‘Mormon Land’: Was the unequal practice in ‘temple divorces’ begun in its polygamous past? Historian says no.

A Latter-day Saint law professor explains the practice of “temple divorces,” or sealing cancellations, and how they have changed through the years.

(Patrick Semansky | AP) Traffic on the the Capital Beltway passes the Washington D.C. Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Monday, April 18, 2022, in Kensington, Md.

Marriage in a Latter-day Saint temple is called a “sealing,” which is believed to stretch beyond death into the eternities. So what happens when a couple split up? Well, for devout members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that’s much more complicated than a governmental divorce. In today’s world, that is something called a “sealing cancellation.” But there are different rules for women and men. Men can be sealed to more than one woman without any cancellation, but women can be sealed only to one man so must obtain a cancellation. And rules about who can be sealed to whom in the hereafter via proxy rituals are different from living couples. Many believe this confusion reflects remnants of polygamy. But does it?

On this week’s podcast, Nathan Oman, a Latter-day Saint law professor in William & Mary in Virginia, who has been researching the history of the faith’s modern sealing rules, tells how he discovered some startling facts. In fact, sealing cancellations and their gender differences arose in the early 20th century, well after the church officially had abandoned the practice. And Oman speculates about why it happened.

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