After holding a series of meetings involving many individuals and prayerfully discussing the need to address marriage, a conference on this subject has adopted the following statement to be published on the Recorders Clearinghouse website:
To preserve the restoration begun by Joseph Smith Jr., it is necessary to revisit the ministry of Joseph. He was called as a prophet of God, and thus had access to the mind and will of God – even in regard to such sacred matters as marriage between a man and a woman.
To follow Joseph’s example regarding marriage, and show how the things he did are still applicable today, that which follows will visit some of the issues facing couples when they elect to marry outside of their traditional institutions. Some of these are: Who can perform a wedding? What about sealing authority? Did Joseph seal couples? Can I? And how does section 101 of the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants fit into the picture?
Joseph began marrying couples in Ohio on November 24, 1835 with the marriage of Newel Knight to Lydia Bailey. Within the next two months he had married ten more couples and by June 19, 1837 he had married a total of nineteen. He felt that his authority to do so came to him from God, as a minister ordained by Him (God). It was never proven against him that he did not have the authority he assumed, although several made the attempt.
Many of the things Joseph did, and the way he did them are applicable today. Hopefully that will be clarified below.
Who can perform marriages?
First, every state and nation has local laws that need to be consulted. In many states, like in Utah, there is a uniform code standardizing procedures. These will be discussed for Utah, to guide others in examining their state’s requirements. If a marriage is valid in the place it is performed, then the Full Faith and Credit clause of the US Constitution makes it valid throughout the United States.
In Utah, these are some of the ways a person can become legally qualified to perform marriages:
A. One of the really interesting things about the statute in Davis County, Utah is spelled out in 30-1-5. It says:
A marriage solemnized before a person professing to have authority to perform marriages may not be invalidated for lack of authority, if consummated in the belief of the parties or either of them that the person had authority and that they have been lawfully married. This section may not be construed to validate a marriage that is prohibited or void under Section 30-1-2.
B. Utah, among a host of other States, allows Common Law Marriage. Many people think they want to get a “common law marriage.” All that is required is to live together as husband and wife and hold yourself out to others as married. By living together, assuming the responsibilities, and rights of married partners you are considered married, but you will not have a marriage certificate without involving the State. If you ever need to collect insurance benefits, survivor’s benefits, inherit property, and other things, you may need proof in the form of a marriage certificate. If that is the case, you may discover it would have been cheaper and less of a hassle to have been married and had your marriage recorded in the County of your residence in the first place.
C. In Utah, [almost] anyone can qualify before the County Recorder to be authorized to marry any [lawful] couple. This is a one-time only permission. You just get a form called Single Ceremony Marriage Designee Appointment and Agreement from your local County Recorder. You are required to sign it along with the couple being married, and you are good to go. The couple pick up a packet which includes a blank marriage license, and a marriage certificate to be handed to the couple at the completion of the ceremony, and the officiator returns the signed and witnessed license to the Recorder’s office within a month after the ceremony. About three weeks later, the Recorder’s office sends two certified copies of the license back to the couple. Most all Counties have some variation of this process. Check with your County Recorder’s office.
This seems to be the least restrictive, and cheapest way in the long run to become legally recognized as the minister of the ordinance.
D. You could become ordained as an online minister. Just google it and they will all ask for your money and give you an ordination certificate.
We all want our friends, family, and acquaintances to attend our wedding. For that purpose Joseph approved the following, which was once section 101 of the Doctrine and Covenants:
“1. According to the custom of all civilized nations, marriage is regulated by laws and ceremonies; Therefore we believe, that all marriages in this church of Christ of Latter Day Saints, should be solemnized in a public meeting, or feast, prepared for that purpose: And that the solemnization should be performed by a presiding high priest, high priest, bishop, elder, or priest, not even prohibiting those persons who are desirous to get married, of being married by other authority. We believe that it is not right to prohibit members of this church from marrying out of the church, if it be their determination so to do, but such persons will be considered weak in the faith of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (D&C 101: 1. 1835 edition.)
The section then gives instructions in verse 2 as to how the marriage should proceed, which should be followed verbatim.
It then gives one particular statement which made it offensive to those considering or practicing polygamy:
“…Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: We declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband except in the case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again.”
So, who can marry? And what will the effect be? From the foregoing, almost anyone can be certified to marry anyone else. Just follow one of the outlined steps above.
Joseph felt priesthood ordination was also necessary. Today that priesthood has become one, integrated priesthood: The Priesthood of the Holy Order of the Son of God. The individual becomes authorized by a hands-on ordination either previous to April 2014 in the LDS church, or thereafter by a hands-on ordination by a current priesthood holder. This ordination is then ratified by seven women, which must include his wife, if married, and their signatures affixed to a priesthood certificate. Of course, as always, a father has prerogative to act as a priest within his own home and family without regards to any certificate.
The last step in obtaining power (as opposed to mere authority in the priesthood) is to petition God for power from on High to officiate in any priesthood ordinance, and have it recognized above as it is performed on earth. Nephi said it very succinctly when he wrote, “But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.” (2 Nephi 32: 9.)
Next, sealing authority will be discussed as it pertains to marriages outside the mainstream LDS tradition.
As the foregoing is public and festive, what follows should be more solemn, and perhaps even closed to those who would judge or ridicule.
Did Joseph Seal Couples? Can I?
Until a man attains to the “office of priesthood” (See D&C 124: 91) as did Joseph and Hyrum Smith, he does not have sealing power residing as a right within himself. He must rely upon the servant who has communed with the Lord and obtained a covenant, which is then embodied into ordinance or rite. Joseph and Hyrum were given this authority to seal. But they could not pass it along. It is given by God alone. These servants are no longer available, and so we rely on the sealing authority established in the ordinance as the covenant from God. This is the law until another covenant is offered by God, which is expected before His return.
If the covenant established by God in the ordinance given to Joseph Smith has been changed or broken (Isaiah 24: 5), then our only recourse to having an eternal marriage covenant is to petition God for the power from heaven to seal our marriages, and for us to then rely upon the “Holy Spirit of Promise” to ratify marriages for eternity.
Much is made of “keys” in order to exercise God’s authority, but the only real definition provided by the scriptures regarding “keys” is that they give a man the ability to ask of heaven, and get an answer.
Joseph and Hyrum had keys to ask and receive an answer. We can read of their receiving the sealing power from God, (See D&C 124: 94-96 & D&C 132: 45-49) but they were killed. If they left an ordinance of sealing, the question must be asked: has it been changed or broken?
To insure its preservation, Brigham Young had the temple sealing ceremony written and typeset for the first time in 1876, one year prior to his death. This original typeset version is still available. But it was over three decades after Joseph and Hyrum were martyred that it was written out. Was it the one Joseph left? Most likely, the ordinance was changed shortly after Joseph’s death. Regardless of the answer, whether yes or no, the temple rites have undergone many changes since.
We know of no man on the earth today claiming at this time the right to seal by virtue of the rites and ordinances he has received from on High. Therefore, it defaults to each man desiring power from heaven to ask and receive his own answer, and then have his actions ratified by our Savior, Jesus Christ, in His capacity as “The Holy Spirit of Promise.”
Even after Moses was taken, the rites established through the Law of Moses were approved by God as His covenant. Wicked and corrupt priests performed these rites, and the Jews reaped benefit from them. The power was established by God through Moses, and remained viable so long as the ordinances remained unchanged.
If we have inherited a broken covenant, we can still have our intents, and the desires of our hearts, ratified by the Holy Spirit of Promise. This has been accomplished many times, even in LDS temples, where a witness of the Spirit has been given to the couple and even the officiator, that the marriage has been sealed in this fashion.
So here is the pattern recommended:
The father of one of the couple, or another who has been chosen to officiate, asks and receives from heaven, power to officiate. Having done so, he invites the bride and groom to kneel (or stand, if more appropriate) before him and to take each other by the right hand. The following discussion and announcements are then to take place:
OFFICIATOR: Brother ________, do you take sister ________ by the right hand and receive her unto yourself to be your lawful and 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?
OFFICIATOR: Sister ________, do you take brother ________, by the right hand and give yourself to him to be his lawful and wedded wife, and for him to be your lawful and wedded husband, 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?
OFFICIATOR: By virtue of the Holy Priesthood and the authority vested in me, I pronounce you ________, and you ________, 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, and 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 the Lord Jesus Christ. 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.
You may now kiss each other as husband and wife in this true order of matrimony.
Heaven can now do its work until the groom and bride are sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise.
A note about temples:
LDS people will recognize this language from the LDS temple sealing ceremony, and may be surprised to see the ordinance used outside a temple. However, Joseph Smith sealed many couples, and he never did so within a temple. The covenant is contained in the words of the ordinance, regardless of the location it is performed. It can be performed in a home, out in nature, or anywhere meaningful to the couple.
Similarly, some may expect the need to be ordained as a “sealer” to perform this ordinance. Again, as stated before, the covenant is dependent on Joseph Smith who established it, rather than on the ordination of the one reciting the words. Any priesthood holder can seek and receive heaven’s ratification to perform the ordinance. It then falls to the couple to seek and receive sealing by the Holy Spirit of Promise.
And it is worth noting, even if the ordinance has been changed since Joseph established it, it is still the closest we can come to Joseph’s original wording, and using it shows acceptance of Joseph’s ministry. Those who honor what remains from Joseph show their willingness to accept the everlasting covenant when it returns.
Two patterns of marriage have been discussed. One is very public, festive, and attended by all who desire to come. The other is a solemn occasion, attended by those the bride and groom would invite for this sealing ceremony. It may make sense to have both these ceremonies separated by some amount of time wherein the newly wedded couple can grow to know each other, and be sure their desires for each other are for eternity. However, we invite you to consider having them performed close together, perhaps even on the same day, in order to create an expectation of preservation and permanency between the couple.
The foregoing is offered merely as advice, and not an attempt to command anyone. Ultimately, any wedding ceremony should be a matter between the couple and the Lord.
May God bless us all that He may renew His covenant with us all.
And all of those who have worked on this from this side or the other of the veil. The foregoing has been a collaborative effort culminating in a Conference On February 20, 2016 wherein the men and women who met reached a consensus. The foregoing required a Host (in every sense of that word).