New International Version
They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
New Living Translation
They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.
English Standard Version
They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.
Berean Literal Bible
And they tie up burdens heavy and hard to bear and lay them on the shoulders of men; but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.
King James Bible
For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
I was recently in a discussion with someone who felt the LDS Church was a cult and their “proof” was their claim that the leaders were just like those criticized in Matthew chapter 23, verse 4. https://www.bibleref.com/Matthew/23/Matthew-23-4.html
Most of what they claimed turned out to be hearsay and speculation. But then they brought up the policy on funerals.
While I’ve heard a lot about how funerals are to be conducted, I looked up the actual instructions:
When a bishop conducts a funeral, he or one of his counselors oversees the planning of the service. He considers the wishes of the family, ensuring that the funeral is simple and dignified, with music and brief addresses centered on the gospel. The comfort offered by Jesus Christ because of His Atonement and Resurrection should be emphasized. Family members are not required to speak or otherwise participate in the service.https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/general-handbook/29-meetings-in-the-church?lang=eng
Funerals are an opportunity to pay tribute to the deceased. However, such tributes should not dominate the service. A special family gathering, separate from the funeral service, is usually a better setting if the family wants more time to share tributes or memories.
He then challenged me to compare the guidance with recent funerals noted on the LDS Church website.
So, they then asked what about stay at home mothers who lose their husbands through death or divorce.
What does the church do to support them since they often lack job skills or other abilities due to following advice not to work. There were a lot of implications.
The answer I had is that I lack direct knowledge but I suspected our readers could answer the question.
What is your experience or the experience of those you know and how does it fit Matthew 23:4? For that matter, how does Matthew 23:3 apply?
3. So practice and observe everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4. They tie up heavy, burdensome loads and lay them onmen’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. 5. All their deeds are done for men to see.Matthew 24:3-5
My mother died 2 years ago. One of our family’s prior bishop and SP, had also been a GA. The funeral was in a utah LDS chapel. As a family, we gave the memories and appropriate life celebration as allowed in lds church.
Then the emmeritus GA gets the stage for the final talk. He literally berrated my mother and gave soft insults. She was in a stake calling during his years as SP. He literally said, in his Mormon joking way, that he was glad to be called as a MP then a GA to get away from her. He did not want another person, worse a female, to be organized, intelligent, and creative , and to do any thing to take away.his “power”. One of his quotes “she was a thorn, in my side”.
It was an example of male hiearchy in life and in death. The TBMs thought nothing of it, those in the audience who had an open mind, were shocked. These are the final words at the funeral, and the GA has the audacity to talk about only himself and down play the role of a female stake leader.
I want no more lds stake center funerals. They are done to save money of an additional funeral home expense. A “perk” for paying tithing. In lds chapel you loose control of the narrative and the final words of rememberance for your loved one. The lds funeral is about talking about the LDS power structure and not those who sacrificed the entire life.for them.
However, when the power structure has their own funerals, they get to break their own rules and are the excepted from the handbook..
My grandpa lived to 102. Nice long, full, life. The funeral was held at his ward building according to church rules. My dad gave the eulogy. His siblings gave other talks. Dad’s talk was the only one to say anything about grandpa and his life. The other talks were boring cookie cutter talks about the atonement, plan of salvation, etc. I thought that was such a shame. We get to talk about the plan in church every week, but a loved ones funeral is a one time event, so the loved one should be more of a part of it than one single talk. Shame on that handbook policy, I say! Shame on it!
I can think of no better example of this verse than the way church leaders treat LGBTQ people.
Because my father passed away during the pandemic, my mother chose to hold the funeral at the funeral home and it was immediate family only. No restrictions on how we planned the funeral. It was a wonderful celebration of life. No talks on atonement or resurrection because we already know the drill. When it came to the graveside service, my sweet 80-year old mother wanted a grave dedication prayer. My mom’s SP wouldn’t allow it unless he and the Bishop attended. I really tried to persuade my mother against this given this was UT in November and the community spread at that time wasn’t worth the risk. I even tried to tell her we could do a prayer anyway even though it wouldn’t be “approved” by the Church. I even asked the SP if we could just include him via Zoom to witness. But he wouldn’t budge, and this graveside dedication prayer was important to my mother.
The SP came and completely took over. The way we were just expected to hand over our authority on the funeral to him in order to be able to perform this non-saving ritual was very strange. I’m not sure the hurt of that moment, coupled with the grief of my father’s death, will ever go away.
Matthew 8:22 But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.
Funerals are somber occasions that should display piety and reverence. They are not supposed to be frivolous events composed of balloons and lollipops. Too many these days think that “fun” should be the essential component of a funeral. That is wrong.
This is more about leader roulette than the handbook. In my experience, leaders have generally acceded to the wishes of the family.
On one occasion a teen-aged girl whose parents were not members died and our ward hosted the funeral. We gave the parents’ pastor a place on the program and sang congregational hymns that were not in our hymnbook. The family had written a eulogy, which they handed to the presiding officer and asked that it be read during the service. The presiding officer gave that assignment to me. It contained what I felt was false doctrine, but I read it as requested.
When my grandmother died, my inactive father asked me to dedicate the grave. I didn’t know the bishop was supposed to make the assignment, so I went ahead and did it. The son of a former president of the Church was in attendance. He would have been very familiar with Church policies at the time, but all he did was tell me I had done a good job.
As a gay Mormon, this is a non-issue for me. If I can’t be married in the church, why would I consider having my funeral in the church?
I think the kind of Mormon funeral one gets is a matter of leader roulette. Some conducting bishops are preachy, or insecure in their authority, so they have to assert their authority by bulldozing the family, and this can really ruin a funeral. The worst funerals I have been to were for members with a partially inactive or nonmember family, where the conducting bishop saw a “wonderful opportunity” to convert all the nonmembers or inactives with his wonderful outstanding testimony. So, he droned on and on about the plan of salvation, as if the idea of seeing our loved ones again was a brand new idea unique to Mormons. But most religions teach that we will see our loved ones again, without attaching a long list of requirements of temple and worthiness to it. I could tell the nonmembers were offended and felt embarrassed to be Mormon. I don’t know of one person converted or persuaded to return to church by the sermonizing at a funeral, but I know of dozens were were offended, and when a person is grieving the loss of a loved one, insulting them about religion is just adding insult to injury.
On the other hand, when my mother died while living with my husband and I, we felt that having the funeral in her home town, where she was born and lived 95 percent of her life would be better than having her funeral in our ward where not a person except the bishop had ever met her. But I felt that her Provo ward had treated her horribly for years, with gossip and honoring her abusive jerk of a husband (my father) over her. But my bishop had been kind and visited her several times when she was hospitalized while living with us. So, I requested my Layton Ut bishop conduct her funeral in Provo. We essentially pushed aside the bishop of the ward where the funeral was conducted, and both bishops agreed. My bishop even apologized to me for the “required preaching” because he knew that my siblings were all essentially out of the church and then he kept the “required preaching to about three sentences and mostly talked about what a pleasure it had been to get to know my mother in the year she had been in his ward. So, some bishops do know that a funeral is to grieve and to honor a loved one and it for for the family, not for the church.
And compared to a couple of Catholic funeral I have been to, most of the Mormon funerals are warm, loving, and focused on the person. My experience of Catholic funerals is a grand total of two, so maybe they were not typical, but they consisted of the priest getting up and preaching a sermon that did not even mention the person the funeral was supposedly honoring. They were horribly cold and impersonal and all about the Catholic Church. No wonder the Catholic Irish have a party type wake before the funeral.
So, before we gripe about Mormon funerals, maybe some attendance at other religions funerals might be in order. As an exMo, I don’t very often defend the church, but on funerals, I think they do a better than average job.
A few years back, over the span of a couple of months, I attended three funerals: an Episcopal, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME), and a Mormon funeral. The Episcopal funeral as well as the AME funeral were a perfect blend of religion and remembrance. (Music at the AME funeral was the best plus they had praise dancing!) The Mormon funeral had some remembrances, but was a lot of sacrament meeting talks. When I update my will, I plan on including specific instructions that my funeral not be held at a Mormon chapel. If my family ignores my wishes, I promise to haunt them forever
Definitely leadership roulette. I didn’t know that was in the handbook and I guess I shouldn’t be surprised but I still am shocked at the idea that the priesthood leader would take family wishes into account but essentially be in charge. That’s crazy.
I think LDS funerals can be extra painful for part-member or less active families. Instead of mourning with those who mourn, it seems sometimes we are preaching at them. Not the same thing.
Most LDS funerals I’ve been to have been totally fine and beautiful but I have definitely been to and heard of some where the priesthood leader totally takes over and the families were very upset. I’ve personally heard of this happening when a missionary died on a mission and the GA used the funeral as damage control. Yuck.
Yup. I’m fully convinced at this point that JCS’s comments are meant to be read as satire.
I am also not a fan of chapel funerals. I think it was BKP’s brainchild to turn funerals into missionary opportunities. That guy sucked the enjoyment out of everything.
To John Charity Spring:” “when I die, I have made arrangements for a brass band. I like the idea of lots of noise and confusion. People will inquire: Who is that? They will be told: Kimball’s dead. Then the people won’t worry any more about me.” J. Golden Kimball
I think Anna’s got it about right — both as to varied Mormon funeral experience and leader roulette.
But the problems also include the disconnect between the Handbook instructions and the idea that “a funeral is to grieve and to honor a loved one and it for for the family.” The local leaders who insist on preaching are generally trying to follow the Handbook (and Boyd Packer) even though that is generally not what happens with funerals of GAs and other prominent Mormons and not at all what many families want.
Even that disconnect has origins in what some traditions would call confusion of “memorial service” or “celebration of life” with “funeral service.” In some older Christian traditions, a funeral is not to honor a loved one or for the family. Instead, that’s the function of a memorial or a celebration or wake, while a funeral is instead focused on Christ, mercy, and prayers for the soul of the dead. Those different functions also get mushed together even in some contemporary Catholic funerals.
To traditional Catholics, the word funeral doesn’t even mean the same thing it commonly means to Mormons. E.g., Father Michael Schmitz identified 4 principal reasons for a funeral mass (google his name and “purpose of funerals”):
“The first reason for a funeral Mass is the worship and praise of God.
The second purpose of the Catholic funeral Mass is to thank God for his endless mercy.
Third, we are called to proclaim and renew our own faith in Jesus Christ.
Last, and above all, the primary reason we celebrate the Eucharist for the deceased at a funeral is to pray for them.”
As organist at and Episcopal funeral mass I heard the bishop explain similar purposes and specifically exclude talking about the deceased’s personality, accomplishments, etc., until people had left the sanctuary. That view also recognized a distinction between “funeral” and “memorial” or “celebration of life.”
A Catholic business partner attended with me a Mormon funeral of one of our Mormon business partners. After the closing prayer, he asked “Is that all?” It was missing essentially all of the things for which a Catholic funeral has a purpose.
It seems unfair to compare different denominations’ “funerals” on a standard that may apply to one and does not apply to the other.
Since we generally don’t do public prayers for the dead or offer “masses” to speed their movement from purgatory to heaven, maybe we shouldn’t be having “funerals” at all, but should have celebrations of life instead. Mormon funeral practices are schizophrenic — the Handbook (and BKP’s instructions) trying to make proselyting church services out of them when Mormon culture is to the contrary — family and friends want something entirely different. Local leaders are caught between the two. Where budgets permit, perhaps it’s better to use a funeral home and get the bishop out of any position of control.
Even that won’t take the local leaders’ control out of a graveside “service” (which is a separate thing, not part of a Mormon funeral) at which a Melchizedek Priesthood “ordinance” of dedicating a grave is to be performed (the only Mormon rite for the benefit of the deceased). The Handbook states that “Performance of this ordinance requires authorization from a priesthood leader who holds the appropriate keys or who functions under the direction of a person who holds those keys.” It identifies the priesthood leader “holding the keys” — identified for grave dedication as the “priesthood leader presiding at the service.” There is no further description of who presides at such a service, but that language may be the basis for some local leaders’ exercise of authority which does not belong to the family, if the “ordinance” is to be performed. Of course, the handbook also states: “If the family prefers, a graveside prayer rather than a dedicatory prayer may be offered.” As far as I can tell, the distinction between graveside and dedicatory prayers is only in the claim of Melchizedek Priesthood authority for the dedication. Though ostensibly for the benefit of the deceased, such a dedication doesn’t seem to have anything to do with resurrection, salvation or exaltation, so why bother?
If this understanding is correct, Chadwick’s mom’s SP was not taking over the family’s “authority on the funeral” but was certainly exercising unnecessary and offensive control when he could just as well have designated Chadwick as the presiding authority at the graveside service. I’m all for leaving bishops and stake presidents out of funerals and graveside services unless they are close family friends attending in that capacity and not as presiding authorities.
Thanks, Wondering, for your lengthy post about the distinctions between various forms of services for or in memory of the deceased. I want to apologize for my post at the top of the thread. I took my disappointment at the austerity of the funeral and vented it at the handbook and the ward leaders as before-breakfast internet outrage. It wasn’t a bad funeral, I just had misplaced expectations. Those who planned and spoke at the funeral did it all in good faith, in all senses of the word. I retract my exclamations of “shame on that handbook policy,” and replace them with just this: I really do wish that grandpa’s funeral had been more about his life, and less about the generalized afterlife.
My sister suddenly died five years ago this month as the result of a traumatic brain injury that she’d sustained just a few months before. Her funeral was a nightmare. Her husband’s father had been an area authority and a mission president and his uncle had been one of the Seventy, so the service ran on the BKP/handbook guidelines. Although my sister was a member of the church many of her friends and some of our relatives had left the church or were not members. Her best friend, our French foreign exchange sister, came from France and was actually allowed to speak. Hers was the best talk because it was simple, spiritual and straight from the heart but it didn’t feel like she was trying to hit us over the head with an overtly obvious gospel message. The other talks were long, boring, lugubrious and far too preachy. My sister was anything but boring and preachy. If the purpose of the service was to win converts to the church it failed miserably. Later on my family heard from many of her friends and our relatives that they felt that her funeral was the worst thing that they’d ever attended. But, hey, all the correct boxes were checked off.
After the dedication of the grave my other sibs and I made a pact among ourselves that none of us would have a church funeral-and two of my brothers have been bishops! We’ve since put this wish in writing as well as made it clear to our spouses and children who agree with us 100%. Pretty much our entire side of the family was traumatized by my sister’s funeral.
As a professional musician I’ve played at funerals for people of a variety of faiths. Many of these funerals were more spiritually uplifting as well as comforting than the majority of Mormon funerals I’ve attended. Hitting the grieving family and their friends over the head with a heavy handed missionary attempt does NOT bring comfort or consolation at a time when it is sorely needed. Leadership roulette definitely plays a part in this. The family should be able to have veto power over what the bishop has planned. After all, the service is for THEIR loved one whom the bishop may or may not know very well.
” dedicating a grave is to be performed (the only Mormon rite for the benefit of the deceased”
Wondering, do you even Mormon, bro?
Speaking of what is done directly in connection with dealing with a dead body. Duh!
jpv, Do you even read in context?
My father’s funeral was perfect, the very best I have ever attended.
Prerecorded prelude music – allegri miserere, priesthood choir performed the Lord is my shepherd (at their request), brief welcome by bishop, hymn – the day thou gavest Lord is ended (my choice), prayer by my sister-in-law, scripture reading from Ecclesiastes by one of my brothers, another brother spoke about my father sharing family memories he’d asked us all to contribute to, hymn – each life that touches ours (my sister’s choice), short photomontage video tribute to music collated by my sister, scripture readings about death and resurrection by me, then the bishop spoke about the plan of salvation making it personal to my father rather than a missionary lesson which was lovely, hymn – he who would valiant be, prayer by another of my brothers, prerecorded postlude music – byu singers I love the Lord. The prelude, postlude and closing hymn were particular requests of my father. Close family and friends only at the graveside, dedication of the grave by my husband. Food in the cultural hall organised by another of my sisters-in-law and one of my nieces. Photographs of my father decorated the hall. The event remains a treasured memory.
A friend from my own ward told me she kept a hold of her programme and showed it to our then bishop telling him that this was what a funeral ought to be.. Possibly as RS president she’d had some disagreement with him on the topic. She didn’t elaborate.
I am so sorry others don’t get the experience we had for my father’s funeral.
My experience with Mormon funerals has been positive. Bishops (as presiding officers) have been helpful and wanted to do right. For both of my parents funerals, ten years apart, we had a pre-written that was read verbatim by the home teacher (same home teacher for both funerals), a couple of family remembrances from both member and nonmember (both of my parents were converts) including myself, and a final word from the then-serving bishop. But I spoke with both bishops beforehand, and they were very supportive — they wanted to support the family and the guests.
To the original posting, I do not think the cited verse applies well in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Our bishops and stake presidents and even higher ups are generally honest and honorable and they try to live the same precepts that they teach. I regret any circumstance where exceptions to this general pattern may occur.
Oops! …a pre-written eulogy…
After a LONG battle with cancer, my mom seemed to know her days were numbered and shared this with her newly called Bishop. A few years later (2016) he was quite amiable to work with as we planned her funeral. But this ward/stake also excommunicated one of the September Six (1993) with some collateral damage; there was a certain amount of leadership laissez-faire after this.
Anyway, Bishop H took up three minutes at the end with the requisite sermon but otherwise we had free reign. My non-member uncle told me he quite enjoyed the proceedings.
BKP’s instructions on funerals were (are) wrong. As pointed out in the post, high profile GA funerals ignore them. And so will I. When my father died, we had a grave side service. The short talks were focused on my father’s life. The Bishop conducted and his concluding remarks were not intrusive. Too often at Mormon funerals, the doctrinal concluding speakers erase the spirit generated by earlier talks. Instructions like those given by BKP intrude unnecessarily into the lives of members and their friends.
Unnecessary intrusions enter all facets of our lives. I was excluded from the wedding ceremonies of my three children. As were my brothers, their spouses, and my brother-in-law. We sat in temple waiting room. I understand this has been modified some.
At bcc there is a discussion dealing with whether pre-8-yr-olds should partake of the Sacrament. Apparently there is some belief that the Sacrament is strictly a renewal of baptism covenants, thus the exclusion of pre-8’s. Really? Can you see Christ telling the little children that they couldn’t partake of the Lord’s Supper?
As a youth in the 50’s and 60’s, my father would occasionally bless and distribute the Sacrament when we traveled. Apparently now you need permission from the Bishop or some high authority to do this. If you do it without permission, then what?
With all the rules, instructions, policies, etc., the Church seems to be moving away from the core message of Christianity. Love the Lord by loving your neighbor.
I generally have no problem with bishop-run funerals. However, as has been pointed out, some bishops are sensitive to the needs of the family as well as the backgrounds of those in attendance, while others appear clueless. Leadership roulette is a cruel reality of Mormon life. It would be nice if the handbook said something like “support and love the family, open the building, and stay out of the way.” In terms of Matthew 23:4 (sorry, here comes the mission story) – shortly after the Santo Domingo (D.R.) temple was announced, an area authority (can’t recall who) spoke to one of the stakes and emphasized paying full tithing as key preparation for entering the expected new temple. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but cringe at the thought now. It seems to me that requiring impoverished members (in the developing world or otherwise) to pay 10 percent of their meager income is a “heavy burdensome load” that most leadership does not have to bear. For many leaders (local or general) it’s just a tax deduction. For someone in poverty, 10 percent could be life or death. The church, which clearly doesn’t need the money, is placing heavy burdens on these members with vague promises of the “windows of heaven. ” What if the windows remain closed? Talk about roulette.
Agree with mat.
I find it helpful to look at our religious practices through various lenses. Looking at our current tithing policy through a different lens reveals deeply troubling issues.
When impoverished parents choose to pay tithing before purchasing food for their children, resulting in inadequate nutrition for those children, this can be considered child neglect. In some cases it will lead to permanent developmental problems for the malnourished children, with lifelong consequences.
We have conference talks encouraging parents to do that— to pay tithing even when there is not money to buy food for their children. We might justify this on the basis of qualifying these families for fast offering assistance, but this assistance is spotty and many bishops hold back approval of what they consider “sacred funds,” even when need is staring them in the face. I have heard far too many stories directly from desperate women who have pleaded with their bishops for assistance only to be denied the help they needed.
Many in the church consider its money to be sacred. And yet investors, on behalf of the church, made somewhere around $8 million recently on GameStop investments to add to the $100+ Billion fund the church maintains. So we are holding back on assisting needy families so that we can bet on GameStop? Malachi would probably have some thoughts on that. That famous tithing scripture we love to quote is not directed at poor people who don’t have enough money to pay tithing—it is directed at those who receive the funds and fail to direct them where they are needed.
 The policy requiring fast offering recipients to be full tithe payers is inconsistent with the direction given in one of our foundational scriptures that we not deny the beggar.
Thank you to everyone for their comments and input.
“And yet investors, on behalf of the church, made somewhere around $8 million recently on GameStop investments to add to the $100+ Billion fund the church maintains”
It would have been better if this had been worded “And yet investors, on behalf of the church, made somewhere around $8 million recently *speculating* on GameStop *shares* to add to the $100+ Billion fund the church maintains
It is highly unlikely the fund managers ever expected to hold the GameStop shares for any lengthy period of time. They were likely in and out simply to make some quick gains. This is the type of “investing” that destabilizes the stock market. Hearing stories of naive and unfortunate people who lost money in the recent GameStop fiasco underscores the exploitation involved in the behavior of wealthy fund managers. A lot of nuances that could be a full discussion in and of itself, but it’s somewhat unseemly for a religious organization to engage in trading of this kind. It is certainly not what Jesus was encouraging in the parable of the talents which the church has (improperly, imho) invoked in its justification of the large fund holdings. That this was all done with the fruits of tithing donations (from sacrifices often made by people who deprive themselves and their families in order to pay what they see as required tithes) is especially troubling. Ethics do matter.