Decisions decisions

Sometimes (everytime?) I’ve had or read discussions of Celestial Polygamy the spectre of the Remarried Widower is brought up. Remarried Widower is a man whose wife died, and is later sealed to another woman who he loved just as deeply. “Is it fair to make him pick just one wife to spend eternity with?” They say. “He loved them both and married them both. And, if we did make him pick, what would happen to the other wife? Is she simply cast off? Would that be fair to her? No! Certainly not!”

I see a few major problems with this argument.

  1. For some reason no one is tied up in knots about Remarried Widow. When it is a woman being forced to choose just one man to spend eternity with few proponents of the Remarried Widower scenario seems to think it is unfair to her, or her husbands. Nowhere near unfair enough to mandate Celestial Polyandry. Funny, that.
  2. We seem to overlook that adding a third person changes the dynamics of a relationship. It is certainly possible for a person to love two different people very deeply, but that doesn’t mean those deep feelings could coexist peacefully and fairly. Some things are just plain mutually exclusive.
  3. People are forced to pick like this all the time.

For example I had a great friend, and he had to leave for awhile. While he was gone I found another friend to spend my time with. When we were all ready to enter adulthood and it was time for us to think about marriage, I had to pick just one of my friends and I had to let go of the other relationship in order to let that happen. (If you want to hear a long, drawn-out, angst-filled version of this story it’s in footnote [1])

So our hypothetical man marries a woman and she dies (for a while). While she is dead he finds another woman to spend time with and to be his wife. And when they all die and are ready to be resurrected it doesn’t seem at all unfair to me for him to have to pick just one to be sealed to and be with eternally, letting the other person go on to find another. That just sounds like how relationships work.


[1]When I was three I decided I was going to marry Sousuke (names have been changed). I knew Sousuke from the playgroup I was in. I have no idea what made me decide that I was going to marry him, I just did. That, on its own, isn’t very odd. The odd thing is that it stuck for *years.* In my early childhood it was just part of my life plan, the same way some kids plan on being doctors and ballerinas. Around age 8-12 these plans matured into a crush- a very exclusive crush. I didn’t allow myself to have crushes on anyone else, even celebrities. I also resented friends who tried to share my crush on Sousuke. (Shared crushes are a phenomenon that still kind of baffles me.)
At about age 15 my plans matured again into a friendship. If you asked me at the time, my official answer was that I had outgrown my crush and left my plans to marry Sousuke behind me and that it is stupid for a 15 year old to be betrothing herself to anyone. In many ways I actually believed that. In truth, though, the plans were still there- I just knew that I wanted to do things ‘right.’ This meant that High school was not the time to develop a romantic relationship, but rather a time for solid friendships. And we did become good friends- I would say that he was my best friend during my high school years.
I also knew that Sousuke needed to serve a mission and I did not want to be That Girl who Waited for a Missionary. Nope. Romance with Sousuke would wait until after his mission. So we went on exactly one date; he took me to prom. He left on his mission and I did my part of ‘doing things right.’ I wrote him regularly, and dated other men with marriage as an option.
Halfway through Sousuke’s mission I met and became friends with Ichigo when I started dating a guy from my physics class (we could call him Keigo). I later broke up with the Keigo but remained good friends with Ichigo. Ichigo was there as a friend at a very formative time in my life and so had a huge influence on me. Around the time when Sousuke had a just weeks left on his mission, Ichigo and I, for the first time, went on an honest to goodness date and had a *great* time.
Shortly after that great date with Ichigo, (who now qualified as a close and well established friend) I found myself staring at a blank sheet of paper that was supposed to be a letter to Sousuke, trying to sort out how I felt. These were both men I had great friendships with. They were men I cared for deeply. I could have pursued a romantic relationship with either one of them seamlessly. I could have continued with my life long plans and tried a relationship with Sousuke. Or I could have continued from where I was, and tried a romance with Ichigo instead. If it didn’t work out with the one I picked then there would be no guarantee of having a chance with the other. If it did work out, then the other friendship would have to be put away. I could keep only one of these men in my life, trying to keep them both would have been selfish and unfair to everyone involved.
I picked, and I am very happy with my decision. I have never regretted it once. But a lack of regret does not preclude feelings of loss at the friendship that had to end in order to make space for the life I picked. The friend I did not pick went on and married someone else, and from what I hear they are very happy too. Maybe he never knew that I was this close to putting the moves on him, and maybe it would never have worked out with him at all if I had.


Starfoxy is a fulltime caretaker for her two children.

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36 Responses

  1. Personally I think we impose all-too-earthly situations on what life is like in heaven. For example, in addition to the scenarios you’ve suggested, what about the sealing of children to parents? Will my children live with me and my husband in some celestial mansion? What about the parents of my children’s spouses? They have “claim” on those children too – and the children have claim on their children, and my parents have claim on me, and …

    Bottomline, I believe in a God who will provide me with happiness in eternity – whatever that means.

    • I think you are right, though the first time I thought seriously about the situation was a For some reason no one is tied up in knots about Remarried Widow … people were.

      Which is where you get to making the entire matter move forward as you do.

  2. Corktree says:

    Interesting way of looking at it. The only problem I see is that in most cases of relationship roulette on earth, the to-be-cast-off third party has an opportunity to try and do something about it. Add their input, state their case, express their un-dying love; whatever. So I wonder if the whole “holding on to two or more wives” is the one sided version of letting the dead ones have one last chance to tell their former eternal partner how they feel and that they don’t want to have to find someone else. Of course, in this reality it should still go both ways and the dead husbands should be given the same courtesy. 😉

    In any case, I do think we’ll have to make some tough decisions in the here-after. I don’t think it’s all going to be smooth sailing with no difficulty, but I also think we’re going to have a lot more information from which to base decisions like these.

    • Starfoxy says:

      So I wonder if the whole “holding on to two or more wives” is the one sided version of letting the dead ones have one last chance to tell their former eternal partner how they feel and that they don’t want to have to find someone else.
      I could totally get behind this, if we made it clear that the ultimate goal is monogamy. I’m not opposed to people being sealed to more than one spouse and suggesting that we can sort it all out later. I am opposed to the idea that loving more than one person necessitates polygyny- and only polygyny.

      • Corktree says:

        Agreed. It just doesn’t seem right that the living spouse should be the only one with any say in how the relationship ends up (which was already marked by a believed-to-be eternal commitment).

  3. The dilemma of how earthly relationships will be sorted out in the next world is enough to encourage atheism–or at least to discourage trying to make it to the celestial kingdom–the only one where sealings are valid.

    • kamisaki says:

      thank you for writing what I am thinking!

    • Amber says:

      I, also, agree with you. The more I think about the particulars of temple polygamy, that doesn’t allow for polyandry, the more I want to run as far away as I can from the Celestial Kingdom. I also find a God who would put women in places that breed jealousy and pain (as polygamy does) is not a very loving God. He seems all too concerned about the male species while neglecting the females. Yeah, atheism is just find for me.

      On another note, have you listened to Sybil’s interview regarding modern polygamy? It is well worth the listen. 9

  4. Janell says:

    Hey, now that I think about it, — hypothetically — if DH-#1 dies and a DH-#2 comes along, why don’t I have the option of canceling the sealing to #1 so I can be sealed to #2? Why must the one I’m sealed to be defaulted to the one I chose as much younger, less experienced individual?

    (Disclaimer: I loves my DH and hope he’ll always be my one and only, but I always reserve me right to change my opinion in the future.)

    And given how much I want to ask that question in SS or RS just to make waves is probably why it’s best I’ve been relegated to being behind the primary piano.

    • Whitney says:

      I think you DO have that option; actually, I think that’s pretty much the ONLY option women have if they want to be sealed to their second husband. Or you can wait until you’re dead, and you can be sealed to both husbands by proxy. I have heard of exceptions if the woman is very young when DH #1 dies, but they’re very rare, and some bishops and temple presidents don’t even know that an exception is possible at all.
      But if I’m wrong about any of this, someone please correct me.

    • Starfoxy says:

      As far as I know Whitney is correct- widows do have the option of having the first sealing cancelled, or to marry in the temple for time only. And I also have heard of rare special case exceptions allowing young widows to be sealed to a second husband as well as her first. But I also agree with Course Correction. Trying to work all this out can be absolutely maddening- enough to make one want to give up on the whole idea altogether.

    • Caroline says:

      My understanding that it is possible to have that woman’s first sealing cancelled — however, it is very, very difficult. The woman whom I know in this position had to get letters from her first husband’s family giving their permission for the cancellation, and she had to play up the fact that the first marriage was abusive to some degree. She had no kids — if she had, breaking the seal would have been nearly impossible, in my understanding.

      On the converse, I know a man who was sealed to a woman who didn’t want to be married to him anymore. He wanted to remarry, and they both wanted that first sealing cancelled. Neither wanted the theological albatross of this other wife hanging around their necks. But they were unable to get that cancellation. The bride found out just before she married and felt a lot of pain and despair about it.

      When one thinks about all the complexities of sealing and multiple marriages, it is almost enough to turn one off from the idea of eternal marriage. (and I speak as someone who generally likes the idea.)

  5. Emily U says:

    So did you pick Sousuke or Ichigo? I’m dying to know! You can say, since you changed the names, right?

  6. April says:

    I agree. I see no harm in letting men get sealed twice if their first spouse passes away and they remarry, since I am confident that these things can be sorted out in the eternities, but I don’t like how current temple sealing policies center around the idea that men get lots of wives eternally but women have to choose. Women should be able to get sealed to their second spouses, too.

  7. Alisa says:

    My step-grandmother is in this situation except that she knows which man she wants to be sealed to. Unfortunately, she’s sealed to her first husband, but she wants to be sealed to her second husband. She can’t rearrange her sealings in this life (either to be sealed to both men or to choose to be sealed only to her second husband). It may sound unfair to her first husband, but my grandmother says it’s no contest that my grandpa was the love of her life.

    • Amber says:

      I have known of similar situations and don’t think it sounds unfair. How are we to know what her first marriage was like? What if the second husband is a much better fit for her? I feel for your grandma.

    • Starfoxy says:

      It may sound unfair to her first husband, but my grandmother says it’s no contest that my grandpa was the love of her life.

      I don’t think it sounds unfair at all. Sometimes choices like that are actually pretty easy.
      My dad is fond of sharing a story about teaching a new member discussion to an elderly woman. They were teaching her about eternal marriage and suggested that she could be sealed to and spend eternity with her late husband. Her immediate response was “Oh I certainly hope not!”

  8. Whitney says:

    The more I think about the current policy on this–and I’ve already thought about it A LOT–the more messed up I see it as. I mean, polygamy is an excommunicable offense, and we no longer teach anything about polygamy at all, really–we don’t teach that you HAVE to live it in the celestial kingdom, and we don’t even really teach that it was ordained of God back in the day. Especially recently, the church has tried HARD to distance itself from polygamy, so as far as I can tell, these days there is no official doctrine about polygamy. So there is literally NO justification for the current policy, other than institutionalized sexism.

  9. Anonymousforthisone says:

    Okay, here are my thoughts. I think that if you love someone and were sealed for time and all eternity, and that person dies – then (no matter your sex) you should be allowed to marry someone else for time and all eternity if that is what you wish. I recently watched a friend (a VERY young widow at 20 or 21) get her first sealing canceled, so she could marry again in the temple. And it was a VERY painful decision for her. One she did not take lightly, and felt extremely guilty about making, even though her first husband [he knew he was sick and dying, so they talked about it] encouraged her to do so, because he wanted her to be happy and not alone. Her new husband told her that they could just be married and not sealed and he would be okay with that. But she wanted to be with him in the hereafter as well. Basically, a whole lot of her pain could have been avoided if she could’ve married him in the temple as well. (I didn’t know there were exceptions… In fact, can someone explain the official rules on this to me, please?) It’s not like early members of the church didn’t ALSO practice polyandry.

    Anyway… I think that IF we need polygyny or polyandry it’ll be less to do with actually being married (like we see marriage) and more to do with being connected to people. I mean, if you think about it – creating a world/worlds/galaxies/universe(s) must take up a LOT of power. What if all the sealing thing is ACTUALLY doing is just tying us into a greater chain so that we can be like… power stations. … or batteries *cue matrix theme music* 8) I think that IF we are sealed to more than one person on this Earth, then in Heaven we’ll be able to decide how to create our own little family unit.

    Although, now that I think about it… I’m not exactly sure how I would feel if a widower wanted to marry me. Would I be okay that he already has one wife in heaven, or would I go ballistic because a part of me is so against polygamy. hmmm…

  10. Bones says:

    Am I the only happily (and 29 years) married person who could not care less about being sealed forever? We know through common logic that the doctrine of an “eternal family” cannot possibly look like our current idea of family. Why would we assume that “eternal marriage” will resemble current marriages.

    I love my husband. I absolutely love the life we have created, but I guess marriage forever just doesn’t appeal to me (tmi?). I think of it as running a marathon–it is a great challenge, super exhilarating, really rewarding, shows what I am made of–butt if my reward for completing a marathon were to have to do it forever…..? really? No Thanks.

  11. Bones says:

    haha. But–not butt. I hope that wasn’t Freudian.

  12. Anonforme,too says:

    The only DH I’ve ever had, thus far, isn’t a Mo. So, I’m sealed to no one. I’ve wondered, if he were hit by a bus tomorrow, would I get myself sealed to him? OR, would I hold out to marry a Mo who I know has already chosen the LDS route. If I were sealed to my deceased spouse, there’s no guarantee he’d accept the baptism/sealing, etc.
    So, like I say and will continue to say, I believe in a loving God and on this issue, I can can put it on the shelf. God would not want me unhappily sealed to anyone for forever.

  13. Ms. Jack says:

    Just the thought of choosing someone to be with for eternity based on a few months/years together boggles my mind. Even choosing someone for eternity based on 80 years together would boggle my mind. Eternity just strikes me as so . . . permanent.

    I told my husband to go ahead and have me sealed to him if I die first. I don’t believe in it anyways, so I don’t see much point in resisting it.

    But even if I did believe in it? I’m not sure I would want to be sealed to my husband right away. I feel like I would need a lot longer for a decision like that than the 9+ years that we’ve known each other.

    • MJK says:

      I love my husband and we have a great relationship but I know what you mean. Heck I’d still be reluctant to get a tattoo with his name on it.

      I’m not worried about the temple sealing though. I figure if something goes wrong there’s got to be an opt-out.

  14. Ziff says:

    Great points, Starfoxy! I particularly like the first one. The failure to consider the parallel situation when it’s a woman married to more than one man as a difficulty betrays (I think) that it’s men who are framing the discussion, largely.

  15. LovelyLauren says:

    What frustrates me is the sentiment people express, the “it’ll all work out in the eternities” sentiment.

    If that’s the case, then why not just change the policy so women don’t have to go through heartbreak, especially when men aren’t forced to make the same choices and women who are deceased can have all of their husbands sealed to them.

    • Starfoxy says:

      Yes! I am very attached to the idea that it will all work out eventually (else I’d have thrown the towel in on the whole idea). But people use that to brush off any sort of discomfort about the disparate policies we currently have, as if to say that the policies don’t really matter. Well, if the policies don’t really matter then lets level the playing field.

  16. Rachel says:

    My husband isn’t a member, so assuming he doesn’t convert in the hereafter, I’m guessing I’ll just be someone’s sister-wife. I think if I got to pick the women, and the man, it might actually work out just fine. (tongue-in cheek tone here)
    For me, it’s not that this policy doesn’t matter. It’s just one that I don’t stress about. There are plenty that bug me; this just doesn’t happen to be one of them.

  17. Charity says:

    This issue bothers me more than any other issue for women in the church. For me it’s not a question of whether when we’re all righteous enough to get past our petty selfishness and jealous polygamy will just “work” for us. For me, polygamy is emotionally equivalent to my husband cheating on me with another women for eternity (and yes, him cheating on her with me).

    I’m also baffled by the “but would you really want to keep someone out of the Celestial Kingdom because they can’t be married” argument. If there were ever a choice between entering a polygamous marriage and not entering the Celestial Kingdom, I’d run to one of the lower kingdoms as fast as I could.

    I know polygamy can work for some, but I’ll have nothing to do with it. I also trust that it will work out in the end. But, in my opinion, the policy is nothing less than barbaric.

  18. Amy says:

    First of all, I definitely agree that if policies really matter so little and “it will all work out in the end,” then let’s level the playing field and get rid of policies that are harmful to women, but not to men.
    That said, I sometimes have a hard time believing that the ordinance we call a “sealing” actually “seals” or “sticks” a husband and wife together. Furthermore, that’s not what the actual words of the ordinance suggest–at no point is the word “seal” used to mean “I seal you, Suzy, to your husband, John.” The word “seal” is only used in the context of blessings that are “sealed” upon the couple as they give and receive each other in marriage before God. Food for thought.

  19. Head Scratcher says:

    Women can be just as polygamous in the eternities as men under the sealing policies, as we can seal a woman to all husbands she had in mortality. We just can’t do it while she’s alive. (I think I know why but I won’t get into it here.) I know some “scholars” say women will have to choose among her husbands but a husband won’t have to choose among his wives. Have you heard a modern day church authority say that? No. Can you find that position in the church handbook? No. Everytime you hear a church leader talk of eternal marriage he says if you are faithful, all sealing covenants will be honored. Therefore, at least as things stand now, it appears our doctrine is one of polyandry and polygyny in the eternities. I’m not sure if sisters know of the sealing policies or not. When I read a post like this, it gives me the impression that many people don’t really know the sealing policies of the church at all. Now, I can’t really reconcile why we’re expected to be monogamous in mortality but can be plural in eternity. THAT is the head scratcher for me. To me, it makes no sense to claim we can only “love” people serially, one after another, but in the next life, we’ll magically have the ability to love many people contemporaneously. That’s the doctrinal struggle I have right now, and one I wish would be addressed clearly instead of simply “we don’t know what will happen.” If we don’t know, then why have sealings performed at all? My personal belief is that preceased spouses in the Spirit World are not sitting around strumming a harp. When they see their surviving spouse “moving on” they also move on in the Spirit World. If we’re going to be serially monogamists in mortality, there isn’t any reason to believe that pattern won’t continue in the hereafter. I know I will get slammed for saying this, but to me, actions speak louder than words. If you’re widowed and you can’t wait till the reunion in the Spirit World, then square your shoulders, move on, and let your first spouse go. Have you ever heard a church leader say you should treat your second spouse differently than a first spouse? Of course not. Aren’t we counseled to leave old romances behind, and give our whole heart and strength to our present spouse? Yes. Wouldn’t that also apply to a second spouse? We can express guilt and angst over that decision, but to me, you either love someone enough to wait for that eventual reunion, or you don’t. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or anything else if you decide you want to remarry. It would be a deeply personal decision. But I don’t think you can have your cake and eat it, too. I’ve heard plenty of people say they still love their first, deceased spouse, and can’t imagine spending eternity without their first spouse as well as their second spouse. However, when I ask the remarried widow/er if he would have a problem finding that the deceased spouse also “moved on” in the Spirit World, I get a deer in the headlight look. It’s as if they never thought their deceased spouse could do such a thing — to them! It seems to be okay for someone to remarry in mortality, but the thought of a deceased spouse “remarrying” in the Spirit World is a totally foreign concept to most people. As an aside, we appear to be in no better position to discuss these things than our non-member friends. When it comes to these discussions, Latter-day Saints still deal with hurt feelings and anger, despite the fact that we supposedly know the plan of salvation.

    I don’t think there will be hurt and pain as we experience it now over the fact that a loved one has “moved on.” Think of it this way. Most people date and/or have several relationships before they are sealed the first time. When you heard an old boyfriend or girlfriend was getting married, were you hurt or angry? Hopefully not. Hopefully, you were happy for them. I know the analogy is not exactly on all fours, but I think if I die, and I look down from the Spirit World and see my spouse has decided to move on and remarry, I think I’ll be happy for her. I will no longer consider her my spouse. I will love her as a friend, as a parent of our children, as a child of God. But I won’t harbor romantic feelings for her anymore. And at that point, I think we’ll be free, just like we’re free on earth, to move on and develop a new relationship with someone else in the Spirit World, and that “marriage” will be sealed by proxy during the Millennium. After all, despite the flowery language of being sealed for time and all eternity, we’ll all be single again, either in this life or the next. The odds of two people dying together are pretty slim. Therefore, most of us will have to make a decision as to whether it is worth “waiting” to be reunited with the other spouse. I know that is not official church doctrine, but it makes sense to me. Otherwise, the moment you say we will have plural spouses, then there’s no reason to think we all won’t have plural spouses, both those we’ve found in mortality as well as those we might find in the hereafter. I can give you examples (as I’m sure many can) of a man who married 2 or 3 times, then a couple of those wives had prior husbands, and so forth. And what do we do in the temple? We seal each couple together. I agree with you, in that some decisions will have to be made. But like I said above, I think the pain or rejection associated with those choices will be mitigated in large part by the opportunity of predeceased spouses to have “moved on” in the Spirit World. In other words, why would it be fair for my spouse to have plural spouses just because I happened to die a little early? Why wouldn’t I be afforded that same opportunity in the Spirit World? Goodness knows there are billions of spirits in the Spirit World who didn’t have the chance to get married in mortality. That’s a whole lot of dating and relationship building that will have to occur. JS says we’ll enjoy the same sociality in the Spirit World as we do in mortality. What do we do in mortality? We meet, date, and develop loving relationships. It really is an all or nothing thing. Either we’ll be plural in eternities across the board, or we’ll be monogamous across the board. If we’ll be plural, then there really isn’t much reason to not be married all of your adult life to someone. After all, if remarriage has no ill effects on your first sealing, if your first spouse will gladly accept a second spouse, if it’s all so wonderful and good and fulfilling to be married, then we should all strive to be married as much during mortality as possible. On the other hand, if there are eternal consequences associated with remarriage (because eventually, we’ll seal all husbands to all wives they’ve had, as well as all wives to all husbands they’ve had) then you need to be prepared to accept the consequences of your decision. I just wish our doctrine would land on one side of the coin or the other.

  20. Head Scratcher says:

    By the way, there have been times when living women were allowed to be sealed to more than one man. Consider the following:
    Harold Glen Clark was the first temple president of the Provo Temple. He was sealed to Virginia Driggs in 1929, and she died in 1950. He was then sealed to Mary Deane Peterson Gilbert in 1950. (Bro. Clark didn’t waste any time finding another wife.) He died in 1980. The interesting thing is that Mary Dean Peterson was first sealed to Arthur Gene Gilbert in 1941. Bro. Gilbert died, so at the time she was “sealed” to Bro. Clark in 1950, she was already sealed and living. This is in direct violation of the temple sealing policies of today. Then, after Bro. Clark died in 1984, Mary Dean Peterseon married a third time to Glenn Andrew in 1986. He died in 2004, then she died in 2006, and they were sealed by proxy in 2009. So Mary Dean Peterson is sealed to three husbands. And Glen Andrew was also previously sealed to a first wife. How did she get away with being sealed to two men at the same time while living? How often is a man married three times, and one of his wives married three times? Well, here is a perfect, real life example involving active, faithful members of the church. These situations do happen all the time. Here is how this looks on paper:

    Harold Clark——–Virginia Driggs 1929 1st Sealing
    Harold Clark———Mary Peterson 1950 2nd Sealing (even though she was previously sealed)
    Mary Peterson ——- Arthur Gilbert 1941 1st Sealing
    Mary Peterson ——-Glenn Andrew 1986 marries for time only, then 3rd sealing by proxy in 2009
    Glenn Andrew —— Ruby Diana Hoggan 1938 1st Sealing, then marries Mary Peterson in 1986 and is sealed to her in 2009 by proxy.

    So, Harold Clark is sealed to two wives, Mary Peterson is sealed to three husbands, and Glenn Andrew is sealed to two wives. I know we don’t know the individual righteousness of all parties involved, but assuming they are all worthy of the Celestial Kingdom, how will the relationships shake out? This is why I would like to know what our doctrine is.

  21. Head Scratcher says:

    Couple of corrections to that last post. Harold Glen Clark died in 1984, and Sister Peterson’s name is Mary Deane Peterson. Other than those minor notes, I think I am accurate on all the other information provided.

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