“Ye Devour Widows Houses”

 

There was in a city a judge which feared not God, neither regarded man.

And there was a widow in that city, and she came unto him, saying: Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while, but afterward he said within himself: Though I fear not God, nor regard man, yet because this widow troubleth me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.”  (D&C 101:82-84)

Earlier this month, the church announced a new policy of leniency for couples under certain circumstances to be allowed to have a wedding outside the temple, in order to include immediate family members who would not otherwise be able to attend. It is unclear how this policy will play out in various circumstances, but I applaud this step to include family members in celebrating the marital union of the new couple. This was one of my top issues I had hoped to see changed. But a bigger issue I see surrounding sealings is how widows are punished in the church.

 

Is there any doubt God loves the widows? Consider the following scriptures:

“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27)

“Plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17)

 “Ye shall not afflict any widow.” (Exodus 22:22)

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.” (Matthew 23:14)

 

I assume God loves the widowers just as much, though that is not specifically mentioned in scripture. However, in church sealing policy, widowers are very well looked after while widows are not. Even deceased men are granted greater privilege in sealing policy over deceased women. Here is a comparison of the policies from Handbook 1:

Unequal Sealing Policies

Living Men

Living Women

“If a husband and wife have been sealed and the wife dies, the man may have another woman sealed to him if she is not already sealed.

“If a husband and wife have been sealed and later divorced, the man must receive a sealing clearance from the First Presidency before another woman may be sealed to him. (A sealing clearance is necessary even if the previous sealing has been canceled.)”

“A living woman may be sealed to only one husband. If she is sealed to a husband and later divorced, she must receive a cancellation of that sealing from the First Presidency before she may be sealed to another man in her lifetime.”

 

Children born to a man and his second sealed wife are sealed to both parents

Children born to a woman and a second husband are not sealed to both parents

“Children who are born after their mother has been sealed to a husband in a temple are born in the covenant of that sealing. They do not need to receive the ordinance of sealing to parents. Being born in the covenant entitles children to an eternal parentage, depending on their faithfulness.”

“If a woman who has been sealed to a former husband remarries, the children of her later marriage are born in the covenant of the first marriage unless they were born after the sealing was canceled or after it was revoked due to excommunication or name removal.”

Deceased Men

Deceased Women

“A deceased man may have sealed to him all women to whom he was legally married during his life if they are deceased or if they are living and not sealed to another man.”

 

“A deceased woman may be sealed to all men to whom she was legally married during her life. However, if she was sealed to a husband during her life, all her husbands must be deceased before she can be sealed to a husband to whom she was not sealed during life.”

Living men and women who have lost a spouse have unequal opportunities in subsequent unions. A widower has the privilege to be sealed to all the wives he loves and marries. Even if he marries a series of women who all pass away, he can still be sealed to each subsequent wife. By contrast, a widow must cancel her sealing to her beloved deceased husband in order to be permitted to be sealed to a second or subsequent husband. Her hope and joy in her relationships is circumscribed to just one eternal union.

Children born to sealed parents are born in the covenant. Thus children born to a man and his second sealed wife, will be born in the covenant of that sealing; children automatically sealed to both biological parents. But because a woman cannot be sealed to a second spouse, children born to her and her second husband will for some reason be born in the covenant of the sealing of the woman with her first husband. (It’s as if the policy was written to help a man acquire as many women and children as possible, even after he dies.) The only way for a second husband to be sealed to his own children is if the wife is able to obtain a cancellation of the first and be sealed to him before bearing any children. If she has had a child with the first husband, a sealing cancellation is unlikely.

Even after death, the sealing inequality still disfavors women. The family of a deceased man may perform sealings for him to all of the wives he wedded in life, including to living women if they were not sealed to anyone else. The family of a deceased woman may only have her sealed to all the husbands she married in life after all the men have died. This is the only way a woman can be sealed to more than one man: after she is dead (and both husbands are dead).

If family members will eventually be able to seal a woman to multiple spouses after death, why afflict widows with the burden of choosing between husbands? This heartbreaking decision was thrust upon a widowed relative. She married young, to a man suffering from cancer. They were sealed in the temple and he passed away from his illness just over a year later. There were no children.

After a couple years of mourning, she began dating again. Ultimately, she fell in love with another man and they wanted to be sealed. He had never been married. She then learned that she would have to cancel her sealing to her first husband in order to be able to go to the temple and be sealed to her new love. She had to apply to the First Presidency for cancellation of a sealing that she didn’t want cancelled. She still loved him.

The family of the deceased husband was consulted. Imagine how they felt. Their young deceased son would have his sealing blessings cancelled posthumously by no fault of his own, merely because he died young. Imagine how she felt, a young woman of 24, facing a lifetime of being sealed to a deceased husband and only civilly married to her second. Imagine how the second husband felt, wanting his wife and potential future children to be sealed to him and not the deceased husband. The approval came through just days before the planned wedding. The day was bitter sweet.

This policy also perpetuates a ‘sad heaven’ model. It creates a situation where never-married men are disincentivized from even considering dating, much less marrying, previously sealed widows – because their potential future children will be automatically be sealed to her first husband. According to the policy, no matter how righteous the second husband is, he would not have the privilege of being sealed to his own biological children, unless his wife is willing and able to get a cancellation of her previous sealing, and clearance from the First Presidency for a second sealing. Without this, the children can’t be sealed to their own biological father, but will be connected to a deceased man whom they never met. Worst of all, a woman can never be sealed to both of her beloved husbands during her own lifetime and must suffer the heartbreak of not being sealed to one of the men she married. Either petitioning for separation from the deceased, or foregoing sealing to the second.

I have heard several men, speaking as general authorities in conference, bear testimony that they will be able to be sealed to both of their wives in the next life; one who is deceased, as well as the new one to who they are also currently sealed and wedded. It makes me sick to my stomach to hear these men praise God in gratitude for his goodness in letting them have both their beloved wives in the hereafter; while at the same time, these men are keeping widows from having the same privilege. It is an easy solution. Just change the policies for widows to be the same as the policies for widowers. If we ‘don’t know how it will work out’ anyway, why punish widows and their potential mates now? God will work it out. He loves the widows.

Chiaroscuro

Chiaroscuro is a play of light and shadow. Finding noisy messy lovely life in all the shades between.

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16 Responses

  1. Rita says:

    This is a terrible policy with heartbreaking consequences for many women, men and children in the church right now. It needs to go.

  2. Jan Signore says:

    Great points. It seems this should follow the temple changes, it is far beyond time to change these policies that can be so heartbreaking for women. As we see, men are never asked to bear these kinds of policies. Let’s change these old sexist policies NOW.

  3. Jackie says:

    Once again an example of how women are worthless in the eyes of the church

    • Anna says:

      Jackie, it isn’t that women are worthless. It is that women are property of men. And a woman can only be the property of one man. In fact women are very valuable property. So valuable that a man can’t make it to the top layer of heaven unless he owns one or two, or 56. The real problem isn’t that we women are worthless, it is that we are less than human.

  4. Wendy says:

    Amen to this, chiaroscuro! This policy is blatantly and shamefully discriminatory and needs to change.

  5. Moss says:

    This is one of those things that would be fixed yesterday if we had women in actual decision making positions.

  6. Erin says:

    An important distinction should be made – men are not sealed TO women.
    Men have women sealed to them.
    Women are sealed to men.
    Men are the primary actors, women are secondary.
    I can’t find any wording that indicates a man is sealed to a woman.
    Once again, they are collecting us like luggage.

    • Rebecca says:

      I think the wording of the sealing may have changed in January this year. Not sure.

    • Chiaroscuro says:

      I think the temple language is that the blessings are sealed upon the couple. You are right that they are not sealed to each other. The woman gives herself to her husband, and he receives her. the language is not reciprocal. But the way we talk about it at church has been that they are sealed together in the temple.

      • Erin says:

        It’s the way we talk about it at church, conference, etc., but in the handbook it totally uses the “man has sealed TO him all women” and “woman is sealed TO man” imbalanced wording, which shows me how they really feel about it.

    • HHB says:

      Try substituting the words sold/sale for sealed/sealing in the handbook passages above and the disparity in the perspectives of men v. women is clear…

      “The man may have another woman SOLD to him if she is not already SOLD”

      versus

      “A living woman may be SOLD to only one husband. If she is SOLD to a husband and later divorced, she must receive a cancellation of that SALE from the First Presidency before she may be SOLD to another man in her lifetime”

      I am a faithful attending member who feels called to this church despite my frustrations and has no plans to go anywhere, but this infuriates and wounds me whenever I think about it. It’s funny…my faith evolution began with my furrowed teenage brow when I began to really think through the injustice of polygamy. It made all the classic stops along the way: historical issues, cultural leadership idolatry, lack of financial transparency, etc. But in the end it’s all back where it started.

      Polygamy was and is inherently degrading to the women of this church, regardless of any benefits it also allowed for historically. My spirit is offended at the way we use verbal sleight of hand to distance ourselves from the practice when it remains enshrined in our theology.

  7. Ziff says:

    Thanks for calling this inequality out, Chiaroscuro. As you say so well at the end, it’s particularly galling that male GAs openly celebrate that they get to do things that they bar women in the same circumstances from doing.

  8. Jacki says:

    If this was a church led by humans all the protest and complaining would be valid, it’s not perfectly fair so it needs to be changed. If you all believe this is a church led by Christ you are all arrogantly saying he is making a huge mistake and you know better. Searching for solace from a blog may validate your feelings but it doesn’t give any divine understanding. If you believe this the Church of Christ why dont you seek understanding or peace the way that he suggests?

    • Anna says:

      Jacki, you are assuming that we think Christ is here personally dictating every detail. Prophets get things wrong. Read your Bible to see how men of God sometimes screw things up. No body on earth is perfect and nobody on earth has a perfect connection to God. So, what people are really saying is that maybe because widows issues seldom cross the prophet’s mind, maybe he has not prayed about this issue.

      I guess I am glad your Pope is infallible. But the LDS prophet is not and doesn’t claim to be. The church changes things around all the time because people express unhappiness and the prophet hears about it and prays, and by golly, God agrees with the people who feel something is wrong or unfair.

    • Anna says:

      Oh, and PS, this church is led by humans. The prophet is still human, and has a human ability to hear God.

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