If you're engaged and reading this—congratulations! Your life is about to drastically change. The proposal has happened, you've both said "yes!" and it's time to plan the wedding. As Latter-day Saints, a part of the wedding planning process will be preparing to be sealed in the temple for time and all eternity.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that “marriages are intended to last forever, not just for our mortal lives.”1 This is done through a sealing ceremony, during which the sealing power bridges the gap between heaven and earth. The sealing power has been a part of Christ’s church since the beginning, as Adam and Eve were sealed (Moses 3:24) and, during His earthly ministry, Christ gave the sealing authority to His apostles (Matthew 16:19).
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The Lord has clear expectations for those planning on getting sealed by His holy priesthood in His holy house. Three of the more pressing expectations are that the couple is ready to commit to support one another for eternity, that both enter the temple prepared for the endowment ordinance, and that both enter the temple worthily.
1. Couples Must Be Ready to Support Each Other for Eternity
Marriage is the ultimate team activity. When you ask someone to be your spouse, you’re asking them to be your biggest fan and support system for life, and vice versa. When you are agreeing to be legally and spiritually bound, you’re committing to a life-long (and beyond) role of being there for someone at all times. Joseph F. Smith, who once described his wife, Julina, as “my heart’s best [treasure] on earth,”2 spoke heavily throughout his ministry about the importance of marital oneness. He taught:
“Zion is no place for a war of the sexes. God intended them to be one, and so declared. It is not doing His work to keep them separate, or to cause them to feel that they have diverse and opposed interests, and that separation, not union, is the object of their creation.”2
President Smith also stressed the importance of working together, as one, to keep harmony within your newfound family:
“There never should be a shade of difference of feeling; there never should be a thing permitted to come between you and estrange you one from another; you should not allow it. This is essential to your welfare and happiness and to the union that should exist in your home. . . . Home is a place of order, love, union, rest, confidence, and absolute trust.”2
Don't be discouraged if your new marriage is not as painless as President Smith describes. His preaching is a goal—a place to work toward. Former member of the Quorum of the Seventy F. Burton Howard said this about becoming while in eternal marriage:
"Eternal implies continuing growth and improvement. It means that man and wife will honestly try to perfect themselves. It means that the marriage relationship is not to be frivolously discarded at the first sign of disagreement or when times get hard. . . . Eternal signifies repentance, forgiveness, long-suffering, patience, hope, charity, love, and humility."3
Perfection is not what is required of spouses but persistence, always improving as partners through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, is something all couples should strive for. Through Him, spouses can become lifelong companions who love each other completely while still being mistake-prone humans.
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2. Couples Must Correctly Prepare for the Endowment Ordinance
For some couples, getting sealed in the temple may be joined with receiving one’s endowment for one or both spouses. These are separate ordinances. Both are important, but don't let one outshine the other.
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For couples where both soon-to-be spouses have already gone through the temple before getting engaged and married—go to the temple and participate in endowment sessions together before your wedding. Nothing can replace time spent in the temple with your loved one. Additionally, your sealing ceremony will be an opportunity for you both to remember the covenants you’ve personally made during the endowment ceremony.
In regards to what the endowment ordinance includes, the Church teaches:
“Members are taught important gospel truths, such as the plan of happiness offered by our Heavenly Father, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the divine nature of each person and the great blessings offered to all of God’s children. The primary purpose of temples is for members to participate in sacred ceremonies rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ. . . . Participants . . . make sacred promises with the Lord, called covenants. These covenants include obeying God, following Jesus Christ, being morally pure, and dedicating their time and talents to the Lord's service. These commitments become guiding principles in their everyday lives.”4
Correctly preparing for the reception of your endowment does not mean knowing beforehand every part and procedure of the ceremonial process. The process is sacred and should be kept as such. Having a correct understanding means entering the temple willing to learn and make covenants with God. If you have questions about the endowment, visit ChurchofJesusChrist.org/temples for helpful resources, specifically Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple by President Boyd K. Packer.
You can confidently assume that you'll have questions after going through the temple for the first or even fiftieth time. Honestly, you'll probably have more after you attend than before you went. Don't be discouraged if you don't understand everything—or even most things. The gospel is learned little by little, precept upon precept. With this in mind, return to the temple often, and fill your mind with questions—that's how receiving revelation starts. Ask questions openly and privately to God in prayer, inside and outside temple walls. The temple is His house, and He does not want you to walk in darkness when it comes to making covenants with Him. He will provide you with answers.
3. Couples Must Enter the Temple Worthily
Prior to entering the temple, couples should review the temple recommend questions and share their thoughts on the temple with one another. Each of the temple recommend questions is important, but one that stands out for soon-to-be newlyweds is the question regarding the law of chastity because of it's unique tie to marriage.
The law of chastity has a qualifier, unlike laws like the Word of Wisdom or other commandments, that prohibits sexual relations until the time is right, which time is marriage. This means that what was once not allowed is suddenly divinely encouraged and endorsed.5
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The change is clear: once married, you can have a sexual relationship, but such strong feelings aren't controlled by a switch. While dating and engaged, the more time you spend with your partner, the more you'll want to share your feelings through forms of physical intimacy. This is not only normal but sexual attraction is both healthy and divine. As an engaged couple it can be easy to fall into the idea that since you're planning on getting married, becoming sexually intimate before marriage isn't a huge deal. This, however, is not the case. God is clear on what He expects. He demands that couples avoid arousing sexual feelings until the sealing has taken place. Be committed to this goal. Recommit if you slip up. Make sure to avoid situations where sexual sin is more likely to occur. Repent if you need to. Do what it takes to enter the temple together. You’ll be happy you did.
Remember that no sin is exempt from the resolving power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The Savior died that we may be perfected in Him. If you've sexually sinned, the Lord still wants the blessing of a temple to be yours. Seek Him and allow the Atonement to lift and heal you. Take whatever steps it takes. Perfection is not what the Lord requires. As we learn in the parable of the prodigal son, our Father is much more concerned about where we are now and where we are headed than where we have been. He will have compassion, run to, and embrace you—always (see Luke 15:11-32).
One important practice to build a strong relationship is to engage in open communication about sex, both before and after you're married. Communication breeds clarity, and clarity helps both partners understand what is and what is not okay for the Lord and their loved one. Sex is personal, so treat it as such. Rid your mind of assumptions and ask your partner specific questions. For engaged couples, a complete guide to sex won't be included in your new pile of wedding gifts. Your personal relationship guide is not in print but will come about as you take the time to learn about each other. There are many healthy resources that help couples get comfortable about talking about sex, including And They Were Not Ashamed: Strengthening Marriage Through Sexual Fulfillment by Laura M. Brotherson or The Act of Marriage: The Beauty of Sexual Love by Tim and Beverly LaHaye. Use whatever professional resources you need to create a safe space to discuss sex with your partner.
Being engaged is exciting, and making the decision to be sealed is a big deal. If you follow the Lord’s commandments and enter His house with knowledge, preparation, and confidence, your wedding day will be a special and sacred day to be celebrated today, tomorrow, and for eternities to come.
Lead image features a sealing room in the Barranquilla Colombia Temple. Image courtesy of ChurchOfJesusChrist.org.
1. Gospel Principles, Chapter 38: Eternal Marriage
2. Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, Chapter 20: The Eternal Union of Husband and Wife, Pages 179-180
3. Eternal Marriage, Elder F. Burton Howard, 2003 April general conference
4. Temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Common Questions; Temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Inside Temples
5. The Eternal Family Teacher Manuel, Chapter 16: The Sacred Powers of Procreation