Information on Mormon funeral traditions and burials
Mormon death rituals
Mormons, also known as Latter-Day Saints, are part of the Christian faith, but have many different beliefs and traditions. This branch of Christianity was founded by Joseph Smith Jr. in 1830, with the first Mormon temple dedicated in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1836. Although they refer to themselves as Latter-Day Saints or simply Saints, others may refer to these Christians as Mormons in reference to the Book of Mormon, a holy scripture translated by Joseph Smith Jr.
Mormons believe that when someone dies, their soul separates from their body and is judged in the afterlife according to their deeds in life.
After the death of a loved one, Mormons usually contact a bishop of the Church of Latter-Day Saints to help them make arrangements. It is also advisable to enlist the help of a funeral home with experience conducting Mormon funerals.
Mormon funeral traditions
Generally, organ donation and embalming are accepted practices within the Church of Latter-Day Saints. Cremation, although not forbidden, is discouraged and burial is always preferred.
If the person who has died had received their temple endowment (the formal initiation of a Latter-Day Saint into the Church), they will be buried wearing white-colored Mormon burial clothing. They will be dressed by a family member of the same gender, if possible. It is common to have open-casket viewing before the funeral for mourners to say their goodbyes.
You may notice that there are no crosses or crucifixes present in a Mormon church, on the coffin or on the person who has died. This is because Mormons generally prefer not to use the symbol of the crucifix, though they are not offended by other Christians using it. This is because they see the crucifix as a symbol of Jesus’ death, whereas their beliefs are centered around the idea of a living Christ.
A Mormon funeral will usually take place in a Latter-Day Saint church, or sometimes at the funeral home or graveside.
The funeral service is usually led by a bishop belonging to the Church. The service is primarily a religious one and will often focus on teaching the gospel to the congregation. They will be songs, hymns, prayers and a sermon. Family members may have an opportunity to speak, but this is not a requirement.
Mormons believe in eternal life after death and the tone of the funeral service often reflects this. Though it will usually be a serious affair, Latter-Day Saints believe that they are not saying goodbye for good, and so it may also be a celebration of faith.
In modern times, some Mormon families ask to include personalized elements with the funeral. Bishops will usually allow this, so long as it does not disrupt or overshadow the deep spiritual message of the funeral service.
After a Mormon funeral service
Mormons usually have a reception for family and friends after the funeral. This may be held at the family home. The reception is a time for mourners to share memories of the person who has died and comfort each other.
A meal known as a ‘mercy meal’ is prepared for the reception. This usually consists of ham or turkey, and a dish known as Mormon funeral potatoes.
Mormon funeral etiquette
Non-Mormons are usually welcome to attend Mormon funerals. You do not have to join in with prayers or hymns if you do not wish to; simply maintain a respectful silence and stand and sit when the rest of the congregation does so.
What to wear to a Mormon funeral
Your clothing should be modest and smart, such as a suit or dress and jacket, as would be expected at most Christian funerals. No head covering is required at a Mormon funeral.
For more information on religious funerals, visit our religious funerals page.