Latter-day Saint leaders no longer can perform civil marriages between nonmembers

Under the new policy, the bride or the groom must belong to the church.

(Rick Bowmer | AP) A couple look at the Salt Lake Temple, April 6, 2019. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced this week that its lay leaders no longer can perform civil marriages between nonmembers.

Lay leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints no longer can perform civil marriages between nonmembers.

The faith’s governing First Presidency announced changes Wednesday to “conditions in which church officers may perform civil marriages between a man and a woman.”

Starting immediately, bishops, mission presidents and other congregational leaders can perform such ceremonies only if “the bride or the groom” is a Latter-day Saint.

Church policy previously allowed these lay leaders to do the honors for nonmembers.

The church also states that at least one of the prospective newlyweds must be a member in the leader’s ecclesiastical unit. And the officiator must be legally authorized to perform a civil marriage in that jurisdiction.

The updated policy also applies to stake presidents and district presidents (who oversee clusters of congregations).

The change comes barely a month after the church ceased the practice of performing “time-only” marriages in its temples, which now are reserved strictly for eternal marriages, or “sealings.”

More than two years ago, the Utah-based faith unveiled a monumental shift in marriage policy, ending the one-year waiting period churchwide between a civil marriage and a temple sealing.

That move allowed Latter-day Saint couples to marry civilly and invite all their loved ones to the wedding and then be sealed for eternity — without a long delay — in a temple ceremony, restricted to faithful members.

That already had been the practice for Latter-day Saints in many nations, which require couples to wed in a public ceremony first before any private religious vows are taken. Until the 2019 change for the U.S. and Canada, newlyweds routinely had to wait 12 months before being sealed if they married civilly. Consequently, they often married and were sealed simultaneously.

The lifting of the waiting period, which church officials had considered for years, created a single global standard for Latter-day Saint couples. It also came soon after the denomination reversed a controversial LGBTQ exclusion policy that had labeled same-sex member couples “apostates” and barred their children from religious rites until they turn 18.

According to the faith’s General Handbook, church officers “are not to use their ecclesiastical authority to perform marriages between two people of the same sex.”