Friday, January 2, 2009

LDS Burial and Funeral Planning Information


This has been a difficult topic to research, but since there is so little information about this online, and since funerals are often planned in just a few days, I thought it might be helpful to post some information to those who are looking for information about how to prepare the body of a deceased LDS church member for burial.

Procedures During LDS 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 inviduals 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 Prayer

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.

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