“What happens when a couple gets a temple divorce?” New Era, Dec. 1975, 14–15
Answer/Elder James A. Cullimore
As to the first question, “What happens when a couple gets a temple divorce?” we should understand that there is no such thing as a temple divorce. What we refer to as a temple divorce is in fact a cancellation of a temple sealing. When a couple is married in the temple, they not only satisfy the law of the land as to a legal civil marriage, but they are also sealed for time and all eternity in an eternal relationship.
A civil divorce nullifies the marriage so far as the civil law is concerned, but only by a mandate of the president of the Church can the sealing of the couple be cancelled. A cancellation of the sealing is what we are really referring to when we talk about a temple divorce.
When one has been granted a civil divorce after his temple sealing, he must be cleared by the First Presidency before he can be granted a temple recommend by his bishop. After a divorce clearance has been granted by the First Presidency, an application for a cancellation of the temple sealing might be made to the president of the Church. Normally it is the woman who seeks a cancellation of sealing. Since a woman cannot be sealed to two men at the same time, she must have a cancellation of sealing from one before she can be sealed to another.
As to the next question, “What happens to the children in the next life when there has been a cancellation of sealing of the parents?” it is understood that in the case of a cancellation of the sealing of the woman to the man, this does not cancel the sealing of the children to the parents, since they were born in the covenant, which is a birthright blessing. They remain in the status of the sealing to their parents and can never be sealed to anyone else. The decision as to with whom they will go will be determined by the Lord in the hereafter.
Regarding being born in the covenant the General Handbook of Instructions states, “Children born in the covenant cannot be sealed to anyone, but belong to their natural parents. This rule is not altered by adoption, consent of the natural parents, request of the child after becoming of age or death of the natural parents.” (P. 101.)
It should be kept in mind that to be born in the covenant is a birthright blessing, and that if a child remains worthy in this life of celestial blessings, regardless of the actions of his parents, he is assured of that birthright and is guaranteed eternal parentage. One’s worthiness in this life through living the gospel and keeping the commandments, in this as in all things, is the key to eternal life.