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 http://www.lds.org/handbook/handbook-2-administering-the-church/meetings-in-the-church?lang=eng&query=funeral#186) 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
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.