What happens at a Mormon funeral?

Last week a friend and I attended the funeral of a friend of ours who died from throat cancer. He was only fifty-five and left a wife and four children, one who is still in high school. The funeral took place in a Mormon church building. When I walked in I was greeted with a smile by another couple I know. Attendees were dressed in many different colors. Some wore darker clothes but black is not the expected attire. There were even a few men and young men wearing their scout uniforms because Marti was a scout leader. I wanted to attend the funeral in part to show support for the family although with the filled chapel, they didn’t know I was there, but even more because I wanted to be reminded of my own purpose on this earth. A Mormon funeral is a celebration of the life of the deceased and of the plan of salvation and the atonement of Jesus Christ. We heard musical numbers which expressed the family’s love for their dad, brother, son and also their love for the Savior. The talks taught us about Marti and how he lived his life, but we also heard and felt testimonies of Jesus Christ and how the speakers knew from personal experience that this life is not the end and that we can all live with our Heavenly Father again. There was crying and I’m sure the family will continue to mourn the passing of this wonderful man. But the crying was also an expression of joy that this life is not the end and that they will be reunited with Marti again.

 

I’ve attended the funerals of all my grandparents but one grandfather who is still alive. When I attended the funeral of my mom’s dad, I felt an immense grief. My granddad had not been close to his family and had not participated in church for years. When my mom’s mom died, I felt relief for the end of her years of suffering and joy at the life she lived. I know when I die she will be there to greet me, her short frame a bit taller because she won’t be stooped with age and hampered by broken hips. She’ll give me a big smack on the cheek probably with bright red lips painted with lipstick. Towards the end of his life, my granddad softened a bit, and I hope that he will greet me as well and we will have a better relationship in the life after than we did in this life.

 

Attending a Mormon funeral reminds me that I want to do better–keep the commandments, serve, appreciate my family, and enjoy life–so that I will be ready to leave this mortal existence and be greeted with open arms by those I love who’ve completed their journey on earth.

Are we born sinners?

In high school we had a discussion in my freshman English class about if people are naturally evil or naturally good. I’m sure it was based on literature and historic philosophies. I remember becoming very upset and wanting to walk out of the discussion. The consensus was that people are sinners and naturally do evil. That was so against my belief. As a Mormon who grew up being taught at home and in church that I am a child of God, I couldn’t believe that I would naturally choose to be bad. We believe that we are literal spirit sons and daughters of God and if God is perfect and good, how could that mean I was inherently evil?

 

Our church differs from many Christian churches in believing that when Adam and Eve partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they made a good choice and that Adam’s choice does not make us all sinners. Our second Article of Faith or statement of belief is “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.” Adam’s choice was a transgression because God commanded him not to eat the fruit or he would die. Adam and Eve chose to eat the fruit so they could have knowledge, experience good and evil, and have children. This also meant that they would sin and die. Adam’s choice made it possible for all of us to be born and experience good and evil. But we will be punished for our own sins, not Adam’s transgression. Because God or our Heavenly Father wanted us to return to him, we were given a Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus came to earth and gained a mortal body. He was tempted and tried, suffered for our sins, was crucified, and resurrected. He paid the price for our sins if we will repent. So why do we sin?

 

We learn from a prophet in the Book of Mormon, “For the natural man is an enemy to god, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever…” (Mosiah 3:19). As I’ve discussed with my running friends, why is it that when we get mad about something our husband did, into our minds comes a reminder of all the other times we were mad at our husband? And not just our minds, but we get upset, those same emotions returning that make us even more angry. Or why when my child makes a mistake do I want to punish him severely and get mad and take away all his privileges and show him by my anger that he’s made a wrong choice? Why when my daughter was preparing to serve a mission did I nag her to buy her supplies which pushed us apart when really I was just fearful and protective? Why do our bodies react to emotions in what seem like destructive ways? If God made us, then why would we struggle against what our bodies naturally do?

 

Because we were sent here to choose God. It’s all about choice and following the will of a Father in Heaven who loves us. Yes, our bodies naturally don’t want what’s best for us. We think it feels better to eat whatever we want, watch whatever we want, and react in anger. But that’s the easy way, the way of giving into our mortal body. And we are here to overcome that mortal body, not because it’s bad, but because we are learning to choose. Our bodies are a blessing and we wouldn’t be able to experience the whole range of love and anger if we didn’t have a body. How do we overcome our body’s tendency to choose evil?

 

Mosiah also gave us the solution, “For the natural man is an enemy to god…unless he [man and woman] yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19). Instead of becoming angry or when we feel those critical thoughts come into our mind, stop and pray and ask God, what should I do? How should I see this situation? I’m scared about my child making more mistakes. What should I do? Love him. Teach him. Share your testimony of repentance. Even though my daughter is leaving to serve a mission, which is a good thing, I’m worried it will be hard. Love her. Tell her you have confidence in her ability to prepare and receive her own answers to prayer. When my husband is mad at me for something that I think wasn’t my fault, what do I do? Love him, pray to see where I’ve made a mistake, apologize, and repent.

 

Our bodies are amazing and so are our spirits. We can experience a fullness of joy on earth and in eternity as we choose to overcome the natural man. We do that by letting the Lord teach us bit by bit. By submitting to God as a child submits to his father, because He is our Father and He knows what we need to experience to learn and grow and return to Him.