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How to plan an LDS Funeral
How to Plan an LDS Funeral
Read this first:
Before you begin reading the following information about LDS (Mormon) funerals, you should read Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2, Section 18.6, Funerals and Other Services at a Time of Death . The information there is invaluable to those planning a funeral service for a deceased member of the LDS church.
Procedures During LDS / Mormon Funerals
An LDS or Mormon funeral should follow the pattern of a sacrament meeting: an opening song, followed by an opening prayer, welcome by presiding priesthood, talks, closing song, ending with a closing prayer. When a funeral is conducted by the Bishop or Branch President, he should invite individuals to speak and direct the program.
Music played in the chapel should be approved by the Bishop or Branch president and should be hymns or similar appropriate music.
From Policies and Programs July 1979 Ensign:
“Pertaining to the conduct of funerals, we bring the following to your attention:
“A custom has developed which often eliminates music from both the beginning and the end of these services, placing it only near the middle of the program. It is requested that henceforth all funerals conducted under the auspices of officials of the Church follow the general format of the sacrament meeting with respect to music, speaking, and prayers. Music should be used at the beginning of the service prior to the opening prayer and possibly after the invocation also, as in our Sunday meetings. The closing portion of the funeral likewise should follow our customary pattern of having a final musical number immediately before the concluding prayer. Where feasible a choir could very well be used on the musical program.
“With respect to speaking, it should be kept in mind that funeral services provide an excellent opportunity for teaching the basic doctrines of the Church in a positive manner.
“It is not necessary for the bishop to lead the procession down the aisle of the chapel as the casket is brought into the building.
“Following these suggestions will help to keep our services in line with our established pattern and will avoid practices now so commonly followed elsewhere.” -PB
Here is a November 1988 Ensign article by Elder Packer titled “ Funerals: A Time for Reverence ” that may help with planning an LDS funeral. Here are some of the main points:
- “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.”
- “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.”
- “Funerals held under the direction of the priesthood are Church meetings… Bishops always show tender regard for the family of the deceased, and insofar as their requests accord with established policy, they may willingly be met…. We should regard the bishop rather than the family or the mortician as the presiding authority in these matters…. When innovations are suggested by family members, morticians, or others, which are quite out of harmony with that agenda, the bishop should quietly persuade them to follow the established pattern. It is not a rigid pattern and allows sufficient flexibility to have each funeral personally appropriate for the deceased.”
- “Family members ordinarily give the family prayer and dedicate the grave.”
- “If family members do speak, and I repeat, it is not a requirement, they are under the same obligation to speak with reverence and to teach the principles of the gospel.”
- “Viewings are not mandatory.”
- It is not required for family and friends to file by an open casket after a funeral.
- Graveside services may be held instead of a funeral. When a funeral service is planned, elaborate graveside services — with songs, etc. — should be avoided. (inferred from the text by me.)
- “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.”
Family members of a deceased LDS person are often invited to attend a special prayer service before the funeral. The prayer is usually given by a family member. After the prayer, family members may pay their last respects, final adjustments are made to the body or clothing, and the coffin is closed. (Caskets are not usually left open during LDS funeral services.)
During family prayers, a feeling of reverence should prevail. Visiting and renewal of friendships should be done outside, so as not to disturb those grieving.
LDS Funeral Talk
The November 1988 Ensign article by Elder Packer titled “ Funerals: A Time for Reverence ” that may has some information regarding how speakers should present their messages at LDS funerals:
“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.
“Many attend funerals who do not come to church regularly. They come subdued in spirit and are teachable. How sad when an opportunity for conversion is lost because a funeral is less than it might have been….
“There now seems to be the expectation that members of the immediate family must speak at funerals. While that may not be out of order, it should not be regarded as required. Family members ordinarily give the family prayer and dedicate the grave….
“If family members do speak, and I repeat, it is not a requirement, they are under the same obligation to speak with reverence and to teach the principles of the gospel.
“Sometimes family members tell things that would be appropriate at a family reunion or at some other family gathering but not on an occasion that should be sacred and solemn. While quiet humor is not out of order in a funeral, it should be wisely introduced. It should be ever kept in mind that the funeral should be characterized by spirituality and reverence….”
and here is another bit of instruction:
“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.”
“[Funerals] are proper occasions on which:
- “to preach the truths of salvation;
- “to testify of the reality of the resurrection;
- “to give comfort, solace, and counsel to the bereaved;
- “to hold forth the assurance of immortality for all men and the hope of eternal life for those who have kept the faith and
- “to mention the good qualities and achievements of the departed.
“The practice of wiping out every fault and magnifying every seeming virtue of faithless persons, as soon as they are dead, however, leaves the false impression that acceptance of the gospel and complete obedience to its standards while in this life are not important. Extravagant statements, promises, or assurances — unless clearly dictated by the Spirit — should not be made at funerals.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine 2nd Edition, “Funerals”)
Following are some links to sample LDS funeral talks online:
- Short LDS Funeral Talk – given by an LDS Bishop to a congregation of mostly non-LDS people at another Christian church.
- Funeral Talk with the Plan of Happiness
- LDS Funeral Talk for disabled young man
At the funeral of a 3-year old child in Utah who was related to Elder Rasband of the Seventy and had been mentioned in General Conference, the Deseret News made the following account of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s statements, which may prove useful to someone planning a funeral talk:
Elder Holland then read the letter [from the first Presidency], sharing that each member of the First Presidency had wished they could be in attendance as well.
“We extend our heartfelt sorrow and sympathy to you and your family. As parents and grandparents, we understand the sorrow you feel at this tender time of parting with a beloved child,” Elder Holland read. “The Savior loved children, and you can be certain that Paxton is now a recipient of the Lord’s love in that sphere where he will await a happy reunion with those he left here on earth.
“Although there is no substitute for the physical presence and affection of one so loving and so young, we pray that you will receive the blessed assurance that Paxton is perfectly happy and once again with our Father in Heaven.”
Elder Holland then said he would address his remarks to the living, to those who still struggle in this earthly life.
“(Paxton’s) probably the one thing we’re really sure about,” Elder Holland expressed. “The jury is still out on all of the rest of us.”
Elder Holland continued to counsel the members of the congregation to learn from what they had felt during the funeral service, expressing that such services bring a special spirit. He continued to remind the congregation that “this world is not our home. … It is a reminder that we are not all going to stay here.”
Elder Holland described the importance of preparing now, counseling that it would be wise to prepare for that day the moment we arrive on this earth, just as Paxton had done.
“This is a sad day of parting, but it is not a tragic day of death,” Elder Holland said as he rejoiced in the knowledge of Jesus Christ’s atonement and resurrection. “I testify that Paxton Norton is this very moment rejoicing in the spirit world, a paradise prepared for just such a pure, beautiful and innocent spirit.” ( 3-year-old Paxton Norton remembered by friends, family and LDS general authorities , By Sarah Petersen, Deseret News Published: Monday, July 22 2013)
Talks at President Hinckley’s Funeral
I can’t find any transcriptions of the talks given at President Hinckley’s funeral, but below is the first of nine videos that show the entire funeral. If you’d like to see examples of LDS funeral talks, this is a very good reference:
A synopsis of a deceased person’s life, called a eulogy, is customarily read at most Christian funerals, including during LDS services.
The family typically provides details of the deceased individual’s life to a close friend or a family member who reads the eulogy during the service. The tone of a eulogy should be not be overly somber, but flippant or excessively humorous eulogizing is not appropriate and disrespectful of those grieving.
Graveside Services / Dedication of the Grave
At the grave site, a male LDS church member, one who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood and who is usually a member or close friend of the family, dedicates the grave, asking God in prayer to protect it from the elements or other disturbance as a hallowed resting place until the resurrection.
Suicide of LDS Church members was addressed in the October 1987 Ensign article by Elder M. Russell Ballard titled Suicide: Some Things We Know, and Some We Do Not “. In it, he addresses the issue of whether those who commit suicide are automatically consigned to the Telestial Kingdom. Elder Ballard quotes Mormon Doctrine:
“Suicide consists in the voluntary and intentional taking of one’s own life, particularly where the person involved is accountable and has a sound mind. Persons subject to great stresses may lose control of themselves and become mentally clouded to the point that they are no longer accountable for their acts. Such are not to be condemned for taking their own lives. It should also be remembered that judgment is the Lord’s; he knows the thoughts, intents, and abilities of men; and he in his infinite wisdom will make all things right in due course.”
He goes on to quote Doctrine & Covenants 137:59: “And after they have paid the penalty of their transgressions, and are washed clean, shall receive a reward according to their works, for they are heirs of salvation.”
Endowed LDS Church members in good standing who commit suicide may be buried in their temple clothing (Source: Official LDS publication, Instructions for Clothing the Dead Who Have Received Their Endowments).
Family Meal / Funeral Luncheon Planning
- LDS Funeral and Family Meal Planning – has a sample menu, information for servers, and an exhaustive checklist for planning a funeral. Targeted at Relief Society Presidents.
The following links may be of use to you when writing an LDS obituary.
- Here are some examples of LDS obituaries for a man and wife.
- Another examples of an LDS obituary of an elderly LDS woman.
- Here is an example of a short article announcing the death of an LDS man prominent in his community.
- My friend, Betty, says, “Always write obituaries with a family history perspective! Include maiden names, dates, and locations where possible and appropriate.”
Mormon Funeral Program
Following are some LDS funeral program samples:
- LDS Funeral Program example – deceased married adult male (follows the same basic format as an LDS Sacrament Meeting)
- Magleby Funeral Home’s Funeral Program Samples – has several funeral program samples online so you can get ideas on layouts to use.
In addition to information about speakers and presiding church leaders, you may wish to include:
- a brief synopsis or timeline of the deceased person’s life,
- a list of surviving relatives,
- pallbearer’s names,
- a photo or photos,
- a comforting poem (could be written by a family member),
- lyrics to songs sung during the funeral,
- instructions or a map to the burial location or the location of a family meal,
- expressions of gratitude to those helping (ushers, servers, RS sisters that made a meal, home teachers that administered to the deceased or mourners, friends, community members, etc.)
- military service recognition
- if asking for donations in lieu of flowers, you could include the donation address and other information
DeseretNews posted a copy of President Hinckley’s funeral program . This program was intended to be of the type that could be saved by those present, and it is four pages long:
Below are some more sample LDS programs posted online:
Arranging an LDS Funeral Service
The following information was included in the service and program for President Gordon B. Hinckley. Some things that the public was not invited to were included in the program. You can include or leave out any information you prefer:
Family prayer: Jane H. Dudley
Conducting: President Thomas S. Monson
Opening Hymn: “My Redeemer Lives,” Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Invocation: Clark B. Hinckley
Speaker: Virginia H. Pearce
Hymn: “Crossing the Bar,” Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Speaker: Bishop H. David Burton
Speaker: Elder Earl C. Tingey
Hymn: “What’s Is This Thing Called Death,” Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Speaker: President Boyd K. Packer
Speaker: President Henry B. Eyring
Speaker: President Thomas S. Monson
Closing Hymn: “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need,” Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Benediction: Kathleen H. Walker
Dedication of the Grave (Salt Lake City Cemetery): Elder Richard G. Hinckley
LDS Burial Clothing Basics
Endowed female members of the church in good standing are buried wearing their temple garments, white, long-sleeved dresses that reach the ankles and wrists, or blouses and skirts that reach the ankles and wrists, white stockings, white shoes, a white slip, and the ritual temple clothing found in their temple packet.
Endowed male members of the church in good standing are buried in a white long-sleeved shirt, their temple garments, white tie, white pants that reach the ankle, white socks, white shoes, and the ritual temple clothing found in their temple packet. A white suit coat is optional.
Temple-endowed women dress deceased women, and temple-endowed men dress deceased men, except where local restrictions prevent anyone but a funeral director from handling the body. In that case, the funeral director will dress the body, and an endowed member (male for males, and female for females) should check to ensure that all ritual temple items have been properly placed.
Church leaders have access to a publication called Instructions for Clothing the Dead Who Have Received Their Endowments that has detailed instructions on how to prepare endowed individuals for burial.
Usually white clothing is chosen for those who have not yet attended the temple, but it is not required.
It is okay for un-endowed and non-LDS family and friends to see ritual temple clothing during a viewing. If the family feels that seeing temple clothing would prove disruptive, sacred items may be covered with a blanket or cloth. (Source: Official LDS publication, Instructions for Clothing the Dead Who Have Received Their Endowments)
When an individual is to fragile or decomposed to be dressed, sacred items may be folded and placed beside the body inside the casket for burial.
After consulting Instructions for Clothing the Dead Who Have Received Their Endowments, questions may be directed to the Temple Clothing Office at 1-801-240-3333.
Things to keep in mind
Here are some thing that I learned about preparing for a funeral or burial when talking to some of the sisters in my unit and from looking online:
Preparing the Body
- Dressing a body for burial can be difficult because of weight considerations or stiffness. Remember to choose clothing that is easy to put on the body and easy for the funeral director to access as needed.
- Even smaller people will be difficult to handle. You will probably want to ask other endowed friends to help you prepare a body for burial. I recently assisted with dressing a smaller woman in our unit. There were six of us, and we were all useful.
- A heating pad can ease stiffness of limbs.
- Use a sheet or blanket to cover the body while dressing as a matter of respect, both of the deceased and those grieving. One or two people can hold the sheet, while others lift and dress.
- It’s always nice to begin with a prayer.
- For women, it may be easier to use a dress with an open back or zipper front. You can buy a white dress and cut up the back, then sew fasteners to close it. I’d sew ribbons about an inch or two inside the cut on the outside of the dress, so that when you tied the ribbons, you would be able to easily cinch the dress completely shut in back.
- For men, it may be easier to choose pants that are of slightly larger size than usual.
- We found it easier to work from the feet up.
- Two piece garments are easier to manipulate than one-piece.
- Endowed LDS Church members usually choose split-opening types of coffins, I presume to keep from exposing so much of sacred temple clothing, but covering temple clothing at a funeral is not necessary.
- It may be helpful to bring the woman’s makeup to the funeral home along with a color photo so that the staff can use the same makeup colors and hair color the woman used when she was alive. If body looks more natural, family members and friends be more at peace when viewing the body.
- Bring a brush or comb when dressing a body, as hair will get out of place while you work. Bring a recent photograph to use as a guide to help you brush hair into the style preferred by the deceased at his or her time of death.
- Those dressing a body may be exposed to blood or other body fluids and even bacteria. Please take great care when preparing a body for burial. Bring latex gloves and antibacterial hand gel.
- Use soft pink light bulbs in a lamp near the body to make skin tones appear more natural. Sylvania Soft Pink and GE Enrich are two brands available in most department stores.
LDS Doctrines on Burial and Cremation
“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.” (Boyd K. Packer, “Funerals: A Time for Reverence,” Ensign, Nov. 1988, see also Bruce R. McConkie Mormon Doctrine, “Cremation”)
And from the new Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2, 21.3.2: “The Church does not normally encourage cremation. The family of the deceased must decide whether the body should be cremated, taking into account any laws governing burial or cremation. In some countries, the law requires cremation.
“Where possible, the body of a deceased member who has been endowed should be dressed in temple clothing when it is cremated. A funeral service may be held (see 18.6).”
Comforting the Grieving
- Comforting the Grieving – has a list of things NOT TO SAY and THINGS TO SAY to those grieving. Also has some interesting information on how active listening helps those grieving relieve their suffering.
- “Questions and Answers,” Ensign, Jun 2005, 1215 – This article also has a list of very practical suggestions on how to appropriately help those who are grieving, and includes a brief section on suicide.
Sources for Burial Clothing
If you are in need of white clothing for a burial, I can now recommend Church Distribution . It used to be that Church Distribution did not have rapid shipping options, and so I listed several other retail funeral clothing options. However, now Distribution will ship stock items to you as fast as overnight for funeral needs. You may need to make your order by telephone in order to ensure fastest shipping. Families who know that death is approaching should purchase any needed items from local Distribution Centers or from Salt Lake ahead of time when practical.
In some cases, individuals may wish to make their own burial clothing as part of the grieving process. I’ve included links to some pattern resources as well.
Adult, Infant, and Children’s White Clothing
- Church distribution carries adult, infant, and children’s white clothing. They used to carry a specific burial dress with an open back and extra lace on the sleeves and neck (the lace helps cover any bruising or discoloration due to IVs or other injuries, the open back was for ease in dressing). Distribution now recommends the Angelica dress for women, which zips up the front but does not have the extra lace on the sleeves or neck like the old burial dress did. You can always add lace to any gown as necessary.
- Bev’s Country Cottage: Preemie Patterns – has a large list of free patterns for burial wraps, gowns, and rompers available online.
- Bev’s Country Cottage: Tiny Burial Pouch Patterns – used for early losses, miscarriages, or infants that are too small or fragile to be dressed.
Other Funeral Planning Help
- The Federal Trade Commission has a very good funeral resource that has information on how to save money on a funeral and which services are required by law. For example, grave liners or burial vaults are not required by law, but could be required by your cemetary. Even embalming is not necessary if a body will be buried soon after death.
- AARP has a lot of information on funerals and planning, including a checklist of things to do from immediately after death occurs up to several months after the funeral. Also has information on dealing with grief and loss.
- The Funeral Comsumers Alliance has a very good FAQ that answers questions like “Can I build my own coffin?” and “Should children attend funerals?”
- Comforting the Grieving – has a list of things NOT TO SAY and THINGS TO SAY to those grieving. Also has some interesting information on how active listening helps those grieving relieve their suffering.
- What is So Different about a Mormon Funeral – is a folksy telling of the procedures during a Mormon funeral.
- 11 Tips for planning an LDS Funeral – Kurt from LeadingLDS has written a great article with tips for bishops. Highly recommend.
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