Kevin Lash is currently serving as a bishop in the East Millcreek area of Salt Lake. His day job (which he loves) is a pediatrician, and he and his wife are doing their best to shepherd their two amazing adult sons into the big wide world.
Having conducted 15 funerals in less than four years, I’ve refined a checklist that has evolved to help meet both the physical and spiritual needs of the family. Hopefully, when you have a funeral to organize, this will take some of the weight off your shoulders so that you can more fully focus on the needs of the family.
Let’s Get Started!
Call the building scheduler to reserve the church building from the time that setup occurs through enough time for the luncheon and cleanup (usually 8 am to 4 pm)
Notify the Relief Society president and elders quorum president, also the ward council.
Notify the stake presidency, former ward members and any Seventy or General Authority who lives in the stake or has a close connection to the family.
Plan the Services
The below checklist will be key things to cover with the family:
- Which mortuary and cemetery
- Plan funeral service
- Arrange for a contact person within the family and get their cell number
- Arrange for chorister, organist and prelude/postlude (if family provides organist, get someone from the ward to play prelude so the family can all be together for family prayer).
- Arrange with the mortuary what time they need to get into the church
- Find out if they want extra tables for displays (with tablecloths); TV/DVD to play life video in the foyer
- See if the family would like a luncheon
Now that you have an idea of the families desires, it’s time to arrange things with Relief Society and elders quorum for setup:
- Provide the Relief Society with an estimated number of people attending the luncheon
- Take chairs, podium, and table out of the Relief Society room; set up chairs around the edge of the room for the viewing
- Set up tables and chairs for the luncheon; long tables for serving, roundtables (8 chairs per round table) for the guests
- Relief Society will work through their funeral committee to set up food assignments and have people there to serve and clean up
If one is held, attend the viewing the night before and get to know key family members (children, spouses).
Your Funeral Remarks
Be sure to write funeral remarks that will be given at the end of the funeral. They should include a gospel message, tie it in with personal experiences with the deceased and family; give a message of hope and a challenge to live better to the family, especially younger members of the family (note: if stake president or a seventy or general authority is present, he presides and should speak after the bishop).
Day of Funeral
Arrive early to open gates and doors to church (usually, 9:00 am). Make sure Relief Society room, cultural hall, and chapel are ready. You may need to do last-minute vacuuming/cleaning in the hallways and chapel.
Be available to help the family with display tables, easels, and TV. Gather the family together 15 minutes before the service starts for the family prayer. Give them brief instructions about:
- Where bathrooms are
- Directions to the cemetery (especially if people are from out of town!)
- Invite them to the luncheon afterward
Slip out after the family prayer while the family says their goodbyes. Then go sit on the stand in the chapel. Keep an eye out for the “high sign” from the funeral director when they are ready to begin and then ask the congregation to stand.
Stand while the family enters the chapel then invite the congregation to be seated.
After the closing prayer, stand and invite the congregation to stand. Invite the pallbearers to the front of the chapel. Remain standing until the family has filed out of the chapel.
If you are attending the grave dedication, the funeral directors will usually have the bishop welcome the family to the graveside and invite the brother forward who will dedicate the grave (remember to bring a program so you get the name right).
Dedicating the grave is a priesthood ordinance. It helps to have a “cheat sheet” of the ordinance in case the brother is unsure of how to do it. Remember, the person who dedicates the grave must be a Melchizedek priesthood holder and be authorized by the priesthood officer who conducts the service.
Dedicating the Grave
- Address Heavenly Father
- State that he is dedicating the grave by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood
- Dedicate and consecrate the burial plot as the final resting place for the body of the deceased
- Where appropriate, prays that the place will be hallowed and protected until the resurrection
- Asks the Lord to comfort the family and expresses other thoughts as the Spirit directs
- Closes in the name of Jesus Christ
If the family prefers, a person (preferably a man who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood) may offer a graveside prayer rather than a dedicatory prayer.
Don’t forget to check in frequently with the spouse, or with other family members over the next weeks and months. If there are survivors in the ward, discuss with the ward council how to minister to them. Think about how their church activity may feel different to them now that they are not accompanied by a spouse, and ways to help them feel welcome at church meetings.