Mormon Funeral Traditions and Practices

Published June 12, 2020
Funeral procession in cemetery

Like most religious funerals, Mormon funerals feature specific rituals, traditions, and etiquette guidelines to show respect for the dead and for the belief system. Most Mormons belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or LDS, so a Mormon funeral might also be called an LDS funeral.

Mormon View of Death and Dying

A Mormon death is viewed as a separation of the spirit from the body. This physical death is temporary, as Jesus's atonement and resurrection ensured all of mankind would be resurrected. To become like God, Mormons believe they must experience physical death and resurrection.

  • After the physical death, the spirit lives on in paradise.
  • The spirits of those who have died in their sins don't go to paradise, but to spirit prison.
  • In this spirit prison, the spirits learn the important principles of the gospel, and if they accept these teachings, their spirit will go on to paradise.
  • When Christ returns to earth, souls will be judged based on how they have honored the church.
  • The Celestial Kingdom is the highest heaven where children under age 8 who have died will go along with those who have honored the Church and Jesus entirely.
  • The Terrestrial Kingdom is the middle level of heaven for honorable people who weren't resolute in their testimony of Christ.
  • The Telestial Kingdom is where souls who refuse to repent go.

Mormon Funeral Basic Practices

Funeral services in the LDS community are typically held within a week of the death, but are not held on Sundays.

Length of Mormon Funeral Services

Mormon funeral services generally last about an hour, but could run up to an hour and a half. There may be a burial and a luncheon after the funeral, which can extend the day's events to several hours.

Location of Mormon Funeral Services

Mormon funerals are often held in a Mormon church, but may also be held graveside. Some Mormons do use funeral homes for their services. The important things are that the family agrees to the location, and a bishop oversees the funeral.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Temple in Fort Collins Colorado

Who Pays for a Mormon Funeral?

Like mainstream funerals, the family of the deceased is responsible for the funeral costs. However, if the family can't afford all or parts of the funeral services, their ward may have funds available to assist them.

Who Can Attend Mormon Funerals?

Family members, friends, church members, and even non-Mormons are allowed to attend LDS funerals.

Mormon Funeral Rituals

If you're wondering what a Mormon funeral is like, the atmosphere is the same as many other types of funerals. The occasion is solemn, but also hopeful for the spirit of the deceased. A look at some LDS funeral rituals can help you better understand the feel of these events.

LDS Funeral Viewings

Some families choose to host an open-casket viewing before the funeral. It usually happens right before the funeral service in the same location. Be aware that is is customary at a Mormon viewing to allocate the final 15 minutes of the viewing to close family members only.

Family Receiving Guests at a Funeral

LDS Funeral Burials

Except where a burial would be illegal, Mormons prefer to bury their dead rather than cremate them. This is because their religious teachings dictate that mortal bodies need to "crumble to their mother earth" so they cannot walk the earth again. A close friend or family member who holds Melchizedek Priesthood dedicates the grave at the burial with only family members.

Burial in Temple Clothing

If the deceased person has been endowed, he or she is buried in their temple garments and clothing. Most people will own these garments before they die.

  • Temple garments are white underwear issued by the church.
  • The deceased must be dressed in their temple clothing by an endowed family member of the same gender.
  • If you cannot dress the deceased person's body in temple clothing due to frailty, you are allowed to lie the clothes in the casket next to the body.
  • Men's temple clothing consists of white pants, socks, and shoes, a long-sleeve white shirt, and a white tie.
  • Women's temple clothing consists of white stockings and shoes with a floor-length, long-sleeve white dress.

Veiling a Deceased Woman's Face

Until 2019, an endowed woman's face was always veiled before closing the casket for the last time. A person approved by the Bishop would pull the veil over the woman's face. In 2019, the Church issued a new guideline stating that veiling is now optional. Endowed women, or their families, can decide whether to veil the face or leave it uncovered before closing the casket.

Traditions From Mormon Funerals

As with any group or individual family, there are some traditions that many Mormons honor at funerals. These are not hard-and-fast rules, but common practices.

LDS Funeral Program

While LDS funerals can vary by family or community, they typically follow a standard sacred format. Funerals conducted by bishops are treated as all other church meetings. A typical funeral program would include:

  1. The event opens with sacred music.
  2. Next, a prayer on behalf of the family given by a family member.
  3. Messages about Atonement, Resurrection, and life after death are shared by a priest, including the Plan of Salvation.
  4. Friends and family members can give a eulogy or reminisce about the deceased, but it should in the spirit of reverence, not funny.
  5. The funeral ends with more sacred music, then a concluding prayer.
  6. After the public funeral service, the family only will attend the graveside burial and dedication.
Book of Mormon

Post-Funeral Mercy Meal

The Relief Society, or a women's organization from the church, usually hosts a post-funeral meal known as a mercy meal. All who attend the funeral can attend the meal to connect as friends and reminisce about the deceased.

Mormon Funeral Potatoes

Funeral Potatoes is the name of a special casserole many Mormons bring to funeral luncheons among other group events. The casserole consists of cubed potatoes, cream of chicken soup, cheese, and a Corn Flakes topping. The dish is fast, easy, and inexpensive, and embraces 1950s values that were embraced by the Mormon community as they tried to assimilate into mainstream culture during this time.

Homemade Funeral Potatoes Casserole with Cheese and Chives

Mormon Funeral Etiquette

There is no strict LDS funeral etiquette guide, but you can always ask your bishop or a Mormon you know if you have questions about how to look and act.

Attitudes and Behaviors

All in attendance are expected to treat the event with reverence and the family with tenderness. People should try to keep a solemn attitude, but there is some room for humor and joy. You should respect family-only activities and take the lead of the family or other community elders in terms of attitudes and behaviors.

Dress Code for Mormon Funerals

Unlike mainstream funerals, you are not required or expected to wear all black to a Mormon funeral.

  • You should wear business casual to formal attire that is conservative, meaning it covers your legs to the knee and your shoulders.
  • Men usually wear suits with white shirts and ties.
  • Women typically wear a nice dress that has sleeves and is long or a longer skirt with a blouse.
  • There is no required dress code, so a woman could wear dress pants and a blouse.

Death As Part of Life

Mormon, or LDS, funerals aren't all that different from mainstream or other religious funerals. There are a few specifics unique to this group, and it's important to understand and honor those differences.

Mormon Funeral Traditions and Practices