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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : Yellow Paper and Red Tape » Yellow Paper and Red Tape

Yellow Paper and Red Tape

David - March 17, 2009
A strange occurrence became stranger still yesterday as I pursued the origins of a mysterious slip of paper in my mailbox.

Usually when I get one of those yellow notes from the postman, saying he tried to deliver a certified letter (and here are the options of how to get it to me) I get a sinking ugh-y feeling in my stomach. This time was no different. Usually “certified” means “legal,” and usually legal can’t be good. There was no sender’s name or address listed and only a parcel number to go by. So I went to usps.com, entered the number and got my second clue: It was sent from zip code 84070. I knew that zip– It came from Sandy, Utah.

My mom lives in Sandy. So does my ex-wife. The ugh-iness lurched again.

I called Mom and asked if she sent the certified letter. No, she said, but she did get an unexpected call from my ex last month. She wanted my new address.


I hadn’t spoken to my ex-wife in years. In fact, the last contact I had concerning her was a letter from her bishop, asking me to sign a consent form to release her from our sealing. When I called him about it (having heard nothing prior to this notice), I learned she wanted to do the work for her second husband and be sealed to him. “But he was Catholic,” I said, not really protesting but still trying to make sense of it, “and he committed suicide.” “What difference does that make?!!” he barked.  Well, gee… nothing I guess. So I signed the form, mailed it off, and that was that.

I don’t have the patience to just wait to solve mysteries tomorrow, so I called my ex (ever talk to an ex after several years? It’s weird). After very brief pleasantries I asked if she sent me a certified letter. “No,” she said. “It’s probably from my bishop.” And then she told me the story.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one who was less than impressed with her now-former bishop. Eventually she came to learn the paperwork (including my signed consent) sat in his desk for 6 months. Then when he finally did send it in, the response from Church headquarters was a solid “No.” Basically they said, You are still young and might meet someone with whom you want to share eternity. In other words, if you change your sealing and then want to get married in the temple again one day, you’ll really muck things up.

She went to her bishop, angry. She wanted to talk to someone. She wanted to understand why she couldn’t do what she wanted to do. She hadn’t been on a date in eight years and she wasn’t about to start hubby-shopping now. She wanted to talk to an authority. He suggested a therapist to address her anger (wasn’t this guy a peach?).

So she let it go. It took her a long time to go back to the temple. Why do work for others when she wasn’t even allowed to do work for herself? But go back she did, resigned to the idea that maybe it would all get sorted out in the next life. I was proud of her for that.

Eventually the bishopric changed, and the new bishop happened to be the man who personally performed her deceased husband’s baptism and endowment. He called my ex in and asked if she wanted to try it again, send the papers in to the Church. He thought that since time passed, perhaps the Lord would see fit this time to consent to her wishes.

So when I come home tomorrow evening, I expect the form will be waiting for me.

You go to church long enough, you eventually stumble into rules, caveats, amendments and judgements you never saw coming. They can be manifested as solutions or challenges– hopefully always as learning experiences. Sometimes, as in my ex’s case, they can fly in the face of an assumption, such as free agency. A sister in good standing wants to be sealed to her deceased husband (the one that took) and is told she can’t, for no other reason except that she’s still too young and should keep her options open. I guess that makes sense from a practical perspective. It’s a hard pill, though, when it’s a beloved partner you’re talking about.

And what about me? I’ve still got to tow her sorry butt to heaven.


  1. My mom’s fallback answer to almost everything was “it will all be worked out in the Millenium.”

    And I hated that answer.

    In some ways she’s right –some things truly cannot be fixed here and now. They take time (like a new Bishop in your ex-wife’s case, eh?). But I think we’re supposed to at least try to fix things in mortality.

    In fact, I think that’s the point.

    Comment by cheryl — March 17, 2009 @ 9:32 pm

  2. Wait a second, David, are you currently sealed to two women at once?

    I’m just curious. And nosy.

    Comment by Bridget Jack Meyers — March 17, 2009 @ 10:41 pm

  3. This has to be the strangest post I’ve read in the nacle. Or maybe I just haven’t been around all that long. This paragraph, in particular, is a freakish gem:

    I learned she wanted to do the work for her second husband and be sealed to him. “But he was Catholic,” I said, not really protesting but still trying to make sense of it, “and he committed suicide.” “What difference does that make?!!” he barked. Well, gee… nothing I guess. So I signed the form, mailed it off, and that was that.

    My mind is just reeling over this post. I need to go back and read it again to understand it, but it seems to bring up at least a few questions that had never occurred to me before:

    1. Can you really get sealed to a dead Catholic guy after completing his temple work?

    2. If so, isn’t the sealing really very, very conditional, as it’s contingent upon his acceptance of baptism and the endowment, not to mention his desire to be sealed to the gal for all eternity?

    3. If so again, isn’t it possible to get the sealing cancelled if you should meet your soul mate at some later point (or perhaps see a picture of a different dead guy that you find even more appealing–Cromwell, maybe)?

    4. Or is it somehow impossible to cancel a sealing if one of the sealed parties is dead?

    5. How often does the Church say no to requests like this?

    6. Who makes these decisions? One of the 12? One of the FP? The temple president? Or is it a committee?

    7. Is there some process by which such decisions are made? Are there precedents? Can you appeal?

    I’m honestly not trying to make light of this. I’ve just never heard of anything like this before (lifelong member here) and I’m genuinely curious. Also:

    And what about me? I’ve still got to tow her sorry butt to heaven.

    How do you figure? Do you mean only if she doesn’t get permission to be sealed to the dead guy? Or are you referring to the fact that he’s Catholic?

    Sorry for all the questions. Either I’m a little slow tonight or I’ve wandered into the twilight zone.

    Comment by MCQ — March 17, 2009 @ 11:32 pm

  4. MCQ – If I remember correctly from the days when I served as bishop the “rules” go something like this:

    1. Men can be sealed to more than one woman but women can’t be sealed to more than one man. So when a man gets divorced (a civil divorce) and then wants to marry (be sealed to) another woman, the First Presidency (the one’s who make that decision) will NOT grant a cancellation of the first sealing. As I understand it, it is because the sealing contains so many other blessings that are not necessarily related to being married and they don’t want to cancel those blessings. I’m a little concerned when David says, “I’ve still got to tow her sorry butt to heaven” because it seems that kind of attitude toward anyone might keep you out of the celestial kingdom – but that’s just me being judgmental, which is wrong.

    2. If a woman is sealed to one man in the temple then obtains a civil divorce and wants to be sealed to another man (a living one) in the temple, then the First Presidency will most likely grant a cencellation of the first sealing. But, as you can imagine, this process takes time and can be frustrating for those waiting for the decision.

    I’ve never heard of the situation that David mentions (being sealed after the fact to a dead husband of another religion) but it seems the decision that was made in this case seems odd and in direct oppostion to the policy stated in item 2 above. But, on the other hand, the advice given doesn’t seem too out of line based on the caveats that you mention.

    Did someone say “it will all be worked out in the Millenium”? That’s the best answer I can think of for such complex issues.

    Comment by lamonte — March 18, 2009 @ 5:00 am

  5. wasn’t this guy a peach?

    Yeah, you’d think with the million dollar bonuses they pay these guys…oh, wait, I see you are talking about a former bishop.

    Comment by Peter LLC — March 18, 2009 @ 6:00 am

  6. Actually, Lamonte has a good point.

    A sealer told us once that his daughter wanted, after an awful divorce (where her husband left the Church and became hostile towards it), to have her sealing cancelled. But she had no prospects of marrying –she just didn’t like the idea of being sealed to him. The sealer was shocked and said “NO WAY!” and began to remind her of all the blessings she would recieve from the sealing –even if her ex-husband couldn’t (and wasn’t keeping up his end of the covenant). Cancelling the sealing would cancel those blessings, and he told her she would be wise to keep them, especially since she wasn’t sure of the future.

    He told us this while we were doing sealings in the Temple, and afterwards, we very carefully listened to those blessings. And all I can say is this: That Sealer knew exactly what he was talking about. (go figure!)

    I had forgotten about it until just now!

    Comment by cheryl — March 18, 2009 @ 6:55 am

  7. cheryl (#1),

    I agree with your mom (although I can see how that stock answer probably drove you nuts), and I agree with you, too. The Church has been given the tools and instruction to work out a good portion of the cases, but I think we retreat to policy on many that will need to be finessed and fixed when this is all over.

    Jack (#2),

    Actually, with the recent revelation that my ex’s temple divorce didn’t take, I now realize I’m still sealed to three women. There was another.

    MCQ (#3)

    1. Sure, why not? We seal dead relatives we lived with other faiths to each other of other all the time. As long as all the other work was done first.

    2. Yes, it’s all conditional. It’s conditional when LDS spouses are sealed, too. What if the guy had a squeeze on the side? The important thing is that my ex is still sealed to the priesthood and is entitled to its blessings. Whoever she ends up with is another story.

    3. Well, yes, I think that was the Church headquarters’ point (the ex said the reply came from the First Presidency, but I’m not sure). They didn’t want her to rush into busting up a perfectly intact sealing for a proxy sealing when she still had some shelf life left and might have to do it all over again. As to the potential for celebrity sealings, I doubt it. If I’m wrong, I dibs Jean Harlow.

    4. I don’t think anything is impossible if the circumstances are right. If a woman was sealed to Ted Bundy, do you really think the Church would balk at her wanting to cancel it?

    5. Got me.

    6. See Answer 3.

    7. I think you’re on to something, MCQ. This would make a riveting program on BYU TV. Church Court.

    lamonte (#4) and MCQ (#3),

    The quip about “towing her butt to heaven” was just a joke. It actually resonates with the kind of pickle-barrel humor my ex has. I have no concerns whatsoever about that matter.

    Peter LLC (#5)

    Ha ha! Yeah, them too!

    Comment by David T. — March 18, 2009 @ 9:01 am

  8. Wow, David. You’re a celestial pimp.

    I read on one of the threads at FMH that requests for sealing clearances and cancellations go through the First Presidency.

    When Jason Statham dies and someone does his work, I’d really like it if someone could see about having me sealed to him. kkthnx

    Comment by Bridget Jack Meyers — March 18, 2009 @ 11:48 am

  9. Dibs on Marie Antionette! We’ll eat cake together

    Comment by Bret — March 18, 2009 @ 1:56 pm

  10. Careful, Jack. If Kevin reads that, he’ll shave his head.

    Comment by MCQ — March 18, 2009 @ 2:24 pm

  11. If Kevin can kill four men with a suit jacket, I’ll consent to being sealed to him.

    Comment by Bridget Jack Meyers — March 18, 2009 @ 2:31 pm

  12. Um, have you met Kevin in real life? ‘Cause I have, and I think you better start shopping for white clothing. He’s big enough that he should come with 18 wheels and a sleeper cab.

    Comment by MCQ — March 18, 2009 @ 5:00 pm

  13. In fact, I have, and I’m seeing him in real life again this Sunday.

    Still, tall =/= tough. I’m 6’0″ and I’d have a hard time beating up Pee Wee Herman.

    Comment by Bridget Jack Meyers — March 18, 2009 @ 6:47 pm

  14. I know you are, but what am I?

    Comment by David T. — March 18, 2009 @ 6:48 pm

  15. Have to wait until the millenium? What a load of crap.

    If getting sealed will muck things up very badly then how in the world can the really complicated situations get taken care of?

    I have always wondered how a sealing can still be in effect if they are married to others. If you break your covenant then isn’t the sealing void? This is one of those things that doesn’t seem to fit real well. If I break the other covenant I make in the temple then I do not receive the promised reward why is this different??

    Comment by Jerry — March 18, 2009 @ 7:51 pm

  16. Speaking of “It will all be worked out in the Millennium,” it reminds me of a situation in my ward.

    A new couple moved into the boundaries last October. Sometime mid-February, the husband was killed on the Interstate on his motorcycle, leaving his 22-year-old wife one month pregnant. The couple had married in the temple, but I doubt a pretty young woman is going remain a widow for very long. So, the dilemma: If she meets someone else whom she wants to marry, she won’t be able to be sealed to him because the Church doesn’t cancel prior sealings just because the first husband is dead. So this second man could help raise the baby from infancy into adulthood– he/she will probably always know him as “Dad”– and he’ll spend 60 years with the woman, but she will still be sealed to the first. What’s more, the child will always be sealed to their mom and her first husband.

    It just seems to me this is one of those situations that have to be worked out in the Millennium.

    Comment by David T. — March 18, 2009 @ 9:09 pm

  17. David, I’m pretty sure I’ve heard anecdotal evidence of young widows having their sealings canceled in situations like the one you mentioned.

    Personally I don’t like that. My sensibilities tell me that the first covenant should not be broken just because the poor guy died young, nor should the second husband not be able to get sealed to the young widow.

    I really think that if you’re going to accept eternal marriage at all, you have to accept both polygyny and polyandry in the hereafter. This stuff where men can be sealed to multiple women but women have to choose just one man to be with is pure bullcrap.

    Comment by Bridget Jack Meyers — March 18, 2009 @ 9:51 pm

  18. Jack,

    I’ve heard anecdotes that counter yours, including one from a guy in my congregation who saw the same situation in the previous ward he attended. It may just be a case-by-case thing but, as you said, it’s a frustrating scenario either way. It’s times like this when, despite policy and best counsel, we have faith that the Lord will settle it and everyone wins.

    As a Latter-Day Saint, though, I believe we existed before we came to earth, as brothers and sisters, and we’ll continue to exist after this life. That said, our earthly stay is a blip of our whole existence. If we were brothers and sisters before, and we’ll remember everything after, who’s to say the family structure as we’ve understood it here doesn’t completely change again? Our parents become our brothers and sisters again, as will our children. We’ve helped each other through the mortal sphere and it’s time to move on. I’m not saying that’s doctrine, I’m just musing. I think “letting the Lord sort it all out” before we get too riled is a wise thing because I think we’re all going to be very surprised when we get over there. And delighted.

    Comment by David — March 18, 2009 @ 10:09 pm

  19. David, I don’t really blame anybody for taking the “let’s not worry about it, God will sort it all out” approach, but it’s a terribly unsatisfying answer. Regardless of which of our anecdotes is true, we all know if the genders were reversed—if it were a man whose wife died young leaving him with one child, and he later met another young woman he wanted to marry—we all know what the answer would be. He’d be allowed to be sealed to both women. The woman in the same situation should not be forced to choose one or the other.

    The implications of the church’s policies in this matter really can’t be denied. Either the church thinks women do not have the capacity to love different people for eternity like men do, which contradicts the church’s insistence that the genders are equal, or the church’s current policy is wrong and should be changed. Why wait for the Lord to fix something which the church can fix today?

    Comment by Bridget Jack Meyers — March 19, 2009 @ 12:48 am

  20. Jack,

    Since God established communication with His children on earth, the priesthood and responsibilities have landed squarely on the shoulders of the men. Perhaps it’s the nature of the gender, who knows? But again, try to look beyond the roles and rules of temporal social science. Per LDS doctrine, men and women equally enjoy the blessings of the priesthood– men just happen to be its vessels. Liking or disliking the arrangement has little to do with it. But whatever happens here on this rock– whoever is sealed to who– it’s primarily crucial that they are both attached to the priesthood. I have a feeling that in more cases than expected– due to inequal devotion and/or irreconcilable differences– the Lord will sort things out later. And so it goes with the young widow in my ward.

    Comment by David — March 19, 2009 @ 7:16 am

  21. I dont browse the net now without a anonymous proxy like http://www.surfshuffle.com, it protects my computer from the nasties on the net

    Comment by bypass filters — May 21, 2009 @ 6:43 pm

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