Special Feature: Readers' Puzzle for Spring 2011

Second Marriage Questions

Anonymous LDS Bishop

SquareTwo, Vol. 4 No. 1 (Spring 2011)






The Church Handbook clearly says the purpose of a temple marriage is to seal a husband and wife for time and eternity, depending on their faithfulness.  Next, it clearly says a member who has been sealed to a spouse may remarry after the spouse's death.  So, even though "doctrine" says the deceased spouse is alive and well in the Spirit World, a surviving spouse can remarry.  For example, President Hunter remarked upon his wife's death that he still was "married."  But 5 years later, at an advanced age, he remarried!

The notion that a person can remarry upon the death of a spouse, and it not be considered "adulterous," (because, after all, it's not against the law of chastity if you're legally married) has certainly been a principle adhered to for as long as I can remember.  (Although Joseph Smith, in Teachings, did comment that the practice of marrying immediately after the death of a spouse was disfavored.)   What's never been explained is how remarriage doesn't conflict with the notion that a prior sealed party is "married for time and all eternity" to someone else.   

I am currently serving as Bishop, and find myself at a loss when confronted with these questions by my priest-age young men and other members.  Some people prefer to take the road well traveled -- "I don't know so I won't worry about it." But some people do have to worry about it--how do you counsel someone who's widowed, who asks about whether he or she should remarry, and what effect that second marriage may have on prior sealings?  How do you encourage two previously sealed individuals who have lost their spouses to marry in the temple "for time only" knowing that eventually, someone is going to seal that wife to her second husband after they've all passed away?

What would you say to your own children if they lose a spouse after a couple of kids and 10 years of marriage?  What does a person do when they've been married to one spouse for 25 years and then 25 years to another?  I think I'm ready for a general explanation of the "why" behind allowing us to remarry if we believe our deceased spouse is still alive and well, though we are temporarily apart.

Maybe I'm just too hung up on semantics, but if we say we're married for time and all eternity, shouldn't we act like we're married for time and all eternity?  Or is it the case that sealings are simply a gateway ordinance just like baptism, something we're commanded to do to show our willingness to live the Patriarchal Order, but that is as far as it goes?  For example, if I died, my personal righteousness could never trump my wife's exercise of agency.  I can't make her live the gospel, keep the commandments, etc.  Nor, if I were to die and she remarry, could I force her to "choose" me over some other righteous husband. If I die and my wife remarries another man, how is that being faithful to me?  Why is fidelity to spouse in this life important, but can be abandoned the moment our spouse dies?

If you've been sealed, why is okay to remarry if your spouse dies?  I know you can, but why?  If I'm supposed to have a testimony that my spouse is alive and waiting for a joyful reunion in the Spirit World, then why would I remarry?  What am I saying if I remarry?  By allowing (even encouraging) people to remarry after they've sealed, we seem no better than other religions who teach that "Dead is dead."  Marriage is over when one of the spouses dies.  Therefore, move on with your life.  But wait a minute -- I thought I'm married for time and all eternity?  What sense does it make to say that and then walk out the door and remarry if my wife dies? President Packer implies in one article that we should encourage our spouse to remarry if we die.  Yet in another article President Hinckley seems to say we should bear that "season of separation" and look forward to being reunited.

I just haven't squared that notion with other quotes that say "if you truly love your spouse, you'll want to be with him or her for eternity."  If I'm married more than once, which spouse should I truly love?  Is marrying again saying I didn't truly love my first spouse, or am I saying I don't really truly love my second spouse and have no intention of becoming "one flesh" with her?  You see the dilemma. Furthermore, I can't help but believe that if we're going to have the same sociality in the Spirit World that we have here, and if surviving spouses believe they're "free" to fall in love with someone else here in mortality, then I presume deceased spouses will be doing the same kind of thing in the Spirit World?

Right now, when I am asked in my capacity as a Bishop, all I can do is repeat what the handbook says, and if asked "why," I'll have to shrug my shoulders and say "I don't know," just like my stake president and local temple president have done.  I have great respect for both of these men.  They are men of great experience and knowledge.  When they can't clearly and simply answer my questions about these issues, I know I'm in trouble!


Full Citation for This Article: Anonymous (2011) "Special Feature: Readers' Puzzle, Spring 2011: Second Marriage Questions," SquareTwo, Vol. 4 No. 1 (Spring), http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleReadersPuzzleMarriage.html, accessed [give access date].

Would you like to comment on this article? Thoughtful, faithful comments of at least 300 words are welcome. Please submit to SquareTwo.

COMMENTS: 7 Comments

1) Alison D., New South Wales, Australia

i am so grateful to find this article, thank you for writing and putting the question out there!

i have the same feelings in regards to being sealed...its forever...why would i want to re-marry someone else if my husband passed away? just to fall in love with another and be torn between the two.

we were sealed for time and eternity and to me thats 1 husband forever... how could he if we were only married for 10 years with 3 kids...i die..he re-marries another woman for 40 years... guess which one he would choose...i just couldn't do that to myself, or someone else.

it is very hard for me seeing members re-marry as i believe their partners are there sealed to them waiting to be re-united with their loved ones who have been re-married and forming a relationship of love. how heart breaking to know all this!

still i somehow feel like i would be the bad one for not allowing him to re-marry even though i would myself never even want to but just because others do and he thinks its for companionship for both him and i in that situation. i say...go without! you made a covenant to me and this is what it means to me....me and you forever and no one else!!!

NSW Australia


2) Michael Hoggan (second comment)

The bishop queried how he could counsel people to be married in the temple for time only, knowing that someone will eventually seal them for eternity by proxy. I think it is important to keep in mind that the performance of a proxy ordinance places no obligation on the recipients of the proxy ordinance to accept it. The First Presidency teaches that we perform proxy ordinances to give people an opportunity to accept them. There is no coercion involved. S. Michael Wilcox, who taught a couple of institute classes I attended at the University of Utah, said that he had once accidentally sealed a woman to her brother-in-law instead of her husband. I suspect that there are a significant number of such mistakes in our temple sealings, which will be sorted out in time.


3) Michael Hoggan (first comment)

I served a mission in the northwest corner of Italy (The Italy, Milan mission) during the early 1990's. As an aside, I served under three president's of the Church (Benson, Hunter, Hinckley). I testified that they were serving the Lord then, and I still believe that today.
While in Italy, I met a woman who had a husband who wanted to be baptized. She was acquiescent in his baptism but she didn't approve. She was a cultural Catholic, who did not have much faith in the tenets of Rome, but clung to the church as an important cultural institution. The other set of missionaries were teaching her husband, but my companion and I were often called in for backup.
This woman's position was that she did not have much faith in the tenets of Rome, but that we couldn't possibly believe most of the things our church taught either. The fact that our belief was not merely possible but an actual reality never penetrated the ethers of her mind.
Among other things, this woman argued that we could not possibly be literally God's spirit children. If we were, then all sexual relations were incestuous and therefore diabolical. She also argued that Adam and Eve couldn't have been the only humans on the earth at the time because intermarriage between their children would likewise have been incestuous/diabolical.
I think that it is vital that we realize that different rules apply at different times and circumstances. It may have in some technical sense been incest for Adam and Eve's children to marry each other as recorded in Genesis and Moses, but it was not unlawful, let alone diabolical. Likewise, those of us who marry in this life are not in violation of God's commandments, quite the opposite. Marriage of first cousins (from a mortal perspective) is also recorded in the scriptures. This is certainly not something I personally plan on doing (even with a distant cousin), but I trust that it was lawful in the eyes of our Heavenly Father and that there is a good chance that some of those marriages (at least) have remained eternal.
When a temple-married spouse dies, the bond of eternal marriage is not broken, but the bond of earthly marriage certainly is. In other words, the death acts as a de facto divorce for the purposes of time (i.e. mortality). Obviously, the departed faithful spouse is alive and well in the Spirit world and their temple sealing remains valid. If faithful the couple will be reunited in the Spirit world and (at some later date) the Celestial Kingdom. However, mortality is very different from the Spirit world and Celestial Kingdom and the death of a spouse leaves a very real hole that is often best filled by a new mortal spouse.

I trust that we can all agree (without complaint) that our church permits a legally divorced person whose former spouse is still alive to remarry in the temple. A widow(er) who remarries is likewise not in violation of their temple covenants either to Heavenly Father or their spouse(s), even if they marry again for time and eternity. Some people choose not to remarry, and that is fine. However, no one should view someone who does remarry (and even has children with their new spouse) as being unclean or unfaithful in some sense.

Some may argue from my analogy that it is suitable to remarry for time, but not eternity. I think such decisions need to be left up to the people being married, under the guidance of the Holy Ghost. If one of my friends died, I would not tell their spouse (male or female) that they had better just remarry for time. It simply isn't my place.

I think the evidence from the scriptures and in this dispensation is clear that some men will be married to more than one woman in the eternities. This will certainly not be required, and I strongly suspect that such men will be in a rather small minority, but it will happen. I do not personally expect (or desire) to be in this minority, but I will not look down my nose at those whom I suspect probably will.
I have no evidence (maybe someone else does) that some women in the hereafter will be married to more than one man, but I am not personally averse to the idea. I agree that it is reasonable for a faithful woman who has had long marriages with two separate good men to want to continue that in the eternities. I just have no idea if that is how it will work. I think the workings of heaven is a very open ended topic and am very wary of statements that “it just has to be this way for it to be heaven”.

If I were a widow's bishop, I would tell her to not be afraid to love again. I would reassure her that it is not required, especially if she is averse to the idea. I would also reassure her that she will know what to do (in the hereafter) when the time comes. If she questions me about the possibility of eternal polyandry for her, my only response can be that I don’t know. If the Holy Ghost directed me to give her other, more specific counsel, I would comply.
I think that we sometimes forget that, while there is no exaltation without eternal marriage, there is no eternal marriage without exaltation. Someone who is not worthy of exaltation, who is not worthy to be a joint-heir(ess) with our Savior and elder brother, won't be married to anybody in the eternities. All marriages that persist in the eternities will by definition be worthy ones.
I'm pretty sure that Satan wants us to be afraid of exaltation, because he doesn't want us to seek exaltation. I think he also wants us to "look beyond the mark" of eternal marriage just as many of the ancient Jews looked beyond the mark of the Messiah. Our mortal minds cannot grasp how everything will work out in the eternities. We need to trust that Heavenly Father knows what he is doing (another thing Satan doesn't want us to believe).

In closing, I would like to use two personal anecdotes and an anecdote from a former bishop. I am often reluctant to use anecdotes for three reasons. I feel that they often intrude unneccessarily on personal privacy. I also think that they can often be misleading since they are only one or two examples. I prefer more solid, broad-based, evidence. There is also of course the fear of being considered a “storyteller” who just makes up stuff to elicit a particular response.

Since this is such an emotionally charged topic, I have decided to add these anecdotes to underscore the fact that this is an issue that does affect me personally and that my response is likewise personal. Both of my parents have two temple marriages and two temple divorces. While the possibility exists that my parents will be reconciled in the hereafter, I find that doubtful. I therefore suspect that (in the event of the exaltation of myself and parents) I will end up having eternal step-parents who were never married to my parents in mortality. I do not have a problem with this and do not view it as a betrayal of my earthly parents. A great many families will need to be at least partially broken up and rearranged in the hereafter. There is sorrow in this, but no betrayal (on the part of those exalted).

My own temple marriage unfortunately has also ended in divorce (It’s hard to know how to make a spouse happy when your own parents didn’t know). My former spouse has a brother who is a widower. He married a woman in the temple and she was killed in a car accident less than a year later, along with their unborn child. Several years later, he remarried in the temple. I can personally attest that he was very sad for a very long time and that his remarriage helped fill the hole in  his heart.

The third anecdote comes from a bishop, who never gave me cause to doubt his veracity when speaking in church. It concerned a man he knew personally who had been married in the temple. This man’s wife later suffered a complete nervous breakdown and had to be permanently hospitalized (mental illness is a sad reality, brothers and sisters). This good man was counseled by his church leaders to divorce his incapacitated wife and remarry in the temple, and he did remarry.

I do not think these things were done because these men doubted the validity of their temple sealings or were unfeeling toward the women they first married. I think they understood that sometimes an eternal marriage can be broken for time, and that remarriage to another mortal spouse is needed.

I trust Heavenly Father and the First Presidency. I trust that since the First Presidency allows temple remarriage of widow(er)s that this is a good thing.

That is how I would solve the puzzle.


4) M.B. Hassell

This good bishop wrote: “and if surviving spouses believe they're "free" to fall in love with someone else here in mortality, then I presume deceased spouses will be doing the same kind of thing in the Spirit World?”

I believe that part of the challenge he is facing is the belief that remarriage is a matter of feeling “’free’ to fall in love”. And it is understandable that the young men in his priests quorum who ask him questions about remarriage might also view remarriage simply as a matter of romance or falling in love, which, by earthly definition, involves diminishing your love and respect for your previous partner and ceasing to care as much for his or her concerns on the matter. It is vital to remember that what Gordon B. Hinckley wrote is true, that “the real essence of happiness in marriage lies not so much in romance as in an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion. Thinking of self alone and of the gratification of personal desires will build neither trust, love, nor happiness. (“I Believe,”Liahona, March 1993, 8) Those principles apply both in decisions to marry as well as in decisions to remarry after the death of a spouse. In God’s eyes either decision must involve and actually requires an increase in love, concern, thoughtfulness and care for others and their feelings and concerns on the part of all involved if it is to be done with his blessing.

Remarriage after the death of a spouse is not a commandment, nor is it prohibited by God. Thus, it becomes, ideally, a decision that must be made hand in hand with God, following personal revelation received directly from him for you in your personal situation. God knows the thoughts and needs of your deceased spouse, who is very much alive in the spirit world, as well as your own. He will not guide you to an action that will cause pain to your deceased spouse, diminish your love for him or her, or cause you to show disrespect or dishonor to your covenants with God or with your spouse nor minimize nor make somehow second class or fail to “truly love” the person you intend to marry.. Thus it is vital that a decision to remarry not simply be made intellectually nor emotionally, but that it be made only after much prayerful consideration and personal divine revelation in order for it to be based upon eternal principles of charity, kindness, unselfishness and a desire to render service and aid on the part of all parties concerned, deceased or here on earth. Only God, who is aware of all the hearts involved, can let you know when the circumstances are right for such a decision and he can, when it is the case, reassure you that he approves of a decision to remarry.

A decision to remarry based solely on “falling in love” or a need to fill a personal loneliness or that fits this bishop’s description of “walk out the door and remarry“ will likely bring with it the confusion and sense of betrayal of covenants that this bishop describes, and the questions that he raises are an appropriate response for a man or woman who views this possibility from the position of a person who is married to or anticipates marriage to a spouse who is very much alive and present and for whom a spouse’s decision to look for marriage relations with another person would be perceived as a deep betrayal. He fails to understand something that some of us who will predecease our spouses know quite well, that our greatest joy in our marriage relationship is the creation of comfort, love, help and assistance to our spouses as they live lives dedicated to the service of the Lord and their family. We want our spouses to have that help and loving kindness in their lives. Their loss of that when we precede them in death is something we will mourn not for ourselves, but for them. I understand that there may come a time when I will not be in this world to render that care for my husband and I hope that, should it be needful for him, there will be someone who will offer that kindness, help and companionship only possible in a day-to-day married relationship to strengthen him in his good journey when I am dead. If there is, I know that towards her I will be not jealous, nor will I be in competition with her, but rather I will be extremely grateful for that kindness and hope that he is loving and kind enough to provide the same for her.

Finally this good bishop expresses confusion about the mixed messages from Boyd Packer and Gordon B. Hinckley about whether remarriage after the death of a spouse is appropriate or not. That is because there is no best, right way to navigate widowed life. Each individual situation requires its own answers. Each widow or widower must take this decision to the Lord individually. What would be appropriate and helpful for one widowed person and his or her deceased spouse may well be unnecessary for another. God sees marriage decisions as deeply personal and individual and he knows the needs, hearts, capacities and concerns of all, both in this world and out of it, involved in each situation. Making a good decision to either remarry after the death of a spouse or a good decision to remain single until reunited after this life requires that personal revelation from him.

M.B. Hassell


5) George Landrith

The problem in the anonymous bishop’s dilemma is that as mortals we cannot fathom an exaltation-type love. Notice that I did NOT call such love “celestial love,” for in this dilemma understanding “celestial love” is not enough because 2 parts of the celestial kingdom have “celestial love” but NOT “exaltation” love, for those 2 parts will be NOT be exalted, will NOT be sealed to anyone, according to D & C 131.

Let’s compare understanding “exaltation love” to understanding the atonement because it is an example of exaltation love. None of us can claim that we fully understand how the Savior suffered for the sins of the world in Gethsemane, but we know He did. Even Church President Spencer W. Kimball said that he did not fully understand how the Savior suffered for the sins of the world. The closest I can come to explaining how the Savior suffered for the sins of the world, is to say: the Lord – in taking upon Himself the sins of the world in Gethsemane – was left to the terrible buffetings of Satan – and was treated like a sinner by Heavenly Father. And that explanation is a very limited explanation.

Notice that we don’t claim this is a mystery in the sense that other churches use the word “mystery” as an excuse to not explain certain inconsistencies and even stupidities in their false doctrine. We claim that how the Savior suffered for the sins of the world is only a mystery in the sense that we as mere mortals do NOT fully understand the process. Exaltation love is likewise difficult to fully understand in the sense that we as mere mortals do NOT fully understand it, but we can say with absolute certainty that such love wants the very best for everyone on earth – for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

A deceased spouse who had been sealed to his spouse while alive, and who is exalted will desire his surviving spouse to be happy in life. That is simply the nature of exaltation love. If the deceased spouse does not have that desire, we know with absolute certainty – ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY – that the deceased spouse is not worthy of exaltation, and the sealing ordinance for that deceased spouse will NOT count; in such cases there is no dilemma. Thus, a dead, exalted spouse – in wanting the best for the surviving spouse – will NOT want the surviving spouse to be alone, for it is not good for man to be alone. It’s just that simple.

Also, in a world of exalted people issues of who will be married to whom, will NOT be as significant as such issues are here. Why? Because all exalted people – with NO exceptions (NOT even one exception) will be married to an exalted person, that is, a Christ-like person who loves you with the deepest, purest love in existence, a love that will last literally FOREVER AND FOREVER. No exceptions. None whatsoever. Any person who is exalted, will have such an eternal love relationship with a spouse – including women who were not able to be sealed in this life but lived worthily of exaltation, including children who died before the age of 8 – in other words, including millions of people (millions of babies have died) who never knew a romantic relationship in this life. Actually we have an instance of this even in our own mortal existence: Rebecca, making her own decision, left home to go marry Isaac, whom she had never met; and according to D & C 132, they are exalted.

Exalted people who died as babies, will have absolutely NO trouble whatsoever falling in love with another exalted person; they will love their spouses as much as you love your husband, as much as President and Sister Hinckley loved each other and will love each other, and as much as President and Sister Monson love each other and will love each other. That’s the nature of exaltation love. This is the official doctrine of this church and is absolutely true, wonderful, and beautiful.

Therefore, who will be sealed to whom in cases of more than one marriage, is not that significant an issue in the world of exalted people. And if one exalted person was sealed to 2 exalted people, the 3 of them will have NO difficulty – NONE WHATSOEVER – in resolving the issue. The only reason why we may have difficulty understanding this, is that we are mere mortals who do NOT understand exaltation love.

Now let’s go to another issue in the alleged dilemma of the anonymous bishop:

You said: “Marriage is not an instrumentality, George/Lanny; marriage was meant to be the deepest human relationship in this life.”

Actually marriage is sometimes an instrumentality and is NOT always for “the deepest human relationship in this life” – according to God’s will. Abraham’s wife Sarah asked Abraham to take her maid Hagar as a wife in order to have children because Sarah had had no children. (Genesis 16: 1 – 3). Marriage in this instance was indeed “an instrumentality.” Abraham’s marriage to Hagar resulted in the birth of Ishmael and the beginning of the Islam race. Wow! A wonderful instrumentality!

Abraham’s marriage to Hagar certainly did NOT involve “the deepest human relationship in this life”; with God’s permission, Abraham kicked Hagar and Ishmael out (Genesis 21: 9 – 14). This is relevant to the bishop’s alleged dilemma because marriage serves as an instrumentality so that man will not be alone and so that man can provide more service. Here are examples:

I had a stake president Wayne B. Hales (a BYU professor) who was widowed. He remarried a wonderful woman who had been sealed to another man. They were married for time only. Former BYU President Rex Lee died of cancer; later his widow remarried to a worthy man, and both of them now serve in the Jordan River temple with him being in the temple presidency. Because of the 2nd marriages for both of these people, they avoided being alone, and they were able to provide even greater service as a married couple. If their deceased spouses were bothered by the 2nd marriages, they simply are NOT exalted, for exalted people want the best for people on earth, especially their surviving spouses. If their deceased spouses were exalted, they are filled with joy because their surviving spouses are not alone and are able to provide more service.

Again, all this may be difficult to understand because we do not fully understand exaltation love, just as we don’t fully understand the atonement. But that doesn’t make it any less true. Actually the only real dilemma here is how to teach these wonderful truths to our widows and widowers. They must do as has been done by the prophets Howard W. Hunter and Joseph Smith’s brother Hyrum Smith whose 2nd wife was the fantastic Mary Fielding Smith, a prophetess through whom came 2 prophets (our 6th Church President Joseph F. Smith and our 10th Church President Joseph Fielding Smith). Howard W. Hunter and Hyrum Smith – like Wayne B. Hales, like the widow of former BYU President Rex Lee – knew by revelation that their decision to remarry was based on the sure knowledge that it was not good to be alone, that they were fulfilling the Lord's will, that they were in a better position to serve, and that there would be no sealing problems in the celestial kingdom resulting from their remarrying, and that their deceased exalted spouses would delight in their remarrying. Our LDS widows and widowers must get that same revelation.


6) Arnold W. Hammari, Boise, Idaho

Male adolescents of my generation idealized Marie Osmond as a potential wife. Happily, we found Heavenly Father had provided many willing and equally-talented brunettes to satisfactorily fill that role (perhaps I became my wife’s “Donny”).

He who has a wife has found a good thing. Two are better than one. The man is not without the woman, nor the woman without the man. This union makes families possible and families bring the potential for great joy.

Yet, all are not content. The dating and mating games are fraught with peril. Our socialized ideals and our physical chemistry drive our conduct, and these thoughts and feelings can be intense. Heavenly Father wisely gave us counsel in the Strength of Youth pamphlet, and in scripture. This counsel guides our courtship and dating. We are chaste before marriage and faithful during.

Latter-day Saints’ understanding of Celestial Marriage is such that we prepare for it and conduct ourselves so as to qualify for the Temple blessings. We understand that the covenants we make do not end in death, and that the family will be eternal. That is encouraging, especially when death or other misfortunes overtake us.

Sometimes our lives do not follow the pattern we intended. Death and divorce complicate things and provoke many questions. It is hard to exercise faith when one is discouraged, bereft, or abandoned. Many appeal to the ward bishop for understanding and consolation.

The Bishop should be a faith builder. Blessed with discernment, he can tell which ideas come from the Adversary, and which are legitimate questions. A wise bishop also knows that the Lord reveals his doctrines line upon line, not everything at once. A wise bishop is also sensitive to the fears people have in difficult times. Rather than give in to fear himself, the Bishop should counsel with his file leader, and with the Lord.

In the preexistence, we are told, there was a war of ideas. Lucifer tried to incite doubt in our minds: doubt that the Savior would really atone for us, doubt that the final judgment would be fair. He convinced a third of us to distrust the plan. Their fear-based distrust of future events led to real consequences.

Let us exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and his restored gospel. Let us exercise faith in the Brethren. Let us exercise faith in the Temple covenants. We are promised great blessings that we cannot now comprehend if we are faithful. Have faith that the Lord has a plan for you.


7) John Mark Mattox, New Mexico

The sealing ordinances themselves appear to be greater than any instantiation of the sealing ordinances (just as, by analogy, the priesthood is greater than any of its offices; e.g., it is more important that one hold the priesthood than that one hold any particular office of the priesthood. Of course, one might note that males must possess the office of Elder to receive the temple ordinances. True, but there is no requirement for him to be an High Priest, Seventy, or Apostle.) If the analogy holds, then the fact of being sealed appears to be more important than the fact of whom one is sealed to at any particular time.

Note that in the event of "cancellation of sealing," the sealing blessings are still entailed upon children born in the covenant. This would suggest that the fact that they are "sealed" is more important than the fact of their being sealed to any particular parents (or perhaps to anyone at all). One of the principal ways we come unto Christ is through the ordinances of the priesthood: "[I]n the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is manifest. And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh" (DC 84:20, 21, ff.). The Lord informs us in DC 132 that he recognizes all worthy covenants made by men while they are in the flesh (such that, for example, if one "covenants" to repay a bank loan and then default on the loan through negligence or willful misconduct, we might venture to suppose that the Lord would be displeased).

However, once men are dead, all covenants not made at His direction cease to be recognized (DC 132 13, 14). One of the main messages of DC 132 is not--as some would have it--that the Lord from time to time authorizes plural marriage, but rather that whatever the Lord authorizes is approved of him. As indicated in the reader's puzzle, the Handbook clearly delineates those marital arrangement that are approved by him. Hence, when one tries to superimpose human (and might we further add, Western) logic and societal conventions as constraints on what seems to us to be permissible, one may find oneself missing the point of the sealing ordinances. What is the full point? It is not clear that we know the answer to that question--just like the Brother of Jared did not know that the Lord had a finger and could not even begin to rationalize how that could be so until the Lord Himself explained it. Nevertheless, we can be sure that entering to the sealing ordinances in whatever permutation the Lord authorizes, when done in faith, hope, and charity, is approved of Him.