Marriage in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

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In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, marriage between a man and a woman is considered to be "ordained of God".[1] Marriage is thought to consist of a covenant between the man, the woman, and God. The church teaches that in addition to civil marriage, which ends at death, a man and woman can undergo a celestial marriage in a temple performed by priesthood authority, whereby the marriage and parent–child relationships resulting from the marriage will last forever in the afterlife.[2]

From 1852 until 1890, the LDS Church openly authorized polygamous marriages between one man and multiple wives.[3] Today, the church is opposed to such marriages and excommunicates members who participate in them or publicly teach that they are sanctioned by God. The LDS Church also opposes the legalization of same-sex marriage.[4]

Teachings about marriage in general[edit]

A spouse is the only person other than the Lord that Latter-day Saints are commanded to love "with all [their] heart". A revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants states: "Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else."[5] Church leaders have taught that this commandment applies equally to wives loving their husbands.[6][7]

The LDS Church also teaches that marriage is a partnership of equals, and that partners should be thoughtful, respectful, and loyal to one another.[8] The church teaches that if couples keep their lives centered on Jesus Christ, their love will grow.[9] Regarding marriage and divorce, the church instructs its leaders: "No priesthood officer is to counsel a person whom to marry. Nor should he counsel a person to divorce his or her spouse. Those decisions must originate and remain with the individual. When a marriage ends in divorce, or if a husband and wife separate, they should always receive counseling from Church leaders."[10]

Teachings about celestial marriage[edit]

Main article: Celestial marriage

Celestial (or eternal) marriage is an ordinance performed by priesthood authority in a temple of the church.[11] A celestial marriage is thought to continue forever into the afterlife if the man and woman do not break their covenants.[11] Thus, eternally married couples are often referred to as being "sealed" to each other. Sealed couples who keep their covenants are also promised to have their posterity sealed to them in the afterlife.[11]

Celestial marriage as a requirement for exaltation[edit]

The LDS Church teaches that a celestial marriage is required for exaltation.[11] This teaching is based on Mormon scripture, in which Joseph Smith taught, “In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; and in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; and if he does not, he cannot obtain it. He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase”.[12] Exaltation is also known as "eternal life" and is defined as "the kind of life God lives".[13] Those who are exalted will "live eternally in the presence of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ[;] will become gods[;] will be united eternally with their righteous family members and will be able to have eternal increase [spirit children][; and] will have everything that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have—all power, glory, dominion, and knowledge".[13] Members of the LDS Church are encouraged to prepare to be celestially married in a temple.[14]

It is believed, therefore, that all humans are spirit children of "heavenly parents"[1] who as mortals were celestially married and went on to become exalted. This married couple is known to Latter-day Saints as God the Father and Heavenly Mother. Because of the beliefs that (1) celestial marriage is required for exaltation, and (2) that Jesus is exalted, some leaders of the LDS Church have hypothesized that Jesus must have been married, possibly to Mary Magdalene, Mary, sister of Lazarus, and/or Martha.[15][16][17][18][19]

Because it is a requirement for exaltation, celestial marriages are performed vicariously in church temples for deceased couples who were legally married.

Civil marriage and divorce and its relationship to celestial marriage[edit]

In some legal jurisdictions, celestial marriages can be recognized as civil marriages; in other cases, couples are civilly married outside of the temple and are later sealed in a celestial marriage.[20] The church will no longer perform a celestial marriage on a couple unless they are first (or simultaneously) legally married.

A celestial marriage is not annulled by a civil divorce: a "cancellation of a sealing" may be granted, but only by the First Presidency, the highest authority in the church. Civil divorce and marriage outside the temple carry with them a stigma in Mormon culture; the church teaches that the "gospel of Jesus Christ—including repentance, forgiveness, integrity, and love—provides the remedy for conflict in marriage."[21]


Until 1890, the LDS Church openly sanctioned plural marriage, which was the practice of marrying a man celestially to multiple women. Such polygamous marriages were celestial marriages only, not legal civil marriages. Today, the church is opposed to such marriages and excommunicates members who participate in them, whether or not polygamy is legal in the jurisdiction in question. The church teaches that “the standard doctrine of the church is monogamy" and that polygamy was a temporary exception to the rule.[22]

Marriage statistics for Latter-day Saints[edit]

In 2008 the American Religious Identification Survey reported: "Mormons have the highest proportions of currently married adults, and lowest divorce rates reflecting the emphasis on family values in this tradition .... Commitment to 'traditional or normative family values' is measured by creating a combined index of the proportions divorced and cohabiting, whereby those traditions that score lowest are the most familial. The tradition with the lowest percentages on this index are Mormons (11%)".[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles (September 23, 1995), "The Family: A Proclamation to the World", Gospel Topics, (LDS Church), retrieved 2013-12-11 . See also: "The Family: A Proclamation to the World".
  2. ^ "Temples", Gospel Topics, (LDS Church) 
  3. ^ Leaders of the church secretly practiced and taught plural marriage from about 1831 to 1852.
  4. ^ Fred Karger, "The Mormon church won't drop its opposition to gay marriage", The Guardian, 2013-11-29.
  5. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 42:22
  6. ^ Spencer W. Kimball, "Oneness in Marriage", Tambuli, June 1978.
  7. ^ Marlin K. Jensen, "A Union of Love and Understanding", Ensign October 1994.
  8. ^ "Marriage", Gospel Topics, (LDS Church), "Marriage is a partnership of equals, with neither person exercising dominion over the other, but with each encouraging, comforting, and helping the other .... it needs and deserves time over less-important commitments. Couples can strengthen their marriage as they take time to talk together and to listen to one another, to be thoughtful and respectful, and to express tender feelings and affection often... Marriage partners must be loyal to one another and faithful in their marriage covenants in thought, word, and deed. Married couples should stay away from anything that could lead to unfaithfulness in any way. Pornography, unwholesome fantasies, and flirtations will erode character and strike at the foundation of marriage." 
  9. ^ "Marriage", Gospel Topics, (LDS Church), "Couples must center their lives in the gospel of Jesus Christ. As couples help one another keep the covenants they have made, attend church and the temple together, study the scriptures together, and kneel together in prayer, God will guide them. Their companionship will sweeten through the years; their love will strengthen. Their appreciation for one another will grow." 
  10. ^ Handbook 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops (Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church, 2010) § 7.2.5.
  11. ^ a b c d "Chapter 38: Eternal Marriage", Gospel Principles (Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church, 2011).
  12. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 131:1-4
  13. ^ a b "Chapter 47: Exaltation", Gospel Principles (Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church, 2011).
  14. ^ Bushman, Richard L. (2008), Mormonism: a Very Short Introduction, New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 58–59, ISBN 9780195310306, OCLC 179802646 
  15. ^ Hyde, Orson (October 6, 1854), "The Marriage Relations", in Watt, G.D., Journal of Discourses 2, Liverpool: F. D. Richards, pp. 75–87 .
  16. ^ Hyde, Orson (185), "Man the Head of Woman—Kingdom of God—The Seed of Christ—Polygamy—Society in Utah", in Watt, G.D., Journal of Discourses 4, Liverpool: S. W. Richards, pp. 257–263 .
  17. ^ Pratt, Orson (October 1853), "Celestial Marriage", The Seer 1 (10), p. 159 
  18. ^ Wilford Woodruff, Journal Entry 1883-07-22, reporting on a sermon given by Joseph F. Smith.
  19. ^ Joseph Fielding Smith, Handwritten note responding to letter from J. Ricks Smith, 1963.
  20. ^ Handbook 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops (Salt Lake City, Utah: LDS Church, 2010) § 3.5.
  21. ^ "Gospel Topics: Divorce",
  22. ^ "Polygamy: Latter-day Saints and the Practice of Plural Marriage", LDS Newroom,
  23. ^ Kosmin, Barry A.; Keysar, Ariela (March 2009), American Religious Identification Survey 2008: Summary Report, Trinity College (Hartford, Connecticut), p. 13 

Further reading[edit]