Guidelines for Planning LDS Funerals

Drop the Tradition, Rituals, Expectations and the Expense

Missionaries of the Texas McAllen Mission
Missionaries of the Texas McAllen Mission sing the closing hymn at the memorial services held Sunday in Weslaco, Texas, for Elder Trevor Strong and Elder Derek Walker, who were killed 8 November in an accident.

Intellectual Reserve Inc.

Although inevitable, death brings sorrow and we are instructed to:

...mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort,

The overall point to funerals, or other memorials, is to bring comfort to the living. When held in LDS buildings, all should remember that funeral services are both church services, as well as family gatherings.

Naturally, LDS policy and procedure determines what happens at funerals held in LDS meetinghouses. In addition, these guidelines are helpful, no matter where the funeral is held and whether the deceased was LDS or not.

General Church Guidelines for Funerals

Keep in mind that these guidelines should be followed, regardless of local cultures and traditions.

  1. All secular laws and legal procedures associated with death are binding on leaders and members and must be strictly followed.
  2. There are no rituals, customs or ordinances associated with death in the gospel of Jesus Christ. None should be adopted from other cultures, religions or groups.
  3. A funeral is a church service. It should be conducted as such. This means it should be dignified, simple and oriented toward the gospel while retaining a certain solemnity.
  4. Funerals are an opportunity to teach gospel principles that bring comfort to the living, such as the Atonement and the Plan of Salvation (Happiness.)
  5. No video, computer or electronic presentations should be used in the service. No service can be broadcast in any way.
  6. Funeral services should not normally be held on Sunday.
  7. No fees or contributions are allowed, even if the deceased was a nonmember.
  8. Some practices are prohibited, especially those that are expensive, involve considerable time, impose hardships on those that remain and make it difficult for them to move on with their lives.

List of Prohibited Practices

These prohibited practices include the following but are not exhaustive:

  • Expecting excessive travel.
  • Wearing special clothing for mourning.
  • Making elaborate public announcements.
  • Paying money to the family.
  • Holding elaborate and prolonged feasts at the funeral.
  • Holding excessive commemorative or anniversary celebrations after the funeral.

Even if morticians, viewings and so forth are common in the culture, most of these can be dispensed with by holding graveside services, family gatherings or other procedures in appropriate, solemn venues.

The Role the Bishop Should Play

The Bishop works closely with the family when a death takes place. There are things he must do and things he is at liberty to do.

What the Bishop Must Do

  • The Bishop is primarily responsible for ensuring all guidelines are followed.
  • If the funeral service takes place in an LDS meetinghouse, he should conduct it. However, if a stake president, Area Seventy or a General Authority is present, that leader should be acknowledged as the presiding official.
  • Notify the Melchizedek priesthood leader and the Relief Society president responsible for the family. This is so that they, and others, can provide assistance in dressing the deceased's body, safeguarding the home during the service and providing other needed support like helping with children, meals, and flowers.
  • If a viewing is held before the service, he must conclude it 20 minutes before the service begins.
  • Ensure the casket is closed before it is moved into the chapel for the service.
  • Ensure the service is simple and dignified while teaching gospel truths.
  • Begin the service on time. It should last no longer than one hour or one hour and a half, maximum.
  • Inform the family that no family member is required to speak or participate in the service.
  • Ensure that tributes to the deceased are not inappropriate, excessive or too long.
  • If the grave is to be dedicated, he should help the family select an appropriate Melchizedek Priesthood holder to dedicate the grave and offer the dedicatory prayer.

What the Bishop Can Do

  • Offer assistance in notifying people of the death.
  • Offer assistance in planning the service.
  • Help in preparing a suitable obituary.
  • Assist in notifying newspapers of the death.
  • Help in making mortuary and cemetery arrangements.
  • Arrange with funeral directors for funeral services to be provided at cost, if fast offering funds are used.
  • If a viewing is held before the service, allow family members to hold a family prayer at its end and before the service begins.
  • Offer ward help in providing local transportation for the family
  • Conduct the funeral, if requested by the family, when it is held in a home, mortuary or at the graveside.

If the Deceased Was Temple Worthy

Deceased members who have received their endowments in the temple may be buried in their temple clothes or cremated in their temple clothing.

If dressing the deceased is not possible, the clothing may be placed next to the body.

Problems with Innovation and Accommodations

Leaders should not lightly set aside these simple instructions to allow innovations or accommodate special family wishes. Elder Boyd K. Packer warns:

On occasion a family member has suggested, sometimes even insisted, that some innovation be added to the funeral service as a special accommodation to the family. Within reason, of course, a bishop may honor such a request. However, there are limits to what may be done without disturbing the spirituality and causing it to be less than it might be. We should remember, too, that others attending the funeral may suppose that innovation is an accepted procedure and introduce it at other funerals. Then, unless we are careful, an innovation which was allowed as an accommodation to one family in one funeral may come to be regarded as expected in every funeral.

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Your Citation
Cook, Krista. "Guidelines for Planning LDS Funerals." Learn Religions, Feb. 16, 2021, Cook, Krista. (2021, February 16). Guidelines for Planning LDS Funerals. Retrieved from Cook, Krista. "Guidelines for Planning LDS Funerals." Learn Religions. (accessed April 11, 2021).