What's a Mormon (Latter-Day Saints) Funeral Like?

Updated

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Latter-Day Saints (LDS), or Mormons, believe that the soul separates from the body in death. The belief is that the soul is immediately judged once a person passes and will be judged once more when the Resurrection occurs. A lot of care and attention is given to what happens during the days after a person dies — this includes the funeral procession.  

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Rituals and traditions are all part of how Mormons view death as well as how they mourn the loss of their loved ones. Understanding more about Mormons’ death rituals may help you plan your funeral or know what to expect when you attend a Mormon funeral. 

COVID-19 tip: If you're planning a virtual Mormon funeral using a service like GatheringUs, you can still adapt many of these traditions, like wakes, prayers, and traditional music, to include your online guests. Brainstorm with your funeral director, event planner, or religious leader to help you figure out the logistics or any limitations.

How Mormons View Death and Dying

Mormons believe that if you lived a good life as a good person, you are welcomed into paradise. In contrast, if you lived a wicked life, then you are subject to a spirit prison where you will live in fear of the wrath of God.

Mormons believe in repentance and living a righteous life to prepare for death. 

ยป MORE: How do you host a virtual or hybrid funeral? Start here

 

What Happens During a Mormon Funeral

The body of the deceased is buried within seven days following death. During this time, a wake (or viewing) is scheduled and funeral processions are planned. The Women's Relief Society prepares a meal for mourners after the funeral and burial service, which allows them to gather and celebrate their loved one and mourn his or her passing.

Traditional comfort foods such as ham, mashed potatoes, casseroles, and desserts are typically on the menu. 

Wake

The body is often viewed before the ceremony by family and friends one final time. Once viewing is complete, the family may ask the bishop to pray for the family before closing the casket for the final time. 

Where it’s held

A traditional LDS funeral may be held at a Mormon funeral home, church, or graveside. The deceased typically have this arranged before death. 

Who attends 

Family, friends, and other close associates may attend a Mormon funeral. You do not have to be Mormon to attend the funeral — but you should not participate in the burial if you’re not invited by the family. In most cases, only family members are present at a graveside burial. However, there are instances where allowances are made for close friends. 

Typical ceremony agenda

The ward bishop typically leads the funeral ceremony. It’s not uncommon for this to be the only person who speaks during the entire funeral. Other men may also speak about the deceased or recall stories of his or her life.

Prayers and many hymns are sung during this time. Many LDS funerals see the funeral as a teaching moment for non-believers, so some attention is given to spread the LDS message during the funeral proceedings. 

The graveside ceremony has a particular structure:

  • A Melchizedek priesthood holder (or high priest) dedicates the grave. The first part of the process addresses God. 
  • From there, the Melchizedek priesthood holder states his authority, which indicates he has the proper credentials to oversee the funeral. 
  • The plot is dedicated as the final resting place of the deceased with a final prayer that asks that the plot is protected until the Resurrection. The prayer may also ask for protection for the family. All Mormon funerals end with “the name of Jesus Christ.” 

Typically, the Melchizedek will stay at the graveside until the casket is fully covered. The family may or may not stay during this time. Typically, friends and colleagues will disperse and give the family private time and space to mourn the loss of their loved one. 

Role of prayers and songs

Popular funeral songs and prayers are a vital part of an LDS funeral. However, there is not a lot of required structure here. Some timeless songs are popular choices, such as "You'll Never Walk Alone" or "The Lord's Prayer."

Many people choose which songs will be played during their funeral. Prayers may be decided by the bishop based on the message he wants to include as part of the service. 

Duration of the ceremony

The ceremony usually lasts around an hour, but may go on a little longer if needed. Mormon funerals are not rushed and carefully include appropriate rituals associated with the faith. 

Mormon Funeral Etiquette

Mormon funerals are generally a blend between a somber event and a celebration of life. It’s not uncommon for people to cry or laugh during the funeral.

Storytelling and moments of silent reflection and remembrance are all customary and are not clearly defined by a set of rules or obligations. Instead, family and friends of the deceased will often set the tone for the funeral procession. 

What to wear

Like typical funeral attire, Mormons wear conservative clothing to a funeral — it’s a critical part of the faith, so it only makes sense that individuals dress similarly during funeral proceedings. It’s not acceptable to wear the cross or crucifix. 

Specifically, men typically wear a white shirt and tie, but may also wear a suit if they have one. Women should wear dresses or skirts that reach the knees and shoulders should be covered at all times.

Children may wear nicer clothing such as khakis and polo shirts for boys and conservative dresses and skirts for girls. You may wear black to a Mormon funeral but it’s not a common occurrence.

How to behave

Naturally, it’s a good idea to avoid being boisterous or obnoxious during an LDS funeral but you’re free to laugh, talk, and at some moments, even joke. This occasion is a celebration of life, and it is not uncommon for some Mormon funerals to include storytelling or funny instances involving the deceased.

Take your cues from the family — how are the family members behaving and grieving? Are they more somber and quiet? That usually determines the mood of the entire funeral. Many people indicate that it’s best to ask if you are unsure of what you should do during the funeral. 

Bring gifts, money, or other presents

You’re not required to bring gifts, money, or other presents to an LDS funeral. However, if you feel obliged to bring a small gift, a sympathy card and flowers in a vase are acceptable items to bring. It is also fairly typical for people to bring food to the family’s home in the initial days of mourning. 

Mormon Post-Funeral Rituals

Mormons aren't as restricted by post-funeral rituals as other faiths. They don't put a time limit on their grief, nor do they follow a strict process for remembering the deceased. This fluid approach allows individuals to grieve and remember as they choose. 

Cremation and burial

Cremation is allowed, but burial is preferred. The decision is prayed for by the individual as well as the family. It should also be noted that organ donation is an acceptable option for those who choose to do so. 

Remember and honor the dead

Mormons do not set a specific time for mourning the death of a loved one. However, the week between death and the funeral is the most intense mourning period. Typically, this is when families take in visitors and may take time off work or school to grieve.

Cemeteries are important to Mormons — they’re a record of their family and religion. Graves are often visited during death anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, and other important dates. 

Mormon Death Rituals and Funerals 

Mormon funerals have some customs and rituals, but above all, the faith places significant importance on the celebration of life. Mormon funerals allow people the opportunity to remember their loved ones and mourn their passing in a way that is most appropriate for their grief process.

There may be slight changes based on the location and preferences of the deceased but the funeral procession is fairly traditional with a few key components that remain constant for all Mormon funerals. 


Sources

  1. Dredge, Paul C. “What is a Funeral? Korean, American-Mormon, and Jewish Rites Compared.” Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1978, rsc.byu.edu/archived/deity-and-death/1-what-s-funeral-korean-american-mormon-and-jewish-rites-compared
  2. Stapley, Jonathan A. “Last Rites and Dynamics of Mormon Liturgy.” BYU Studies Quarterly Vol. 50: Iss.2, Article 5, 2011, scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4324&context=byusq
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