Can a Non-Mormon Go to a Mormon Funeral?

Mormon funerals are not held in ornate Mormon temples.
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The funerals of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sometimes raise questions for non-Mormons, who are aware that some Mormon services are open to Mormon's only. The services restricted to Mormons include any held in a Mormon temple, such as baptism or a wedding-related sealing service. But most Mormon funerals are held in wards, or local church buildings, and are open to all. Still, Mormon funerals have distinctive features that you should know about in advance.

1 The Viewing

Many Mormons hold an open-casket viewing, or visitation, at a funeral home or ward before the funeral takes place. Any Mormon who has received temple blessings will be clothed in his or her temple vestments. Often a Mormon viewing will take place in the same building as the funeral service; funeral announcements usually include this information. Occasionally, viewings are open only to family and close friends. Most of the time, however, they are open to all. If you aren't sure, contact the ward or funeral home for more information. If the viewing is open, a family-only period is usually reserved at the end, in which a bishop prayers for the departed.

2 The Service

All are welcome at a Mormon funeral, whether it takes place in a ward or funeral parlor. Most attendees observe Mormon service dress codes, meaning men wear slacks and women wear dresses. A church leader, such as stake president or branch leader, conducts the service. The service itself will include an opening prayer or invocation, a reading of scripture, a few songs, a sermon and a closing prayer. Mormons view the service as an opportunity to share their beliefs with others, so the sermon may include information about the basics of Mormon belief. Family members and close friends may offer eulogies during the service.

3 The Graveside

Mormon funerals are usually followed by a brief graveside service at a family funeral plot. At the end of the funeral service, you'll hear an announcement letting you know whether or not you are welcome to attend. If no invitation in offered, do not attend. If you go, the service may seem more upbeat than most, as it focuses on the eventual reunification of the family in heaven, called the Celestial Kingdom. A Melchizedek priesthood holder, an adult male member of the church, usually offers a convocation and prayer.

4 Etiquette

Mormon funerals do not require black clothes, but do choose modest and subdued clothing for the service. Bright red is probably inappropriate. Do not wear or bring a Christian crucifix to a Mormon funeral, as the family will find this offensive. Mormons do not use crucifixes, as they hold that Jesus' earthly body is united with his soul in the Celestial Kingdom. Feel free to send flowers to the funeral home; they will be distributed to the family at the appropriate time.

Christina Lee began writing in 2004. Her co-authored essay is included in the edited volume, "Discipline and Punishment in Global Affairs." Lee holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and politics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a Master of Arts in global affairs from American University and a Master of Arts in philosophy from Penn State University.