“The Family: A Proclamation to the World” published by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1995 proclaims that “marriage between a man and woman is ordained of God.” Marriage has been a law of the gospel since the beginning of life on earth. Heavenly Father performed the first wedding on earth. The marriage of Adam and Eve was performed before they partook of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; therefore, it was an eternal marriage because it took place before death came into the world.
Adam and Eve taught eternal marriage to their children and grandchildren; however, some of the people became wicked and did not have eternal marriages performed. Eventually the authority to perform marriages for eternal was taken from the earth; it was not restored until after the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Marriage is not only a social custom or legal agreement between two people who desire to live together. To members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, marriage is something much more important. We believe that “marriage is the most sacred relationship that can exist between a man and a woman.” We believe that marriage can be eternal and that our eternal exaltation depends on how well we live this law. We believe that this “sacred relationship affects our happiness now as well as in the eternities.” We know that the law of eternal marriage is part of Heavenly Father’s plan for the happiness of His children. We know that Heavenly Father instituted the law of eternal marriage to help us become like Him. We must live this law in order to have spirit children as He does.
We can read about the law of eternal marriage in modern revelation. “In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees. And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; and if he does not, he cannot obtain it” (Doctrine and Covenants 131:1-3).
To obey the law of eternal marriage all marriages should be performed in the proper place by one holding the proper authority. “If a man marry a wife by … the new and everlasting covenant… by him who is anointed … it … shall be of full force when they are out of the world” (Doctrine and Covenants 132:19). The House of the Lord or temple is the proper place for an eternal marriage; one holding the holy Melchizedek Priesthood and the proper authority performs marriages there.
In the temple the bride and groom kneel at the sacred altars surrounded by family and friends as well as two special witnesses of their own choosing. There they make sacred covenants with each other and with God with their marriage being witnessed by angels. Acting under the direction of God, the promises blessings to the couple and then instructs them in how to obtain those blessings. He also reminds them that they must be obedient to the commandments of God in order to receive the blessings. One of the blessings of eternal marriage is the opportunity to live together as families – as parents and children eternally.
Any marriage performed by any other authority or in any other place is for this life only. The phrase “unto death do us part” literally means that the marriage will end at the time either marriage partner dies. The marriage is over and neither partner has claim upon the other or any children that may bless the marriage.
There are numerous blessings that come from an eternal marriage, and the blessings are our in this life as well as the life to come. Blessings of an eternal marriage that come during this life include (1) Knowledge that our marriage will last forever if we do the necessary work for a happy, successful marriage. (2) Knowledge that our children will be ours for eternity if we live to obtain that blessing. This knowledge causes parents to teach and train their children more diligently, show greater patience, and be more loving – and these behaviors can make our homes happier.
Eternal blessings that come from marrying in the right place and by the proper authority include: (1) Living forever in the presence of Heavenly Father in the Celestial Kingdom; (2) Exaltation and a fulness of joy, and (3) Opportunity at a future time to become the parents of spirit children.