Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Family funeral

Yesterday I went to my husband's Aunt Helen's funeral.  Helen lived to be 93 years old.  She was the only girl of nine children; she was the second oldest child, and my father-in-law is just younger than her.  They lived in a two bedroom farmhouse.  Helen got one bedroom and the parents got the other.  The eight boys had to sleep on the screened in front porch, summer, winter, spring and fall. To get to the only bathroom in the house, the boys had to go through Helen's bedroom. As my father-in-law told this story, I had visions of this poor girl never getting any sleep with eight brothers tromping through her room all night long.

Helen was raised LDS, her mother's side goes back into early pioneer stock and her father's side came from converts in Norway in the mid 1860's.  Helen married a nonmember and never attended the Church in her adults years, nor did several of her brothers; but her other brothers were active all their lives, including my father-in-law, who served as a bishop, in a stake presidency, and as a stake patriarch. 

It was a simple funeral, held at the funeral home. Helen has two daughters who asked my father-in-law to conduct and be in charge of the funeral program, which he has done many times because of the positions he has held. Dad, my father-in-law, is a kind gracious person who did a wonderful job.  Although, he did tell a story about Helen that she asked him not to tell... but brothers will be brothers, apparently even at your funeral!  But beside the story, of Helen throwing a pair of scissors at dad, which apparently landed in his thigh, he gave a beautiful account of her life and the kind of person she was.  Dad said that Helen is in heaven now with her mother and father, and her husband.  Very nice, nothing preachy and nothing that would be any different from a typical Christian funeral service. 

Then Helen's younger brother spoke.  He started out by saying he had been assigned to do the spiritual talk for the funeral.  He then rattled off the basic points of the "plan of salvation" including the war in heaven, the need for free agency, Satan's plan, our premortal life, why we are here, where we are going, etc.  He ended with leaving his testimony that all the things that he talked about were true.  As he spoke, I had so many thoughts go through my head. And my analysis is not meant to be a criticism of him, just an observation.

To begin with, the daughters are not members of the Church, and like I said, Helen hadn't gone her entire adult life.  So, for about 75 years, she had not attended the Mormon church; but somehow she got a Mormon funeral, even in the funeral home!  The most striking thing about this whole thing to me was the way the Church usurps the family.  This Church, that proclaims family is at the foundation of it's doctrine, comes in time after time and usurps the family, always placing itself before the family; or I should say we willingly put it before the family, thinking that putting the Church first is putting the family first.  But it's not, it's putting the Church first, at the expense of the family, relationship's, and people's feelings.  Take her younger brother's first remark, "I've been assigned to talk..". who talks like that?  Someone who has lost sight that he is actually speaking at his sister's funeral.  He forgot she has daughters that are not members, and they most likely had no idea about, nor cared about his, "plan of salvation".   Who says, "they have been assigned" at their sister's funeral?  Only someone who has let the protocol of the Church overtake their thinking, and they can't even relax at a service for their sister, and just talk about her, without having to hold a church meeting and do things the way the church instructs.  Namely assigning people to talk.  So when my father-in-law, asked him to speak at the funeral, he was incapable of seeing it as a brother asking another brother to speak at their sister's funeral.  He saw it as a Church assignment and proceeded to carry it out as one, all the time missing the fact that this was his sister's funeral and all that was needed was a personal remark from her brother.  She didn't need him to use her funeral as an opportunity to "spread the gospel" to a room of trapped people who were going to listen to the Mormon plan of salvation, whether they wanted to or not.  I just kept thinking how insensitive we are as members' of the Church, that we can't see two daughters that are at their mother's funeral and the last thing they probably wanted was a sermon on a belief system that they do not believe in. 

But people are for the most part gracious, and the daughters didn't say anything, they might not have even minded.  But why take the chance?  It's just not necessary to spread our beliefs around at every opportunity.  Especially at someone's mother's funeral.  I'm sure that all the members in attendance there thought it was just wonderful, and I'm sure for all the others in attendance, the message fell on deaf ears.

This is not the younger brother's fault.  He has been trained from his youth, to honor his Priesthood.  And sharing the gospel is an extension of that.  And if there is an opportunity to do that, it will be foremost in a priesthood holder's mind.  He thinks he's just doing what Jesus wants him to.  And doing what Jesus wants us to is a powerful thing!  So powerful, that we do things for him that he never asked us to, and we do all kinds of things in his name, that he never did. Mormons are certainly not the only ones guilty of that. 

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