Mormon Funerals

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In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church—funerals are sacred. It is a time when families, friends and congregations (called wards) assemble to honor the life and contributions of a loved one who has died. In The Church of Jesus Christ, funerals function under the direction of the priesthood—which is the power that God gives to man to act in all things for the salvation of His children. As such, funerals are seen as church meetings, and are planned accordingly. Most are held either in a funeral home chapel or the chapel at the church building. [1]

Mormon Funeral

Elder Boyd K. Packer, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—with the First Presidency, the governing body of The Church of Jesus Christ—said:

One of the most solemn and sacred meetings of the Church is the funeral for a departed member. It is a time of caring and support when families gather in a spirit of tender regard for one another. It is a time to soberly contemplate doctrines of the gospel and the purposes for the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. [1]

The Doors of Death Are Part of Life

In The Church of Jesus Christ, death is a time to reflect on the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the purpose of life. Modern and ancient prophets and apostles teach that death is a part of life. Elder Russell M. Nelson, an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, said:

Life does not begin with birth, nor does it end with death. Prior to our birth, we dwelled as spirit children with our Father in Heaven. There we eagerly anticipated the possibility of coming to earth and obtaining a physical body. Knowingly we wanted the risks of mortality, which would allow the exercise of agency and accountability. “This life [was to become] a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God.” (Alma 12:24.) But we regarded the returning home as the best part of that long-awaited trip, just as we do now. Before embarking on any journey, we like to have some assurance of a round-trip ticket. Returning from earth to life in our heavenly home requires passage through—and not around—the doors of death. We were born to die, and we die to live. (See 2 Corinthians 6:9.) As seedlings of God, we barely blossom on earth; we fully flower in heaven. [2]

Understanding the necessity of death requires an understanding of what is called in The Church of Jesus Christ “the plan of redemption.” Elder L. Tom Perry, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, explained:

God created Adam and Eve in His own image, with bodies of flesh and bones, and placed them in the Garden of Eden. They were given the choice either to remain in the garden or to partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and have the opportunity of experiencing mortality. They accepted the challenge, partook of the fruit, and thus became mortal and subject to physical death. Because of their choice, they would experience all of the trials and difficulties of mortality.
There are two purposes for life in mortality. The first is that we might gain experiences that we could not obtain in any other way. The second is to obtain tabernacles of flesh and bones. Both of these purposes are vital to the existence of man. We are now being tried and tested to see if we will do all the things the Lord has commanded us to do. These commandments are the principles and ordinances of the gospel, and they constitute the gospel of Jesus Christ. Every principle and ordinance has a bearing upon the whole purpose of our testing, which is to prepare us to return to our Heavenly Father and become more like Him. …
All of this is made possible by Jesus Christ. He is the centerpiece of the eternal plan of the Father, the Savior who was provided as a ransom for mankind. God sent His Beloved Son to overcome the Fall of Adam and Eve. He came to earth as our Savior and Redeemer. He overcame the obstacle of physical death for us by giving up His own life. When He died on the cross, His spirit became separated from His body. On the third day His spirit and His body were reunited eternally, never to be separated again.
Life on earth is of limited duration. There comes a time for all of us when the spirit and the body are separated in death. But because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we will all be resurrected, regardless of whether we have accomplished good or evil in this life. Immortality is the gift to every mortal child of our Father in Heaven. Death must be viewed as a portal to a new and better life. Through the glorious resurrection, body and spirit will be reunited. We will have a perfect, immortal body of flesh and bones that will never be subjected to pain or death. But the glory we attain to in the next life will depend on our performance in this life. Only through the gift of the Atonement and our obedience to the gospel can we return and live with God once again. [3]

A Time to Comfort the Bereaved

Even with the understanding that death is part of life, funerals are still not dry-eyed occasions. The late Elder Neal A. Maxwell, who until his death was an Apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ, said:

Though otherwise a “lively” attribute, hope stands quietly with us at funerals. Our tears are just as wet, but not because of despair. Rather, they are tears of heightened appreciation evoked by poignant separation. Those tears of separation change, ere long, becoming tears of glorious anticipation. [4]

Elder Nelson said:

Irrespective of age, we mourn for those loved and lost. Mourning is one of the deepest expressions of pure love. It is a natural response in complete accord with divine commandment: “Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die.” (Doctrine & Covenants 42:45.)
Moreover, we can’t fully appreciate joyful reunions later without tearful separations now. The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life. [2]

A Time for Reverence

Funerals for members of The Church of Jesus Christ usually include a family prayer in a separate room before the service begins, often following a viewing in the same room and before the casket is moved into the chapel. The services also often include sacred Christian music, a talk by a family member and an address by a priesthood leader of the departed. Elder Packer explained some of the protocol for funerals. He said:

Funerals generally bring relatives and friends from distant places. There is the tendency to greet one another joyfully and, unfortunately, at times noisily. Some visit at length, showing little regard for others who are waiting to pay their respects. Both the irreverence and the delay are discourtesies from which the spirituality of the occasion suffers. Renewing of friendships should appropriately be made outside the room where the viewing is taking place. Local leaders need to caution us gently on this matter. Surely we do not want to be known as an irreverent people. …
We should always have a tender regard for the feelings of the bereaved. We are close, very close, to the spirit world at the time of death. There are tender feelings, spiritual communications really, which may easily be lost if there is not a spirit of reverence. At times of sorrow and parting one may experience that “peace … which passeth all understanding” (Philip. 4:7) which the scriptures promise. That is a very private experience. Many have come to marvel in their hearts that such a feeling of peace, even exaltation, can come at the time of such grief and uncertainty. …
A funeral may be a happy-sad occasion when death comes as a welcome release. Nevertheless, it is a sacred occasion and should be characterized by solemnity and reverence. [1]

Burial and Graveside Customs

The policy for The Church of Jesus Christ is to bury the dead. Elder Packer explains:

Except where burial is prohibited by law, we are counseled to bury our dead. There are important symbolic references to burial in the ordinance of baptism and elsewhere in the doctrines of the Church.
Where required by law, alternate methods of disposing of the remains do not nullify the Resurrection. On occasion a body will be lost through accident or military action. A funeral is nevertheless very important. For we take comfort in the promises in the scriptures of a complete restoration of both the body and the spirit. [1]

Family and close friends are invited to the dedication of the grave. The grave is dedicated under the direction of the priesthood. Afterward, the funeral is complete. Often, family and close friends return to the church building for a light meal provided by the Relief Society, which is the women’s organization of The Church of Jesus Christ.

Elder Packer’s words offer a fitting conclusion:

A comforting, spiritual funeral is of great importance. It helps console the bereaved and establishes a transition from mourning to the reality that we must move forward with life. Whether death is expected or a sudden shock, an inspirational funeral where the doctrines of resurrection, the mediation of Christ, and certainty of life after death are taught strengthens those who must now move on with life. [1]

Anyone who has attended a Mormon funeral knows he has been uplifted, because there is so much hope in Mormon doctrines of death, resurrection, and salvation. Mormons mourn the loss of their loved ones, especially when death is premature, but they are not bereft; they do not despair.