What Is So Different About A Mormon Funeral

Death of A Prophet

With the news of the death of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints, Gordon B. Hinckley, many may be wondering what the protocol for the funeral service of a prophet of God will be like.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported, "Hinckley's viewing and burial rites will be no different than any other temple-going Mormon. His body will have no special garb signifying his role as ‘prophet, seer and revelator.' Nor will his funeral Saturday have any extra rituals. It will, for the most part, be the same folksy affair common for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

So, what is a common funeral for the members of the LDS Church?

Jesus, The First To Be Resurrected

He lives, and we may live again.
He lives, and we may live again.

Parable of Immortality by Henry Van Dyke

I am standing by the seashore.

A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze

and starts for the blue ocean.

She is an object of beauty and strength,

and I stand and watch

until at last she hangs like a peck of white cloud

just where the sun and sky come down to mingle with each other.

Then someone at my side says, 'There she goes!

Gone where? Gone from my sight - that is all.

She is just as large in mast and hull and spar

as she was when she left my side

and just as able to bear her load of living freight

to the places of destination.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her.

And just at the moment when someone at my side says,

'There she goes! ' ,

there are other eyes watching her coming,

and other voices ready to take up the glad shout :

'Here she comes!'

Life After Death

To understand the proceedings of a LDS funeral, one must be familiar with their beliefs on death and a post-mortal existence.

In the "Basic Beliefs" section of the website, Mormon.org it gives a brief but concise, overview of this concept:

From an earthly perspective, physical death may seem like an end, though it is really a step forward in Heavenly Father's plan. At the time of physical death, your spirit will leave your body and go to the spirit world, where you will continue to learn and progress. In the spirit world, your memories of this life and the knowledge you have gained on Earth will remain with you.

Death will not change your personality or your desire for good or evil. If you choose to follow Jesus Christ during your life on Earth, you will be at peace in the spirit world. Those who choose not to follow Christ and do not repent will be unhappy.

Heavenly Father knew that many of His children would never have an opportunity to learn about Jesus Christ during their lives and that others would choose not to follow Him. Because He loves His children and is just, God provided a way for those in the spirit world to learn about His plan, have faith in Jesus Christ, and repent. Those who choose to accept and follow Jesus Christ will have peace and rest.

Sometime after your death, your spirit and your body will be reunited-never to be separated again. This reuniting is called resurrection, and it was made possible by the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. You will remain in the spirit world until

 

Celebration of Life

Because of this belief in a life after death, the LDS funeral could be better considered a "celebration of life." It is simply commemorating an event, called death that helps you continue on in your path of eternal progression.

 

Viewing and Prayer

The usual starting procedure of the whole affair, regarding the funeral, would begin with a "viewing" and "family prayer." A viewing would be limited to family or close personal friends, but could be open to anyone who wishes to pay their respects. This is commonly done at the Mortuary or Funeral Home previous to the day of the actual funeral ceremony. It is not uncommon to hold viewings just prior to the service at the church in another room, where family is gathered and last respects are paid. It is usually an open casket occasion at this point.

Following the viewing, the family is gathered in a ceremonial type fashion, a family prayer is offered, and a final closing of the casket is preformed. Typically the person is buried in all white clothing, signifying purity. If a person has had the opportunity of receiving the blessings offered in the LDS Temple, they will be buried in the clothing worn there also.

Typical Program for A Funeral

Old funeral program.
Old funeral program.

The Actual Service

The deceased is then rolled into the chapel which is located inside the church, where the guests have already been seated, and the family follows behind. At this point, the guests rise to show respect to the dead, and the family.

The service begins and ends with a prayer, and commonly a hymn (or two) is sung also. The procedure in between the prayer in left entirely up to the decision of the family. The most typical ceremony includes eulogies (one or more), reminiscences (by either family or friends), possibly a special musical number, and a sermon (usually given by one of the presiding officers of the church, but it can be anyone.) As the Salt Lake Tribune describes the funeral it is, "light on ceremony and heavy on story-telling." The actual service itself can take anywhere from one to three hours typically, depending on how long winded the speakers are. In some occasions, but not typically, people are asked if they would like to add any comments.

At The Cemetery

Flowers are given out of respect.
Flowers are given out of respect.

Dedication of the Grave

At the close of the service, the audience may or may not be invited to attend the ceremony at the actual gravesite itself. In the case of someone who is famous or would draw a large crowd, it may just be left for the family. At the gravesite, a small service is rendered as a Melchizedek Priesthood holder, who has the authority to act in the name of God, offers a "Dedication" of the grave. This is done in a specific outlined manner as follows:

  • 1. Addresses Heavenly Father.
  • 2. States that he is acting by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood.
  • 3. Dedicates and consecrates the burial plot as the resting place for the body of the deceased.
  • 4. (Where appropriate) prays that the place may be hallowed and protected until the Resurrection.
  • 5. Asks the Lord to comfort the family and expresses thoughts as the Spirit directs.
  • 6. Closes in the name of Jesus Christ.

Funeral Attire

Out of respect for the sanctity of the occasion, most who attend a Mormon funeral are clothed in "Sunday" attire. Men typically wear suits, and women dresses, however, a dress code is not required.

After The Service, The Luncheon

After the ceremony itself, the family is usually gathered together with close friends and a meal is prepared by the "Relief Society", which is the woman's organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. There a typical meal of ham or turkey, funeral potatoes, Jell-O salad, rolls, and dessert is provided. This is a whole peculiar party in itself, steeped in tradition. (Perhaps in my next HUB, I will provide you with the secret Funeral Potatoes Recipe.)

Overall it is a happy occasion where many memories of the deceased are shared and family bonds are rekindled, somewhat similar to that of a family reunion, only without the games.

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Comments 30 comments

Hornet teach profile image

Hornet teach 8 years ago from San Diego

Some of the most hopeful, uplifting thoughts have been shared at LDS funerals I have attended. I always hear comments about how it isn't as sad an occasion as many people might expect. The knowledge of looking forward to being reunited with these loved ones is powerful. I definitely view it as more of a "Celebration of Life" than a way to say good-bye. Nothing takes away the feeling of loss, but knowing this helps with healing.


In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 8 years ago from California Author

Hornet teach

I agree that some of the most positive things have been shared at these wonderful services. A belief in a life after death does give one a hope that is powerful indeed. Thanks for the visit.


jnate profile image

jnate 8 years ago from Utah

You have done very well in describing the mormon funerals that I have attended. I agree they tend to be uplifting and positive, even though there is no doubt that the person will be missed. Because we like to share stories and experiences about our loved ones it is easy to learn new things. Recently, at my Uncle's funeral, we were blessed to hear from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. I knew that Elder Holland had grown up and gone to school with my mother's family, but even my mother had no idea what an influence my uncle had on Elder Holland's teenage years until we heard what he had to say.


In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 8 years ago from California Author

jnate

Thank you for your visit to my Hub. I agree that most Mormon funerals are positive and that is really a wonderful thing for the family left behind.


Bocadike 8 years ago

LDS funerals are definitely a celebration of life, and leaves those in attendance with a feeling of peace!


In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 8 years ago from California Author

Bocadike

I couldn't agree with you more. Thank you for your comments.


briskar 8 years ago

I think this is really interesting topic. You really did your job well, lots of great content.

"LDS funerals are definitely a celebration of life" I agree

I've got some content on similar topic here: http://hubpages.com/misc/funeralreadings


In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 8 years ago from California Author

Briskar,

Thanks for your compliments to the Hub.


ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 8 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Curious as to how different it is from the way we conduct our funerals. I guess it matters a lot on the perspective of life and death. If both could be a celebration of life, indeed it becomes a positive thing. Diana, when I was a little girl, I told Father God I have 3 requests. One of this is that when I die, he would be there waiting for me. I can still remember that lil prayer today. That comforts me lot! :)


In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 8 years ago from California Author

Michelle,

Are they conducted the same? I do believe your perspective on life and death most certainly makes a difference. I have been to some funerals that are not really very positive at all. In fact I have left many just down right depressed with their understanding. Life is to be celebrated, and death is just a continuation of life, thus the reason for celebration. Curiosity has gotten the best of me, I would wonder what the other two requests were. lol Keep smiling!


ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 8 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

I believe the priest conducting the affair would have a major role in making it a positive one. :) When my grandma and grandpa died (at different times) I was asked to do the eulogy. I remember focusing not on their death but rather the memories we have of each other and that one day, we will be together again. :) Of course, it was done amidst my tears falling. So I made the people cry too. Ooops.

Ok Diana, I don't mind sharing my 2 other requests. :) That I would always have a child like heart (never to be cynical but rather to have wonder and awe even when I grow old) and that if ever I would in any time in my life stray from Him, that He would always find a way to bring me back.

And He has honored both of this requests so far. God is good. And of course, the meeting Him when I die, I will only know when it's my time to go HOme. Hahaha


In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 8 years ago from California Author

Michelle,

I am sure the third will be guaranteed if you always remember the first two. I think that giving a Eulogy is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the person and the life they have lived thus far. I too have been priviledged to give a few Eulogies, and they have always been a wonderful experience...tears and all. It sounds as if we have similar beliefs and ideas when it comes to funerals. Have a great day.


Lynne 8 years ago

I'm most interested in the secret Funeral Potatoes recipe. :)


In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 8 years ago from California Author

Lynne,

The link to those secret potatoes is http://hubpages.com/food/A-Tradition--Mormon-Funer...

Hope you enjoy them!

I guess they are not so secret now! lol


nwunderlich profile image

nwunderlich 8 years ago from Sacramento

I love your description. I also like that it portrays Mormons in a positive light. It is hard to find actual information on Mormons, other than ex-Mormons hating on the Church for various reasons.

I have never been to a Mormon funeral, but expect to attend at least one in the near future. It is nice to know what is expected and everything.

You are correct - they are supposed to be a celebration of life.

Having attended other funeral services (for a variety of reasons) I can tell you, some are not celebrations. However, what better way to view the death of a loved one or friend than as a celebration of their life, and their life that will continue in Heaven/The Here-After.

Great Post!


In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 8 years ago from California Author

nwunderlich,

Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment. First of all you are right, there are far too many "ex-Mormons hating on the church" in the public eye and not enough active practicing Mormons who "shed light" in a positive way than there should be. This is one reason I sought to inform. When you really think about it, a Mormon funeral just simply isn't that different in many ways than other Christian funerals. I have been to many Christian funerals where a celebration of life is portrayed and not the dismal onslaught of death emphasized. Unfortunately I have been to some Christian funerals that are just the opposite too. The Mormon view of a life after death, and eternal progression, makes death simply another part of life. It is sort of like moving to a different location to keep living, but just not in the same house. I hope that this has helped in creating an understanding of similarities and not differences. Thanks for your insightful comment.


Beverley  8 years ago

Can you tell me whether a Melchizedek holder can dedicate and consegrate grave's of non-members / in-active members / excommunicated members ??


In The Doghouse profile image

In The Doghouse 8 years ago from California Author

Beverly,

I believe that the dedication of a grave can be done by a Melchizedek priesthood holder for anyone, regardless of circumstances. Hope that helps!


Beverly 8 years ago

Why does the grave have to be dedicated by a Melchizeded priesthood holder.? Why can't the pastor/bishop or any family member dedicate the grave?

Thanks

Wanda


ranger 7 years ago

Beverly, it is a priesthood ordinance. We have special instructions on that as with other ordinances.

Prayers can in official church meetings can be given by a member. Personal and family prayers can be pronounced by anyone - in family settings the head of the family calls on a person to say the prayer, regardless of the office in church those in presence might have.


goldenpath profile image

goldenpath 7 years ago from Shenandoah, Iowa, USA

While in the Bishopric of the Shenandoah Ward of the Council Bluffs Iowa Stake I have had several opportunities to preside and officiate in funerals. To me it is one of the most rewarding duties to fulfill. We help to put the final touch of power and authority to their sojourn in this life. Great hub!


Grandpa 6 years ago

My Bride was able to dress her mother and also my mother when they passed. It was the one last loving thing that she was able to do for each of them and helped her to get through grieving.

A Priesthood holder, I was able to dedicate the graves in each case.

Typically a Priesthood holder will stand guard until the grave has been closed if closing is not a part of the graveside service.


angee 6 years ago

hi my uncle just passed on monday and his service is on saturday at a LDS in grandrapids my family is kind of nervous with my uncle being african american, this is something new to us and I was asked to look up all the info I can so that I could relay it to family in reguards of what to expect.And after reading this I can say that I have nothing but good things to tell my family and I am sure that is why my uncle was member of LDS he loved his church and they loved him...Thank you LDS of Grandrapids, MI..Angee


Kathy 6 years ago

I am an LDS convert and the rest of my family are Catholics. As I've gotten older I've come to see my death as just another part of my life and my burial as if I were moving to a new house for awhile where I can continue to work and progress in the spirit world and keep my faith in the Kingdom of our Heavenly Father strong and active. Finally, the best beginning of all, our Resurrection, when our spirits are reunited with our perfected bodies and that part of my life goes on forever and ever, living with my family, my heavenly family and my Heavenly Father, in a burst of happiness and love unlike anything we can imagine. That is why my funeral will be a happy step forward and I'll bet we can have as many of those "funeral" potatoes as we want in our afterlife!


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 6 years ago from Nashville Tn.

Thank you for this information. Wonderful! Great hub.


S.Utah 08 6 years ago

The Mormon funeral I went to evryone balled their eyes out the entire service. It was depressing


Joshe2000 5 years ago

Most LDS/Mormon (a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) funerals are positive and uplifting. It is indeed a celebration of life and a time to reflect on the many wonderful memories shared with the beloved loved one. I always enjoy the Spirit of the Lord felt during these services.


Bernhard Lundberg 5 years ago

I am not Morman, but am interested since my daughter in law is. I want to be close to her and the rest of her family. Thank you for all the useful information.


james ed 5 years ago

I grew up in the Prostant faith and joined the Lds church at age 32. I had a lot of questions answered about where I came from, what my purpose of my life while here on earth and where our spirits go after death.Before I joined the LDS Church I belived you went to heaven or hell. I couldnot see many going to heaven. Now I have a postive outlook on life after death. That is why we need present day revelation from God to answer these questions. Just as it was when Jesus was on earth.


truthie 16 months ago

Mormon funerals are not necessarily uplifting or even about the deceased. They are usually a chance to preach the gospel in hopes to gather more to the flock. And if you dont believe in an afterlife your perspective will be quickly dismissed.

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