What is a “temple divorce”?

Isn’t breaking the covenant of eternal marriage when a couple divorced after having being sealed in the temple for eternity? It happened to a few LDS couples. Do you go to a divorce court or a church council?

Divorce dissolves a marriage as a legal matter, but does not cancel a “sealing” of a husband and wife who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were sealed in a temple marriage ceremony. I will explain the difference below.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints discourages divorce, but does permit this kind of divorce. A divorce does not dissolve or invalidate the sealing of the parties.

“The sealing together of husband, wife, and children in eternal family units is the culminating ordinance of the priesthood, to which all others are preparatory. It must be performed by one holding the sealing power and today in an LDS temple dedicated to God. The Savior referred to this sealing power when he gave his apostle Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven, saying that “whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven” (Matt. 16:19). In modern times this sealing authority was restored to the earth in the Kirtland Temple on April 3, 1836, by the prophet Elijah, who was the ancient custodian of this power (D&C 110:13-16).” (The Encyclopedia of Mormonism – Sealing: Temple Sealings

“Among members of the Church sealing refers to the marriage of a husband and wife and to the joining together of children and parents in relationships that are to endure forever. This special type of sealing of husband and wife in marriage is referred to as ‘eternal marriage’ or ‘celestial marriage.’ It contrasts with civil and church marriages, which are ceremonies recognized only by earthly authority and are only for the duration of mortal life.” (The Encyclopedia of Mormonism – Sealing: Temple Sealings

Divorce is not necessarily the “breaking” of the covenant of eternal marriage. One can divorce in the church without the divorce constituting some kind of sin or offense against God. The Church recognizes that there are situations in which divorce may be necessary.

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially disapproves of divorce but does permit both divorce (the legal dissolution of a marriage bond) and annulment (a decree that a marriage was illegal or invalid) in civil marriages and “cancellation of sealing” in temple marriages” and “Priesthood leaders are advised to help members strengthen their marriages but, when necessary, to permit divorce and to determine whether disciplinary action should be taken against any spouse guilty of moral transgression, such as infidelity or abuse. Priesthood leaders are to “cast out” (i.e., excommunicate) unrepentant adulterers from among the Saints, but to accept the victims of divorce (D&C 42:74-77).” (The Encyclopedia of Mormonism – Divorce

A civil divorce granted by a court of law does not result in the cancelation of the temple sealing, but a sealing can be canceled through a procedure prescribed by the church. I refer you also to these links from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism:

What happens when a couple gets a temple divorce?

The Encyclopedia of Mormonism – Sealing

The Encyclopedia of Mormonism – Divorce

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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