Non-Mormons are not allowed to attend funeral services that are held inside a House of the Lord (a temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). However, most Mormon funerals are typically held at funeral homes, wards, or other churches so that non-Mormons may attend.
Attending a Mormon Funeral as a Non-Mormon
In the LDS Church, the temple is considered to be the most sacred structure on earth. Once a temple has been dedicated as a “House of the Lord,” only members of the church that are deemed worthy are permitted to enter. There are currently 81 temples in the United States.
Non-Mormons are not allowed to attend funeral services that are held inside a temple. However, most Mormon funerals are typically held at funeral homes, wards, or other churches so that non-Mormons may attend.
If you are unsure whether you are allowed to attend a Mormon funeral, you should call the facility or the ward prior to the service.
Mormon Funeral Service
According to Mormon tradition, a body is typically buried within seven days of death. Prior to a funeral, a wake is held at the funeral home or family home to allow friends and family to see the deceased one more time.
Mormon funerals are typically held at a funeral home, ward, church, or gravesite. In rare instances, funerals may also be held in the House of the Lord. Funerals held outside of the House of the Lord are attended by Mormon and non-Mormon family, friends, and close associates of the deceased.
The Mormon Church views funerals as both a somber ceremony to honor the deceased and a celebration of their life. Therefore, the funeral is typically a more lighthearted event than the funerals of many other religions. It is not unusual for funerals to contain stories about the deceased and joy and laughter as their lives are honored.
The ward bishop leads a Mormon funeral. A typical Mormon funeral is roughly an hour in length and will include:
- Eulogies by the ward bishop or family members
- A sermon by the ward bishop
- Information about the Mormon faith. As funerals are one of the only Mormon services that are typically open to non-Mormons, it is common for funerals to include information about the basic tenets of Mormonism.
Like many other religions, the body of the deceased is prepared in accordance with the wishes of the deceased and their family. Closed casket funerals are most common, though open-casket funerals do occur. The Mormon Church accepts burial, organ donation, and cremation, though burial is most common.
Burials will occur immediately following the funeral. The burial is typically attended by immediate family and those who have been invited. As such, if you have not been invited to the burial, you are not expected to attend.
Mormon Funeral Etiquette
Understanding the Mormon faith and their funeral rituals will help you understand what to expect when attending a Mormon funeral. When attending a Mormon funeral, it is important to remember the following:
1. Ask Before Participating:
As is common with any wakes, funerals, or burials, the family of the deceased will dictate who they wish to attend the various events. Therefore, if you have not been invited, make sure you reach out to the family or the ward before participating.
Though Mormon funerals are generally open to the public, wakes and burials are frequently limited to only immediate family and close friends.
2. Follow the Lead of the Family:
Mormon funerals are seen as both a somber event to honor the dead and a celebration of their life. Therefore, it is not uncommon to see people laugh, talk, and even joke during the funeral. Many funerals will have both storytelling and moments of silent reflection to properly honor the deceased.
The family of the deceased will set the tone of the funeral and you should follow their lead.
3. Dress Conservatively:
Though Mormon funerals do not require you to wear black, it is customary to dress conservatively in more somber colors. Men typically wear a suit or white shirt and tie, while women wear dresses or skirts that reach their knees and keep their shoulders covered.
4. Avoid Jewelry with Crosses or Crucifixes:
Depictions of crosses or crucifixions are seen as offensive to the family of the deceased.
5. It’s Okay to Show up Empty-Handed:
It is not customary to bring anything for the family of the deceased when attending a Mormon funeral. If you feel like you want to bring something, a sympathy card and/or flowers are accepted.
Food for the funeral is provided by the women of the church.
However, it is also acceptable to bring the family of the deceased food in the weeks before or after the funeral.
6. Be Prepared to Talk about Faith:
As a non-Mormon attending a Mormon funeral, you will likely be one of only a few individuals who are not part of the church. Therefore, you will likely be approached by friendly missionaries and members of the church inviting you to attend future meetings and services.
Overall, Mormon funerals are not much different than Catholic or Christian funerals. If you are a non-Mormon planning to attend a Mormon funeral, make sure the funeral is held in a location where you are allowed to attend and be respectful while you are there. For more information on attending funerals, see When Not to Attend a Funeral.
Mormon Beliefs About Death and the Afterlife
To understand Mormon funeral traditions, it is important to understand the Mormon beliefs about death and the afterlife. The Mormon understanding of the afterlife is based on the LDS Plan of Salvation.
Mormons believe that after death, the spirit of the deceased leaves the body and enters the spirit world to await resurrection. It is at this time that the spirits of individuals who did not embrace the Gospel are segregated from those who lived according to God’s word.
Individuals who were not given the opportunity to hear the Gospel during life are given the opportunity in the spirit world and are then segregated.
The Plan of Salvation teaches that heaven is divided into three separate kingdoms: the Celestial, the Terrestrial, and the Telestial Kingdoms. These Kingdoms are also referred to as the “Degrees of Glory” in reference to their positions in relation to God. These kingdoms are where all men and women will go to be judged by God and be united with their immortal bodies to achieve immortality.
Individuals who have followed the Gospel are allowed to enter the Celestial Kingdom, which is ruled by God himself. Individuals who did not actively reject the word of God but did not devoutly follow the Gospel are sent to the Terrestrial Kingdom. Individuals who rejected the Gospel or committed grievous sins must dwell in the Telestial Kingdom.
Mormonism is a religion that belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). The Mormon religion was found in 1830 when the Book of Mormon was published.
The LDS Church is the most prevalent in the United States. According to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints website, the church currently has over 6.5 million members across the United States that are part of 14,459 different congregations.
Mormons have many beliefs in common with Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant faiths. However, they also have their own distinct set of philosophies, values, and practices.
Mormonism is based on the tenants of four books, including:
- The Bible
- The Book of Mormon
- Doctrine and Covenants (contains a collection of modern revelation regarding the Church of Jesus Christ as it has been restored)
- The Pearl of Great Price (considered to clarify doctrines and teachings that were lost from the Bible and provide additional information about the Earth’s creation)