Celestial marriage

Celestial marriage

Celestial marriage (also called the New and Everlasting Covenant and Eternal Marriage) is a doctrine unique to Mormonism, particularly The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) and branches of Mormon fundamentalism. It is an ordinance associated with a covenant that usually takes place inside temples by those authorized to hold the sealing power. As such, the only people allowed to enter the temple are those who hold an official "temple recommend". In the sacred marriage ceremony a man and a woman make covenants to God and to each other and are sealed as husband and wife for time and all eternity.

In the 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, however, 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 afterlife as a family with all whom he was sealed. On page 72 of 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 while she is alive. She may only be sealed to subsequent partners after she has died. Church leaders have not clarified if women in such circumstances will live in a polyandrous relationship in the afterlife. 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.

In the 19th century the term celestial marriage often referred specifically to the practice of plural marriage, a practice which the LDS Church abandoned in 1890. Plural marriage is still continued by Mormon fundamentalists not affiliated with the LDS Church, and is referred to as celestial marriage.


Celestial marriage is an instance of the LDS doctrine of sealing. Following 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 the following biblical references indicate marriage extends beyond the grave.

Matthew 16:19 when he says to Peter:

“ And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. ”

This is later repeated in Matthew 18:18:

“ Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Relationship to plural marriage

There is substantial doctrinal dispute between the various denominations as to whether celestial marriage is plural or monogamous. Historically, celestial marriage and plural marriage were taught by church leaders as being synonymous. (Doctrine and Covenants, Section 132; ; ; ) Mormon fundamentalists cleave to the historical interpretation that connects the two (i.e. plural and celestial marriage) while the LDS Church makes a distinction. In their view, plural marriages in the early church, when properly authorized and conducted, were, in fact, celestial marriages; but celestial marriages need not be plural marriages. 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. Culturally, some Mormons believe that celestial marriage as plural marriage will be reinstated or recommence after the Second Coming. This belief has not been taught by church leaders, and "when any Elder of the Church has publicly used language which appeared to convey any such teaching, he has been promptly reproved."

Hypothesized influence of Emanuel Swedenborg

D. Michael Quinn, a historian who writes about Mormonism, argued in his book Early Mormonism and the Magic World View that the concept of celestial marriage may have been taken by Joseph Smith from Emanuel Swedenborg's book Heaven and Hell, which was first published in Latin in 1758. In the book, Swedenborg details his concept of marriage in heaven.

Quinn further argues that the book was available to Smith, and that he was familiar with it. By one account, Smith told Latter Day Saint convert Edward Hunter that "Emanuel Swedenborg had a view of the world to come, but for daily food he perished." Additionally, Quinn shows that the book was in the Palmyra public library (Smith's hometown) since 1817. Quinn also writes that "[n]ine miles from Smith's farm, in 1826 the Canandaigua newspaper also advertised Swedenborg's book for sale. The bookstore offered Swedenborg's publications for as little as 37 cents."



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      • . A multi-part series of articles in which Orson Pratt describes his view of the relationship between celestial marriage and polygamy in the 1800s. Complete series in PDF available here (26MB). This work was never accepted as official doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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