What to Do When You Do Not Want Your Spouse for Eternity

Cancellation of a Temple Sealing is the LDS Equivalent of Divorce

Wedding cake with figurine cake toppers visual metaphor for divorce

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Although any LDS marriage sealed in a holy temple is intended to last for eternity, it sometimes does not. There is a process for having this covenant and its accompanying ordinance canceled.

The process is governed entirely by Church policy and procedure. With that said, it can change. It does change. The current policies and procedures can be found in Handbook 1.

Unlike Handbook 2, Handbook 1 is not freely available online. It is only available to those currently serving in local church leadership positions. However, a few basic guidelines and generalizations exist.

It Should Not Be Called a Temple Divorce

A cancellation of a temple sealing should not be called a divorce. It is similar in some ways to legal divorce because a prior marriage is annulled. However, the term divorce should not be used. It is misleading and inaccurate when applied to this process.

A temple sealing cancellation occurs after a couple is divorced but not until the woman is ready and worthy to be sealed to a new husband or a man seeks to be sealed to a new wife.

Genders are currently treated differently in this process.

When to Apply for a Temple Sealing Cancellation

As soon as a woman is ready to be sealed to a new man in the temple and both are temple worthy; she should apply for a cancellation of her prior sealing.

When a man is ready to be sealed to a new wife and they are both temple worthy, he applies for a temple sealing approval.

If a couple is first married civilly, they must be married for one year before a previous temple sealing will be canceled. The one-year waiting period may not apply to some cultures or countries, depending on what laws exist.

Couples wishing to have a prior sealing canceled so that they can be sealed to each other should inform their local bishop or bishops as soon as possible.

There is paperwork involved and the bishop is the only one who can initiate it. If the bishop has never administered this process before with anyone else, he may have to research it. It may take some time, but it may not

The Paperwork Involved Is Probably What You Would Expect

To have a temple sealing canceled a woman must first meet with her bishop and prepare the proper paperwork. The same is true for a man requesting approval for a sealing.

This process may require the affected parties to write a letter to the First Presidency which may include the following information:

  • Reasons for the divorce
  • Reasons for requesting a temple sealing cancellation or resealing
  • Plans to be sealed to another person
  • Other pertinent information
  • Information on any legal agreements, such as divorce decrees and whether or not parties are in compliance with them.

After a letter is complete, it is given to the bishop who will then take care of additional paperwork, including contacting the ex-spouse(s) and previous bishop(s), if applicable.

A former spouse is given a reasonable amount of time to respond to the request for the temple sealing cancellation or resealing.

Once the bishop has all the necessary paperwork, he will give it to the stake president. The stake president will then meet with the various parties before submitting the request to the First Presidency.

How Long Does It Take?

The process for obtaining a cancellation used to be lengthy. It could take a few months to over a year. Because each situation is unique, there is not a standard amount of time. Each case is processed on an individual basis. In recent times, approval for some couples has been obtained in as short as one week.

Once a request has been submitted to the First Presidency, a couple must wait for the paperwork to be approved before a new sealing can take place.

If an engaged couple changes their plans and decides to be married civilly before their paperwork is complete, they must inform the First Presidency of the change in their situation. Their paperwork may be put on hold until the couple has been married for the required year.

Canceling Any Covenant or Ordinance Is Serious Business

Requesting a temple sealing cancellation does not guarantee that the request will be granted. Due to the sacred nature of the temple sealing covenant, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ seeks the Lord's counsel in reviewing and approving each individual request. Former President Gordon B. Hinckley said of the process:

The most burdensome responsibility I have is to make judgments on applications for cancellation of temple sealings following civil divorce. Each case is considered on its individual merits. I pray for wisdom, for the direction of the Lord in dealing with sacred covenants made in the most hallowed surroundings and of an eternal nature.

There is so much pain and anguish from unhappy marriages and hurtful divorces. However, there can also be a joy that comes from a healthy courtship that leads to a healthy marriage. The Lord has provided a way for all things.

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Your Citation
Bruner, Rachel. "What to Do When You Do Not Want Your Spouse for Eternity." Learn Religions, Aug. 26, 2020, learnreligions.com/cancellation-of-temple-marriage-2159556. Bruner, Rachel. (2020, August 26). What to Do When You Do Not Want Your Spouse for Eternity. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/cancellation-of-temple-marriage-2159556 Bruner, Rachel. "What to Do When You Do Not Want Your Spouse for Eternity." Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/cancellation-of-temple-marriage-2159556 (accessed March 21, 2023).