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?
- FAQ | Mormon.org
What do Mormons believe happens to us after we die? What do Mormons believe about life after death?
Jesus, The First To Be Resurrected
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
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
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.
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.