Mormon Funeral: good times and Funeral Potatoes, but not my cup of tea

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.

mormon_funeral_potatoesA 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.

26 comments to Mormon Funeral: good times and Funeral Potatoes, but not my cup of tea

  • StyxUT

    Great post!!!

  • StyxUT

    Well, I thought it was funny…

    It’s Easter, the family and I sit down at the dinner table. I notice a dish of funeral potatoes sitting near the center of the table. Before I could stop myself, I ask, “Funeral Potatoes? Who died?” One groan like laugh, then dead silence…

  • “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 find a lot of your posts interesting and you make some good observations. But I do have to call you out on the above statement…being married to a Mormon and having been one yourself before, you know that funerals are not conducted in the temple whereas a temple sealing is. I’ve been to plenty of ‘Mormon weddings’ that were indeed open to the public, but never a sealing. You know that a person must be worthy to enter such a sacred building. As with any religion, a lot of things can seem out of place when not taken in the proper context.

    My brother hated funeral potatoes so we did not serve them at his funeral. By the way…I know my brother’s spirit resides in Heaven with God and Jesus Christ and that through Jesus Christ his body and spirit will be reunited again one day. That is not a belief – I know it as surely as I know the love I feel for my husband my son. Perhaps I am like your wife in that I could do without a lot of the fluff I see weekly at my Mormon church meetings, but I love knowing what the gospel teaches me and there is no way I would trade the opportunity to learn those things for an afternoon of ice skating.

    Just my two cents.

  • admin

    Hi Daisy,

    Thanks for the comment and I’m glad you like the posts.

    I’m assuming you checked out my other post on what Mormons believe, based on how you worded your testimony, but if you haven’t, I hope you do.

    The only point I’d like to make in reply to your comment is that in no way I would trade any real world experience for a day spent inside of a building contemplating unsubstantiated supernatural beings. I don’t mean to offend by that comment, but that’s really how I feel.
    No doubt my children will have good experiences in church on Sundays, but I think you might agree that our responsibility to teach our children moral values should come independently from attending any religious service.

    Cheers.

  • Thanks for your post. I find it interesting that Daisy would write her comment, when you never even mentioned the temple. But it gets me to thinking about my own funeral. My name is still on the books. But more and more each day I’m gone. I suppose I should alter my will to put my Funeral wishes known.

    I don’t want folks thinking that I had some kind of death bed conversion, or insisting that I have my funeral in the building that gives me the chills just to enter.

    As for the food, I think I would love to have Fish Tacos from Bajio or a little place in Mesa Arizona called Tia Rosas. Maybe a little bit more expensive than Funeral Potatoes, but more like me.

  • admin

    Brent,

    I’m in the same position you are in that I’m still in the books and no will, but I’m pretty sure my wife would make sure I had proper care at my funeral.
    There are also many humanist funeral services available who can help one prepare for such an event.
    Most of these places are also sensitive to the fact that many who attend a humanist funeral may be religious and will allow time for personal prayers, reflection, etc.
    The more I think about it, though, the more I want my funeral to be a party I wouldn’t want to miss… kinda like one for the road, you know?

    Thanks for stopping by.

  • Traci

    I had a laugh at your posting. My sweet Grandfather passed away suddenly 3 weeks ago. Our family is Morman and while he attended church most of his later years, he was a bit of a rebel when he was a young father and his early years as a grandfather. He always believed in the church but like me, had a hard time living it. I guess age must have brought him back to his spiritual foundation. His funeral was held at a church and unlike other LDs funerals I have attended this celebrated him life, his wife, children and all of us that bear his family name. I was so pleased that my Dad spent the greater part of the funeral talking about the life lessons a father taught his son.

    I came across your posting because the only thing missing was the funeral potatoes. Every last family member wondered where they were, we had ham but no potatoes!! I’ve been craving them since I returned home and googled “morman funeral potatoes” and found your blog. I’m BBQing ribs tonight and think that they will taste wonderful. I’ll be thinking of my sweet little Grandpa as i eat them!

  • Tums

    I feel pity for those not understanding yet rejecting the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by Mormons in a negative way. Being one myself, I grateful to have counseled with the Lord and directed me to His restored Church and gospel. My family joined the church when I was about 5yrs and I grew knowing that there is a God out there. I would advise anyone to ask in Prayer if Mormonism is true, not just once, ask sincerly and earnestly and tell me what you felt.

    I don’t care what other people say about my religion because what I came to learn as I grow up in the years is that the church is true, but people might not be… We all trip and fall but we need to stnd up and pack up the pieces and catch up with the race!! If one can realise that the devil will always try to lure you or fill up you minds with doubts when going to Mormon church or accepting their religion, or any religion for that matter…. Why?? Because he knows that the church is true and should everyone follow the religion, he would not have anyone to lure…. How sad would it be when any of you realise the truth about mormonism in the spirit world?? Think of it. You’ve got nothing to loose but much to gain, faith and all…

  • admin

    Thank you, Tums, for that canned non-argument lacking even a single shred of evidence to support any of your statements.
    Typical.

  • anonymous

    I just came from a Mormon funeral for a close friend…I felt compelled to search for similar experiences, and apparently found one, which I related to and appreciated.

    A good friend ended his own life, and it was hard. What was even worse was that the building was filled with people who didn’t know who he was as a person at all. They were all friends of the family there for support, which is entirely respectable in and of itself. However, the ceremony was reprehensibly focused on preaching and religion, which is so far from the person he was. He was only spoken about as he was as a child, but very little attention was given to the person who he’s been for the last…decade almost. It was appalling to see this tragedy turned into a pulpit for people paying a little lip service to someone they didn’t know, but who were eager to talk about their nonsensical philosophical beliefs. I left the chapel when someone began a speech with “Elder so-and-so said that an LDS Funerals should focus on doctrine. D&C Chapter blah-blah-blah says…” I was glad to see all the people who actually knew him were outside the chapel as well, discussing how reprehensible the services were. Honestly, Mormons, you get your Sundays, your mid-week meetings, and your bi-annual and annual meetings, can’t you leave funerals for the actual person we’re honoring? Can’t you leave it for the people who are there to mourn, not those who are there for a morbid social call? Atrocious.

    Not naming names, but the services were in Mt. Green, UT.

  • admin

    Thanks for sharing your story and I’m sorry about your loss. It will be a great day when we can detach the sadness of a funeral or the beauty of a wedding from religious dogma.

    Cheers.

  • notolaf

    I do get your point about LDS funerals pretty much always including a sermon. But in all fairness, I must point out that we’re not the only ones who do that. It’s meant to celebrate our hope for this person in the afterlife, not to make anyone feel preached to, but I can see how it would come across wrong.

    Funniest funeral I ever went was for my parents’ best friend, an atheist fugitive (he’d embezzled a lot of money) whose business partner got his own Baptist preacher to conduct the funeral. He didn’t even get Bud’s name right (which was really okay in retrospect, since it turned out he was using a stolen identity anyway), and went on and on about how Bud was saved…Luckily, we were sitting in back and were able to put our heads down on the back of the pew in front of us and shake with laughter.

    I’m sure wherever he was, Bud got a huge kick out of the whole thing!

    Oh, and what kind of person doesn’t like funeral potatoes? What’s next? Watermelon? Chocolate?

  • admin

    Notolaf,

    Thanks for sharing “Bud’s” story. I’m sure there would have been some good tales during that one! And thanks for the comment.

  • skywalker

    Brent & Admin:

    If you want to make your funeral desires known, approach the nearest funerl home and ask them for a funeral planning booklet. They are free, and in it you can record the place of service, the officiant, music desired, place of burial etc. There will also be a place in it for the information the funeral director will require for the legal papers required by law (death certificate etc.) such as date and place of birth, Social Security number, Veteran’s information, names of parents etc. By filling out this guide and insuring that your family knows where to find it, you will save them much trouble and can indicate your desires for how YOU want your funeral to be – Mormon Funeral Potatos or not!

    DO NOT let the funeral home use your request as a means to try to talk you into a pre-need funeral plan. Many will try, but unless you feel that is the best way for you to go, just say no.

    How do I know all this? I celebrated my 50th year as a Missouri Licensed Embalmer and Funeral Director last June – and I just moved back to the midwest after living for 10 years right next door to a Ward House in the 4800 South block of 1100 East in Salt Lake City.

    And no, they didn’t convert me— But I LOVE Mormon Funeral Potatos!

  • admin

    Thanks for the great advice, skywalker!!!

    Part of me has considered planning my own funeral to avoid any religious association but part of me keeps telling myself “who cares?!?! You’re DEAD!!!”

    Thanks for stopping by and come back often!

    Cheers.

  • Mdood

    UM….I think you guys are missing the point. NOBODY holds a gun to your head and makes you have a funeral involving the LDS Church. Family can go directly to the bishop and say “hey Bish, we are going to do this alone without any involvement from the LDS gang” and your good to go people. How can you sit here and whine and complain when you have control of the funeral? I don’t see it written anywhere that your forced to have LDS involvement in a funeral for members or non-members? Call your mortuary of choice, get the deceased to them, plan your funeral and get it done your way. I’m sitting here scratching my head wondering why this discussion is even happening.

  • admin

    UM… I think YOU’re missing the point, Mdood. NOBODY holds a gun to your head and makes you sit here and analyze this site. The name of this site should be enough for you to understand why I wrote this post. I live with Mormons. I’m married to a Mormon. I USED TO BE A MORMON! I use this site to freely express my opinions and criticism of this (and other) religions. I’m not telling anyone they shouldn’t have a Mormon funeral. This is just my own criticism of what I think a funeral should be and how the Mormon church conducts theirs in contrast.

    Relax, mate! Or go on scratching your head without questioning anything in your life.

    Cheers!

  • susan

    If I choose to attend a Mormon funeral held at a Mormon church I fully expect a “Mormon” funeral, complete with preaching from Mormon officials about Mormon doctrine. Help me understand what is wrong with that?

  • admin

    That is indeed your choice, Susan, and I agree they have every right to conduct a funeral in whichever way they find it appropriate. My post only reflected the hijacking that is done by the church over what I consider a proper funeral; in my opinion, the emphasis should be on the person (and his/her various traits and interests) and not just his or her religion.

    Cheers.

  • Don

    My mother just passed away last month and a Mormon relative of mine who attended my mothers funeral told me she thought funerals were the biggest farce ever. She told me it was because people were hypocrites about saying nice things about the deceased. My nephew is a minister, or whatever they call them, with LDS. It was his wife whom made the comment. I do not consider this woman a Christian. What I consider her starts with a B. I won’t judge all Mormons by her mouth. I’m sure there must be some nice ones.

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  • Melissa

    I always thought that funerals were for the living, not the dead. We all have to make peace with our loved ones leaving us behind. To each their own I say. If it gives them peace and comfort I would never deny them that right. Life is uncomfortable enough without having to worry about our loved ones on the other side.

  • Donichiwa

    I was raised mormon, no i’m not one now, but if i go to a mormon funeral i expect ham, rolls, salad, and funeral potatoes. I know they are predictable with the food choice, but it is sooooo good. I don’t live with mormons now but i have several family members that are and we have to to a “agree to disagree” policy , basically it is a “I won’t try to convert you if you don’t try to convert me” understanding. They are good people, they have (some) good morals and teachings like how to treat others in general and how important family and community is, but like pretty much all organized religions I have encountered I find that “practice what you preach” is a bit lax and judgment is in abundance. Just one more reason I have belief in a higher power but don’t go to any church services.

    By the way there is a way to get your name removed from the records if you so wish…I don’t remember what exactly I did since it has been some time ago now but when my info was put in a relief society directory for a ward I never attended, without my permission, about 15 years after the last time I willingly went to a mormon church service, I wrote a letter and sent copies to the relief society president, bishop and stake president(who’s names and addresses were conveniently in the damn directory)very rudely (and without edited out the colorful words that came to mind) declaring how upset I was that they had done this without my bloody permission and told them to remove me from their records as a member and never, ever do such a thing again. The stake president replied cordially with instructions how to request it be done. Although I was more obnoxious than was probably necessary, the local bishop or stake president should’t be too hard to locate and could tell you how.

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