Latter-Day Saints (Mormon) Funeral Traditions

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For members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), also known as Mormons, the spirit is divine and eternal. The spirit, meaning your individuality and character, existed both before you were born and after your death. In this way, Mormons see existence as a three-act play, with the pre-mortal phase, the time on earth and a post-mortal phase.  

Mormons believe in the power of God, immortality, and resurrection—and that all three are required to live a fulfilled life, according to “Distinctions in the Mormon Approach to Death and Dying,” published by Brigham Young University. Because of these beliefs, Mormon funerals are not overly somber or filled with despair. As the paper explains: “When death comes at a ripe climax of a life well lived, there is a noticeable absence of agony, a fervent sense of culmination, and even, at times, rejoicing.”

What happens at a Latter-Day Saints (Mormon) funeral

Depending on the family, they may host a viewing of the body before the funeral for close family members. After the viewing, the bishop may offer the gathered family a prayer. The casket will then be closed, which is often an important ceremonial act. The patriarch of the family will typically give a family prayer, offering a farewell and a blessing to the deceased. This ceremonial prayer is often limited to close family, allowing them to openly express their grief.

The coffin will then be moved into the chapel where the funeral will be held. After the casket is brought into the chapel, the family enters and sits in the front rows. Then the bishop will lead the group in an opening hymn and prayer.

When a bishop conducts a funeral service, it’s considered both a religious service and a church meeting. This means it will feature sermons focused on the gospel and the plan of salvation. Because Mormons believe that death is merely a journey to a new home in heaven, the funeral service will be at time a joyous celebration of life. Speakers may happy share stories or tributes about their loved one, and laughter isn’t verboten. The service will also feature hymns, in which the congregation joins in to sing, and other musical selections.

Following the service, the coffin will be moved to the gravesite. The grave will often be dedicated by a holder of the Melchizedek Priesthood, a revered priesthood within the religion. That dedication will include the consecration of the burial plot as the final resting place of the deceased, a prayer that the place will be protected, and a request for the Lord to comfort the family, the church says.

Traditionally, friends and family of the deceased will gather for a meal following the funeral and graveside service. Women who are members of the Mormon Relief Society typically organize and prepare this luncheon. A typical menu might include a meat dish (often ham), a dish called funeral potatoes (a casserole made with hash brown potatoes, cream and cheese), Jell-O salads, and desserts.

Planning an LDS funeral

After a death, family members contact their bishop or other leaders in their LDS ward, or local congregation. They will help the family make the funeral arrangements. A funeral is typically held within a week of death.

The family will work with the bishop to plan the funeral service, including musical choices. If the funeral director isn’t familiar with Mormon customs, the bishop may guide them in following religious traditions. In some cases, the church may organize a funeral committee to help with the details, from planning the program to dressing the deceased, LeadingLDS.org notes. They may also be tasked with helping to protect the home of the deceased from theft or break-ins, after the funeral is announced in the local newspaper.

Because the Relief Society usually organizes, cooks, and serves the luncheon, that responsibility doesn’t fall to the family of the deceased. And unlike other religious traditions, there is no set period of mourning following a death. Instead, family and friends take comfort in their faith. As LDS Elder Joseph Wirthlin has said: “The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way.”

Mormon burial clothing

Family and church members will often outfit the deceased in the burial garment, with women dressing women and men dressing men. In addition to family, the men may be members of the priesthood, and the women may be members of the Relief Society.

Mormons have a ceremonial connection to traditional garments. At a certain point in their lives, members of the church may undergo a symbolic ritual called endowment. This typically takes place before they go on a mission trip, or before they are to be married in the temple. As part of this ceremony, Mormons receive a temple garment, which they then wear under their clothing.

Typical burial attire for endowed female members of the church includes the temple garments, a long-sleeved white dress or blouse and skirt, along with a white slip, white stockings and shoes. Similarly, endowed men will wear their temple garments, a long-sleeved shirt, tie, pants, socks and shoes—all in white. They may also wear a white suit coat.

Frequently asked questions

Can Mormons be cremated?

While the church doesn’t encourage cremation, it does not strictly prohibit it. If the body of an endowed member of the church is cremated, the body should be dressed in temple garments, if possible.

Can Mormons be embalmed?

Yes, Mormons can be embalmed if it’s customary in the deceased person’s community. As a result, it’s common for American Mormons to embalm their loved ones, but it’s not supported nor particularly prohibited by LDS doctrine, according to Brigham Young University’s Religious Studies Center.

Can Mormon funeral services be recorded?

No, it’s prohibited to video record or broadcast the funeral online, according to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Do Mormons believe in organ donation?

Yes, the church believes that “the donation of organs and tissues is a selfless act that often results in great benefit to individuals with medical conditions.”

What is the dress code for a Mormon funeral?

It’s customary to wear conservative, formal clothing to a Mormon funeral. For men, this may be a white shirt and tie, while women will often wear a dress or skirt with a modest top. The shoulders should be covered, as well as the legs at least to the knees. Black clothing isn’t necessary, though it is acceptable. Avoid jewelry that features crosses or crucifixes, according to HealGrief.org.

Should you send flowers?

Yes, it’s considered appropriate to send flowers to the family of the deceased.

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