One of Joseph Smith’s most radical teachings is the principle that Godhood is couplehood: angels abide singly, Gods live in families. For Latter-day Saints, therefore, marriage is not merely an “honorable state,” but the means by which human beings open themselves up to the full measure of God’s blessings, including a fullness of joy. The marriages solemnized in temples are “sealed” both on earth and in heaven (a concept derived from Matthew 16:19). Sealed marriages are understood to endure for eternity as well as for time, which means, among other things, that the couple can have eternal progeny–“a continuation of the seeds forever and ever” (D&C 132:19). That last concept scandalizes orthodox Christians but opens the door to an extraordinarily positive understanding of human sexuality.
The sealing rite functions as a marriage ceremony, but the rite can also be used to seal couples who have been married outside the temple. The sealing of spouses extends to their children: that is, children born to a sealed couple are said to be born “under the covenant” and will be united with their parents in eternity. When a couple who were wed outside the temple have their marriage sealed, a brief, separate rite seals to the couple any children born outside the covenant. Both rites–the sealing of spouses and the sealing of children to parents–can be performed vicariously for the dead.
TEMPLE MARRIAGE (SEALING OF SPOUSES)
[The sealer sits at the head of the altar with two witnesses, one seated at his right and the other at his left. The bride and groom kneel at opposite sides of the altar, facing one another, clothed in the robes of the holy priesthood. They take each other by the right hand in the patriarchal grip.]
SEALER: Brother _________, do you take Sister _________ by the right hand and receive her unto yourself to be your lawfully wedded wife, for time and all eternity, with a covenant and promise that you will observe and keep all the laws, rites, and ordinances pertaining to this holy order of matrimony in the new and everlasting covenant; and this you do in the presence of God, angels, and these witnesses of your own free will and choice?
GROOM: Yes. (1)
SEALER: Sister _________, do you take Brother _________ by the right hand and give yourself to him to be his lawfully wedded wife, and receive him to be your lawfully wedded husband, (2) for time and all eternity, with a covenant and promise that you will observe and keep all the laws, rites, and ordinances pertaining to this holy order of matrimony in the new and everlasting covenant; and this you do in the presence of God, angels, and these witnesses of your own free will and choice?
SEALER: By virtue of the holy priesthood and the authority vested in me, I pronounce you, _________ and _________, legally and lawfully husband and wife for time and all eternity; and I seal upon you the blessings of the holy resurrection, with power to come forth in the morning of the first resurrection, clothed in glory, immortality, and eternal lives.
I seal upon you the blessings of kingdoms, thrones, principalities, powers, dominions, and exaltations, with all the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and say unto you: be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth, that you may have joy and rejoicing in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (3)
All these blessings, together with all the blessings appertaining unto the new and everlasting covenant, I seal upon you by virtue of the holy priesthood, through your faithfulness, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. (4)
SEALING OF CHILDREN TO PARENTS
[Parents and children gather around the altar. Husband and wife take each other by the right hand in the patriarchal grip; the children place their right hands on top of their parents’ joined hands.]
SEALER: By the authority of the holy priesthood, I seal you, [the children are named individually], to your father _________ and to your mother _________ for time and all eternity, as an heir [or heirs] (5) as though you were born in the new and everlasting covenant; in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
1.) The use of “Yes” rather than “I do” might be construed as an effort to distinguish the temple sealing from other marriage rites. However, a document on marriage written for inclusion in Doctrine and Covenants prescribed “Yes” as the response in an LDS wedding as early as 1835, several years before the temple sealing was introduced.
2.) Note that while the bride gives herself to the groom (in addition to receiving him as her husband), the groom does not give himself to the bride. Presumably, this leaves him free to receive plural wives, having not given himself to one wife exclusively.
3.) The injunction to “be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth” is omitted in a vicarious sealing for the dead.
4.) Like baptism, the sealing rite invokes the Trinitarian formula. This is unusual, as most LDS priesthood ordinances invoke the name of Jesus Christ.
5.) In cases where children not born under the covenant are incorporated into a previously sealed family (e.g., when a child has been adopted), the phrase “with all the children” is added at this point.