Can Mormons Divorce if They Were Married in a Temple?

Divorced Couples May Need Their Prior Temple Marriage/Sealing Cancelled

Divorce wedding cake
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Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can be divorced. This holds true whether they were married civilly or in a temple.

If only married civilly, the couple needs to obtain a divorce under the laws or customs they live under.

If a temple marriage or temple sealing has occurred, the couple still needs a legal divorce. However, they may also have their temple marriage/sealing canceled.

This article more fully explains what a temple marriage/sealing cancellation entails and how to obtain one.

How a Cancellation of a Temple Marriage/Sealing Differs From Divorce

Although being sealed in the temple means being married for time and all eternity, we live in a day and age when divorce is prevalent. People marry, divorce and remarry.

In doing so many people who divorce no longer desire to be with their ex-spouse for all eternity. Most who remarry desire to be with their new spouse in the next life, instead of their previous spouse, to whom they are still sealed.

LDS couples marry for time and for eternity. A legal divorce does not affect, change or remove a temple marriage/sealing in any way. Only a cancellation nullifies the eternity part of the union, on paper at least. It must be requested from the First Presidency of the Church. There is a procedure for this.

A Cancellation Generally Follows a Legal Divorce

Generally, a couple must legally divorce before seeking a cancellation of their temple marriage/sealing.

However, Church procedure and laws could be different in some countries.

Mormons who have not been married/sealed in a temple, but were only married civilly, do not need to apply for a temple sealing cancellation as no sealing exists.

Cancellations Must Precede a New Marriage/Sealing For Women

There is a difference in how prior marriages/sealings are handled, based on gender.

A man does not need to have a prior marriage/sealing to a former wife canceled. He can be sealed to a new wife for time and eternity in a temple without this procedural barrier.

A woman must have any prior marriage/sealing canceled before she can be married and sealed to another man in the temple.

So, instead of a temple marriage/sealing being canceled when a couple legally divorces, it is sought when the woman seeks a new temple marriage/sealing.

This disparity explains why those in the LDS faith are sometimes accused of still practicing polygamy. However, LDS members can only have one living, legal spouse while on earth.

Circumstances May Already Have Nullified the Temple Marriage/Sealing

When a couple legally divorce, the temple marriage/sealing is effectively nullified, because the couple are no longer together and do not wish to be.

Eternal marriages are eternal only if both parties remain married and are righteous enough to achieve the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom. We know that few will qualify.

A formal cancellation is not needed unless a former wife wishes to be sealed to a new spouse and is worthy to be sealed.

Why a Person Must Wait to Receive a Cancellation

The temple marriage/sealing ordinance is sacred and holds many promises and blessings for those who make and keep this covenant.

Spiritual blessings can still flow from this covenant, even if the marriage has ended in legal divorce.

For the majority of cases, a temple sealing cancellation will most likely not be approved until a woman is ready to be sealed to another man. This way a woman will retain the promised blessings of the sealing covenant until a new sealing is performed. She loses no blessings.

How to Obtain a Temple Marriage/Sealing Cancellation

Church policy and procedure govern how a temple marriage/sealing is obtained. Policy and procedure can change and it does change.

Regardless of any recent changes, the process begins by going to your bishop and requesting the cancellation.

Updated by Krista Cook.