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SALT LAKE CITY — Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can now be married in the church's temples immediately after being joined in a civil marriage, according to a Monday news release.
Couples in many countries across the world, including the United States, were previously required by the church to wait a year after being civilly married before becoming eligible to be sealed in the temple — what faithful Latter-day Saints believe joins a couple for eternity.
About half the countries in the world already legally require couples to be married civilly before being sealed in the temple, and the church has allowed couples living in those countries to be sealed in the temple directly after their civil marriage. This change in policy merely sets a "global standard" throughout the church, Latter-day Saint leaders said.
“Where possible, leaders should encourage couples to be both married and sealed in the temple,” according to a letter from the church's First Presidency, or highest governing body. “Where a licensed marriage is not permitted in the temple, or when a temple marriage would cause parents or immediate family members to feel excluded, a civil ceremony followed by a temple sealing is authorized.”
Only members, generally in their late teens or early 20s, who follow the standards of the church and receive a "recommend" from their leaders are permitted to enter the temple's sealing rooms. Couples whose family cannot enter the temple may now hold a civil ceremony then be sealed in the temple later that day.
"Most of my immediate family and friends are not members of our faith," said church spokeswoman Irene Caso, who was civilly married then sealed in the Madrid, Spain, temple. "It was especially meaningful for us to have them witness our civil union and help them feel included in the festivities of the day. These changes announced today will bring the same happy and memorable experience to many families throughout the church.”
The church's news release explains that the change in policy should not be interpreted as "lessening the emphasis on the temple sealing" and that the sealing of a husband and wife in the temple is "of eternal significance and a crowning experience on the covenant path."
The church asks that civil marriage ceremonies be simple and dignified and that the sealing in the temple remain the central focus of the marriage. The church will allow couples to use its chapels for the civil ceremony.
New members of the church will still need to wait a year from the date of their entry into the church to be married in the temple.
"This aligns with the church’s long-standing policy of allowing new converts to gain a greater understanding of their faith which includes learning about the sacredness of a temple and the sacraments, or ordinances, that take place in temples," the news release reads.