I've been reading Carol Lynn Pearson's The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy. Required reading for Mormons, in my humble opinion. I am not finished with it yet, but it is a rich and thought-provoking book and I feel impelled to share some thoughts in response to what I've read so far.
My understanding of the sealing ordinance has always been conditioned by the principles taught in Doctrine & Covenants, section 121. That section says that a man who abuses his priesthood has no priesthood. Amen to it.
So I have always understood that a man who abuses his wife in any way, whether it be verbal, emotional, or physical; whether it be through infidelity or neglect; has automatically annulled his sealing to that woman. The notion that a man who would do such things could be sealed to his wife in any way in the next life, just because of an ordinance, is a vile doctrine, a doctrine of devils.
If I got that from anybody, it was from my dad. My mother passed away last November. My dad loved my mother with great faithfulness and tenderness. My dad knows that death is not the end, and that he can be reunited with the great love of his life once he too crosses over the veil. His only fear since her death has been that he might in any way be unable to be reunited with her because he was unworthy of her.
My dad taught me to see a temple sealing like any other covenant. It is only in force as long as we keep up our end of it. And to be honest I cannot find anything in scripture to contradict that idea. There is much in scripture to contradict the contrary notion, that a sealing could be in force in the next life regardless of the choices we make in this life.
I have always known that it was very difficult to get a sealing annulled. I always believed this to be a reflection of Jesus' teaching about divorce, namely that what God has united man cannot put asunder. The way I worked this out in my mind was that any couple that becomes sealed is essentially committing before God and for eternity to make this particular relationship work. It's one reason that I, as I came to a self-understanding of myself as gay, came to recognize that this was not for me with a woman.
What I find appalling is the notion that a man could divorce his wife for any reason, including in situations where he had been abusive or unfaithful, and then be sealed to another woman, and believe that he will own both in the next life. Regardless of what the church practices or preaches in this regard, I believe that a man who believes such a thing is in for a rude awakening on That Great Morn.
And as far as I am concerned, any woman who is treated in such a manner has been released from her vows to that man, and is free to find someone worthy of her and, if she so desires, should be able to be sealed to that someone worthy. How could anything else comport with the justice and the goodness of God?