LDS Burial Clothing Basics
Endowed female members of the church in good standing are buried wearing their temple garments, white, long-sleeved dresses that reach the ankles and wrists, or blouses and skirts that reach the ankles and wrists, white stockings, white shoes, a white slip, and the ritual temple clothing found in their temple packet.
Endowed male members of the church in good standing are buried in a white long-sleeved shirt, their temple garments, white tie, white pants that reach the ankle, white socks, white shoes, and the ritual temple clothing found in their temple packet. A white suit coat is optional.
Temple-endowed women dress deceased women, and temple-endowed men dress deceased men, except where local restrictions prevent anyone but a funeral director from handling the body. In that case, the funeral director will dress the body, and an endowed member (male for males, and female for females) should check to ensure that all ritual temple items have been properly placed.
Church leaders have access to a publication called Instructions for Clothing the Dead Who Have Received Their Endowments that has detailed instructions on how to prepare endowed individuals for burial.
Usually white clothing is chosen for those who have not yet attended the temple, but it is not required.
It is okay for un-endowed and non-LDS family and friends to see ritual temple clothing during a viewing. If the family feels that seeing temple clothing would prove disruptive, sacred items may be covered with a blanket or cloth. (Source: Official LDS publication, Instructions for Clothing the Dead Who Have Received Their Endowments)
When an individual is to fragile or decomposed to be dressed, sacred items may be folded and placed beside the body inside the casket for burial.
After consulting Instructions for Clothing the Dead Who Have Received Their Endowments, questions may be directed to the Temple Clothing Office at 1-801-240-3333.
Things to keep in mind
Here are some thing that I learned about preparing for a funeral or burial when talking to some of the sisters in my unit and from looking online:
Preparing the Body
- Dressing a body for burial can be difficult because of weight considerations or stiffness. Remember to choose clothing that is easy to put on the body and easy for the funeral director to access as needed.
- Even smaller people will be difficult to handle. You will probably want to ask other endowed friends to help you prepare a body for burial. I recently assisted with dressing a smaller woman in our unit. There were six of us, and we were all useful.
- A heating pad can ease stiffness of limbs.
- Use a sheet or blanket to cover the body while dressing as a matter of respect, both of the deceased and those grieving. One or two people can hold the sheet, while others lift and dress.
- It’s always nice to begin with a prayer.
- For women, it may be easier to use a dress with an open back or zipper front. You can buy a white dress and cut up the back, then sew fasteners to close it. I’d sew ribbons about an inch or two inside the cut on the outside of the dress, so that when you tied the ribbons, you would be able to easily cinch the dress completely shut in back.
- For men, it may be easier to choose pants that are of slightly larger size than usual.
- We found it easier to work from the feet up.
- Two piece garments are easier to manipulate than one-piece.
- Endowed LDS Church members usually choose split-opening types of coffins, I presume to keep from exposing so much of sacred temple clothing, but covering temple clothing at a funeral is not necessary.
- It may be helpful to bring the woman’s makeup to the funeral home along with a color photo so that the staff can use the same makeup colors and hair color the woman used when she was alive. If body looks more natural, family members and friends be more at peace when viewing the body.
- Bring a brush or comb when dressing a body, as hair will get out of place while you work. Bring a recent photograph to use as a guide to help you brush hair into the style preferred by the deceased at his or her time of death.
- Those dressing a body may be exposed to blood or other body fluids and even bacteria. Please take great care when preparing a body for burial. Bring latex gloves and antibacterial hand gel.
- Use soft pink light bulbs in a lamp near the body to make skin tones appear more natural. Sylvania Soft Pink and GE Enrich are two brands available in most department stores.
LDS Doctrines on Burial and Cremation
“Except where burial is prohibited by law, we are counseled to bury our dead. There are important symbolic references to burial in the ordinance of baptism and elsewhere in the doctrines of the Church. Where required by law, alternate methods of disposing of the remains do not nullify the Resurrection.” (Boyd K. Packer, “Funerals: A Time for Reverence,” Ensign, Nov. 1988, see also Bruce R. McConkie Mormon Doctrine, “Cremation”)
And from the new Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2, 21.3.2: “The Church does not normally encourage cremation. The family of the deceased must decide whether the body should be cremated, taking into account any laws governing burial or cremation. In some countries, the law requires cremation.