I’ve been to many Mormon funerals. If you’ll be attending one, I want to make you as comfortable as possible with this blog post so you know what to wear, and what to expect. But first of all, I’m sorry for your loss and hope you find peace at the funeral.
In short, most people wear conservative, nicer clothing to a funeral. It’s NOT necessary to wear all black, but if you feel more comfortable doing so it would certainly be fine. Men usually wear a white shirt and tie. If the men own a suit, then they’ll usually wear that with their white shirt and tie. Women usually wear a simple dress or a skirt and top. Both men’s and women’s clothing should cover your legs to the knee and also the shoulders.
Children often don’t have semi-formal clothing to wear to a funeral. You’d be perfectly fine dressing boys in nicer clothes (maybe a Polo or a plaid shirt and jeans?). Or girls just in nicer clothing.
There is by no means a dress code at Mormon funerals and no one will be upset if you don’t wear the “right” clothing. The only reason I even mention what people normally wear is so that you don’t feel out of place. You’ll be welcomed warmly however you’re able to come.
Why Don’t Mormons Wear All Black to Funerals?
There really isn’t a reason as far as I know. There certainly is no rule or policy or teaching about it. It’s just somehow become the custom that we wear normal church attire to funerals.
It might be a little weird if a woman showed up in a bright yellow dress or a guy in a pink dress shirt, though. I guess subdued colors would probably be your safest bet, but you’ll see that almost everyone will wear some color.
Etiquette For Attending a Mormon Funeral
I really wouldn’t worry too much about offending anyone at a funeral. A Mormon funeral is not so very different from other funerals, so you don’t have to worry about knowing special or unusual things to do or not to do.
Everyone feels different at a funeral. In some cultures, it is extremely rude to laugh and joke at a funeral and others hold a wake and celebrate the life of the deceased. Mormon funerals are generally somewhere in between. They are usually reverent meetings, but humorous stories from the life of the deceased and a celebration of their life is also a part of the meeting. Be careful not to be boisterous or obnoxious, but it would be perfectly appropriate when speaking with others to laugh and find joy in the memory of the loved one. Just be aware that everyone is feeling something a little different from anyone else, so be respectful to how each person grieves.
You shouldn’t feel obligated to bring anything to a funeral. Most people don’t bring anything. However, if you would like to bring something, a nice sympathy card or flowers in a vase for the bereaved would be a kind gift.
If you find something peculiar or odd to you at a Mormon funeral, it would NEVER be rude to ask a member of the church about it. We dedicate our lives to God and His church because we love it. Sharing our beliefs is not a typical weakness of a Mormon 🙂 So don’t feel like you have to leave curious. But if there is a lingering question that you don’t find an appropriate time to ask, then call the missionaries and ask for a free personal visit so you can ask a few questions about our beliefs with no strings attached. Like I said, it would make ANY Mormon’s day to have someone ask about the church that they love so much.
Funerals are a wonderful time to find and give forgiveness. If you’re concerned with etiquette and showing respect, consider that perhaps the greatest respect you could give to the deceased is to find someone close to you who you can give, or ask forgiveness from. Make sure you treat the funeral as a time to come together, and not as a wedge that drives you apart from other bereaved individuals.
There are a few times during a typical Mormon funeral where the close family spends some time together and alone. You may want to be aware of those times so that you don’t intrude. If there is a viewing before the funeral service, it’s common that the family only will be invited in the 15 minutes before to be alone and talk together and pray. It may not be a good idea to be there at that time if you aren’t close family, but at every funeral I’ve been to this was clearly announced.
Also, the first few rows are usually reserved for family at the ceremony. This will also be clearly marked so don’t worry about that either. Also, after the graveside service, the local church will often put on a small luncheon and usually this is just for family to spend time together and reminisce.
I saw that someone posted on a forum on this topic that you’re not supposed to wear a crucifix to a Mormon funeral. This is not true. As Mormons, we are not in the slightest bit offended by the crucifix. We love Jesus Christ and spend our lives trying to serve Christ. He is the center of our religion. However, we usually don’t have crucifixes on the walls in our churches just because we believe that Christ came back from the dead, and we celebrate his OVERCOMING of the death more than the death itself. The crucifix is NOT offensive to Mormons, so if you like to wear a crucifix in jewelry for example, you’re certainly welcome to wear it to a Mormon funeral.
What the Mormon Funeral Service Will Be Like
When you walk in the doors of the church, there will be a large room with pew seating right inside the foyer. You can go on in and take any seat. There will usually be an usher at the door who will welcome you and hand you a program of the songs and speakers. Sometimes the first few rows in the center are reserved for family of the deceased. If that’s the case, there would be a sign saying so.
Prelude music (religious hymns such as “Nearer My God to Thee”) will usually be played on an organ before the meeting begins, and conversations are usually conducted in a low voice when in the chapel to show respect for those who want to pray and reflect.
Usually before the funeral service, there is a time for those who would like to view the body of the deceased. This is usually in one of the smaller rooms in the church. Each may pay their respects if you wish. You may notice that at some Mormon funerals, the deceased will be dressed in special ceremonial clothing that may seem peculiar to you. If you’re curious about that, watch this short 4 minute video that explains more about it.
After the public viewing, there will often be a time of 10 or 15 minutes that only close family is left in the room with the deceased in the casket. The family will usually use this time to say a few words of support to one another, and to say a prayer to God asking for strength and gratitude for the time they had with the deceased.
When the attendees are all seated in the main assembly room of the church, the casket will usually be brought in and stationed in the front of the room.
When the meeting begins, a local church leader will stand and welcome everyone and explain the agenda. There will usually be a few songs sung during the funeral. If you would like to participate in singing, there will be hymn books available so you know the words.
Usually, a few family members will be asked to speak. One will often give a “life sketch” or a short biography of the loved one’s life. Another will commonly speak about the “Plan of Salvation.” That’s Heavenly Father’s plan for what will happen to us after we die and how Jesus saved us from sin. More on that later in the post.
Another family member may stand and speak about the good qualities the person who died, their achievements, and what that person taught them in life.
At the end, a last song will be sung, and then the funeral will end.
When the funeral service ends, there will usually be a graveside service held immediately thereafter. The graveside service is usually quite short. Someone will say a few words of love and memory, and then a special prayer will be said. The special prayer is called a “Grave dedication.”
The purpose of a dedicatory prayer at a grave is to ask Heavenly Father for support to the family, to ask God to protect the place where the body is laid to rest until the resurrection, and to express gratitude. That is the end of a typical graveside service.
No donations will ever be asked for at a funeral service. Mormon meetings never involve passing a donation plate around. Donations are made privately at the choice of regular members of the church on their own initiative. Visitors do not donate. Since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints uses an almost complete lay ministry, there are no professional pastors to pay.
Why Does Everyone Keep Talking About “The Plan of Salvation” At Mormon Funerals?
That’s a good question. I’ve never been to a Mormon funeral where at least one of the speeches didn’t mention the Plan of Salvation. Let me give you a very short primer so it makes more sense.
In short, the Plan of Salvation is God’s plan for you. Mormons believe that before we were born, we lived with God, who created our ability to choose and think–what we usually think of as our mind. God loved us very much. God created the earth in 7 days and placed each of us on this earth in a physical body like we have now.
God caused us to forget our life with Him before birth so that we could learn to choose for ourselves–good or evil. While we don’t remember our life with God before birth, the impact of that time dramatically impacted us. You can feel those memories at times in your life–perhaps the first time you held a baby in your arms, or the love for Jesus that you instinctively feel, etc. I remember as a child climbing a hill in Makapu’u, Hawaii where I lived and seeing the ocean. There was something about it that overwhelmed me and helped me to know that there is a God, and that it was He who created the earth.
God is not physically with us here on the earth, but He loves us and knows each one of us. I have seen God answer my prayers many times in ways that I knew it was He who answered them.
Despite my respect for God, I still fall far short of being the person I wish I were. Sometimes I’m jealous, or prideful, or lazy, or rude, etc. I make mistakes–sometimes big ones. That’s not like God. God is perfect, so for us to live with him again, we need to become clean of our sins.
Jesus Christ was perfect. He was born of Mary, he healed the sick, he forgave sins, and willingly allowed himself to be killed on the cross. He took my sins with him down into the grave and arose the third day–having conquered all evil.
If I accept Jesus Christ as my Savior, become baptized, and follow His commandments as I try to become a better person, I know that I can live with God again. Life does not end with death. I believe there is more–much more.
That’s the plan of salvation. God’s plan for saving us from sin and allowing us to choose for ourselves to be good. We talk about it a lot at funerals, because it’s comforting to recognize that while this time of separation from our deceased friend is sad, it is not permanent. I know that my deceased friend’s and relatives will be with me again in the afterlife with God, and I know that my family will be together forever–even if there is a temporary separation at death.
If you’d like to learn more about the Plan of Salvation, I highly recommend reading this article about the purpose of life and life after death.
Is It Okay to Show Sadness or Cry At a Mormon Funeral?
Of course! It’s a funeral! Everyone there will be sad that their friend or family member passed on.
The only reason I even include this is because I Googled “what to wear to a Mormon funeral” before writing this article and I saw a forum from some people who apparently don’t like Mormons much and one of them said that you aren’t supposed to show sadness at a Mormon funeral.
That’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard. I’ve never been to a funeral that I didn’t cry at, and this information from the forum is most definitely wrong.
Mormons do believe, like all Christians, in an afterlife. So you’ll hear people talk at the funeral about how we can find comfort in knowing that the late friend/relative is in a better place. But that certainly doesn’t mean we don’t miss the person and feel sad that they died.
What you wear to a Mormon funeral is not nearly as important as simply being there and showing respect and love for the bereaved and the deceased. I hope this article helps you to know not only what to wear, but also how to feel comfortable with the service so you can get the closure that you long for as well.