Tuesday, June 2, 2009

She Said: Death of A Mormon Tradition

To me one of the strengths of the Mormon Church is its personalization. When wards get too big, they are split, thus the Bishop knows all his members quite well. On Fast Sundays, we know our fellow travelers and why they are up there crying. We have faces and names and stories, and we have traditions.

I've been sad over the years to see the loss of many of the very traditions which draw us in to the lives of our fellow Saints. For example, I understand the Utah-based impetus which led to forbidding of missionary farewells and homecomings in Sacrament Meetings. But in wards where there are never more than 5 missionaries out at a time, this new policy was a loss. The emotion and the Spirit of a mother's or a sibling's talk as their son/brother went out to serve was uplifting. It was a wonder to see the maturation that had taken place when said missionary returned home. It brought us closer as a Ward Family. And the Open House was a lovely tradition and a perfect opportunity for the Ward to celebrate together.

At Mormon Matters today there was a discussion of the new policies for funerals, popularized by Boyd K. Packer. Funerals are no longer to be, in the long-standing Mormon tradition, a family affair celebrating the life of the deceased. Instead, doctrinal talks are recommended, with the program and speakers being chosen by the Bishop.

So with all of the policy changes which have taken place in the past few years, I very much regret to see another of our Mormon traditions bite the dust: the MTC drop-off.

It's been a wonderful tradition, ever since the Provo MTC was built in 1978, for families to be able to bring their missionaries to the campus, check them in, take pictures, participate in a brief orientation, and then bid their missionary goodbye. Families exit one door, and missionaries another, amid many tears. As a young convert missionary in 1981, I had no family to take me through this ritual, but I watched with a tender heart as mothers hugged their sons goodbye, little brothers shook hands solemnly, and the families wept. I loved being a part of it. I had the opportunity to take my oldest two daughters to the MTC in 2006 and 2007. When my third daughter departed this past January, we were unable to go with her, but three of her sisters, who were attending BYU took her through the rigamarole.

Now, amid worries over the swine flu virus, which has been contracted by some of the missionaries currently in the MTC, the powers-that-be have decided to permanently end the tradition, and missionaries are now to be dropped off curbside. What a shame.

Here's what SHE SAYS:
Let's keep as many of our Mormon traditions as we can, especially the ones that personalize us. Let's keep the special ceremonial rites of passage for individuals. Allow ward members and families to celebrate, as much as possible, the lives and milestones along the way of their loved ones.


  1. A funeral is a family thing. The Church has no right to dictate music and speakers. There are times when the 'help' is wanted and needed. But to take a funeral service away from the family is going too far.

  2. I agree with the idea of changing a funeral from a rehashing of someone's life into something progressive and looking toward the future for the family and the deceased.
    Look at Joseph Smith's sermon for King Follett...he seemed to agree.