First Presidency announces new guidelines for Church leaders who perform civil marriages

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has revised the conditions in which Church officers may perform civil marriages between a man and a woman.

Effective immediately, mission presidents, stake presidents, district presidents, bishops and branch presidents may officiate civil marriage only in the following circumstances: 

  • At least one of the couple — either the bride or groom — is a member of the Church.
  • Either the bride’s or the groom’s membership record is assigned to the unit over which the Church officer presides.
  • The Church officer is legally authorized to perform a civil marriage in the jurisdiction where the marriage will take place. Not all jurisdictions recognize civil marriages performed by local leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The letter, sent Wednesday, June 30, 2021, was signed by President Russell M. Nelson, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring.

Previously, Church policy allowed Church officials — when permitted by local law — to perform civil marriage for those who were not Latter-day Saints, according to the Church’s handbook of instructions. 

The policy changes do not impact marriages that can be performed by Latter-day Saint chaplains, as directed by the handbook.

It is the second First Presidency announcement in five weeks dealing with marriage. A May 24, 2021, letter announced that time-only marriages in the temple will no longer be performed.

“Because of the eternal nature of the temple and the work that takes place there, it has been decided that time-only marriages in the temple will no longer be performed,” the May 24 letter stated. “In the case where a couple desires to be married civilly and where a sealing is not contemplated or possible, the couple is encouraged to invite their bishop or stake president — where it is legal — to officiate at the marriage ceremony.”

Two years ago, the First Presidency discontinued a policy requiring Latter-day Saint couples who marry civilly to wait one year before being married or sealed in the temple. The change meant a man and a woman who had been married civilly could be sealed in the temple anytime after receiving temple recommends for the sealing ordinance, according to the May 6, 2019, letter.