Funerals allow us to celebrate and honor the life of those who’ve passed, but they look a little different for each religion. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) faith, also called Mormonism, members of the church follow a special set of funeral rituals and burial practices that align with their religion.
As a member of the LDS faith, you might be looking to learn more about Mormon burial practices. Maybe you’re attending a funeral and want to know what to expect, or perhaps you’re interested in incorporating Mormon burial customs into your own memorial service after you pass away.
To help you better understand bereavement in the Mormon faith, we’ve answered your most frequently asked questions regarding Mormon burial practices, customs, and etiquette.
This article was reviewed by Sara Patterson, professor of theological studies at Hanover College.
A guide to Mormon burial practices and customs
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the largest Morman denomination, but there are other branches of Mormonism, too. Because of this, there may be some variations in individual practices, but the following are some of the most commonly practiced funeral customs in the Mormon faith.
How do Mormons view death and dying?
Mormons believe that the spirit separates from the body after death. After death, individuals will enter the spirit realm where they will stay prior to the Second Coming of Christ. During that time, non-believers will have the opportunity to learn about the faith and repent of their sins. After the Second Coming, people will be placed in one of the three levels of heaven based on their faith, choices, and actions.
Although dying is a sad occasion in the Mormon faith, those mourning find peace in knowing their loved ones will unite with God and Jesus after death and that their families will be together eternally.
What are some common Mormon burial practices?
Mormons typically bury their loved ones within seven days of their passing, but never on a Sunday.
During this time, their close relatives begin making funeral arrangements with their church’s bishop.
In some cases, the funeral director is responsible for preparing the deceased’s body, but in others, an endowed family member of the same gender will do the preparations. If someone is endowed, it means they’ve participated in the temple endowment, a special religious ceremony much like a baptism.
If the deceased received the temple endowment, they’ll be buried in temple garments and white clothing. The church provides the temple garments, which are holy and sacred undergarments, while the deceased's family provides the white clothing. Women are typically buried in white long-sleeved dresses, stockings, and shoes, while men are buried wearing white suits, ties, and shoes. However, if the deceased wasn’t endowed, for example, if they were a child or recently converted to Mormonism, they won’t wear the traditional white garments for burial.
Can a Mormon be cremated?
Although cremation is allowed, burial is encouraged in the Mormon faith. Mormons prefer to bury their loved ones in a casket in the ground.
Where is the funeral held?
The funeral may be held at an LDS chapel, funeral home, or gravesite. Usually, funerals aren’t held in temples, which means they are open to all guests, even non-Mormons.
What can I expect at a Mormon burial?
The funeral is usually a short affair, only lasting 60 to 90 minutes, and the service will likely be similar to other Christian funerals you might have attended.
The funeral will typically begin with an open-casket viewing for guests to visit the body and say goodbye. At the end of the visitation, close relatives will have private time with their loved one before the bishop says a prayer and closes the casket.
If the funeral is held in a chapel, the pallbearers will escort the closed casket to the front of the chapel. Typically, the bishop will oversee the funeral, leading prayers, hymns, and Scripture readings. Sometimes, family members will give a eulogy, but it’s not required. Because the church places a lot of emphasis on spreading the word of God, the bishop may use this opportunity to share the church’s teachings with non-Mormon guests.
Following the funeral, the family will host a graveside ceremony at the cemetery — but sometimes only close relatives are invited to attend. At this time, either the Melchizedek priesthood holder or relatives will dedicate the plot as a final resting place and lead a prayer before burying the body.
After internment, the Relief Society, the women's organization of the church, usually hosts a post-funeral feast called a “mercy meal.” This is where friends and family can gather in a more informal setting and celebrate the life of their loved one.
Mormon funeral etiquette
If you plan on attending a Mormon funeral, read some of these commonly asked questions to learn how to properly show your respect and follow etiquette.
What should I wear to a Mormon funeral?
It’s appropriate to dress in formal attire at a Mormon funeral. For men, this usually means a suit and tie, and for women, a conservative dress, skirt and blouse, or suit and trousers. Women should make sure to cover their knees and shoulders. It’s best to wear a solid color (no patterns or prints), but it’s not required to wear black.
Modesty is key, so it’s important to avoid wearing elaborate jewelry. Also, if you usually wear a cross or crucifix, remove it or cover it up during the funeral out of respect for the Mormon attendees. Mormons focus on the resurrection of Jesus, so they don’t use the symbol of his death.
Do I send flowers to a Mormon funeral?
Yes, it’s usually acceptable to send flowers for the funeral, but don’t send any in the shape of a cross. You can send them to the church, funeral home, or home of the bereaved.
Should I send a gift?
Flowers are the most common sympathy gifts given at Mormon funerals, but you can also send a condolence card or offer to make a donation. When in doubt, ask those hosting the funeral what kind of gifts they’d prefer to receive.
Can I attend the funeral if I’m not Mormon?
The reason why you might be concerned about this is that non-Mormons aren’t allowed inside Mormon temples. In many cases, Mormon funerals are open to everyone, regardless of their faith, since they usually aren’t held in temples. With that said, it’s always best to consult with those arranging the funeral to ensure it’s not a private event.
Taking the time to better understand your religion’s burial practices or those of someone special to you is a way to honor and respect the faith. However, if you still have questions about LDS burial rules and customs, never hesitate to ask for guidance or more information.