Celestial marriage (also called the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage, Eternal Marriage, Temple Marriage or The Principle) is a doctrine that marriage can last forever in heaven. This is a unique teaching of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) or Mormonism, and branches of Mormon fundamentalism.
Within the LDS Church, family relationships can be sealed, thereby continuing beyond death, via the sealing ordinance. The ordinance is associated with a covenant that takes place inside temples by those authorized to hold the sealing power. The only people allowed to enter the temple, be married there, or attend these sealings are those who hold an official temple recommend. Obtaining a temple recommend requires one to abide by LDS Church doctrine and be interviewed and considered worthy by their bishop and stake president. A prerequisite to contracting an eternal marriage, in addition to obtaining a temple recommend, involves undergoing the temple endowment, which involves making of covenants of obedience and devotion to God and his commandments.
To receive the promised blessings of the sealing covenant, one must fulfill his or her promise to be obedient to all the Lord’s commandments, including living a clean chaste life, abstaining from any impure thing, willing to sacrifice and consecrate all that one has for the Lord. In the marriage ceremony, a man and a woman make covenants to God and to each other and are said to be sealed as husband and wife for time and all eternity. The religion, citing Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18, distinguishes itself on this point from some other religious traditions by emphasizing that marriage relationships and covenants made in this life in the temple will continue to be valid in the next life if they abide by these covenants. In the 19th century, the term “celestial marriage” usually referred to the practice of plural marriage, a practice which the LDS Church formally abandoned in 1890. The term is still used in this sense by Mormon fundamentalists not affiliated with the LDS Church.
In the LDS Church today, both men and women may enter a celestial marriage with only one living partner at a time. A man may be sealed to more than one woman. If his wife dies, he may enter another celestial marriage, and be sealed to both his living wife and deceased wife or wives. Many Mormons believe that all these marriages will be valid in the eternities and the husband will live together in the celestial kingdom as a family with all to whom he was sealed. In 1998, the LDS Church changed the policy and now also allows women to be sealed to more than one man. A woman, however, may not be sealed to more than one man at a time while she is alive. She may only be sealed to subsequent partners after she has died. Proxy sealings, like proxy baptisms, are offered to the person in the afterlife. According to church teachings, the celestial marriage covenant, as with other covenants, requires the continued righteousness of the couple to remain in effect after this life. If only one remains righteous that person is promised a righteous eternal companion in eternity.