Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Keeping Funerals in Accordance with Church Policy

Opportunities to reactivate those who have fallen away from the true path of the gospel are all around us.  When 66 year old Sister Kennedy passed away last month I knew this would be an ideal opportunity to encourage her only daughter to return to full activity in the Church.

Carrie hasn’t attended Church in over two years.  She has been unable to overcome her feelings of disgust concerning the Prophet Joseph Smith who while in the prime of his life meekly submitted to the will of the Lord in marrying several young teenage brides and humbly took upon himself the burden of marrying the wives of other men while they were serving the Lord on full time missions. 

When we met in my office to discuss funeral arrangements I knew that this would be a great opportunity to encourage her to use the atonement to overcome her negative feelings towards the prophet and invite her to return to full activity in the Church.  I even had a calling in mind for her so that she would know that she is both needed and loved and that I, even the Stake President, am willing to overlook her harsh and self destructive initial reaction towards the man whom we praise as having communed with Jehovah.  
Carrie was well prepared for our meeting and knew exactly how she wanted the funeral service to go.  She seemed so much more assertive than she used to be as an active member and I wondered what had happened to the submissive Carrie I used to know.  I shan’t get into details but she had a family ritual dating back centuries and a presentation she wanted to do.  She also wanted her non member Aunt to speak about Sister Kennedy’s life.  I quickly let her know that as per the newly updated and inspired instruction manual given to Church leaders a funeral is in fact a Church meeting presided over by priesthood authority.  I quoted from the manual (feel free to follow along where it states that “Many religions and cultures have rituals, ordinances, and customs associated with death and mourning for the dead. The restored gospel of Jesus Christ has no such rituals or ordinances. Church leaders should not incorporate rituals of other religions or groups (and I mentioned that this includes family groups) into Church services for deceased members.”

Afraid that she might say something negative about the Church were she allowed to speak and concerned that her aunt may not keep her comments in harmony with the restored gospel of Jesus Christ I took the opportunity to assure Carrie that as a Church we understand more than anyone how difficult this time must be and that this is reflected in our manual where it specifically instructs that “Members of the family should not feel that they are required to speak or otherwise participate in the service.”

I also read the important part of the manual where the Lord inspired our leaders to write that “Having large numbers of people share tributes or memories can make a funeral too long and may be inappropriate for a Church service.”  I have always felt the importance of not boring the congregation with all sorts of personal memories of the deceased.

I did assure her though that she and her aunt would get front row seats while I and a few other priesthood leaders spoke of the glorious plan of salvation that Joseph Smith restored to the earth.  I further assured her that my remarks would include the requirements associated with each kingdom of glory and would focus specifically on the state of joy and happiness of those such as the late Sister Kennedy who, unlike so many others, endured in the gospel until the end. 

Carrie seemed to be getting a little agitated at this point but calmly asked if as part of the service she could at least show a short video she had made on her mother’s life.  I was able to inform her that the Church has a clear policy on this matter instructing that “Video recordings and computer or other electronic presentations should not be used as part of a funeral service.”

Carrie mentioned that videos are often shown at baptismal services while the people are getting changed, after the baptism takes place.  I had to explain to her that funerals are very different from baptisms and that while the reasons aren’t given in the manual, the prophets, seers and revelators have, in their infinite wisdom, expressly forbidden videos being shown at funerals.  I testified that I knew we would be blessed as we exercised the faith required to follow these instructions. 

Carrie then expressed an interest in setting up a live video feed so that the many relatives in America could see the service.  I was pleased to inform her that the manual specifically addresses this very issue where it states “Nor should the service be broadcast on the Internet or in any other way.” I suggested that the relatives in America might enjoy the service a lot more were they to attend in person.

Carrie asked whether the funeral services of apostles (and even that of Church president’s such as Gordon B. Hinckley) were broadcast to the world and I was able to confirm that in the case of high ranking Church officials who have righteously served the Lord all their lives broadcasts serve as an excellent missionary tool and a reminder of what each of us can become should we keep our lives in harmony with the Lord.

I then brought up the topic of clothing and Carrie mentioned that she and her aunt intended to go to the funeral home to put on her mothers best Sunday dress in preparation for the service and burial.  This was of course completely unacceptable and I will admit that by this point I started having second thoughts about extending her a Church calling.  I patiently explained to Carrie that since her mother had been through the temple she “should be buried in temple clothing” and that this could be done only by worthy endowed members of the Church.

When asked why being buried in the clothes of the temple was so important I explained to Carrie that the mysteries of the Kingdom are only given unto those who are prepared to hear them and if she would like to participate in the temple preparation class that will soon be starting in our ward she can ask this question there.

At this point Carrie stood up and quickly thanked me for my time saying she had another appointment to get to.  I haven’t heard from her or the funeral home for well over three weeks now and must remember to follow up to see when we can move forward with the service.


Iron Chancellor said...

It's too bad that this Carrie girl doens't get the big picture. Her mother, Sister Kennedy, belongs to the Lord now and not to this earth. The leaders of the one true gospel on this earth know this and respect the Lord, his gospel, and especially the atonement. It is a great time to share the gospel with others. Why should a funeral be about the dead? As Jesus said, let the dead bury the dead.
I've heard of some LDS funerals where spiritually lacking people left and went to a bar where they all drank and talked about the deceased and gave cutesy little rememberances of them. They do not know the Lord or his gospel and just want another excuse to get drunk. Little do they know the pleasures of ham, rolls, and the great LDS favorite, funeral potatoes. That feels like the way to honor the dead. In all soberness.
BTW. You might want to check in with Carrie since it's been three weeks because her mom is probably getting a little gamey by now.
As always, keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...


This is a website sanctioned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And "President Paternoster" a stake president within the Church and therefore speaks with the Lord's voice. Some bitter apostates claim this site is farce, which it most certainly is.

The posts here are written bto support those of us who are sincerely striving, albeit imperfectly, to follow Jesus.

Caveat utilitor.

Anonymous said...

Oops - a typo due to excessive fasting

Some bitter apostates claim this site is farce, which it most certainly is NOT.

In the name of Joseph Smith amen

Anonymous said...

This one hits a little close to home president. Several years ago my mother died, and I was asked to give the eulogy. Some Bishop whom I had never met before asked that I would focus my comments on faith, repentance and the restoration of the gospel. I asked him to kiss my ass, and told him I would recount the many wonderful facets of my mother's life. I did so, and everyone in attendance, many of whom were not LDS, who had shared my mother's love, were able to celebrate her life with me. Her brother then followed me with a lame fire and brimstone sermon, leaving several scratching their heads afterwards wondering what, if anything, his words had to do with my mother.

Anonymous said...

Wait.. I’m confused.. which anonymous is the real anonymous?
Hmm.. this may help.. Has anyone seen this video about the real Mitt Romney?
Now imagine that video with these lyrics:
"The Real Anonymous"
May I have your attention please?
May I have your attention please?
Will the real Anonymous please stand up?
I repeat, will the real Anonymous please stand up?
We're gonna have a problem here..

Y'all act like you never seen a true believing mormon before
Jaws all on the floor cuz I’m white and delightsome,
I’ve done everything right, so now I’m very handsome

I believe mormons are Christians cuz our buildings bear His name
But under further inspection you’ll see we’re not the same
See, I don’t believe God is my savior, why, I can save myself!
And who is He anyway? Is He Adam? Is He God?
Oh wait, he was just a guy like me,
And if I do what the church says, someday I’ll be like Him!
I’ll have my own planet, populate it with my wives,
Why with rules and regulations we can save our lives!

And just to be clear, I’ve never been racist, no no no..
Well, only when the church has told me it’s right to be so
And to those in the country of Africa with all your fancy feasts,
Beware of the weeping and gnashing of teeth!
Heed every prophet’s counsel just like I do. I’m always on guard,
I even wear my garments when working in the yard!

The missionary lessons are fully accurate; they’re not trying to cheat
They’re just delivering the milk before the meat.
They may have left some truths out, somewhere on the side,
But it’s cuz they don’t paint the church in just the right light.

Now if you don’t believe what I say, just fervently pray
And if you don’t feel a burning in your bossom,
It’s truly very simple, you just need to pray again!!

'Cause I'm Anonymous, yes I'm the real Anonymous
All you other Anonymous are just imitating
So won't the real Anonymous please stand up,
please stand up, please stand up?

'Cause I'm Anonymous, yes I'm the real Anonymous
All you other Anonymous are just imitating
So won't the real Anonymous please stand up,
please stand up, please stand up?

... now, which anonymous am I?

Gavin said...

What Carrie would not have realised, was just how much her mother had committed to the church. In the temple her mother will have entered sacred covenants to hand over to the church everything that God had blessed her with.

The wise bishop knew that when she departed this life she will have wanted her body to be handed into the care of the church, just as she had covenanted in the temple. In his wisdom the Lord knows that even when Carrie's mother has no use of her body that He can use it to touch the hearts of family members.

Carrie needs to understand that the Lord's ways are not man's ways.

Anonymous said...

Please promote story telling at the burial site and have presentations and broadcasts from there. The LDS faith really missed the boat on this directive and has lost many missionary oppourtunities from this members life. Not following up with the Carrie for so long her aunt was already buried and it was a done deal so another oppourtunity lost by LDS legalism.

Anonymous said...

I so enjoy attending LDS funerals. The reverence I feel during the service makes my spirit seem closer to God. I think that's why I love General Conference so much. The tone of the speakers causes me to continually search for the casket. And all those flowers!

President Monson would be the best funeral director ever. I would attend each and every funeral he directed. Imagine having General Conference every few weeks! And with real dead bodies present. Not those ones up in the stand that twitch occasionally.

I'm still basking in the after glow of General Conference and can't wait until October. I'll have to check the local paper for LDS funerals to help me get through.

#1 Thomas S. Monson Fan

Emma Smith said...

When my Daddy died in 2010 his brother was in China serving an Mission. My cousin felt sad that his dad could not participate in the funeral of his own brother, here in the US. He Skyped the service so that his dad could see my Dad's funeral. Thank goodness we didn't try and film or broadcast the event!!! I do not think tickets of the event would have sold well, I am so relieved as that would not have been within church policy, which I wholeheartedly would love to adhere to. In fact I would love to have a copy of the handbook in my scriptures, as I feel it applies more directly to my life than the word of the Lord. However, I should count my blessings and name them one by one because if I had a copy of both handbooks, in my scriptures, I probably couldn't carry them with me at all times as I like to do because of the heft of it all. A final note about funerals...since we didn't have a copy of the handbook available for light reading during this sad time, we didn't ask if we could use Skype. Never, never ask permission, only ask for forgiveness, and then only if you are caught! ITNOJCAMEN

Anonymous said...


This is NOT a website sanctioned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Nor is "President Paternoster" a stake president within the Church. Rather, this site is farce, and [usually] not good farce, at that.

Most of the posts here are written by quasi-apostates who mock those who are sincerely striving, albeit imperfectly, to follow Jesus.

Caveat utilitor.

That having been said, President Paternoster raises some painfully accurate points in this post. I can only hope that church leadership takes note and changes policy.

Sorry I haven't created my own account yet. Have been helping a sick child.

Anonymous said...

Follow the wise counsel of President Packer:

Funerals could and should be the most spiritually impressive. They are becoming informal family reunions in front of ward members. Often the Spirit is repulsed by humorous experiences or jokes when the time could be devoted to teaching the things of the Spirit, even the sacred things.

When the family insists that several family members speak in a funeral, we hear about the deceased instead of about the Atonement, the Resurrection, and the comforting promises revealed in the scriptures. Now it’s all right to have a family member speak at a funeral, but if they do, their remarks should be in keeping with the spirit of the meeting.

I have told my Brethren in that day when my funeral is held, if any of them who speak talk about me, I will [rise] up and correct them. The gospel is to be preached. I know of no meeting where the congregation is in a better state of readiness to receive revelation and inspiration from a speaker than they are at a funeral. This privilege is being taken away from us because we don’t understand the order of things—the unwritten order of things—that relates to the administration of the Church and the reception of the Spirit.


Mahonri Kimball said...

Dear President Paternoster;

I would like to bring up a minor issue. It would be a good thing for those who will be speaking on the plan of salvation at funerals, to be aware of the recent clarification of our beliefs. There may be others besides myself, prophets from Joseph Smith to Gordon B Hinkley, and possibly a handful of others , who have misunderstood Mormon doctrine on the plan of salvation. The internet site "newsroom" the "official" site of the LDS Church has dispelled this confusion.

We are blessed to have anonymous writers for the "official" Church web site to clarify previous misunderstanding of our scriptures. The "official" source;
Do Latter-day Saints believe they can become “gods”?
Latter-day Saints believe that God wants us to become like Him. But this teaching is often misrepresented by those who caricature the faith. The Latter-day Saint belief is no different than the biblical teaching, which states, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:16-17). Through following Christ's teachings, Latter-day Saints believe all people can become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4).
Do Latter-day Saints believe that they will “get their own planet”?
No. This idea is not taught in Latter-day Saint scripture, nor is it a doctrine of the Church. This misunderstanding stems from speculative comments unreflective of scriptural doctrine. Mormons believe that we are all sons and daughters of God and that all of us have the potential to grow during and after this life to become like our Heavenly Father (see Romans 8:16-17). The Church does not and has never purported to fully understand the specifics of Christ’s statement that “in my Father’s house are many mansions” (John 14:2).

Although this was not important enough to have been brought up in conference, there may be some who should be made aware of this minor clarification.

faithfully yours.

Anonymous said...

It's funny how the church is extremely careful to quote the Bible many times in their newsroom instead of quoting the BOM, yet, the Bible is largely ignored in sacrament meetings and subsequent classes.. Could it be that the church is trying to present a false image to the public? Oh wait, how dare I even ask this question.. the church is perfect, it's the rest of humanity that's wrong.. duh!.. silly me :)

Blind Bishop said...

When I grow up I hope that I can be as witty and sophisticated as you all. What a feeling of peace you all must have knowing that you are setting things right in the so called "Kingdom of God" on earth. How dare God operate His "Kingdom" as He sees fit, with the people that He chooses...without consulting all of you elite academically sophisticated people first. I hope you will give Him a good talking to when you pass away and meet Him, He certainly will have a good ear for it!

Billy said...

knowing your church policy is always a great start before planning a funeral.

Scarr Funeral Home

Unknown said...

This is a painful post for me. It would also be painful for many of my friends. We had a friend, 29 years old, who suddenly died. Her Mormon funeral was a preach fest from beginning to end. There were 4 vague references to her. The bishop was the last speaker and he seemed to be salivating as he exclaimed what wonderful talks had been given. Then he continued with his own preaching. I was later told that the parents were coerced into doing this church service and specifically told not to talk about their daughter. Although I usually laugh at your posts ,President Paternoster, this one hurt. It's too close to home.