The Church of Latter day Saints (Mormons) was founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith in Palmyra, New York. He led a small group of followers to Jackson County, Missouri, which he taught was the new Jerusalem. The group was ejected from the state by the Missouri governor, and the Mormons built a new town called Nauvoo across the Mississippi River in Illinois. However, locals took exception at his bigamy and questionable financial practices and they killed Smith while he was imprisoned in the Nauvoo jail where he was awaiting trial for treason. After his death, leadership was assumed by Brigham Young who took members of group on a wagon train trek to Utah Territory and established Salt Lake City and many other communities there.
Mormons are probably best known for their emphasis on family life, and for the young men they send out as missionaries. All young men between 18 and 25 are required to spend up to 2 years telling others about Mormonism either in the U.S. or overseas.
An Overview of Beliefs
Mormons meet in local churches called "Wards" but major rituals are carried out in regional Temples. The original one is in Salt Lake City but there are now many others scattered around the world. Mormons use the Bible, but their main teaching is found in The Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price and other books.
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that not one, but three heavens exist. The highest levels of the Celestial Kingdom are reserved for Mormon couples who have been married in a Mormon temple and thus have had their marriage sealed for eternity. The couples can eventually become a God and Goddess; the husband will then be in control of an entire universe. The Terrestrial Kingdom, is the destination for most individuals. The Terrestrial Kingdom is for "liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers"
Hell exists, but very few people will stay there forever. Most will eventually "pass into the terrestrial kingdom; the balance, cursed as 'sons of perdition', will be consigned to partake of endless wo [sic] with the devil and his [fallen] angels." Sons of perdition have been defined as once devout Mormons who have become apostates and have left the church. Others define them as persons who have knowingly committed one of the most serious sins and have not repented and sought God's forgiveness. Among these almost unforgivable sins are murder and pre-marital sex.
Views on Death and the After-Life
The Mormon Church teaches that there are three heavens. The highest one is reserved for couples married in a Mormon Temple. The couples married in a Temple have the potential to become gods and goddesses themselves. They teach that husbands can rule over an entire universe.
Mormons believe in hell, and that it is reserved for the "Sons of Perdition" whom they identify as Mormons who have left the church and those who have committed the most serious sins which they define as liars, sorcerers, murderers and those who engage in pre-marital sex.
Mormons believe that at death the body and spirit separate, but that the personality survives beyond death, and body and spirit will be reunited in th hereafter. They believe that while people are in a spirit state they continue to the knowledge they gained on earth.
Mourning and Funeral Rites
The leader of the local Ward, the Bishop, conducts the funeral service. The Bishop will often go to the funeral home, wash the body and clothe it. Mormons believe that special clothing protects them in life and some are adorned with caps and aprons just before the casket is closed.
The service itself is generally very simple with readings from the Book of Mormon and the Bible, songs and a eulogy. Graveside services are generally brief and attendees often meet afterwards for a meal at the eward building or a private home.
How to Express your Condolences
As with other groups, a letter or card to the family or a visit to express your condolences is appropriate. A letter or card should be sent promptly and express the sense of bereavement you share with them. It is also appropriate to call the surviving spouse if you wish, but be careful to make sure it is well-timed. Be brief.
A gift, book, or flora arrangement is also appropriate. Prepared meals are also welcomed in the days immediately following the funeral.
Important note: The statements made about beliefs and rites are general in nature and may vary by sect, denomination, country or ethnic group. The information provided here is intended as an overview, and if you have questions about specific matters you should contact the clergy or other person conducting the funeral service. If you read anything in this section that differs from the beliefs in your tradition, please contact usso we can update this page.