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FAQ: Temple Cancellation/Clearance

MCQ - June 18, 2013

Over at MormonMentality, NewlyHousewife has posted a great list of FAQs for those interested in temple cancellations or clearances. This info is not well known and is hard to find, so I’m reposting it here. Feel free to comment here or at MM.

10 frequently asked questions regarding Temple Clearance and Temple Cancellations.

Having divorced my husband, and talked with my local leaders at length I’ve decided to share what I have learned with others in the hopes that they’ll have a greater understanding of the process—whether for their own benefit or for the benefit of those around them.

Before I start, let me first define the two:

Temple Clearance: Sought by the man when he wants to remarry. He is sealed with his first wife, and will be with the woman he is marrying—men cannot seek clearances if they are not engaged.

Temple Cancellation: Sought by the woman. She is no longer going to be sealed with her former husband, and is likely to be sealed with another man in the near future—women can seek clearances if they are not engaged, but it is highly discouraged.

Both require a temple recommend before beginning each process. Both processes are the exact same and use the same form, only a different box is marked at the top. Both processes are individual; a woman seeking a cancellation does not satisfy the requirement of her former spouse needing a clearance to marry in the temple.

#1: What is a Clearance/Cancellation?

A clearance/cancellation is sought by members who have married in the temple, but for whatever reason those marriages have been civilly disbanded and they seek to marry someone else within temple walls. As stated earlier, a clearance is sought by the male, a cancellation by the female. If the male is seeking to remarry in the temple, he is required to have a clearance. A clearance does not end previous sealings he has participated in. If the female is seeking to remarry, she is required to have a cancellation. A cancellation removes previous sealings. Women need cancellations because they cannot be sealed with more than one spouse at a time. Men need a clearance to ensure they are up to date on payments as set by the divorce decree and are not living with their former spouse in sin. Men can be sealed with more than one spouse at a time.

#2: What is the process for the Clearance/Cancellation?

Since both processes are the same, except for which box is marked at the top, which word I use is not important for this answer.

Step 1: You meet with your bishop and say you’re seeking a cancellation.
Step 2: Your bishop, stake president, former spouse, and yourself each write a letter. Your letter will state why you are seeking a cancellation, why the marriage ended, and any sins that have been committed during and after your marriage and any church discipline that has been taken to resolve those sins. Your former spouse’s letter is going to ask for their opinion on the pending cancellation (for a clearance it also asks if the former husband is up to date on payments as set by the divorce, I have not seen a requested response letter for a cancellation before so I do not know this to be true for a cancellation as well). Once your bishop, former spouse and your letter are written and received, your bishop sends them to your stake president who writes his own letter and sends them to the First Presidency.
Step 3: You wait on average three to six months (my former husband has been told the process can take up to a year) before the First Presidency gets back to you. You’ll be told if the cancellation has been granted or denied. If granted, that is it. If denied, you start the process all over again.

#3: Am I sealed to my former spouse? (Capitalization used for emphasis and clarity, not for volume)

You are not sealed TO anyone but God. You are sealed WITH your spouse in as far as you are legally married, participated in the sealing ordinance together, honor the covenants you have made AND choose to be with your spouse after you die. Even if you are married and sealed with your spouse, you DO NOT have to be with them in the hereafter—free agency is available to all, all the time. When your divorce is finalized, or covenants are broken, the sealing ordinance as far as your spouse is concerned is no longer valid. You do not covenant TO your spouse, you covenant WITH your spouse. When you and your spouse are no longer together, you are expected to hold your side of the bargain as an individual, which for the most part dribble down to honoring God. Anything covenant that requires a spouse to do (such as procreation) is no more.

#4: What about the children born in the covenant?

Children born in the covenant are sealed with their parents no matter the outcome of the marriage. No child is barred from a parent who has been excommunicated. If either parent remarries, the children are not sealed with the new spouse unless they choose to do so at the age of 18.

#5: How long do I have to wait before I seek a clearance/cancellation?

Rule of thumb is you have to be divorced for a year, and then be engaged to someone worthy of making those covenants. Exceptions are frequent for this rule.

#6: What blessings are lost with a cancellation?

This is specific to female members, because they are the only ones who have to seek a cancellation, and not understood by male members. This includes anyone in my local leadership. The general theory is the D&C scriptures that relate to polygamy. This is the question I myself am most confused about, and never received a proper response to.

#7: Does my letter have any influence?

Your letter’s impact depends on who you are. Bishop, Stake President: A lot—your opinion is the most valued as it comes from a place of church leadership. The person filing the application: A little less than Bishop and Stake President—it’s your application. The person responding to the application: little, if any—you are more likely to cause a delay than to cause a denial of the request simply because anything you say is taken with a grain of salt.

#8: What about Marie Osmond (or any other exception)?

Exceptions are made all the time regarding this process. Why, I do not know. But until you are the exception, you are the rule.

It’s also a general rule that you can only go through this process for three different individuals before you are barred. Again, exceptions are made but you are the rule until you are an exception.

#9: Where can I learn more?

There are sections written in the handbook available to all members on lds.org, otherwise the only place to learn more is to talk to your local leadership, request to look through their handbook (you are allowed access to this, you just have to ask for it) and write members of the First Presidency. Don’t expect a response from that last one though.

#10: I am engaged to someone who has to go through this, what can I do to help?

Sometimes, depending on the circumstances, you will be asked to write a letter as well. This is up to their Bishop to decide. Otherwise the most you can do is to be supportive and understand that this takes time. Do not set a date on the calendar as chances are you will have to cancel it, your significant other will be notified if their clearance/cancellation has been granted or not and you two can decide together where to go from there. You were not there when the covenants between the two were taken, and it is up to your significant other to carry the burden—because it is theirs and theirs alone. As an outsider to the relationship, nothing you say matters.


  1. Thanks for writing this!

    There are so many people in the church who do not understand this. My parents are divorced and had their sealing cancelled when they both remarried and were subsequently sealed to their second spouses.

    The bishop of course was very good about informing what happened to us kids but others in the ward were not so good. I remember at least one YW lesson about sealing and someone asking the teacher if I was sealed to anyone. The teacher started going off agreeing with the girl about how I was basically an eternal orphan. I stopped her mid-sentence and gave the whole class their first lesson on this topic. I’m glad I stood up for myself and had the knowledge to do it, but it was still hurtful. I can’t tell you how many people have asked if my parents had a “temple divorce” or a “regular divorce” and who I was going to be with for the eternities. Ignorance like this causes a lot of pain to children who are trying to deal with just the mortal consequences of a divorce that was not their choice, let alone the eternal implications.

    Comment by Mel — June 20, 2013 @ 7:51 am

  2. Yes I really think this topic should be given a more prominent place in lessons or at least in pamphlets or manuals available to members. Children of divorce literally have nowhere to go to understand these issues and have their questions answered. Even divorcing spouses are not given this info very easily, and if you ask your bishop you have kust as good a chance of getting misinformation as correct information. It’s just not easily available at all.

    Comment by MCQ — June 20, 2013 @ 5:57 pm

  3. The sections on temple marriage, sealings, cancelations and clearances is only 6 or 7 pages in hangbook 1. I would hope anyone who asks their bishop for permission to read the sections for themselves would be granted immediate access so there would be no possible room for misinformation. I think most the misinformation comes from anecdotal stories and faulty memories. I do wish the church would publish all this stuff in handbook 2 for all to read. I haven’t come up with a good reason not to.

    Comment by IDIAT — June 21, 2013 @ 8:51 am

  4. Agreed IDIAT, but even the handbook 1 info is not, as you say, very voluminous or detailed, and doesn’t answer every question on this issue.

    The debate at MM about children born to a subsequent spouse is instructive in that regard. There you have a woman quoting the hanbook as her reason for having her name removed from the records of the Church prior to the birth of her child because she didn’t want that child to be born in the covenant with her ex-husband.

    That, I submit, is not only misguided but a great example of why we need this information to be more readily available with explanations and questions answered.

    Comment by MCQ — June 21, 2013 @ 4:39 pm

  5. Interesting article. I used to work with a guy whose mother got married. Her husband died before they could have any children. A couple years later she remarried (a nonmember who eventually joined. They had five children (including my friend). It always bothered that dad that the official word they were given was all the children went with the wife and first husband. My daughter was married in the temple but got a divorce. It is my understanding, and the understanding of others in this situation, that should the woman remarry, and not go to the temple with the new husband, that any children born would be sealed to the mother and her first (divorced) husband.
    This is outrageous.

    Comment by Jeff Blackmer — July 9, 2013 @ 10:03 am

  6. I’ve said this before elsewhere, but I’ll say it again in case anyone hasn’t heard it.

    As a divorced woman who had to delve extensively into this doctrine before requesting a cancellation, I can attest that this understanding of the doctrine is incomplete. Unless it has been cancelled, the children are born under the covenant that the mother made. This is not true for the first husband’s children, but is true for the wife’s children. But this does not mean they are sealed to the first husband, especially not in the sense that they are directly connected to him.

    I’m not going to elucidate further, because I would probably not do a very good job of it, not being authorized to teach it, and not finding an online forum a good place to discuss it anyways. But I will say it is easier to understand if you first understand what a sealing truly is, and what its purpose is. The binding of children to parents in the strictest sense isn’t it, despite popular understanding.

    Comment by SilverRain — July 9, 2013 @ 11:46 am

  7. I agree, SilverRain. Jeff, others have made that observation before you, and it is not correct. It is the result of a misunderstanding of this doctrine.

    Comment by MCQ — July 9, 2013 @ 8:51 pm

  8. I could never find anything in either volume of the General Handbook that covered this. Consequently, in my experience, most Stake presidents are of a similar misunderstanding. Seems like it would be great for someone in an official capacity to address this, since the confusion understandably causes a great deal of concern and frustration.

    Comment by Jeff Blackmer — July 9, 2013 @ 11:07 pm

  9. Sorry for the PS: I’m personally aware of 3-4 women who requested cancellation of sealings who were not expecting to be marrying soon. They had been through rough marriages and divorces and felt their spouses were not honorable men. They were told by the Stake President that this was simply not possible.

    Comment by Jeff Blackmer — July 9, 2013 @ 11:10 pm

  10. Then the Stake President either didn’t understand policy, or it was long enough ago that the policy was different. I have found in my interactions with the Church, that exceptions can and are always made when they are prompted by the Spirit.

    Comment by SilverRain — July 10, 2013 @ 4:56 am

  11. SilverRain, is the general rule different now? I think you are correct that exceptions are often granted now, but it is my understanding that the general rule remains that sealings should not be cancelled unless or until the person is preparing to be sealed to someone else. I think that general rule has some reasons behind it that make it at least understandable.

    Comment by MCQ — July 10, 2013 @ 8:44 am

  12. No, the general rule is the same. The sealing comes with blessings and covenants beyond mere connection to another mortal, so it is generally not recommended to dissolve it.

    Comment by SilverRain — July 10, 2013 @ 8:07 pm

  13. Some of the situations I was referring to have happened in the past 1-2 years. One in Utah, two elsewhere.

    SilverRain, the leaders you’ve dealt with sound like they approach this thorny problem from a much more compassionate point of view than any of those I’ve been aware of. You are fortunate to be in such company.

    Comment by Jeff Blackmer — July 10, 2013 @ 9:28 pm

  14. Well, people most often talk about the negative, so I imagine you’d be less likely to hear of the positive situations. Plus, with negative experiences, it is very common to only get half the story.

    Comment by SilverRain — July 22, 2013 @ 7:48 pm

  15. Well obviously I am completely mistaken. I yield to your undeniably correct point of view.

    The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else-by some distinction sets aside and rejects, in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusion may remain inviolate

    - Francis Bacon

    Comment by Jeff Blackmer — July 30, 2013 @ 2:46 pm

  16. When confronted with the overwhelming level of evidence in this case it is understandable to be somewhat suspicious of the result to which one is naturally led, but despite that excusable reluctance it simply must be said that, adjusting for all predictable contingencies, and taking into account all possible parameters, one is inescapably forced to admit to the only sensible conclusion: that you are a dick.

    - Alexander Pope

    Comment by MCQ — July 30, 2013 @ 3:16 pm

  17. NH hit it out of the park with this one. I think this should be an article in the Ensign. Affects sooooo many people.

    mcq, thanks for the morning chuckle :)

    Comment by annegb — August 4, 2013 @ 8:53 am

  18. And there lies the root of the problem. Search and double check all sources and draw your own conclusions. Don’t believe everything you see or read. Just because you found what you considered a perfect comeback, doesn’t mean it was spoken by who you attribute it to. I think you were conned on this quote. Your readers see it and say Yay, Alexander Pope trumps Francis Bacon! And now they believe it too. Except, as near as I can tell, after doing a variety of searches for about a half hour, I would say the answer is no, not Alexander Pope.
    You may have a source that says it IS Pope. That’s great. Now find at least one other independent source that agrees. If you cannot, then that should create doubt.
    My purpose for posting on your site was not to be mean. It’s simply to tell you to wake up, check things out for yourselves. Don’t believe everything people, including church leaders, tell you.

    And that sums it up. I can’t think of single thing to add to this. And lest I be tempted again, I shall not return. I know, I said that before, but you left too good of a plum. :) So, feel free to say about me what you will, good or bad. It matters not. Thank you.

    Comment by Jeff Blackmer — August 6, 2013 @ 2:25 pm

  19. Um, Jeff, I think the only thing that can be said about you definitively is that you have a serious inability to recognize when someone is making a joke.

    Comment by MCQ — August 6, 2013 @ 3:11 pm

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