Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who marry civilly outside of the temple can now be married immediately in the church’s temples.
The announcement Monday changes the church’s policy that couples married outside of the temple have to wait for a year to be sealed inside the temples.
The new policy will be implemented worldwide, and has already been in practice in countries throughout the world where couples are required by law to marry civilly first. Couples will still need to obtain a temple recommend from church leaders before entering the temple.
“Where possible, leaders should encourage couples to be both married and sealed in the temple,” says a First Presidency letter to Church leaders around the world. “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 First Presidency also stated, “This change in policy should not be interpreted as lessening the emphasis on the temple sealing. The sealing of a husband and wife in the temple is of eternal significance and a crowning experience on the covenant path.”
Those civil ceremonies can take place in the church’s chapels, according to the announcement.
it has been just more than 100 years since the church said couples who married civilly had to wait a year before being sealed in the temple.
According to the Joseph Smith Papers, President Heber J. Grant, then president of the LDS Church, declared in 1918 that there must be a one-year waiting period should a couple choose to be married civilly before being sealed in the temple. Grant said public wedding celebrations detracted from the sacredness of the temple sealing.
For members outside of the United States, civil marriage is commonly a legal requirement prior to being sealed in an LDS temple.
In the LDS Church Handbook 1 under the title “Sealing of Living Members after Civil Marriage” it says that the one year waiting period (prior to Monday’s announcement), “does not apply to worthy couples in the following cases; both the civil marriage and the temple sealing take place in countries that do not recognize a temple marriage and that require a civil marriage.
“Both the civil marriage and the temple sealing take place in countries that do not recognize a temple marriage and that require a civil marriage.”
Emily Belshe, Orem is engaged and said she wishes the church’s announcement had come earlier.
“Honestly, planning an entire wedding and making sure that everything is perfect including the sealing and everything like taking pictures outside the temple is exhausting,” Belshe said. “There is such a stigma of getting married outside of the temple and its full of shame. Like, if you don’t then you must have made a chastity mistake.”
Belshe said she has been trying to get her fiance to elope.
“(It) wouldn’t be full of stress, and it would be about us and maybe a couple of family members.” She said, however, that her fiance won’t budge. Monday’s announcement gave Belshe a new ray of hope about marriage within the church.
“If they had made this decision months ago when I first got engaged, I would have planned my wedding completely different,” Belshe said. “My parents are both converts and I would have loved to have had a civil marriage and then a temple sealing so that the entire family could be there, but we are a month out and invitations and what not have already been sent. I love this decision, and am completely for it.”
Casey Griffiths, an LDS bishop and a Brigham Young University religion professor who specializes in global LDS Church history, said he doesn’t think there will be big changes in the LDS wedding scene, at least in Utah.
“Most couples I know will go (directly) to the temple,” he said.
As a bishop he said he didn’t think he would be much busier performing weddings either. However, he is glad for one change: “I’m glad to see church meeting houses can be used.”
While weddings have taken place in chapel settings, it is not the norm. Civil weddings are more often held in the Relief Society rooms or the church cultural hall.
The church also said that regardless of whether there is a civil ceremony or not, the temple sealing should “be the central focus of the marriage and provide the spiritual basis on which the couple begins life together.”
The church also asks that civil ceremonies be simple and dignified.
New members of the church will still have to wait for one year from the date of their confirmation to be married in the temple and receive a recommend to enter the temple to perform ordinances other than baptisms for the dead.