremony and I was treated as if I wasn’t equal to everyone else,” Wallace said. “My wife and kids are all active in the church, but we were treated as if we weren’t worthy. That really put us off from getting sealed.”
Wallace said that he was eventually sealed in the temple, but people still are confused when he recounts his wedding day.
“I’ll say, ‘Yeah, I was worried it was going to rain and we would have to cancel,’ and the other member will be like, ‘But it was inside?’” Wallace said. “Everyone is unique, and it shouldn’t matter how you get to the endpoint, just that you get there.”
Addressing the issue of family member inclusion, the church’s letter states:
“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,” the letter states.
According to The First Presidency, church leaders anticipate that the 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.”
For over half a century the church has not required the yearlong wait in countries where the temple sealing ordinance is not also recognized as a civil marriage.
“This change in policy should not be interpreted as lessening the emphasis on the temple sealing,” a Q&A included with the announcement states. “There is no specific time frame within which members should be sealed after being married civilly. Priesthood leaders interview couples and provide temple recommends when the couple is both worthy and ready to be sealed in the temple.”
Church member Liesl Nielsen was married last year and said she always wondered why there was a wait.
“I know we have these revelations as God intended them, but I did wonder why it was the way it was,” Nielsen said. “I think that it’s awesome, though.”
Newly baptized members still need to wait a year before being sealed in the temple, and church meetinghouses will continue to be used for civil ceremonies.
The church’s language of “a sealing of a man and woman” in the statement reaffirms its position that same-sex couples do not qualify for the ordinance.