Followers of Mormonism believe that they’ll see their loved ones again in the afterlife. So although Mormon funerals tend to be serious, there’s an undertone of hope and celebration.
What is a Mormon funeral like?
Mormon bishops play an important role
When there’s a death in the Mormon community, bishops take an active role. The family of the person who’s died will contact the bishop first. They will help the family find a funeral home and arrange the funeral.
The bishop may even contact friends, family, and community members to inform them that someone they know has died. They’ll also be in charge of leading the funeral.
Mormon funerals are similar to traditional Christian church funerals
The format of a Mormon funeral may be familiar if you’ve been to a Christian funeral before.
The bishop makes an introduction, followed by a sermon, prayers, and hymns. Close friends or family read a eulogy. The bishop may close the service with gospel teachings or an introduction to the faith.
Mormons see it as their duty to convert people into the faith, and it’s common for the bishop to speak about Mormonism during the funeral, and to read from the gospel. It might seem unusual to non-religious guests, but this is a normal part of a Mormon ceremony.
Sermons are readings of religious texts or stories
Their purpose is to give a lesson, teaching, or example to the congregation.
A Mormon bishop will read sermons from the Book of Mormon—the faith’s religious text. It’s very similar to the Bible, so you might recognise some passages if you’ve been to a Christian service before. The bishop might read from Ecclesiastes, Psalms, or Hebrews (which are different passages from the Bible).
What are Mormons’ beliefs about death?
Mormons believe they’ll see their loved ones again in the afterlife
So the funeral is less of a final goodbye. You can expect the tone of the service to be serious and sad, but with an undertone of hope as they celebrate the person’s life.
Open-casket funerals are common
An open casket is similar to a coffin, but with an open lid that lets you see the person inside. They are more common at Mormon funerals than non-religious ones.
Family members will have a private viewing of the casket to say their goodbyes. Other guests can then view the casket before the pallbearers (the people carrying the casket) close it for the ceremony.
Mormons believe that the body reunites with the soul in heaven. For this reason, most Mormons choose burial over cremation to keep the body whole.
Mormon funerals take place one week after death
We’ll now talk a bit about embalming. If you’d rather not read details of the process, feel free to skip to the next section.
Open casket funerals usually require embalming—which involves preserving the body with chemicals. The chemicals stop the body from breaking down. This makes it easier for guests to see the person who has died, as they will look closer to how they looked in life.
Embalming usually only lasts a week, so the funeral needs to take place within that time.
What do I need to know if I’m attending a Mormon funeral?
Mourners attend a ‘mercy meal’ after the funeral
A mercy meal is very much like a wake, where people come together to eat, drink, and talk in a less formal space than the funeral. In the Mormon tradition, female members of the church serve food to all funeral guests. This might be at the family’s home, or in the church hall.
Guests will socialise with community members, and remember the person who’s died.
Mormons usually wear church clothes to funerals
Mormons don’t have all-black dress codes for funerals. But there are certain customs to be aware of.
Mormons have dedicated ‘church wear’ for all church services. Men wear:
A black, grey, dark blue, or brown suit
Plain shirts, usually white
A dress tie
Trousers or long skirts to cover the knees
Long-sleeved shirts or blouses to cover the shoulders
Minimal jewellery and accessories (a modest scarf is common)
Loose-fitting rather than tight items
Everyone should wear closed shoes (no flip flops, slingbacks, or open toes). It’s generally against Mormon customs to wear “extreme” haircuts like mohawks or mullets. Whether you need to worry about this depends on the family, and how religious they are.
It's respectful to follow the dress codes of a Mormon funeral even if you're not Mormon yourself.
Traditional words of comfort are welcome
You do not need to worry about ‘saying the right thing’ at a Mormon funeral.
It’s appropriate to send condolence cards or flowers. You can say things like ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ as you would at a non-religious funeral.
The only thing to remember is that Mormons do not use the symbol of the cross. Their worship focuses on the ‘living Christ’ as opposed to the ‘dying Christ’. Bear this in mind when you’re choosing cards or gifts.
There are many different funeral traditions in the UK
Mormonism is just one denomination of Christianity. Each church is different, and non-religious funerals have their own customs too.
It’s understandable to feel unsure about what to expect. This guide will advise you on standard etiquette for British funerals.