In the case of several marriages and children of more than one marriage…who are the children sealed to? Do they go with the mother?
You initially asked a simple, direct question, which deserves a simple, direct answer. Unfortunately, it’s a bit more complicated than what you appear to think, so it’s going to take me more than just a single sentence to answer you. But I think three should be enough. I’ll give examples, too.
Children are not sealed to their mother or their father individually. Rather, they are sealed to their parents as a couple. That is to say, children are sealed within the bonds of their parents’ marital covenant.
So here are some examples (which I have made up and which are not based on any specific individuals):
ALAN AND BETH
Alan and Beth get married by a justice of the peace. Beth gives birth to Charlie, but Charlie is not sealed to his parents. He can’t be; his parents have no eternal covenant within which he might have been born.
Later, Alan and Beth kneel across the temple altar from each other and are sealed in eternal marriage. In the following years, Beth then gives birth to Danielle, Esther, and Fred. The three younger children are all sealed to Alan and Beth, because they all were born in the covenant of Alan and Beth’s eternal marriage sealing. Note that their oldest son Charlie is still not sealed to his parents; he was not born within their covenant, because they had not made that covenant at the time he was born.
Alan and Beth bring Charlie to the temple and again kneel across the altar from each other. They join hands with each other and with Charlie, who is then sealed to them as if he had been born in their covenant. At this point, Charlie is sealed to his parents, exactly as if he had been born in their covenant as his siblings were. (In reality, baby Charlie would almost certainly have been sealed to his parents at the time they were sealed in marriage to each other, not years later after his siblings had been born. But hey, it’s an illustrative example.)
A few years later, Beth and Alan decide to adopt little Giselle. At this point, Giselle is not sealed to Beth or Alan (or anyone else). But as with Charlie, Alan and Beth take Giselle to the temple, where she is sealed to them within their marital covenant. Now Giselle is sealed to her adoptive parents, exactly as if she had been born to them within their marital covenant.
THE SAGA OF MARIA
Now consider Henry and Ina. They marry in the temple and are sealed to each other as husband and wife. They welcome their first child, Julius, who of course is born in their covenant and thus sealed to them. Sadly, Henry dies of a tragic medical complication, leaving his widow and orphaned son.
A few years later, Ina marries Kevin, himself a Latter-day Saint widower with a daughter, Lena. Lena was born within her parents’ marital covenant, and so is sealed to them and not within Ina’s covenant. Ina and Kevin marry for time, but since each is already sealed to his or her first spouse, they are not sealed to each other. Their combined children, Julius and Lena, are each born in the covenant and, therefore, each sealed to their respective parents.
A year later, Kevin and Ina welcome their newborn daughter Maria into their family. But Maria’s parents, Kevin and Ina, are not sealed to each other. Each is sealed to a deceased spouse. So is Maria born in the covenant? If so, to whom?
The answer is yes, Maria is born in the covenant. Maria’s mother Ina is sealed to a man (Henry), and that sealing is intact. Therefore, since Maria’s mother is actively sealed to a man, Maria herself is born within her mother’s covenant. Maria has no need of being sealed to her parents; she is already born in the covenant.
CHILDREN ARE SEALED WITHIN THEIR PARENTS’ ETERNAL MARITAL COVENANT
As I hope I’ve made clear, children are not sealed to their mother and their father individually. Children are “sealed to their parents” in the sense that they are born within their parents’ eternal marital covenant. For those children who are not actually born within an eternal marital covenant—which is the case with the overwhelming majority of God’s children who have ever lived upon the earth—such children (even as adults) can receive a temple ordinance which grants them full admission into the ranks of those so born, with access to all of the rights and blessings that those born in the covenant of an eternal marriage can receive. Indeed, God is no respecter of persons.
In the economy of God, it is the sealing status of the mother that determines whether the child is born in the covenant or not. God has divinely called and empowered women to be mothers, creators with God himself of human life, so it is the mother’s status that determines the child’s status.
You may wonder how this doctrine came about. My own understanding is that this was an important question in the early decades of Church history, when plural marriage was practiced among the Saints. There were men who felt that so long as they had been sealed to a woman, then all of their children by any other woman or women would be born within that covenant. The Church leaders made it clear that such was not the case. It was the mother’s sealing status, not the father’s, that determined whether a child had been born in the covenant. A phrase I used to hear was The sealing follows the mother; I believe this is the historical root of that saying.
YOU CANNOT BE SEALED TO AN UNMARRIED PARENT
Many times in the past few decades, I have heard the plaintive cry of an unmarried mother, lamenting, “Why can’t my children be sealed just to me?” The question betrays a deep misunderstanding of what it means to be sealed to a parent. As I have emphasized several times, a child is not sealed to individual parents. The sealing between parent and child exists as a consequence of the sealing between husband and wife. I am sealed to my own father and mother because my father and mother were sealed to each other. I was born within that marital covenant of sealing between my parents; thus I was born in the covenant. It is not possible to be born or sealed within a marital covenant involving only one parent, because no such covenant exists. The marital covenant always, in all cases and without exception, involves one man and one women being made one flesh before God. If you keep this in mind, I think other questions about sealing will become clear.
To whom can/should you and your children be sealed? That’s not a question I can answer. If you are worthy, you may be sealed to any worthy man who agrees to be sealed to you. This may be something you want to discuss with a trusted friend or advisor, such as your Relief Society president, ministering sister, or ministering companion. I wish you success in your journey.