A rather sad situation occurred about a year ago that I wanted to discuss. I have changed the names of the individuals involved for the sake of anonymity.
Rachel had been married in the temple to a wonderful return missionary (whom I will call John) just before her 20th birthday. They loved each other very much and we were all deeply saddened when John passed away a few months later. He had been hit by a drunk driver while waiting at a bus stop. They had no children.
Two years later Rachel starting dating again and fell in love with another wonderful return missionary whom I will call Dave. After dating for a while Dave asked Rachel to marry him. Rachel’s Bishop was new and asked me to help with the situation. I decided that this would be a good training opportunity for the new Bishop and agreed to meet with the couple and the Bishop to go over some of the doctrines and eternal consequences in question.
After the normal pleasantries we turned to the manual of instructions (Book 1 for Stake Presidents and Bishops) and read from section 3.6.1 under the heading Sealing of Living Members after a Spouse's Death. Here it clearly states that a living woman may be sealed to only one man. It goes on to state; “A woman whose husband dies can remarry but can not be sealed for time and eternity to another.”
I wanted to make it clear to the couple that John, her first husband would be with her in the next life (and not Dave).
I could see that Dave was getting a little upset so I asked Rachel if we could meet with him alone for a few minutes. When Rachel left the room I shared section 3.6.2 of the manual which says that “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”. I wanted Dave to understand that all their future children will in fact be sealed to John (and Rachel) who will have these children for eternity. Dave would basically be raising children for John the first husband and would enjoy no eternal increase of his own.
Dave asked if he then would remain separate and single in the eternities which is an excellent question and one that I do not have an answer to. We continued reading however in section 3.6.2 where it clarifies that “Members who have concerns about the eternal nature of such relationships can find peace in the knowledge that Heavenly Father is loving and just. He will ensure that eternal family relationships will be fair and right for all who keep their covenants.”
Dave asked me what I thought he should do. Should I marry her, he asked. I knew Dave to be a very capable and intelligent young man with lots of leadership potential in the church.
I explained to him that it is always useful to see what the top leaders of the church do in these situations. I always look to them as an example of what I should do. In many cases an apostle after the death of his wife will remarry. One of the main purposes of the marriage is to increase the apostles’ eternal family and his ability for eternal increase in the next life. This can only be done by marrying a sister who has not previously been sealed/married. I gave him two examples from our current living apostles.
Dallin H Oak’s wife June died in 1998. He then married Kristen Meredith McMain in the year 2000 who had never been previously married. This way Elder Oaks will have two wives and more potential for bearing spirit children in the next life.
We also have the example of Russel M Nelson whose wife Dantzel died unexpectedly in 2005. On April 6, 2006 Elder Nelson married Wendy L. Watson who again had never been married.
I counseled Dave to seriously weigh his options before making a final decision, but that I would not counsel him one way or another. After many weeks of prayer and fasting he decided to not go ahead with the marriage and he broke off the engagement. Less than a month later he met someone and ended up marrying her instead. I understand he and his new bride are doing very well and are expecting their first child.