When my good friend of 17 years died suddenly in a tragic car accident, I prepared to go through my first Mormon funeral.
Mormon funerals, unlike Mormons weddings, are open to anyone, whether the person is a member of the Church or not. This makes complete sense since it’s the Church’s last chance to presume the person’s level of belief and faith and use it in order to preach to those present.
I was asked by my friend’s wife to write what’s called a “Life Sketch;” the equivalent of an eulogy in other religions, which I was honored to do. I tried to focus on his character, his accomplishments, his relationship with his friends, with his children, and with his wife. I also talked about fun and funny moments in his life, his childhood (with the help from his mother), and his goals and dreams.
I was proud of the work I had done and figured he would have been proud as well.
Aside from my talk and his wife singing one of their songs, the rest was pretty much a Sunday sermon, full of references to eternal living promises, marriage covenants, and dishonest judgments on how he would certainly be in the presence of the Lord (despite the fact that he was going through one of the biggest turmoils of his life prior to his death).
I felt the focus quickly shift from his life to his life in the Church. There were so many people there. He was the kind of person who just knew everybody everywhere. Not one of them spoke. I have no doubt that there were hundreds of stories that could have been shared that day, but the day was spent glorifying a “loving God” who (allegedly) prematurely left 3 children under the age of 10 fatherless and a young wife widowed by her second attempt at wedlock, not to mention hundreds of friends and next of kin missing the presence of such a lovely person.
To be fair, I’ve attended my share of Catholic funerals and I’ll take Mormon Funeral Potatoes any day over the monotony and morbidness of the clergy’s attempt to kill the deceased once again (along with all those present) with long sermons and depressing talks of repentance and Resurrection, not to mention the required black attire.
Common sense and freedom of religion, however, tells us that a funeral, or whatever name it may have, should consist of the gathering of the deceased’s loved ones, friends and family, with the sole purpose to remember and reminisce in the life of the dead person (uh…while he/she was alive, of course).
If it had been up to me, my friend’s funeral would have been held at his favorite Brazilian restaurant. His body need not be present, but his soul, so to speak, would have been made to come alive in song, pictures, videos, and stories shared by those whom were touched in some way by his life.
A person’s religious convictions are but one of the many aspects of their character and the least upon which we need to focus after their death. I find it nearly disrespectful to hand this final dedication over to someone who, in most cases, knew little to nothing of the person outside the chapel.
Case in point, it seems that someone always brings Funeral Potatoes to a Mormon funeral. My friend hated Funeral Potatoes.