Celestial marriage

Celestial marriage
A couple following their marriage in the Manti Utah Temple

Celestial marriage (also called the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage, Eternal Marriage, Temple Marriage or The Principle) is a doctrine of Mormonism, particularly The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) and branches of Mormon fundamentalism.

Within Mormonism, celestial marriage is an ordinance associated with a covenant that always takes place inside temples by those authorized to hold the sealing power. The only people allowed to enter the temple, be married there, or simply attend these weddings are those who hold an official temple recommend. Obtaining a temple recommend requires one to abide by LDS doctrine and be interviewed and considered worthy by their bishop and Stake President. A prerequisite to contracting a celestial marriage, in addition to obtaining a temple recommend, involves undergoing the temple endowment, which involves making of certain covenants with God.

In particular, one is expected to promise to be obedient to all the Lord's commandments including living a clean chaste life, abstaining oneself from any impure thing, willing to sacrifice and consecrate all that one has for the Lord. In the marriage ceremony a man and a woman make covenants to God and to each other and are said to be sealed as husband and wife for time and all eternity. Mormonism distinguishes itself on this point, citing Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18, from some other religious traditions by emphasizing that marriage relationships and covenants made in this life in the Temple will continue to be valid in the next life if they abide by these covenants.

In the 19th century the term celestial marriage referred more to the practice of plural marriage,[1][2][3][4] a practice which the LDS Church abandoned in 1890. The term is still used in this sense by Mormon fundamentalists not affiliated with the mainstream LDS Church.

In the current LDS Church, both men and women may enter a celestial marriage with only one partner at a time. A man may be sealed to more than one woman. If his wife dies, he may enter another celestial marriage, and be sealed to both his living wife and deceased wife or wives. Many Mormons believe that all these marriages will be valid in the eternities and the husband will live together in the Celestial Kingdom as a family with all to whom he was sealed. In the 1998 edition of the Church Handbook of Instructions, the LDS Church clarified that a woman may also be sealed to more than one man. A woman, however, may not be sealed to more than one man at a time while she is alive. She may only be sealed to subsequent partners after she has died.[5] Proxy sealings, like proxy baptisms, are merely offered to the person in the afterlife, indicating that the purpose is to allow the woman to choose the right man to be sealed to, as LDS doctrine forbids polyandry. According to LDS belief, the celestial marriage covenant, as with other covenants, requires the continued righteousness of the couple to remain in effect after this life. If only one remains righteous that person is promised a righteous eternal companion in eternity.



Celestial marriage is an instance of the LDS doctrine of sealing. Following a celestial marriage, not only are the couple sealed as husband and wife, but children born into the marriage are also sealed to that family. In cases where the husband and wife have been previously married civilly and there are already children from their union, the children accompany their parents to the temple and are sealed to their parents following the marriage ceremony.

Mormons believe that through this sealing, man, wife and child will live together forever, if obedient to God's commandments.

Relationship to plural marriage

There is substantial doctrinal dispute between the LDS Church and its offshoots as to whether celestial marriage is plural or monogamous. Sealings for "time and eternity" (i.e. Celestial marriages) were being performed for monogamous couples long before 1890. The great majority of temple sealings were between one man and one wife throughout all time periods of the LDS Church's history.

Some argue that the official LDS scripture, Doctrine and Covenants Section 132,[1] specifies plural marriages only. Others argue that the text indicates "a wife", which would mean that any temple sealing ordinance of marriage is considered Celestial Marriage. The latter view is supported by the official History of the Church,[6] which indicates that marriage for eternity was monogamous except in "some circumstances" (emphasis added):

"...it is borne in mind that at this time the new law of marriage for the Church — marriage for eternity, including plurality of wives under some circumstances— was being introduced by the Prophet, it is very likely that the following article was written with a view of applying the principles here expounded to the conditions created by introducing said marriage system."

In the following quote, Lorenzo Snow, a later President of the LDS Church, specifies "celestial plural marriage", not simply "celestial marriage":

"He knew the voice of God—he knew the commandment of the Almighty to him was to go forward—to set the example, and establish Celestial plural marriage. He knew that he had not only his own prejudices and pre-possessions to combat and to overcome, but those of the whole Christian world…; but God...had given the commandment".[7] Nevertheless, it is correct and can be demonstrated that "celestial marriage" was often used to refer to plural marriage.[8][9][10]

Mormon fundamentalists cleave to the view that there is no celestial marriage that is not plural, while the LDS Church says otherwise. As viewed by the LDS Church, plural marriages in the early church, when properly authorized and conducted, were, in fact, celestial marriages; but celestial marriages need not be plural marriages.[citation needed] In addition, since celestial marriages must be performed by someone with proper priesthood authority, and since plural marriage is no longer authorized by the LDS Church, no authorized celestial, plural marriages can be performed today. Mormon fundamentalists argue, in return, that they hold the priesthood authority to perform these marriages. However, while plural marriage is eschewed by the LDS Church today, it continued to be practiced, even after The Manifesto (the 1890 Official Declaration by then LDS President Wilford Woodruff, by which he counseled the Saints to discontinue plural marriage). The practice continued to be passively sanctioned until 1904 and the issuance of the Second Manifesto under Joseph F. Smith.

Marriage between man and wife is viewed by the Church to be ordained by God and essential for his plan. Plural marriage was discontinued by President Woodruff in 1890. If members continue to practice plural marriage, they could lose their church membership.[11]


A concept of celestial marriage was described by Emanuel Swedenborg as early as 1749. Swedenborg's Latin term conjugium coeleste was translated as "celestial marriage" by John Clowes in 1782. Two more recent translators have preferred the term "heavenly marriage."[12][13] In all his authoritative writing,[14] Swedenborg only mentions the term celestial marriage twice.[15][16]

Swedenborg defined the celestial marriage or heavenly marriage as the marriage of love with wisdom or of goodness with truth. He wrote, "Truth and good joined together is what is called the celestial marriage, which constitutes heaven itself with a person."[17] Swedenborg does not use "celestial marriage" to refer to the marriage of husband and wife, although he says that the marriage of husband and wife has its origin in the heavenly or celestial marriage of goodness and truth.[18]

According to Swedenborg, true married love forms an eternal bond, an actual joining together of minds, so that married partners who truly love each other are not separated by death but continue to be married to eternity.[19] He writes that this love is "celestial, spiritual, holy pure and clean above every love which exists from the Lord with angels of heaven and people in the church."[20] None can come into this love, he says, but those who are monogamous and "who go to the Lord and love the truths of the church and do the good things it teaches."[21]

Craig Miller has investigated the possibility that Swedenborg influenced Joseph Smith, as there are similarities between some of their teachings.[22] He concludes that Smith may have learned something about Swedenborg through third parties, but was unlikely to have read much if any of Swedenborg's works for himself. Among Smith's connections was Sarah Cleveland, who was married to a Swedenborgian at the time of her plural marriage to Smith in 1842.[22] It was shortly afterwards, in July 1843, that Smith recorded receiving a revelation regarding eternal marriage in Doctrine and Covenants 132.[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Doctrine and Covenents 132
  2. ^ "On Celestial Marriage", i4m.com (Rethinking Mormonism), http://www.i4m.com/think/temples/celestial_marriage.htm [unreliable source?]
  3. ^ "The Mormon Temple as a Lasting Relic of Polygamy", i4m.com (Rethinking Mormonism), http://www.i4m.com/think/temples/temple_legacy.htm [unreliable source?]
  4. ^ Hales, Brian C., "Is Plural Marriage Required for Exaltation?", mormonfundamentalism.com, http://www.mormonfundamentalism.com/NEWFILES/IsPMRequiredToday.htm 
  5. ^ Church Handbook of Instructions, LDS Church, 1998, p. 72 
  6. ^ Roberts 1909, pp. 134-136
  7. ^ Snow, Eliza R. (1884), The Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow, Salt Lake City: Deseret News, pp. 69–70, OCLC 4623484 
  8. ^ Cannon 1869[page needed]
  9. ^ Pratt 1869[page needed]
  10. ^ Smith 1869[page needed]
  11. ^ Polygamy (Plural Marriage), "Gospel Study: Study by Topic", LDS.org (LDS Church), http://lds.org/study/topics/polygamy-plural-marriage?lang=eng, retrieved 2011-11-11 
  12. ^ Arcana Coelestia, John Elliot, trans., (London: Swedenborg Society, 1983), §162.
  13. ^ Secrets of Heaven, (Arcana Coelestia), Lisa Hyatt Cooper, trans., (West Chester, Pennsylvania: Swedenborg Foundation, 2008), §162.
  14. ^ Swedenborg, E. Which of Swedenborg's books are Divine revelation? (accessed 08/13/2011)
  15. ^ Arcana Coelestia’’ 162
  16. ^ Divine Love and Wisdom #414
  17. ^ Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia §10300.
  18. ^ Swedenborg, Conjugial Love §83, Arcana Coelestia §2739
  19. ^ Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell §§366-386, Conjugial Love §§27, 45.
  20. ^ Swedenborg, Conjugial Love §180.
  21. ^ Swedenborg, Conjugial Love §70.
  22. ^ a b Craig Miller, "Did Emanuel Swedenborg Influence LDS Doctrine?"


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