Marriage: Civilly or in the Temple?

Marriage: Civilly or in the Temple? One topic that is of importance to singles members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is marriage and all of the questions and concerns surrounding marriage. What if you never marry in this life? What if you have gotten a divorce? What if you marry a non-member or a member without a recommend outside of the temple? What if you are hoping that you will both eventually be worthy and able to marry in the temple and for whatever reason it never happens in this life? These and other related questions cannot all be answered in this little article. However, hopefully this article can still give you some measure of clarity, answers, and direction.

The Doctrine:

The clearest scriptures on the subject of eternal versus civil marriage are found in the Doctrine & Covenants, section 132. In verses 15-17, we learn about people who get married civilly only, which has an end after this life:

Therefore, if a man marry him a wife in the world, and he marry her not by me nor by my word, and he covenant with her so long as he is in the world and she with him, their covenant and marriage are not of force when they are dead, and when they are out of the world; therefore, they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world. Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory. For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever.

Conversely, in verses 19-21 we learn about eternal marriage (“temple marriage”):

And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection; and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths—then shall it be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, that he shall commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, and if ye abide in my covenant, and commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have call power, and the angels are subject unto them. Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye abide my law ye cannot attain to this glory.

Implications for Marriage:

So, ideally, getting married in the temple is the way to go. And if you marry civilly, there is a need and an opportunity to then work to follow up your civil marriage with getting a temple marriage as soon as you are both worthy, able, and willing. President Russell M. Nelson has recently clarified that making covenants in the temple, including temple marriage, is essential and “time is running out”. In his April, 2019 conference address, “Come Follow Me”, his talk includes the following:

My dear brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ invites us to take the covenant path back home to our Heavenly Parents and be with those we love. He invites us to “come, follow me.”

Now, as President of His Church, I plead with you who have distanced yourselves from the Church and with you who have not yet really sought to know that the Savior’s Church has been restored. Do the spiritual work to find out for yourselves, and please do it now. Time is running out.

The Savior invites all to follow Him into the waters of baptism and, in time, to make additional covenants with God in the temple and receive and be faithful to those further essential ordinances. All these are required if we want to be exalted with our families and with God forever.

The anguish of my heart is that many people whom I love, whom I admire, and whom I respect decline His invitation. They ignore the pleadings of Jesus Christ when He beckons, “Come, follow me.”

I understand why God weeps. I also weep for such friends and relatives. They are wonderful men and women, devoted to their family and civic responsibilities. They give generously of their time, energy, and resources. And the world is better for their efforts. But they have chosen not to make covenants with God. They have not received the ordinances that will exalt them with their families and bind them together forever.

How I wish I could visit with them and invite them to consider seriously the enabling laws of the Lord. I’ve wondered what I could possibly say so they would feel how much the Savior loves them and know how much I love them and come to recognize how covenant-keeping women and men can receive a “fulness of joy.”

They need to understand that while there is a place for them hereafter—with wonderful men and women who also chose not to make covenants with God—that is not the place where families will be reunited and be given the privilege to live and progress forever. That is not the kingdom where they will experience the fulness of joy—of never-ending progression and happiness. Those consummate blessings can come only by living in an exalted celestial realm with God, our Eternal Father; His Son, Jesus Christ; and our wonderful, worthy, and qualified family members.

I feel to say to my reticent friends:
“The Savior said, ‘In my Father’s house are many mansions. However, as you choose not to make covenants with God, you are settling for a most meager roof over your head throughout all eternity.”

Implications for Singles:

But what if you have always been single in this life? Or have gotten a divorce, perhaps as victim to your ex spouse’s choices? Or you have other reasons for your divorce or your other particular situation? Have you “lost your chance”? Well, everyone has their own individual situations, circumstances, and conditions to their singlehood. However, it is my believe (the author) that if you are worthy, desire to have an eternal marriage, and strive for it the best you can in this life, no blessing will be withheld from you, apart from other circumstances:

Many of the most important deprivations of mortality will be set right in the Millennium, which is the time for fulfilling all that is incomplete in the great plan of happiness for all of our Father’s worthy children. We know that will be true of temple ordinances. I believe it will also be true of family relationships and experiences.

--Elder Dallin H Oaks
The Great Plan of Happiness, Ensign, Nov. 1993

Final Thoughts:

Whatever your circumstance, please strive to be worthy of and seek to find a future spouse that you can go to the temple with. Ideally, getting marriage in the temple from the start or as soon as possible thereafter. Please follow President Nelson’s advice to be a covenant making and keeping people to have all of the wonderful blessing our Father in Heaven has in store for us, including eternal marriage and eternal life. This is the Lord’s will. Remember, “…neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.”—1 Corinthians 11:11.

Dr. G
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2019-09-22 Randy Gilchrist Marriage preparation, Conflict resolution

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About the author

Hello, my name is Dr. Randy Gilchrist (aka "Dr. G"). I am a licensed clinical psychologist, a licensed marriage & family therapist, and a certified hypnotherapist in private practice in Roseville, CA (, practicing since 1997. Also, I am happily married in the temple (Manti) since 1996 and have 4 sons. I am a volunteer writer and contributor to LDS Dimension. I use my training, education, and experience to share insights with LDS Dimension on all things of interest to the LDS dating community. Please read my articles and columns on this site to assist you in your online dating journey. Also, to be considered for an answer in a future Q and A column, please email me your dating/relationship oriented questions to Finally, I also offer a powerful, effective worldwide custom hypnosis recording service just for LDS Dimension members for weight loss, pornography, and many other issues of concern to those in the LDS dating community (please learn more now at; email me questions to