While the term “widow” is in the title, it simply doesn’t jive with me so much. Maybe it’s a linguistic technicality for some people, but for me, we’re talking about a lady. A lady that is going through one of the things that this world threw at her. But still…a lady.
Second, whether unfair or not, numerically speaking, the LDS dating landscape is currently stacked in this day and age in favor of the males. Not that it’s easier being a male, there’s simply some odds and numbers stacked on the side of that gender. For example, currently, there appears to be more active females than active males. Supply and demand moves the ratio so that a guy may have more ladies to meet while a lady may have difficulty finding a guy in the first place.
Third, I’m going to stop with this numbering thing, as it’s not a prioritizing thing, I just wanted to get some of this out of the way.
Back to some gender-based things though, LDS theology as revealed, does have an eternal polygamy component to it. A man may be sealed in the temple to more than one lady. If a man goes through a divorce, he may remarry later and even be sealed to the second (or third, or fifteenth spouse), though in a divorce situation, the letters to the First Presidency are involved. A process that we won’t go through here.
Likewise, if a man loses his wife, he is still sealed to her, but may remarry and be sealed to the second (or fifteenth?) wife, provided her sealing situation makes such a thing possible.
However, for the ladies, LDS theology has a different path revealed to us. If a lady is divorced from her husband, then is getting remarried, she may go through the First Presidency letter process mentioned above. But in this case it would be different as the first sealing would be “cancelled.” Again, we won’t dive into the several details on that, but only stick with the concept that the lady is only sealed to one person in this life at any given time.
For a lady that loses her husband too early in this life, she is still sealed to him. If she remarries, then the marriage is a civil marriage and not a sealing for eternity. Later on, after this lady and her second husband have passed away, temple work may be done for this lady to be sealed to the second husband, then at that time, she will be on the church records as sealed to two men. As for how this is handled in the life to come, there are different concepts which we will go into later (yeah, this isn’t a light subject).
Such is the current policy of the church at the beginning of the 21st century. My understanding is that the policy did have a few differences in decades past. For example, several decades ago, a lady that lost her husband could remarry a second husband and be sealed to him. I’m not sure how common this was, but found multiple anecdotes of this taking place. In one case, the person states that they had to get permission from the temple president. In another case, the person got permission from the First Presidency. The other cases do not mention a special permission situation. But in all of these cases, they were before about 1980, some dating to the early 1900’s.
I’m not saying the previous policy was better or worse, but I’m confident that the Lord reveals to us what is for us in our day. The Earthly tools given to us (such as policies) are what we have to work with, and as Saul and Samuel talked about, we’ll be blessed for following what is revealed to us for our time.
In talking with several ladies who have lost their husbands prematurely, a common theme they relate is that they meet a nice LDS guy who has been previously divorced, they hit it off, maybe date some, but at some point the lady mentions that she is sealed to her first husband who has passed away. At this point the guy breaks off the relationship, sometimes saying that it is because he is looking for somebody to be sealed to and she is considered “off the market,” so to speak, as they would not be able to be sealed to each other.
Is the guy…wrong?
Book 1 for Stake Presidents and Bishops (if this is still the current version):
Sealing of Living Members after a Spouse’s Death
A living woman may be sealed to only one husband
A woman whose husband dies can remarry but cannot be sealed for time and eternity to another.
It doesn’t take long to read various scriptures such as D&C 49:15, or all of Section 131 and 132 to see the information that the guy might be taking to heart. The “families are forever” theme is wonderful and permeates the church at every level. To read a short summary of this, check out Chapter 38 of the 2011 Gospel Principles manual, entitled “Eternal Marriage.” While you’re at it, check out Chapter 47: Exaltation.
For a divorced man, the divorce itself may be construed as no longer honoring the sealing that he once took on with his now-Ex. Second, at some point, with his Ex-wife working to be a faithful church member, she may meet a nice man someday and may wish to become sealed to her second husband. If so, then (through the First Presidency process that we weren’t going to go into, but seems to keep popping up), the divorced man would no longer be sealed to her.
At this point, the divorced man is “on the market” (as it were) to be sealed to somebody else. But can’t get sealed to a lady that is sealed to her deceased husband.
As taught, only those that enter into the new and everlasting covenant can reach the highest degree of the celestial kingdom (exaltation). Does this mean that if the divorced man marries the lady that is sealed to her previously deceased husband is a nonstarter for him as the relationship of that type will end at some point? Maybe a surefire way for him to reach the second-to-highest degree?
Ok, let’s stop with the degrees of glory for a moment. After all, it’s not like they’re a badge of honor or something, but let’s simply talk relationships.
Boy meets girl.
Boy likes girl.
Girl likes boy.
Boy and girl want to be with each other.
This is beautifully reflected by Elder Holland’s wonderful and heartfelt sentiment in the PBS interview:
I know, in my life, that it won’t be heaven without my wife…
I love Elder Holland dearly and it’s a good read.
Ok, so sealing-checkbox aside, back to the man that is previously divorced and the lady that lost her first husband too early in life.
Is dating her an automatic splitting point for them anyway? Even if they get married, he won’t be able to be with her forever. Some people talk about the one thing they want most is to be with their husband or wife always. But in this case, at some point, he will be without her.
Yes, she will be without him too, but focusing on the theme of the LDS guy dropping relationships based on this for a moment. Plus the concept that at some point in the next life, she will be reunited with her first husband to whom she is sealed. By comparison the guy, her second husband, will be with…um…well…nobody?
At this point, I’d like to point out a beautifully written story of one person’s feelings of just such a situation:
The Sealing Issue…why marrying a widow is a matter of faith for me
I don’t have anything to add to the author’s sentiments, but if you’ve read this far, you’re likely interested in the subject and I recommend the author’s personal feelings and viewpoint on it.
So what happens to the guy?
In the situation we’re describing – lady lost her husband, man, previously divorced or perhaps never-married…Four concepts might be able to be grouped here.
Concept 1 – Literally speaking
With Concept 1, the lady and man get married. In the next life, she is reunited with her deceased first husband. Her second husband…well…he’s no longer married. Never is to be with another lady again. And he’ll be a ministering angel, perhaps in the 2nd-highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom.
Concept 2 – The choice
Concept 2 is that even Earthly marriages are able to be eternal marriages by way of temple work. In Concept 2, the lady’s second husband is sealed to her after this life, so that she is sealed to two men. In Concept 2, she chooses in the next life which husband she wants to be with (but without money, how will she have a coin to flip?). Also in Concept 2, one of the men wins her hand to be married to her forever, and the other man, well…maybe he’s Mr. Congeniality?
Concept 3 – It’s not a win-lose thing
In Concept 3, we take Concept 2, but here we find that all three people involved, the lady, her first husband, and her second husband, are 100% fully on board with the best thing. Whether she is to be with one husband or the other, all three are in agreement that it’s the best idea. Maybe we’ll even add in a Saturday’s Warrior theme to this concept where the first and second husbands were the best of friends in their pre-Earth life? That would make for a better movie.
Concept 4 – The Lord’s not as dumb as we think he is
So you find a roly-poly bug (also called a pill-bug, but correctly known as an armadillidiidae). These little bugs are known for rolling up into a ball. But they also walk, and walk, and walk…and walk (singing the primary song as they go, I’m sure). They don’t walk very fast, no, they simply aren’t in a hurry.
Upon catching this bug, place it on a 12 by 14 foot tarp in your garage, right in the middle. Now watch the bug for a second. Ok, how about a minute? The bug might walk this way, it might walk that way. It might change directions. It might go in a circle, and even try to zig and zag (slowly). To the armadillidiidae, maybe it’s thinking it’s moving around in such a complex way that it’s totally tripped you up to where you can’t find it, right?
Concept 4 is that as humans, we’re pretty good at messing things around. We marry, remarry, throw in children from one marriage, a couple of Brady Bunch/Partridge Family situations, and more. But in Concept 4, while we think we are zigging-and-zagging, to the Lord, we’ve only moved slightly on the “tarp” and the Lord has a solution for it. A solution with which we, and everyone involved, will have tears of joy and relief.
Concept 4 is some strong medicine on the faith-side.
But to be half-fair to the divorced guy running for the door when they hear “widow” from a lady, we don’t exactly hear much on Concept 4 in Testimony Meeting much. And it’s no wonder that of the several ladies that have talked about their dating in a situation such as this that they mention their first husband very soon after meeting a nice guy; perhaps as a sort of filter. Sometimes within days of their first meeting, many times on their first night talking to him.
Yeah, I don’t have an answer for you. Wish I did, but hopefully this discussion helps you in your own life as you sort through some of this. The Lord has revealed to us on Earth many things, but typically a little at a time as we become ready for them. But if you’ve read the 2,000 words this far…first off…hat’s off to you. Second (there’s that numbering thing again!), this is a topic that is near and dear to your heart.
I submit that two people in such a situation…
Our past is a part of us. The future is exciting. Or to quote the Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran:
Yesterday is but today’s memory, and tomorrow is today’s dream.
One person dwelling on yesterday, the other dwelling on tomorrow. If they can recognize the past and future with eyes open, but focus on the here and now with each other, then…
…we may have something to contemplate.