Mourn with Those that Mourn: The Problems with Mormon Funerals

A few years ago, my dear friend J’s father, D, died.  He was a very sweet man and his children wanted to honor his memory at the funeral.  D had grown up in rural Idaho and had always loved the old 50s cowboy shows; “Home on the Range” was one of his favorite songs.  When J and her siblings met with D’s bishop to discuss funeral arrangements, they indicated that they’d like to have someone sing “Home on the Range” in D’s honor.  The bishop referred to the Church Handbook of Instructions (CHI), which says: “Music for funerals might include prelude music, an opening hymn, special musical selections, a closing hymn, and postlude music. Simple hymns and other songs with gospel messages are most appropriate for these occasions.”  While this passage doesn’t explicitly forbid secular music, D’s bishop interpreted it in that fashion and refused to approve using “Home on the Range” during D’s funeral.  J’s siblings went along with the bishop with no real resistance, and J was left feeling sad that they could not honor their father with this song he had loved.

This is not the only Mormon funeral I know of that hasn’t been very considerate of the mourners. There’s the Stake President delivering a long sermon on the Plan of Salvation at the funeral of  a young mother without thought about her small children’s need to mourn in a way suitable to them, or about how hard it was for them to sit for so long.  There’s the church leader using a man’s death from lung cancer caused by his smoking habit as an example of why people shouldn’t smoke–true, but not exactly helpful for mourners.  There’s the well-meaning church member repeating the notion that someone died because God needed her more than her family did; again, not exactly comforting to mourners.  There’s the exclusion of inactive or un-endowed or excommunicated or non-member family members from  helping prepare the body of a loved one for burial.  There’s the bishop who, at the funeral of a woman murdered by her husband, said he just knew the murdered woman had forgiven her murderer and so should everyone in attendance; forgiveness is a beautiful and important principle, but this comment was not very considerate of the raw emotions caused by this kind of domestic violence leading to the death of a loved one.

The church has no formal rituals associated with death, but there is a certain pattern to Mormon funerals.  The CHI states that “each person must experience death in order to receive a perfected, resurrected body. Teaching and testifying about the plan of salvation, particularly the Savior’s Atonement and Resurrection, is an essential purpose of the services associated with a Church member’s death.”  As a result, most Mormon funerals include some talk about the Plan of Salvation–often that talk runs longer than any other element of the funeral.  The CHI also establishes that the meeting should open and close with prayer and a hymn, just like a Sacrament Meeting.  It specifies that the rituals and customs of other religions should not be incorporated into the meeting.  This is understandable, but given the overlap of religious and cultural customs, it could also mean denying comforting rituals to mourners, especially in a part-member family or at the funeral of a convert.

Any funeral held in a Mormon church building must be conducted by the bishop or Stake President.  The CHI specifies that any funeral conducted by a bishop should be considered a “Church meeting and a religious service.”  As such, the bishop considers the family’s input but has ultimate say over what can be included.  The event is meant to be reverent and dignified.  According to the CHI, the family can’t use a digital presentation to commemorate the deceased during a funeral in a church building or which a bishop conducts.

The CHI instructs: “Funerals provide an important opportunity to teach the gospel and testify of the plan of salvation. They also provide an opportunity to pay tribute to the deceased. However, such tributes should not dominate a funeral service.”  This seems backwards to me.  In my mind, a funeral should be primarily about commemorating the life of the person who has died, celebrating who that person was and the relationships she had with others.  It seems wrong to me that a funeral should be more about teaching the gospel than about paying tribute to the deceased.

I have been to lovely Mormon funerals.  But as the various examples I shared above illustrate, Mormon funerals are often problematic.  And I think that has a lot to do with the way the CHI defines them as just another church meeting at which the gospel should be taught, rather than defining their primary purpose as allowing those who mourn to mourn and to do so in the company of a community that has, after all, covenanted to “mourn with those that mourn.”  Given the number of non-members likely to be in attendance in most places, funerals are sometimes conceived of as missionary opportunities; too often this aspect of Mormon funerals becomes pre-eminent and we forget that they should help in the mourning process, rather than being just another tool for spreading the gospel.  The problem with that is that people too often leave feeling like they have not been afforded the opportunity to grieve for and celebrate the loved one they have lost.

 

As part of the Exponent series about death and the grieving and rituals that go with it, we’d like to give you the opportunity to share your own stories and experiences.  Here are my questions for you:

1. I understand the reasons behind the various guidelines given in the CHI, but I believe they can be misapplied resulting in a funeral that is not very comforting for the mourners in attendance.  That said, I think they could also be applied very well in order to provide comfort.  How do you think the guidelines I’ve noted above could be appropriately applied to help those in attendance mourn?  How can they be balanced so that the meeting isn’t turned into just another Sunday meeting or little more than a missionary opportunity?

2. What are some of the less successful funeral practices you have seen?  How might you have changed those funerals to better help those mourning?  How might you have changed those funerals to better honor and celebrate the memory of the deceased?

Amelia

Amelia has recently relocated to Salt Lake City for her new job selling college textbooks (a job she loves). She's a 9th generation Mormon redefining her relationship with the church (the church she both loves and hates). She's passionate about books, travel, beauty, and all things cheese.

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73 Responses

  1. HokieKate says:

    I am young and sheltered enough that I have not attended an LDS funeral during my adult life. I agree entirely with this post. Should my husband or child pass away, I think I would prefer to have the funeral at the funeral parlor. I hope my husband would do the same for me. My dad and extended family are not LDS, and a sermon service would not be ideal.

    • amelia says:

      HokieKate, I do think it’s important to remember the circumstances of a whole family, not just the person who has passed and her spouse and children. I’m not a big fan of the fact that Mormon weddings really just don’t consider the needs of part-member families and I’m not a fan of funerals ignoring those needs either.

  2. Macha says:

    When I was in high school, our neighbor died. She was Catholic, and depending entirely on who your priest is, you don’t get a lot of say in what happens at the funeral. This woman was incredibly patriotic, and the priest fought the family on wanting to have the American flag on the altar for the service. And, after her son gave a truly touching eulogy at the funeral, the church bulletin the very next week had a strong chastisement about emphasizing too much on the life of the deceased in funerals. This poor man who had been destroyed by his mother’s death was scolded like a child, for saying what a great person she was, at her own funeral. When a funeral service is used as a means to enforce orthodoxy and evangelize converts, it serves no purpose in helping family and friends to grieve in a healthy way. Using a person’s death like that offends me deeply.

    • amelia says:

      When a funeral service is used as a means to enforce orthodoxy and evangelize converts, it serves no purpose in helping family and friends to grieve in a healthy way. Using a person’s death like that offends me deeply.

      Exactly, Macha. I want to be clear that I do think a service with religious elements could be very comforting for some mourners. I just really dislike the notion of turning a funeral into a tool meant to reiterate the Truth or proselyte to nonbelievers. It should always first be about the deceased and helping those who mourn grieve in a healthy way.

  3. EM says:

    Great post. When my mother-in-law died my husband who is quite liberal in his thinking regarding the church was informed by her bishop that he would be presiding at the funeral and would take charge. Wrong thing to say! Consequently we held the funeral at the funeral home and husband presided over the meeting – which was fabulous and she would have been proud. She being Australian was favored with the “Waltzing Matilda” anthem, to which everyone loved; it was so appropriate. The meeting was short and sweet and children and grandchildren participated in celebrating her life. Many people there commented that the funeral was the best ever that they had attended. The bishop was there and one could tell he was not amused but thanked husband for doing a great job. My sister’s mother-in-law’s best friend died and between her and her other female friends planned and conducted the funeral services that were held in the chapel – no bishop or SP presided – it was strictly an all female produced and conducted funeral – how refreshing is that! Personally I think we take ourselves too seriously; we need to lighten up and celebrate at funerals even if it means playing your favorite songs. Funerals are not about missionary work, or preaching about the Plan of Salvation, or even about the deceased person, it’s about the families who are experiencing a great loss and they need to decide how best to proceed with that which will give them the most comfort. I’ve laid out my plans for my funeral and if met with resistance then the service is to be held at the funeral home. I really don’t think the Lord gives two hoots what’s done at funerals – He’s just glad to have him/her back home!!

    • amelia says:

      Both of these funerals sound so lovely, EM. We’ll have a post later (tomorrow or Thursday I think) about nonconventional funerals. I’d love to have you weigh in there, too. Especially about the funeral planned and conducted by women for a woman.

      And I could not agree more that we need to stop taking ourselves so seriously all the time. I think we’d likely do a lot more good by having a funeral that truly helps the mourners and celebrates the joys of their relationships with the person they have lost than to spend the time preaching.

      • Janell says:

        Good to know about tomorrow’s intended post. I shall hold my comments about my best Mormon funeral experience until then.

  4. Keri Brooks says:

    Great post. A close family friend passed away a few months ago, and the service was beautiful. It didn’t feel like we were preached at in any way. I have been to preachy funerals, though, and I agree that they’re not very comforting.

    I think we have a hard time with grieving in LDS culture. We have such a firm grasp of the afterlife and the joy we’ll experience there that there is a cultural taboo on mourning. I wish we had some culturally sanctioned way to say, “Yes, I know I’ll see my loved ones again, I know they’re in a better place and I’m happy for them, but I miss them now and I’m sad.” What stood out to me is that when Lazarus died, Jesus knew He was going to bring him back to life. But, before He did that, He wept. We need our time to weep, too.

    One question that might be slightly off-topic, but since this is a feminist blog, I’ll throw it out… I’ve only seen male pallbearers at LDS funerals. Is that just some relic of culture, or does the CHI prohibit female pallbearers?

    • amelia says:

      Keri, I’m so on board with you about us needing to authorize grief. No matter how firmly we believe that our loved ones are in a better place and in God’s hands, it’s still sad to lose them. And it’s okay to feel that way and to express it. When my best friend’s mother died, I told her she need to let herself grieve. That it was okay to cry and to be angry and sad. She told me that was one of the most important things she heard in the after math of her mother’s death. And I love you pointing to Jesus’s example at the death of Lazarus.

      As far as I could tell, the CHI is silent on the sex of pall bearers. I imagine that’s more a cultural remnant than anything else.

  5. Caroline says:

    Great post, Amelia.

    I’ve never been to a Mormon funeral. 3 out of 4 of my grandparents were not LDS, so I only have experience with non-LDS funerals. The stories you’ve shared make me doubly sure that I do not want an LDS funeral. I want the freedom to pick music I want played (I intend to write out all my funeral desires before I die). I also want my daughter or son to feel free to organize and conduct the funeral.

    If the church would allow family members to preside over and plan LDS funerals, if they were more open to secular music, and if the main talk were not Plan of Salvation oriented, I would reconsider having my funeral held at an LDS church.

    • amelia says:

      You know, I think sometimes the church doesn’t do a good enough job of letting its members be just people as well as Mormons. I see this in its approach to weddings, too. And in requirements like turning all funerals held in church buildings into meetings at which the Plan of Salvation is taught, etc.

  6. Gail Knickerbocker says:

    I would recommend planning a Memorial Service separate and distinct from the funeral service thus serving those member of the LDS church who feel that obedience to the CHI are paramount to their arriving in the Celestial Kingdom and the Memorial Service serving those who want to celebrate the life of the deceased and not the life of the church.

    • amelia says:

      I think holding a separate Memorial Service is certainly a good option. It would especially help in situations where there is a core of fairly traditional Mormons who feel the need for a traditional reiteration of the Plan of Salvation but also a sizable group of mourners who might not be as well served by that. I do think, however, that it’s also entirely possible to strike a balance between these two needs in a single meeting.

      I am curious if you know people who really feel like “obedience to the CHI [is] paramount to their arriving in the Celestial Kingdom.” I have to admit, it would never even occur to me to think something like that. I see the CHI as nothing more than a user’s manual of sorts–a how-to for lay leadership who doesn’t get adequate training before being dropped into a rather significant unpaid job.

      • Gail Knickerbocker says:

        Amelia, I was being sarcastic in a way about the extent that one believes that following the CHI is paramount to their arriving in the Celestial Kingdom AND I have seen many times that the interpretation of what is written there is not taken as a guide but is taken as the GOSPEL TRUTH and anything beside what is prescribed there is NOT allowed. THIS is unacceptable to me. When I die, because my kids and husband are MORMON then they will likely do what MORMONS do without regard to my family, who are NOT Mormons at all and never were. So for me, if they are willing to hold a memorial service different and separate from the Mormon funeral that would serve both my family AND my immediate family. As for whether both the Mormon way and the Memorial way can be served in the same service I find that unlikely since it says in the CHI that “They also provide an opportunity to pay tribute to the deceased. However, such tributes should not dominate a funeral service.” I personally see no reason for a service at ones death except to say one’s last good-byes and to celebrate the life of the dead person. Having the tribute NOT dominate the funeral service would be a slap in my face(assuming I was the dead person) and a slap in the face of my family who NONE of them are Mormon.

    • spunky says:

      I like this idea, but I think that it turns Mormon funerals into Mormon weddings with two separate services. I am not convinced that this is the best in dragging out a mourning process as well as the additional costs that may be incurred in having what amounts to two funerals.

      • Gail Knickerbocker says:

        I do not think it turns them into Mormon Weddings because ALL may come if they want to hear about the plan of salvation. There is NO Temple Recommend or discussion of being worthy to attend your own child’s or Parent’s funeral. As for the expense, the church does not charge to spread their plan of salvation. The cost would come in using another facility if you wanted a Memorial Service NOT dictated by any Mormon theology, beliefs, traditions, culture or what have you. I may write down what I would like for my funeral, but it seems to me that the Mourners are the ones left to cry and deal with my passing so, since I don’t believe I will be there anyway, even in spirit, then I think all those living should be considered in the funeral planning. Thus, my children may find comfort in the teaching that I may repent in the afterlife and come back to the fold etc etc etc AND my own family will see things very differently. In either case I do believe that celebrating the life of the dead person is SOOOOO inspiring for ANYONE present, thus in my opinion the trubute should be the MAIN point of ANY one of the services BUT with the church clearly stating that for them this is NOT to happen, another service is better IMO.

  7. Lorraine says:

    Yes I have been to my fair share of stringent funerals that were only made more sad because of the preachy tone of the Bishops final remarks, or the prohibition on certain musical instruments, etc.

    Then again, I also recently attended a funeral of my grandmother’s best friend, a woman who passed peacefully at 91 and whose Bishop agreed to let them play the BYU Fight Song in the chapel as they took her casket out. It was rather awesome, though I don’t know if that makes me feel better to know they made an exception, or make me feel slightly worse that only seem to make that exception for the BYU fight song….

  8. LilyTiger says:

    In my experience, I think an unintended consequence of these CHI funeral policies is that funeral attendance is going down. In my parents’ mostly LDS neighborhood, people have stopped attending their fellow neighbors’ funerals. People do not want to sit through one more generic plan of salvation talk that does nothing to honor the deceased person, nor does it provide comfort in the form it is often delivered. It seems that a ritual that once provided a rich source of social capital is being depleted.

    • amelia says:

      This is a negative consequence I hadn’t thought of, LilyTiger. I think one of the most important functions a funeral should serve is to provide an opportunity for a community (belief, familial, both, etc.) to mourn and celebrate a life together. It would certainly be too bad if we lost that opportunity because we made funerals so generic that they lost their significance.

  9. Amy says:

    I have had positive experiences with LDS funerals, but if they are to be held in an LDS chapel, then I think that the church has some say in the content. How this is interpreted must be up to the presiding authority. Some of you above have stated how you have had better experiences with funerals not held in the LDS church. By all means, make these wishes known in your will etc and don’t have your funeral in a church building. As for preparing an endowed member for burial, I can see why only endowed members should dress a deceased endowed member in the sacred clothing. And those family members who aren’t endowed should respect the wishes of the deceased endowed member- meaning that if they are endowed, they have made certain covenants and probably feel very strongly about being clothed that way to be buried. I know I will be sad if I don’t have family members who are endowed to be able to dress me at that time, but I would rather be buried in the sacred clothing.
    My feelings are that regardless of who presides at a funeral service- which religion, creed etc, there will be someone who thinks that it should’ve been done differently. But, criticizing those who are mourning is never OK.

    • spunky says:

      I agree with you, Amy. But as a side note, as someone who has lived most of my live in areas where Mormons were not the majority, the funeral homes traditionally arrange or dress the bodies, and sometimes are taken aback when Mormons want to dress the body. They seen unsure that you really want to do that. I personally find that dressing the body is the most spiritual and personal gift you can share with the deceased in saying goodbye, but I find that it is uncommon in the areas where I have lived.

    • amelia says:

      Amy, I have a friend who’s brother-in-law would not allow her to participate in the preparation of her sister’s body in any capacity at all because my friend was no longer a member of the church. That was very painful for my friend, who loved her sister and wanted to help. There are things that my friend could have done (washing the body; helping dress the body in undergarments and temple dress) without actually participating in dressing her sister’s body in the ceremonial temple clothing. Nonmembers handle garments sometimes (e.g., one of my boyfriends and I often did laundry together, since neither of us had large enough batches independently and it saved money; my boyfriend often helped fold my garments and I don’t think it was an issue really for him to do so; I imagine people hired to help Mormons with housework also occasionally handle garments).

      I don’t really have a problem with the idea that the church should be able to provide some guidelines about content or form of a funeral held in their buildings. For instance, I’d have no problem with not allowing raucous rock-n-roll music in a chapel. It’s a chapel, after all, and raucous music may not be appropriate for that space. My problem is more with the tight prescription of what is okay. I’d like the lines to be drawn a bit more broadly so that funerals can truly meet the needs of those grieving and honor the person who has died.

      • Whitney says:

        I disagree with all these strict policies laid down in the CHI, though I can respect the Church’s wishes and right to have its buildings used according to certain rules. I can understand the desire to keep the chapel a sacred space by not allowing certain music or even audio-visual presentations (though we do watch Gen Conf in chapels….).

        But it seems unfair to me that there isn’t some provision for breaking these rules/policies if the funeral is held in the cultural hall. We hold wedding receptions there, people. Complete with non-churchy type music. And cakes scrawled with “JJWT + TAMN.” And NO talks about the temple of plan of salvation or whatever. I’m pretty sure Mormon wedding receptions are a tribute to an individual WAY more so than they are missionary opportunities.

  10. Lori Pierce says:

    My mother passed away in April and I believe her funeral was a perfect example of how to make these guidelines work well, allowing for some flexibility. First, my mother’s passing was a blessing to her and those of us who were caring for her – and not unexpected – which put us in a better prepared state. My mother had not left specific instructions for her funeral, except that she wanted her 17 grandchildren ranging in age from 1 to 12 to sing “I Am a Child of God”, which they did.

    We had the local branch president preside (though my brother is in the stake presidency there and he didn’t even sit on the stand, but with his family). My brother worked with him on the funeral arrangements, but all six of us siblings were in on the planning. The BP specified that enough doctrine must be taught or he would add it himself and stated that the funeral should last no longer than an hour. We were a little nervous about meeting his expectations for fear that he would hijack the service, but he didn’t. That nervous feeling was the only thing I disliked.

    We had three speakers: an LDS woman my mom worked with who spoke mostly of my mother’s role with my dad in starting the local branch, my brother, and my dad’s sister (who had been my mother’s college roommate). Because my mother was an active member of the church all her life, it was easy to talk about doctrine while talking about her life. It was just all mixed in. My aunt ended at exactly one hour, when the BP stood up to add his remarks – all of which were memories of my mother and nothing about doctrine! I had to laugh a little at him breaking both his rules.

    It was really a wonderful service. Very much a tribute to my mother, yet very much a spiritual service. And I personally loved the fact that the stake president and his wife were in attendance and sat on the back row and not on the stand, even though he was invited. Gives some indication of the leadership in that area.

    My mother had requested specifically that her funeral be in the LDS building – even though it barely accommodated everyone. My dad’s had been at the funeral home. I would be willing to move any funeral out of an LDS building if need be. We held a viewing at the funeral home because it was Monday night and the BP had a problem with us using the building that night.

    • amelia says:

      Lori, your mother’s funeral sounds lovely. Thank you for sharing. I really liked this: “Very much a tribute to my mother, yet very much a spiritual service.” That’s the ideal in my mind. I mean, most devout Mormons are spiritual people and love the church’s doctrine. And if their families are Mormon, then their families will likely find comfort in having that doctrine be a part of the funeral. I think the goal is to strike the right balance and to keep in mind the function this meeting should serve. I also loved how you pointed out that the treatment of doctrine was mixed in with remembering and honoring your mother. Perfect.

  11. .:kj:. says:

    As the only church member in my family, and a young single woman, I think about my funeral often. While I understand that the Bishop and/or SP needs to have a say in what occurs in a funeral held in the chapel, I think there needs to be a balance between The Letter of the Law (following exclusively the CHI), and The Spirit of the Law. I’m much more of a SotL kind of gal, and I think when we are mourning, we think more about that Spirit, as apposed to the letter of the law.

    I think my family would be off-put and maybe even offended if a Bishop or SP that they didn’t even know hijacked my funeral and made it into a “missionary moment.” Yes, doctrine needs to be taught, but I can’t imagine it coming off in any other way than patronizing.

    I do want to be buried in my ceremonial clothes, because my temple covenants are very important to me, and I have already contacted a few of my endowed friends to make sure that I am dressed properly, and I’ve talked to my sister, who knows the most about the church in my family, just to say that there are a few things that need to be taken care of properly.

    After reading this post, I think my best bet might to have my funeral in a funeral home, and done to my family’s liking, and what they are more comfortable with. Not that I’m planning on dying any time soon….

  12. IdahoG-ma says:

    A year and a half ago my SIL died. We had her funeral in a ward house in a rural Idaho town. Her nine children are mostly inactive, so I was hoping for a funeral heavy on love and peace. And I must say it was. Her brother and son sang Alan Jackson’s “Sissy’s Song” at the podium to taped music. It was perfect. Preaching was kept to a minimum and included consoling messages. It can be done. I think when it is not it is a reflection on the leaders more than the church.

  13. Corktree says:

    Personally I don’t see why the church should have such a say in how the funeral proceeds when it’s held at a meetinghouse, nor do I agree with much of what the CHI says. It just feels wrong, so I’m having a hard time seeing any value in it (especially when I don’t think we should be pushing ourselves and our beliefs on others – certainly not at a funeral).

    In a strange moment of serendipity, I attended a funeral this morning with my oldest daughter. It was for the young daughter of her teacher that died during a transplant surgery. I actually didn’t realize it would be an LDS funeral until I called the school this morning to ask what the location was since my daughter requested that we go.

    And I have never been to a more awkward funeral. It felt exactly like a Sacrament Meeting, almost indistinguishable, and was very confusing for my daughter, who is just now understanding that all these buildings that look like the one we go to church in, are the same church at large.

    But aside from that, it was clear that the speakers, all men, with hardly any family represented, were feeling very personally responsible for being witnesses for the Church to all the non-members from the school that were attending. I sat in the back trying to view it from the perspective of the visitors, and I couldn’t help but cringe. Everything was very preachy and full of cultural idioms that no one without context would understand. I completely support whatever the *family* needs to feel comforted, but I had a hard time believing this was what they wanted. Especially when a speaker went on and on about Joseph Smith’s opinion that young children and babies that die are being “called home by Heavenly Father” because they are too pure. But this girl was 10. I’m not saying that she wasn’t pure, but it felt more like a hollow way of saying, “it’s okay that your child is gone, she was needed more by God” – I just can’t agree with that view of God, managing our lives and our deaths like that. I hope it was comforting for them, but I don’t think it would have been for me. And then he pulled up a CD player and played a song from a musical about Joseph and Emma with them singing about losing babies. It was very awkward and I left wondering how on earth to talk to my own daughter about it all.

    Regardless, it solidified my own decision to not have ANYthing resembling a Mormon funeral when I die. I haven’t given it much thought beyond that yet, but I do NOT want it to feel like a church service, and I’d just rather it be held in nature somewhere. Hopefully I don’t die in winter.

  14. stacer says:

    I’ve been a member all my life, but I can’t think of one funeral I’ve ever attended that wasn’t in a funeral parlor. Come to think of it, I’m not sure that I’ve ever known anyone close to me who is LDS who has passed away, at least while I’ve been in the vicinity. So I’ve never been to an LDS funeral, and didn’t know about those kinds of restrictions. I love the doctrine of the Plan of Salvation and I want it to be *mentioned* at my funeral because I think most of us find it comforting to think we’ll see the loved one again. But if I had to choose between an almost-sacrament meeting that barely even reflected on the life of the one lost, and a full-on Irish wake in which everyone toasted to my life, I’m sure I’d rather the latter.

  15. Kari says:

    Even when I was an active, believing LDS member my family had explicit instructions that my funeral was not to be held in an LDS church nor planned by the bishop or stake president. Too many terrible funerals that were essentially sacrament meetings without the ordinance of the sacrament. I’ve also seen too many non-LDS come away from LDS funerals confused as to why the funeral was that way, with their perceptions of mormon oddity confirmed, not any desire to learn more about the LDS church (as would truly be expected of such a “missionary opportunity”).

  16. Alisa says:

    I just attended the funeral of a dear friend this February. Her cousin gave a tribute–something they had wrote together before she died–and her brother-in-law did a wonderful guitar composition. Her husband spoke directly to their children about being an eternal family. It was really sweet. But what I did not like is the SP, who spoke for 25 minutes about Joseph Smith and tried to tell people over and over to come back to the church. The jam-packed chapel and cultural hall was full of snoring congregants, including my parents, I noticed. People were totally tuned out, just like in a Sacrament Meeting. It was really disheartening.

    A few weeks later, I had lunch with several mutual friends of the deceased, none of whom were LDS. I was sad, but not surprised, to hear that they came away from the funeral even more in mourning because of that SP talk. One said that they used our friend’s tragic death to try to emotionally manipulate people into joining their church, and that it was “almost offensive” to try to do that to mourners. Another said she was glad she wasn’t LDS anymore, and after the funeral went and told her father that she wanted nothing like an LDS funeral when she died and would be cremated.

    • amelia says:

      I have to say I agree with your non-member friends about how manipulative using a funeral as a missionary opportunity would feel. I’m not a huge fan of the missionary effort in the first place, but it’s especially problematic when people are made to feel that Mormons’ interest in them is primarily about their potential as future members. I can’t help but think that these occasions would make much better impressions on non-members if we just celebrated the life of the deceased and mourned together and any talk of gospel/plan of salvation happened as it felt natural to do so in the context of that celebration/mourning.

  17. Moniker Challenged says:

    I attended quite a few LDS funerals with my Grandmother while I was growing up. It was more or less the custom in our area to focus on celebrating the life of the person who had passed on, with a short closing address from the bishop about “the plan” and having faith that we would see the deceased again. The bulk of the funerals, and the best part was when you heard about all the hilarious, brave, and compassionate things that the individuals had said and done that not everyone had known about. I was very disheartened when I heard that the CHI suggests the meeting should be long on sermon and short on remembrance–what’s the point of having a funeral at all? You could just bring a laptop or portable dvd player to the graveside, and play a general conference talk as the unidentified-by-proceedings body is lowered into the hole.

    When did this become policy? Is it something new, or was it just ignored by local leaders where I grew up?

    • amelia says:

      Technically the CHI does not say that the bulk of a funeral should be teaching the gospel/plan of salvation, but it certainly implies that the funeral should be more about teaching the plan of salvation and not as much about honoring the deceased.

      I agree that the best part of funerals are the stories and the connecting with other people who loved the person you also loved. For me personally that helps much more with the grieving process than hearing about the plan of salvation again (though I certainly think weaving talk about the plan of salvation could work very well, as Lori mentioned above).

  18. jen says:

    I want to donate my body to science, but I’m not sure that my husband will go through with it. Even if he doesn’t I’ve made it very clear to him that I don’t want a Mormon funeral. I have been to a lot of them (to play the organ) and I hate them. I want a TV funeral, where everyone just gathers at the gravesite, wearing black, looking sad, and holding umbrellas because it’s raining. And then they go back to the house and eat and comfort the family. I really don’t want the Relief Society meal on folding tables in the church gym. Oh, and I really don’t want a casket. How ridiculous to spend thousands of dollars on a box that gets buried? Ideally, I want to be cremated (after science is done using me) and scattered into the ocean. I know I’ve overthought this, but there isn’t much else to do as an organist at the funeral of someone I’ve never met. 🙂

  19. Jessawhy says:

    Like others here, I don’t want a Mormon funeral either.

    I’ve only been to a few, and they weren’t particularly bad. I remember my great-grandmother’s where my uncle played the guitar and sang a camp song that she loved. It was a celebration of her 94 years. Others have been much more tragic and focused a lot on the plan of salvation.

    I mostly don’t want an LDS funeral because it feels like a Sacrament Meeting and those aren’t my favorite anyway. I imagine a bunch of men sitting on the stand in the chapel, potentially men I’ve never met. I guess the issue of men “presiding” over me even when I’m dead really bugs me. I want to be surrounded by people who loved me when I was alive, not someone who is giving up his Saturday football game to grace the stand with his presence.

  20. The funny thing for me is that reading those instructions make me more spiteful of my own funeral than of a loved one’s. After all, I want my someday funeral to be an awesome celebration of my life and if it has to take place somewhere besides the local Mormon church building because of that, so be it. I actually never saw a funeral at a Mormon church building in Germany, anyway. There’s a nondenominational chapel at the cemetery for that purpose.

  21. Jayme says:

    I have never had a bad experience at a Mormon funeral. That being said, I have only been to a handful that I remember, and all of them were Mormon, so I don’t have much to compare it to.

    In the past few years, however, I have been to two remarkable funerals of boys that I grew up with, boys I have known all my life. The first passed away during his sr year of high school, the other at age 21. Neither had been particularly spiritual or religious; both had friends who were non-Mormon or non-active who were the bulk of the mourners.

    The family members and those conducting the services were able to, in my mind, walk a very fine line of spirituality and preaching along with keeping the memories of these boys fresh and relevant. There were tears and there were laughs. I felt that it was very much a service in honor of the lives of these boys, and (because of their age and the hopefulness of their parents) their lives to come. While I didn’t necessarily agree with everything expressed at the funerals, they allowed the families to mourn in a way most beneficial to them.

    • amelia says:

      Jayme it sounds like the family and church leaders involved struck a really wonderful balance at these two funerals. That’s the ideal. I want to reiterate that it’s not my contention that there is no place for the gospel, the plan of salvation, or the spirit at funerals. I just think there needs to be balance so that the mourners are really able to mourn.

      Thanks for sharing these experiences. It’s really good to hear about the Mormon funerals that work well.

  22. Kris says:

    I have never experienced a Mormon funeral that was like a Sacrament meeting. Every funeral is different, but in my experience they have all been lovely.

  23. Whoa-man says:

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I’ve had to (unfortunately) go to my share of close family LDS funerals in my lifetime and it doesn’t matter who it is, how old they are, or what they died of it seems that at least one or two church leaders always speak (regardless of how close they were to the person) and they co-opt the moment of sadness, loss, emotional turbulence, vulnerability, and grief into missionary tools and “how to grief” properly advice. It is so frustrating and painful on top of already dealing with so much.

    In fact, the bureaucracy of it all makes me so angry because as anyone who has lost any one close knows, the details are the last thing you can possibly deal with after the death of a loved one. You are barely wrapping your head around the big picture without this person in it and you are having to make decisions left and right: “Of course, we’ll take the $2,000 coffin because I loved my sibling and he deserves the best.” “I guess we should just have the flowers delivered to the house. I don’t know. What do people normally do?” “Umm. sure lets have the bishop speak if that’s what he says needs to happen.” etc. Your ward should be a place of refuge of people protecting and helping you and instead it can become a place where people you don’t know are taking up the most time at the funeral saying things that the deceased would cringe at. I have never been to an LDS funeral at a ward building where that doesn’t happen.

    I have, however, been to LDS funerals held elsewhere that have been amazing experiences. At my uncle’s, they had everyone go straight to the grave site and turned the time over to anyone close to the deceased who wanted to say something brief. That way everyone who wanted to got to say something wonderful and funny, sad and moving, but they were always tailored to the person whom the gathering was meant for. Not a lesson. Not preaching. Not advice. Not testimony. Nothing. Just love and words of comfort and support. I think the bishop and stake patriarch said something too, but instead of cringing and being uncomfortable for 20 minutes, we all enjoyed their 2 minutes of reflection on my uncle.

  24. Kelly Ann says:

    Amelia, What a wonderful post. The discussion has got me thinking about a lot of things – like wanting to plan my own funeral and knowing that most people would find that thought morbid. Also, I don’t think LDS funerals are alone in being preachy. I have a friend who is baptist whose mother tragically past away. She had the funeral in the church because she knew her mother would want it but wasn’t prepared for the guilt thronged upon her by some individuals. She said she felt spiritually raped and will never ever set foot back in a church. That said I think there is a balance that can be found in most church funerals while still honoring the person and not afflicting guilt in any sense (although honestly my friends case was an extreme and not the norm for her faith). I also think of the prescribed catholic masses. There can be a lot of preaching per say but the family also has a say in which scripture passes to pick. In fact, I have been thinking that it would be awesome to have a requiem at my own funeral. I’m not musically talented per say, but I love all types, and think that if there was a service in a church, I would be happier with music than sermons. But I like the idea of a graveside service, although the problem being at the current moment I would like to be cremated… I’m also a fan of a wake in that I think a celebration of life is better.

  25. kim says:

    Perhaps having the funeral of a church member in the chapel is a regional custom? In my area it’s rare- most are held at the funeral home. With all the restrictions and the family having so little say in what happens, why do folks want them in the church building any way? It’s not as though a funeral is a sacred ordinance that must be performed in a certain place (vs. a temple wedding). Having it in an LDS chapel doesn’t make it any more “correct” or somehow better. I want mine in the funeral home with some good ol’ vintage rock music and hopefully lots of laughs. I’m sure it’ll save my family some money too- no carting me all over town thanks.

    Maybe someone can explain this mind set, because I really don’t understand, but like I said, I haven’t had much experience with it either.

  26. April says:

    I have been to many beautiful Mormon funerals in chapels…but I think these guidelines were completely ignored at all of them. Secular music was performed and the deceased was eulogized at length. The only one of these guidelines I recall being universally adhered to was including a message about the plan of salvation. I am not a fan of the guidelines as I have just learned them through this post. I hope they get a rewrite. Until then, I hope my friends and relatives continue to ignore them.

    The one typical Mormon tradition I am not fond of, that I have witnessed at nearly all Mormon funerals I have attended, is dressing the deceased in temple clothes. Why do we display the deceased in a way that is so confusing to non-Mormon mourners and young Mormon mourners who have not attended the temple yet?

    • CatherineWO says:

      April, when my father-in-law died, he was dressed in his favorite plaid shirt for the viewing the night before the funeral. Then my husband went in the next morning and dressed him in his temple clothing before the funeral. It confused ward members who came to the viewing, but it was so much better for the non-member family members and gave a lighter feeling to the viewing, where we also served diet Dr. Pepper, his favorite soda.

  27. Alan says:

    I think a sensitive and creative bishop can counsel with family members and the ward council on how to follow CHI instructions AND meet the wishes of loved ones. I have given one funeral “Plan of Salvation” talk in my life. This was for a young man who was brutally murdered. I was his parents’ home teacher. I asked them what part of the Plan of Salvation they wanted to hear the most. Their son was inactive but had told them the week before that he wanted to start coming to church again. I searched the scriptures and drew heavily on D&C 138 as my text. My theme was that the Plan of Salvation saves those who are headed in the right direction, even if their life is cut short. The parents thanked me and told me they were comforted. I also learned a lot preparing and giving this talk. The Plan of Salvation DOES provide comfort if presented in a comforting way.
    Have you ever had that Teaching Inservice lesson where the teacher shows the class a delicious-looking chocolate cake and then serves it by jabbing her hand in it and plopping a piece on a paper plate and tossing it to you? I think that teaching the Plan of Salvation can be done in an appealing, comforting way, or in a boring, droning, and perhaps even offensive way.

    • amelia says:

      Spot on, Alan. I really do think approach is so very important. In all situations, but even more so in such emotionally and spiritually sensitive situations as a funeral. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  28. Aly S says:

    I have witnessed a number of Plan of Salvation talks at funerals that were wonderful, always because they have been given by someone who knew the deceased and could weave in stories about that person along with the doctrinal information. They made sense in context and really added to the service. The talks that were pure doctrine with no connection to the deceased (often because the speaker didn’t even know the deceased) always seemed superfluous and even ham-handed to me. It is the death of a person that is the driving force behind having the service, so it’s obvious that all elements of it should have some direct connection to that person (and no, the fact that everyone benefits from the Plan of Salvation isn’t enough of a connection for my taste).

  29. JM says:

    I have been to some wonderful Mormon funerals (my favorite funeral was a 3-hour funeral at an African Methodist Episcopalian church) but the problems described in the OP and comments do not surprise me. Also, the problems identified in the OP are not unique to the Mormon funerals. My husband is an organist and has played at numerous Catholic funerals. The music restrictions and opportunities for familial participation are even more limited. But, as with the Mormon church, perhaps in the Catholic church it all depends on the local authority.

    • amelia says:

      That’s very true, JM. Thanks for pointing that out. I think it’s almost always counterproductive to argue that the grass is greener in other churches and prefer to instead engage in conversation about how we can make our own grass greener. I hope I didn’t give the impression in the OP that other churches get it right while we are so far off.

  30. CatherineWO says:

    I have attended and helped plan many Mormon funerals. How strictly the CHI is followed really depends on the bishop. I prefer the more personal, family-planned, funerals, but my husband is a rule-follower, so I have given up the battle for my own funeral to be too non-traditional. (He has agreed, however, to post a sign at the door indicating that anyone wearing fragrance must sit at the back or in the foyer (as I have had to do for years because of my fragrance sensitivities)).
    Anyone with strong feelings about her/his own funeral should write down instructions and tell family members where they are. When my dad died, my sister and I were pleasantly surprised to find that he had written out a full program for his funeral, including topics and speaker suggestions. It complied with the CHI, so his bishop was happy to use it. Easiest funeral ever.

  31. Amy says:

    “Superfluous and ham-handed” best describes the doctrinal speakers at my grandmother’s funeral, the last funeral I attended, which convinced me that the next funeral I plan will not be held in a chapel. Since my grandfather had served in high church callings for many years, we had a number of suits who attended and sat on the stand. After the very lovely program, which included several musical numbers by grandchildren, a choir, and her ward young women, a humorous and touching eulogy and personal remembrances by her daughters, and a gospel-centered talk by her son, EACH of the (four!) presiding authorities–most of which knew the deceased only remotely, if at all–felt the need to stand up and preach at us about the plan of salvation, and about how we shouldn’t be sad because death is not the end. Their talks went on, and on, and on, and were so unbelievably generic it was actually hurtful. I get mad today just thinking about it. That people not close to the deceased would be so arrogant as to believe they *should* preach at her funeral just because they were “authorities,” especially when we were well into the second hour of the funeral…oh, it infuriates me. When my parents pass away, I will take the temperature of the local bishop. If he seems prone to this sort of behavior, I will simply hold their funeral elsewhere where he does not have jurisdiction. A funeral is not an ordinance. It doesn’t need anyone to “preside” over it.

    • Sijbrich says:

      “When my parents pass away, I will take the temperature of the local bishop.” Funny – I was just thinking this same exact thing as I was reading through all these comments. I’m appreciating the opportunity to learn from others’ experiences so I can try to avoid them.

  32. Sandra says:

    I can see how there is room for things to miss the moment and play to the standard sacrament meeting format. Thankfully, I haven’t seen that. I was at my grandmother’s funeral just over a month ago, which was held in the chapel and I think it was lovely. I sat down with her months before and planned the funeral according to her specifications. She must of known how these things go and dictated that she wanted the program to be largely music. It was. It was a spiritual meeting and the program was nearly all family. I would hope my funeral would be the way that I want it as well.

    The thing that was the most cathartic for me, and one best moments was at the grave site. It has become a family tradition to fill in the grave as family. We brought shovels and when we were done dedicating the grave and the casket was lowered in, all those who wanted to dirtied their shoes and began to shovel. It was hard to see my grandmother go, but I felt the closure I needed by physically doing something. I know this is getting off topic, but I wanted to share what a powerful moment that was to me. We cried and laughed and moved forward as we slowly filled in the whole grave.

    I agree that the closure doesn’t have to happen in the chapel- for me the grave site was that.

    • Amelia says:

      Sandra, thanks so much for sharing. It sounds like your grandmother’s funeral was perfect. And I love your family tradition of finding closure by collectively filling in the grave. I can see how that could be very cathartic.

  33. Laura says:

    I’m crying again because I hate the CHI guidelines for funerals. My grandma passed away in March and her funeral was held in an LDS chapel. The first half of the service was a beautiful tribute to her life filled with music and love for others. I cried through the musical numbers and the words of my father and aunt. It was healing to do so. The last two speakers were from the ward and stake. The longer they spoke, the angrier and more hurt I felt. It was so hurtful to me and to other members of our family (LDS and non-LDS alike) to have the beauty of the first part of the meeting erased by those remarks. My grandma was a devout, life-long member of the Church and my dad and aunt mentioned several aspects of her faith in their talks. There was absolutely NO value in what the Church authorities said. I know they meant well, but it was just horrible to have such a personal event be turned into something generic.

    I’m am active member of the LDS church, but I do NOT want a Mormon funeral.

  34. Sijbrich says:

    This post makes me think of two contrasting funerals that I have attended. One was for my grandmother, in a funeral parlor. I recall that all of the talks were from either one of her children or grandchildren reflecting on their memories of her. My sister was one that spoke and I appreciated that she asked me and my other siblings to help her brainstorm the memories, so we all got to take part in a small way. My father blessed her gravesite.

    A few years ago, a young man commited suicide in our ward as he was preparing to leave on his mission. He had been living with his aunt and uncle that lived in our ward for a few years, while his parents and sister lived in UT. I don’t remember the relation of this one guy that spoke at his funeral (at an LDS chapel) but I remember feeling like he was really defensive in trying to defend his parents for sending him to live with his aunt and uncle, giving all the idea that there may have been family politics behind the whole mess…I don’t know, I just felt uncomfortable after his talk. One of the young man’s best friends got up and read a letter she had written him that I thought was really sweet. I so admire teenagers that participate in funerals. I’m way too emotional to ever consider doing it, but I have seen a few teenagers contribute in such meaningful ways like that.

    I’ve often thought about just being cremated, too, for practicality purposes, and to just be spread somewhere beautiful…Is that just folklore or official doctrine that cremation is only encouraged in cultures where it’s considered more necessary than a personal choice? And I think after reading everyone’s experiences here and reflecting on my own experiences, that I’d prefer the funeral parlor over the LDS chapel any day.

    • Amelia says:

      It’s certainly not doctrine that church members cannot be cremated unless they live in a place where cremation is required (there are places where they don’t allow for western-style burial). But the CHI does say that the church discourages cremation.

  35. Rev. F says:

    I was bought up Roman Catholic and have endured some funerals which fall under the topic of this article. I have been to funerals for many denominations and have to admit I strongly disagree with anything that takes away from the family being able to celebrate the life of the person lost.

    Those who speak should be those who remind you of the light this person brought with them and left behind, and allow those attending to smile, cry and grimace at the moments that took their breath away. God has a place at a funeral, however God is not the one who has passed.

    Other than my grandmother | grandfathers funerals which I enjoyed immensely I have been to one funeral here in America not held in a building of any denomination and was delighted to see a small video of the life of this person who had passed. I was delighted to hear laughter, tears and sighs as the mourners remembers a life passed and not forgotten.

    Thank you for a great article.

    • spunky says:

      “God has a place at a funeral, however God is not the one who has passed. ”

      Brilliantly stated! Thank you!

      • Rev. F says:

        Thank You!

      • amelia says:

        I totally agree with Spunky. This:

        God has a place at a funeral, however God is not the one who has passed.

        could not be more perfectly phrased. I completely agree. I totally understand wanting God and theology playing a part of a funeral (after all, people have religious beliefs in large part because those beliefs help them make sense of the difficult aspects of life, including death). It just shouldn’t displace the primary goal of a funeral–to celebrate the life lived and now gone and to help those left behind mourn.

        I also really love this:

        Those who speak should be those who remind you of the light this person brought with them and left behind

        I like conceiving of people as bringers of a light that remains with us after they depart. One of my agnostic friends once told me that he does not conceive of an after life per se, but that he thinks we live on in the memories and hearts of those we love and who love us. I really like that idea.

  36. Daniel says:

    When I was a missionary, we were taught to use funerals as missionary tools. I attended a funeral for an inactive member that was outside of my assigned area, and I was given special permission to attend it because it would be good for missionary work. We were also taught to use opportunities like deaths in the family, weddings, and the birth of children as good times to teach the gospel to nonbelievers.

    I have since left the Church, and I am very concerned that if I died young, my family might try to give me a Mormon funeral. That would upset me because it would not accurately reflect my beliefs or actions, and it would isolate many of my loved ones who are not LDS.

    • amelia says:

      Thanks for sharing your insight, Daniel. It really bothers me that we instruct our missionaries to use these deeply emotional human experiences in order to Teach the Gospel. I mean, I understand that these opportunities often naturally lend themselves to sharing aspects of our belief. And I don’t really have a problem with that, so long as the sharing is done appropriately and with empathy for mourners. But I think that when we directly instruct missionaries to take advantage of these opportunities, then what happens is not sympathetic sharing but proselytizing and manipulation. Which is just not okay.

      I feel for you in your concern about what your family might do that does not pay tribute to who you are. While I do think that funerals are in large part meant to help mourners mourn, I also think that they should pay honest tribute to the deceased and be in keeping with her/his values and beliefs.

    • Alisa says:

      Emotion and spirit are two different things. It bothers me that missionaries would be instructed to use highly-emotional, overwhelming times to teach the gospel rather than a quiet, still time when the Spirit could best be the one teaching the gospel.

  37. kamschron says:

    My grandfather’s Scottish heritage was very important to him, and one of the best things about his funeral, held in an LDS chapel, was the bagpipe player playing at the end. In my sheltered life, I have attended only a small number of funerals, not all LDS. So far, I have never encountered an LDS funeral where the focus was not on remembering and honoring the deceased person, but I recently attended a funeral that was conducted by a past bishop at a funeral chapel, instead of being conducted by the current bishop at the LDS chapel, in order for the family to be able to use the music that they preferred.

    • Amelia says:

      How wonderful that there was bagpipe music for your grandfather! That’s so great that they allowed that (the CHI makes it very clear what kinds of instruments are appropriate for a chapel and bagpipes are definitely not one of them).

  38. m2theh says:

    At my mother’s funeral three years ago we didn’t really have any issues with our wants colliding with what the handbook said. I basically took charge of the whole thing, even getting a cheaper casket because I thought my mom would like that better. In hindsight, I would pick hymns that are obscure, because if you go to church the next week and hear the same songs, it’s very hard.

    I did the life sketch about my mother, and had an uncle speak about her life as well. I know the bishop gave a talk, but I don’t really remember it. In my talk I made sure to reference how much the book of mormon and gospel meant to my mother, because we had quite a few of my brothers friends in attendance who were non-members and it was an opportunity to let them know what we believed, but no overtly.

    I went to a funeral for a friends wife and he actually played, over the pulpit, a recording of a song she had sung at their wedding reception.

    I do feel that the funeral is for the mourners, not for the deceased.

  39. Queen Mum says:

    Amelia,

    Would you go to a fast food place and ask for a 3-course-sit-down meal or try to buy tires at the grocery store? No. If what you wanted wasn’t there, would you say the provider wasn’t sensitive or had some ulterior motives? No.

    The same is true with having funerals. If you want a party with a mariachi band, don’t have it in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints under the direction of a bishop in the chapel and between the opening and closing prayers.

    I’ve been to many funerals in the Church and found them very accommodating to friends of other faiths. One example was when my dear friend Martha died. She left all the final decisions up to her “beautiful son” who was not a member. He did a terrific job in reflecting her faith while actually having the occasion be fun. The memorial service had lots, and I mean, lots of music performed. One piece from an opera was one she and her late husband sang. After the funeral, the group gathered for a reception with food, mariachi band and a video celebration of her life. Many mourners were given copies of the DVD as well to take home. It was a party Martha would have loved.

    If a particular bishop sees things differently about a particular piece being used in the funeral, the mourners can always gather in the cultural hall and have a continued service or celebration. And if the bishop still doesn’t give approval, the whole group can go to another place and party the night or week away.

    There is nothing that says an individual needs to go the a church and expect the funeral to be anything other than what the church feels is dignifying by its definition and filled with reminders of its teachings that can bring comfort to the mourners. I feel your piece was aimed to have those attending funerals at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to look for ways to feel excluded. I went to a Catholic funeral for my neighbor and never expected to be the same as my church.

    • amelia says:

      Would you go to a fast food place and ask for a 3-course-sit-down meal or try to buy tires at the grocery store? No. If what you wanted wasn’t there, would you say the provider wasn’t sensitive or had some ulterior motives? No.

      No, I wouldn’t. But I would go to a fast food place and expect them to provide me with a both a hamburger and fries. I would go to the grocery store and expect to find canned green beans as well as fresh. In other words, I don’t think I’m asking for something the church does not have the capacity to give. I’m not at all suggesting there is no place for talk of the gospel at a funeral; nor am I suggesting that anything goes. I’m simply asking that the church provide what it promises to provide–peace and comfort in times of difficulty. For some people, that may take the shape of nothing but discussing the plan of salvation (in terms of the metaphors you suggest, a hamburger or canned green beans); for others it will mean being able to celebrate the life of their loved one in a very personal fashion (the french fries or the fresh green beans). I see no reason why church funerals cannot provide both and I have said at multiple points in the comments how wonderful I think the funerals are where both objectives are achieved.

      I certainly did not mean that I think a Catholic mourner or a Buddhist mourner should go to a Mormon funeral and not find any indication of the deceased’s Mormon-ness. I simply think that the Mormonism that’s represented there should be in the context of the life and personality of the deceased, not just be another sermon like any other. I once went to a Catholic funeral for a good friend of my family who I’d known all my life. I very much enjoyed the fact that her funeral gave me a glimpse into how people of her faith mourn and worship; I was sad, however, that there was very little of my friend in that service. I don’t think it’s too much to expect that any funeral service make space for the person who has actually died, rather than co-opting it in an effort to reinforce dogmatic belief or to proselytize to the uninitiated.

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