Another (long-standing policy) bites the dust. The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints just announced a change that both members and non-members should be super excited about.
Civil marriage versus temple marriage
The relationship between civil marriage and temple marriage is a bit complicated in different parts of the world. In the United States, for example, a temple “sealing” is recognized as a legal marriage. The long-standing policy in situations like this has been that if a couple chooses to marry civilly (not in the temple) first, they must wait an entire year before being able to be sealed for eternity in a Latter-day Saint temple. In countries where temple sealings are not recognized as legal marriages, couples are permitted to marry civilly, followed by a temple sealing, without the year-long wait. But a new policy change is setting a worldwide standard.
Now, whether or not your country recognizes a temple sealing as a legal marriage, couples first married civilly are no longer required to wait for a year before being sealed in the temple. Here’s the letter from the First Presidency:
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
Discontinuation of One-Year Waiting Period after Civil Marriage
We affirm that the sealing of a man and a 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.
The policy requiring couples who have been married civilly to wait one year before being sealed is now discontinued. Couples who have been married civilly may be sealed in the temple when they receive their temple recommends.
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 ro feel excluded, a civil ceremony followed by a temple sealing is authorized.
We anticipate that 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.
We are grateful for your dedicated and inspired leadership in helping members understand, prepare for, and enjoy the blessings of eternal marriage.
Russel M. Nelson
Dallin H. Oaks
Henry B. Eyring.
What this means
Imagine the following hypothetical scenario (that happens quite often):
I’m getting married tomorrow in the San Diego temple. But, I’m the only Latter-day Saint in my family. If I choose to get married in the temple, my non-member parents, siblings, relatives, and friends will not be able to attend my wedding. But if I choose to get married civilly (where anyone can attend), I’ll have to wait an entire year before being able to be sealed for time and all eternity in a temple.
Surely, these kind of situations are gut-wrenching and difficult for both Latter-day Saints and non-Latter-day Saints alike. With this new policy change, these situations can be resolved. Non-Latter-day Saints still won’t be able to attend the temple ceremony, but the year-long wait is no more. If a couple chooses, they can be married civilly first, with all of their family present, and then they can be sealed in a temple of the Lord as soon afterward as they wish.