What Happens to Children When Their Parents’ Temple Sealing is Canceled?

Cover of
Cover of "Our Heavenly Family, Our Earthly Families" children's book

At the beginning of 2017, I was serving a full-time mission. Meanwhile, my family was falling apart without my knowledge. When it was finally explained to me on a Christmas call that my parents were divorcing, I broke down. One of the first questions to enter my mind was, “does this mean that I am sealed to no one? What happens to children when their parents divorce and/or a temple sealing is canceled?”

I was teaching people that they could be with their families forever, and I suddenly felt that my eternal family was no longer a reality. It was painful and I tried desperately to search for answers. My mission president advised me that my parents may have broken their temple covenants, but I could keep mine. One day I will have my own family, and it can be eternal. He ultimately didn’t know how it would all work out. I respected him for admitting that he did not have all the answers.

Related: Dealing With Divorce as a Family: For Adults/Parents

I understood where he was coming from but at the same time, this was my family. Just because I will have my own family in the future does not mean that I don’t want to be with my parents in the eternities. How could I just forget being sealed to them at nine years old?

Searching for Healing

Reading in Solitude
Reading in Solitude. Picture by Ben White on Unsplash.

Through much study and prayer, I have found comfort and peace in the words of general authorities. The official “answer” to this question is the following:

It is understood that in the case of a cancellation of the sealing of the woman to the man, this does not cancel the sealing of the children to the parents since they were born in the covenant, which is a birthright blessing. They remain in the status of the sealing to their parents and can never be sealed to anyone else. The decision as to with whom they will go will be determined by the Lord in the hereafter.

For many people, this answer will suffice. For me, it was only the beginning of a long search for answers. This search separated into two major questions. First, what can I do to return to my Heavenly Father? And second, what happens if I don’t want to be with someone that I am sealed to in the eternities?

Your Eternal Birthright

Grasp. Picture by Joshua Reddekopp on Unsplash.

To address the first question, the simple answer is that you just need to keep your covenants. Elder James A. Cullimore answered this question in the December 1975 New Era, saying,

It should be kept in mind that to be born in the covenant is a birthright blessing and that if a child remains worthy in this life of celestial blessings, regardless of the actions of his parents, he is assured of that birthright and is guaranteed eternal parentage. One’s worthiness in this life through living the gospel and keeping the commandments, in this as in all things, is the key to eternal life.

It is impossible for another person, even a parent, to take away your eternal blessings. While going through this trial I visited a therapist. I told him about my parents’ divorce and how I felt that I would be left alone in the eternities. He told me that I was focusing on the wrong thing. At first, his comment upset me, but as time passed I grew to understand.

Related: Dealing With Divorce as a Family: For Teenagers 

Whether or not my family is broken on earth wasn’t the point. The point is that when we were sealed in the temple I was eternally connected to my Father in Heaven. I will be able to live with Him again. The point of being sealed is for this crowning blessing to come to pass. Elder Tad R. Callister further explained,

Because the Savior performed His Atonement, there is no external force or event or person—no sin or death or divorce—that can prevent us from achieving exaltation, provided we keep God’s commandments.

All Will Be Made Right

mother and child
Mother and child. Picture by Xavier Mouton Photographie on Unsplash.

Now, what happens if I don’t want to be with someone that I am sealed to in the eternities? Some children may be estranged from a parent due to divorce. God will not force you to be with someone that you do not want to be with. He did not take away our agency in the premortal life, and He won’t take it away in the next life either.

Related: Dealing With Divorce as a Family: For Young Children

In the August 2015 New Era, it states, “The important thing to remember is that Heavenly Father loves you and wants the best for you, both now and in eternity. If you keep your covenants, your relationships in the next life will be fair and right.”

As previously mentioned, in the church handbook it states that “The decision as to with whom [the children] will go will be determined by the Lord in the hereafter.” We have a just God and a merciful God. We must have faith that the Lord knows our hearts. He will protect and guide us to peace amidst pain and sorrow. He will do what is fair and right.

Has your eternal family been affected by divorce? Share in the comments.

Zoë Holyoak is currently a BYU student, photographer, and writer. Her hobbies include long walks through the ice cream aisle at the grocery store and correcting bad grammar. She is also a proud member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and served a mission for the Church in Portland, Oregon.