The culmination of all temple ordinances is eternal marriage or sealing. By this ordinance, a husband and wife are joined together in a union that will last beyond death, forever, if they keep the promises they make. Children born to a couple married or sealed in the temple are likewise part of an eternal family unit.
If a couple has been first married in a civil or religious ceremony outside the temple, they may have their marriage vows solemnized and extended for eternity by being “sealed.” A temple marriage and temple sealing are identical, save that an already-married couple is not declared to be married under the civil law.
(Laws vary from country to country—in some areas, such as the United States, those who perform temple marriages are licensed to perform marriages that are binding under secular law. In other countries, temple sealers do not have this legal privilege, and a couple must be married civilly prior to being sealed.)
Children born following a couple’s sealing are regarded as part of the eternal family unit. Mormons often refer to such children as being born in the covenant, meaning the covenant of a sealing. Children born before their parents are sealed can be later sealed to their parents.
Temple marriages/sealings are performed in sealing rooms. These rooms feature chairs for witnesses, friends, and family. The room has an altar in the center. The couple kneels across from each other and joins hands upon the altar. Most sealing rooms have mirrors on the walls facing the altar—this provides an effect of the couple being reflected back and forth between the two mirrors, which serves as a symbol of eternity and never-ending life.
The officer performing the sealing may give words of welcome or a brief spiritual message. He then performs the sealing ceremony proper, which is brief.
Rings may be exchanged following the wedding/sealing, but this is not part of the religious rite itself. Some couples choose to exchange rings outside the temple before larger gatherings of family and friends.
Like all ordinances, eternal marriage and sealing is also performed by living members in behalf of the dead. For a discussion of the theology involved, please see here.
Covenants and Blessings
One Church leader described the covenants made and blessings promised via a temple marriage/sealing:
1. Individual covenants and blessings. Each of you will individually and separately make promises, commitments, and covenants with your Heavenly Father and will individually receive promises of blessings conditioned on your individual worthiness. The individual nature of these promises is such that even if one of you were to cease being obedient following your participation in the sealing ordinance and so lose the promises made to you, the other partner who remained faithful would continue to be eligible to receive the promised blessings.
2. Joint covenants and blessings. The two of you jointly will make promises, commitments, and covenants with your Heavenly Father and will make covenants to receive each other as husband and wife. You then will jointly receive promises of blessings conditioned upon your joint faithfulness. The continued faithful obedience of both of you is essential if the promised blessings are to be received jointly. This is because the promises are made to you as one—that is, as a single unit consisting of two halves.
3. Joining in celestial marriage. This element qualifies you to live together as husband and wife under the laws of the land. It is here that you are united forever, becoming one flesh before the Lord and forming a new family unit that, if you are faithful and obedient, will last forever.
4. Blessings for children born in the covenant. All children born to the two of you are born under the blessings of the sealing covenant; thus, it is common to say that your children are “born in the covenant.” They are entitled to blessings of the Abrahamic covenant, including:
a. The gospel
b. The priesthood
c. Celestial marriage
d. Eternal life
It is revealing to know that even if the two of you cease to be faithful in keeping the covenants you make in the temple, these blessings will still flow to your children. It is equally comforting to know the Lord has provided that adopted children and children born to a couple before they are sealed in the temple (as with new converts to the Church) may be sealed to their parents, and upon such sealing they also become entitled to these same promises and blessings (Kofford, June 1998).
- “Eternal marriage,” fairmormon.org.
- Jay M. Todd, “Information For Brides and Grooms Planning a Temple Marriage“, New Era (June 1971): 28.
- Cree-L Kofford, “Marriage in the Lord’s Way, Part One“, Ensign (June 1998): 7.
- Cree-L Kofford, “Marriage in the Lord’s Way, Part Two“, Ensign (July 1998): 15.